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Friday, December 24, 2010

All roads lead to Kashmir

Solving the dispute between India and Pakistan is vital to achieving a broader regional peace

RICHARD HOLBROOKE spent the final two years of his life struggling to bring peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but officially he was never allowed to touch the issue of Kashmir. In the wake of last week’s WikiLeaks revelations of the Indian government’s use of torture against Kashmiri prisoners, the time has come to put Kashmir back on the map and include it in discussions of a broader regional peace — one that would extend to Afghanistan as well.

The longstanding dispute over Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region, has poisoned relations between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan for decades; spawned and sustained anti-Indian terrorist groups; prevented Pakistan’s army from fighting extremists along its border with Afghanistan; and proved deadly for the Kashmiris caught in between.

In early July, the bodies of three young laborers killed by Indian troops were discovered in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, unleashing a wave of protests. Police fired tear gas at protesters in Srinagar and killed a 17-year-old student, who was simply passing by. Soon, young Kashmiris armed with stones were battling Indian troops, who responded with bullets. An intense military curfew followed. From July to September, the Kashmiri intifada raged on killing 110 and injuring at least 1,500.

India has long resisted any outside attempt to mediate in Kashmir. The Indian government panicked after Barack Obama’s historic election in November 2008, fearing that Obama might appoint Bill Clinton as a special envoy to Kashmir as he had suggested during the campaign. And even before Holbrooke’s post was announced in January 2009, Indian officials and their allies in Washington lobbied furiously to have the words India and Kashmir excluded from the veteran US diplomat’s portfolio. India did not want to be seen as paying the price for US failures in Afghanistan by being forced to negotiate on Kashmir

Yet the occupation of Kashmir remains a stain on India’s democracy. Over 500,000 Indian troops and paramilitary forces are stationed there. Killings of civilians by security forces routinely go unreported and unpunished as a result of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which effectively gives Indian troops stationed in Kashmir a de facto license to kill. The most recent trove of WikiLeaks confirmed what human-rights organizations have long alleged: that Indian troops have systematically tortured Kashmiri prisoners. After documenting widespread torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners who “were rarely militants,” the Red Cross told US officials in 2005 that it had concluded that the Indian government “condones torture.”

Even India’s current leaders realize that they cannot suppress Kashmiris’ desire for freedom forever and that they, too, could benefit from a resolution. Sonia Gandhi, the president of India’s ruling Congress Party, recently admitted the need to address “the alienation of the whole new generation of youth that has known nothing but conflict” in Kashmir. Another decade of tear gas and torture will not help India gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and a larger role on the international stage.

Although the road to peace in Kabul does not necessarily begin in Kashmir, regional experts such as former CIA officer Bruce Riedel have argued that a lasting peace in Afghanistan is impossible without a resolution in Kashmir. So long as Pakistan’s military remains obsessed with the Indian threat and the large number of Indian troops along its eastern border, it is reluctant to redeploy its troops and its resources to go after the Taliban along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan fears encirclement by India due to growing Indian influence in Afghanistan after the United States withdraws. Meanwhile, hawks in India seem reluctant to make major concessions in Kashmir.

Pakistan’s strategic calculus will only change, says Riedel, “once the logic of confrontation with India begins to be undermined.” And that will require renewed back-channel talks and incremental steps toward peace. An overt US push to resolve the Kashmir dispute along the lines of Washington’s recent efforts in the Middle East would likely fail — angering India and exposing its leaders to criticism from hawks on the right. But a softer behind-the-scenes approach could succeed.

After all, back-channel talks between India and Pakistan in 2006 and 2007 came very close to establishing a largely autonomous Kashmir with soft borders between the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled regions, and a gradual demilitarization of the area. Those talks fell apart when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf lost power in August 2008, and the issue has been a political nonstarter since the Pakistani-sponsored terrorist attacks on Mumbai that November.

There are signs of hope. Two weeks ago, both Indian and Pakistani officials signaled that some back-channel diplomacy had resumed. More importantly, Syed Salahudin, the Pakistan-based leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest Kashmiri militant group, announced in Rawalpindi that “India and Pakistan should sit at the negotiating table.” It is the first time in 20 years that Salahudin has come out in support of a negotiated resolution to the Kashmir dispute. Washington should seize the moment — but quietly.

Basharat Peer, an Open Society Fellow, is the author of “Curfewed Night.’’ Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a senior editor at Foreign Affairs, is the author of “The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa.’’

NOTE:This is a cross post.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

U.S. taxpayers owe the Afghan people – not the other way around

By:Michael Hughes

There’s been this constant absurd clamoring about protecting the American taxpayer when making strategic decisions related to Afghanistan – a ridiculous assertion considering American taxpayers are the ones guilty of electing pro-military leaders that played a major role in the ruination of the Afghan nation over the last 30 years. As Joseph-Marie, Comte de Maistre quipped in 1811:

“The people get the government they deserve”.

These same aforementioned taxpayers act as if they didn’t know their tax dollars were feeding a military-commercial nexus that espoused interventionist policies primarily aimed at prosecuting war against Islamic countries.

I’ve said in these pages repeatedly that it’s time for the Afghans to decide their own fate. When Afghans were allowed to run their own country - and not Soviet, NATO and/or American taxpayer-backed power centers – there was a 30 year period of peace, stability and progressive reform under King Zahir Shah.

Some decry this notion based on the false argument that implementing a form of government other than a Western-style democracy will be unacceptable to U.S. taxpayers, after all the dollars invested to date in Afghanistan. The fact that U.S. taxpayers have put leaders in power that have misspent their tax dollars in a way that has been detrimental to most Afghans is not the fault of the Afghan people. This type of ethno-centric arrogance is why we are in this situation in the first place. We think we know what is best for the Afghans.

We’ve seen the results of U.S. taxpayer logic and their inability to make decisions that best serve their own interests, let alone other countries - namely by electing a string of officials who have directly and indirectly been complicit in transforming Afghan society from a stable regime that had been undergoing democratic reform in the 1970s to one of the most violent places on earth, wracked by Islamist extremism. And, by the way, this perverse fundamentalist religious movement that grew in Afghanistan since the 1950s has been fostered in no small part by the U.S. government (and the voters that created it).

To be fair to “Joe the Taxpayer”, the average American was in the dark in 1979 when Jimmy Carter and his hawkish National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski persuaded the Russians to invade Afghanistan – which led to the deaths of over 1 million Afghans and the decimation of the very fabric of their society, as a result of 10 years of Soviet occupation during the 80s.

It was during this period that the White House was occupied by an unabashed right-wing hawk put there by Reagan Democrats who were enamored with the Hollywood actor’s borderline messianic vision to destroy communism at all costs. The Reagan administration, stock full of neoconservative Christian and Jewish fundamentalists, ran the biggest covert operation in U.S. history to defeat the Russians in Afghanistan, while supporting the most dangerous and violent Islamist extremists in the world.

The reign of these mujahideen warlords most of whom became depraved, corrupt and pernicious warlords responsible for furthur destroying Afghanistan during the post-Soviet civil wars - and subsequent Taliban rule helped Afghan society regress culturally and politically at a pace and nature unrivaled in world history. These warlord mujahideen committed the same heinous religious brutality against the Afghan population – but of course back then they were our compadres. Throwing acid in the faces of women wasn’t a big deal when the mujahideen were our allies and, as Reagan called them, "freedom fighters".

One could argue that the U.S. public did not realize countless millions were funding the CIA mission in Afghanistan, but eventually it did become known and American taxpayers weren’t bothered in the least because the commies were beaten. In the meantime they reelected Reagan and then voted George H.W. Bush into the White House, issuing each a mandate for continued military buildup.

However, once communism was defeated, U.S. taxpayer dollars were allocated elsewhere and Afghan society was completely neglected – negligence that set the stage for the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s – a movement completely ignored and even implicitly supported by the Clinton administration and other Western powers.

George W. Bush’s administration was responsible for inserting a corrupt puppet to rule Afghanistan and then took taxpayer dollars and funded warlords to “keep the peace” as other resources were diverted to Iraq. It was clear then that Afghanistan suffered tremendously because of the Iraqi diversion. Yet, even this didn’t seem to bother American taxpayers enough – because they reelected Bush in 2004.

Then Obama came in and insulted his liberal base by foolishly inserting a mid-2011 deadline for withdrawal after sending 30,000 more troops into a war with ambiguous goals against an enemy with snug safe havens located in a neighboring country.

The only ones who think this was a good idea are either partisan to the extreme or on Obama’s staff. But didn’t Obama run on a platform of continued military involvement in the Afghanistan / Pakistan region? Again, voters should have known what they were getting. If they did not read up on this – shame on them – it’s their responsibility to be informed.

And shame on the American taxpayers for hardly weighing the Afghanistan war when casting their votes in the recent mid-term elections. They primarily voted for pro-war Republicans who will now try and expand the footprint in Afghanistan and are committed to defeating both Al Qaeda and the Taliban by killing and capturing every last one of them, and they make no secret about their wish for indefinite or infinite occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to keep the terrorists on the run. Which is supposed to keep America safer somehow.

The fact of the matter is Afghans need to be given the opportunity to create their own government and choose their own leader via Afghan custom. One alternative to accomplish this is through a series of jirgas perhaps held in neutral countries. Meanwhile, the Afghans want U.S. forces out of their country. However, they want U.S. taxpayer money to fund a localized counterinsurgency effort, but one that is led by Afghans. And they require furthur investment to rebuild their nation that was destroyed by several administrations that U.S. taxpayers put in power.

Americans have spent a ton of money and spilt a ton of blood purportedly on behalf of the Afghans. The biggest tragedy certainly is that U.S. soldiers have fought and died for a corrupt regime in Afghanistan, but the fact of the matter is, said government was installed by the U.S. It’s time to stop the bleeding and to cease funding President Hamid Karzai’s reprobate cabal and somehow allocate dollars in a way that actually benefits the Afghan people. It’s the least the U.S. – and its taxpayers – could and should do.

(Michael Hughes is a journalist and foreign policy strategist for the New World Strategies Coalition (NWSC), a think tank founded by Afghan natives focused on developing political, economic and cultural solutions for Afghanistan. Mr. Hughes writes regularly for The Huffington Post and his work has appeared in and Ruse the magazine. Michael graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in History.)

NOTE:This is a cross post.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rats at the Dike

By Anwaar Hussian

It is with deep anguish that one pens what one must pen. There is no pleasure in writing this piece.

Frank Lautenberg, the oldest senator in the United States senate, once said, “One thing I have learned in my time in politics is that if one of the parties is shameless, the other party cannot afford to be spineless.”

On the Pakistani political scene, it is shamelessness and spinelessness all around. With a vile determination and barbarous statecraft, the so called Pakistani leaders have taken turns over the decades to assault the body and spirit of this blighted nation. They have plundered and ravaged it, tore its fabric, blemished it with hideous scars until now when it has become this broken, mournful land swaying like a drunkard in the wind.

Thanks to the bunch of pygmies that have been running the show in Pakistan since its birth, the country is now virtually on the brink of disaster. Perhaps like a leviathan out of the ashes, it can still rise up on its wobbly knees to the challenge but the chances are dim. And that is because Pakistan, gasping for life breaths as it already is, will have to do that with these leaders weighting it down from the throat downward, sucking its lifeblood all that while.

The irony is that the Pakistani leadership, by and large, knows it. They know it not by being some kind of visionaries but by that innate hyena like sense that tells them that the prey is about to fall. They know it by those eerie howls on moonlit nights that they find themselves and their kith and kin baying involuntarily to invite each other to the carcass. They know it by that sudden urge to join the frenzy, that monstrous perversion written indelibly on their genetic code.

That much is what they know.

What we know is something entirely different. Though telling it to them is like throwing water on a duck’s back, for they sit secure in their accepted littleness, one must jot it down nonetheless. Perhaps, if time allows, another crop of our national leadership will heed these words.

What we know is that we do not need leaders like these leading us out of these dire straits. It is impossible in fact. For no one has ever heard of the looters ultimately leading the caravan they had been robbing all along to its final destination.

What we know is that there are three individual values that all national leaders must possess i.e. moral courage, competence, and commitment. That these three values are considered essential for building the trust which must exist for the leadership of a nation. And that all these are alien to the aggressively selfish dwarfs going around as Goliaths in Pakistan.

What we know is that for the nation its leaders’ moral courage is much more important than their physical courage for it is this form of courage that will make them stand firm on their values, their ethical principles, and their convictions. That it takes special courage to support unpopular decisions and to make it difficult for others to do the wrong thing. That the ‘others’ may push them to offer a ‘slightly’ unscrupulous solution as the easiest or most expedient way. That we expect them not to do that; to stand up for their beliefs and what they know is right. And that if they believe they are right after sober and careful judgment, they should hold their position and keep on coming. What we also know is that such fine distinctions are foreign to their wicked nature. They consider these to be an affront to their ancestral creed.

What we know is that a duty is a legal or moral obligation to do what should be done without being told to do it. That duty means accomplishing all the tasks to the fullest of one’s ability. That it requires willingness to accept full responsibility for one’s actions. That if one lies or tells a half-truth to make one’s own self or one’s party look good, it may be called being loyal to the leader and the party, but in fact it is being dishonorable and unethical, neglecting one’s duty to the nation that has the first claim on that office. That, to put it in even simpler terms, a leader just cannot truly do his duty without being honorable. What we also know is that these ‘leaders’ laugh in our faces for holding such ‘idiotic’ ideals, calling it a babbling gossip.

What we know is that national leaders must put the nation’s welfare ahead of their own interests. That they must resist the temptation to put self-gain, personal advantage, and self-interests ahead of what is best for the nation. That as leaders, in fact, they must be the greatest servants. That their offices and position are not personal rewards. That they earned them so that they can serve their nation. What we also know is that for cherishing such standards, right now they are silently saying ‘go climb a pole’ and suggesting that we read their lips.

What we know is that whether they like it or not, they are on display at all times. That their actions say much more than their words. That the nation watches them carefully and is likely to imitate their behavior. That they must accept the obligation to be worthy role models and that they cannot ignore the effect their behavior has on the nation. That they themselves must be willing to do what they require of their countrymen. What we also know is that in their midnight congregations, when the truth serum rages wildly through their veins, they damn us for holding close such values and bawl out their midnight howls to show their contempt for us.

After having written all these lines, I now have in my mind’s eye the mug shots of the Zardaris, the Makh-Dooms, the Nawazes, the Hotis, the Raisanis, the Fazl-ur-Rehmans, the Adbullah Shahs, the countless feudal landlords and the many Generals of my unfortunate country. It instantly brings to my mind what Edmund Burk once said, “By gnawing through a dike, even a rat may drown a nation.”

Here is a whole rat pack at the dike. How much time does Pakistan have?

(The writer is a free lance writer & a blogger).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pakistan heads down China road

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has visited China on several occasions since taking office in September 2008, but these visits have been more ceremonial than of substance, in part because his Washington-backed government had gravitated so close to the United States orbit that even the Chinese envoy in Islamabad publicly complained.

The Pakistani military establishment's pro-China lobby, highly influenced by now retired General Tariq Majeed, frowned on this tilt towards the US, and was especially upset that the Americans were allowed to establsh a naval base in Ormara in Balochistan province, and that US defense contractors were given a free rein in the country. However, the post-Pervez Musharraf-era army was
weak and didn't have much choice except to turn a blind eye.

This situation continued until 2009, by which time the army had regained its influence in the corridors of power and had begun to prevail over the country's decision-making process.

Hence, Zardari's scheduled visit to China on November 11 takes on a special significance. Notably, he has not sought the counsel of his pro-US envoy in Washington, Husain Haqqani, who has consistently advised Zardari to keep his distance from Beijing. Instead, the president on Monday held a long meeting with Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani.

Zardari will attend the opening ceremony of the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, as well as meet with his counterpart Hu Jintao and senior officials.

On the surface, the leaders will discuss the Washington-opposed plan for a fifth Chinese-built nuclear reactor in Pakistan. However, the underlying emphasis will be on new moves on the grand chessboard of South Asia.

"This is a time of strategic uncertainty," a senior Pakistani strategic expert told Asia Times Online on the condition of anonymity. "Although there is a strategic alliance between the US and Pakistan, the recent visit by United States President Barack Obama to India, which aimed to benefit the American economy, was revealing of how economic and strategic ties between India and American will be in the future: when push comes to shove, the Americans will stand with India, not with Pakistan."

This does not mean that Pakistan, guided by the military, is instantly going to fall into China's arms and abandon the US, but it is certainly considering adjusting its current alignments.

"While the US has provided all sorts of financial and economic assistance to Pakistan in return for its services in providing NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] a passage to Afghanistan and for fighting militancy in the tribal areas, America didn't support Pakistan in regional conflicts with India," the expert said.

"The US intervened to help resolve disputes between India and Pakistan, but in the end the formulas that emerged from Washington were aimed at creating a situation for dialogue and engagement - trade relations without any resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

"The only [US] goal was that Pakistan-India trade would resume and that would give the Americans a corridor from India into Afghanistan, and finally that dispensation would take India, geographically, into America's strategic loop in South Asia and facilitate India's role to work as an American strategic partner in Afghanistan and all the way up to Central Asia," the expert said.

A changing world
From January to November 5 this year, there were 15 major militant attacks in Pakistan, a dramatic drop from 209 incidents in the same period of the previous year. According to the Canadian Press, the chronology of events shows that the first half of the year was marked by a visibly anti-state insurgency, as was the case in previous years. The frequency of attacks and the dynamics of conflict visibly changed after September [1].

Only two major attacks have occurred since then. These included suicide bomber strikes against a Sunni mosque in Darra Adam Khel in northwestern Pakistan on November 5, in which at least 67 people were killed during Friday prayers. There was also a Taliban suicide attack on a Shi'ite procession that killed 65 people in the southwestern city of Quetta on September 1, beside two other minor incidents against shrines in Karachi and Pakpattan.

This indicates that from September the violence become sectarian, or centered on tribal disputes. The attacks by the Taliban and al-Qaeda that played havoc in Pakistan in 2009 have virtually come to a halt.

Asia Times Online has documented the development of ceasefire initiatives between Pakistan and the militants (See Vultures are circling in Pakistan September 28, 2010). These were brokered with various main groups and at present only fringe groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are left to carry out attacks, and even these are sectarian in nature.

On the other hand, attacks against Afghanistan-bound NATO supply convoys in Pakistan have increased dramatically, to the extent that they have become almost daily.

The "understanding" between the security forces and militants has reached the stage where militants have pledged they will release all prominent prisoners without demanding a high price. These include former Inter-Services Intelligence official retired Colonel Ameer Sultan alias Imam (known as the "Father of the Taliban") and Aamir Malik, the son-in-law of former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, retired General Tariq Majeed.

During Pakistan's recent strategic dialogue with the US in Washington, Islamabad was directly urged to come out with a comprehensive action plan against the powerful Haqqani network in the North Waziristan tribal area. The network is a key player in the Taliban-led insurgency across the border in Afghanistan.

However, army chief Kiani is a fervent believer in dialogue with the network and sees it as a guarantee for peace in the future. The Americans have tried their level-best to reach out to the Haqqanis - Jalaluddin and his sons Sirajuddin and Naseeruddin - and the Taliban, but their talks to start talks have collapsed. This has been confirmed by Saudi and other officials involved in the process. Asia Times Online was the first publication to break the news of the failure, (See Taliban peace talks come to a haltOctober 30, 2010.)

Washington is still pressing Pakistan, though, to mount operations in North Waziristan, and is even prepared to use a stick if necessary. This could be done through international institutions in which the US has influence, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Asia Development Bank and the United States Agency for International Development.

The IMF's assistant director for the Middle East and Central Asia Department, Adnan Mazarie, recently warned that if these bodies stopped their credit lines to Pakistan, it would go into default. The IMF is now warning that if Pakistan does not implement a "credible and irreversible plan to implement power sector reforms", aid will be cut off.

China means business
Last Sunday, Pakistan's Daily Dawn reported that Pakistan had set aside all competitive international bidding for the induction of power plants in the country and had decided to award a contract, without bidding, to a Chinese company for the construction of 1,100 megawatt hydropower project in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, at an estimated cost of US$2.2 billion.

Approximately 10,000 Chinese workers are engaged in 120 projects in Pakistan and total Chinese investment - which includes heavy engineering, power generation, mining and telecommunications - stood at $15 billion at the end of this year, up from $4 billion in 2007.

One of the most significant joint development projects of recent years is the major port complex at the naval base of Gwadar in Balochistan province. The complex, inaugurated in December 2008 and now fully operational, provides a deep-sea port, warehouses and industrial facilities for more than 20 countries.

China provided much of the technical assistance and 80% of the funds for the construction of the port. In return for providing most of the labor and capital, China gains strategic access to the Persian Gulf: the port is just 180 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz through which 40% of all globally traded oil is shipped.

This enables China to diversify and secure its crude oil import routes and provides the landlocked and oil- and natural gas-rich Xinjiang province with access to the Arabian Sea. With China formally in command of Gwadar port operations, it would, along with Pakistan, gain an important regional and strategic advantage.
Pakistan's marriage of convenience with the US that began after September 11, 2001, with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and the launch of the "war on terror", has endured some rocky times.

Informed opinion in strategic quarters in Pakistan is that in the second half of next year, American aid packages, in the wake of the beginning of the US troop drawdown in Afghanistan, will be reduced or even stopped, and the US's relations with India will bloom.

Pakistan wants to be ready for such a development, and is using China as a hedge.

1. On August 23, three bomb attacks in northwest Pakistan kill at least 36. On July 9, a pair of suicide bombers kills 102 people and wounds 168 in the Mohmand tribal region. On July 2, twin suicide bombers attack Pakistan's most revered Sufi shrine in Lahore, killing 47 people and wounding 180. On May 29, two teams of seven militants attack two mosques of the Ahmadi minority sect in Lahore, killing 97. On April 19, a suicide bomber apparently targeting police at a conservative Islamic party rally in Peshawar kills 23. On April 18, two burqa-clad suicide bombers attack refugees lined up to register for food in Kohat district in the northwest, killing 41. On April 5, a suicide bomber attacks a rally of an anti-Taliban political party in Lower Dir district, killing 45. On March 13, two suicide bombers targeting army vehicles in Lahore kill more than 55 and wound more than 100. On February 18, a bomb tears through a mosque in the Khyber tribal region, killing 29 people and wounding 50 more. On February 5, two bombs targeting the Shi'ite Muslim minority sect in Karachi kill 33 and wound 176 and on January 1 a suicide bomber drives a truckload of explosives into a volleyball field in Lakki Marwat district, killing at least 97 people.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief.
NOTE:This is a cross post from Asia Times Online.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Deep State

Humayun Gauhar    

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this parliament must complete its natural life, no matter how bad it gets, as must the provincial assemblies. This is an absolute imperative. Else we won’t grow and mature politically and the system will not evolve. If any changes have to be made, they must only come constitutionally. There are three ways to do this:
1.     The National Assembly can elect a new prime minister if the incumbent feels that he has lost the confidence of the majority of its members or if he simply doesn’t want to continue, for whatever reason.

2.     The National Assembly must pass a vote of no confidence in the prime minister by a two-thirds majority and then elect a new one from amongst its members. So too the president, by parliament and all the provincial assemblies.

3.     The prime minister could call early elections, which only he can.
The same applies to the provinces where the chief ministers have the same authority in their respective provinces. With the power of the president to dissolve the National Assembly and of governors to dissolve their provincial assemblies gone, these are the only constitutional routes available.
The ‘Deep State’, as the Americans call it, must keep its hands off. If it cannot, let it first show if it has any realistic solutions to our deep problems. However, if it can’t help intervening and then follows the same old Standard Operating Procedure, or apply what is called the ‘Kakar Formula’ or copy some other country’s failed model, it would be doing us no service at all. It should realize that all such nostrums have proved to be so much humbug. Pakistan will remain frozen in time, like a yoyo oscillating between civilian and Deep State rule. It can serve Pakistan’s interests best by laying-off as much as possible.
Test this system to its limit, no matter how dire it gets. This is the only way the system can correct itself, if indeed it contains a self-correcting gene. If it cannot, let it fall flat on its face by itself. Don’t push it. If you do, you will make a martyr of it and unnecessarily prolong its life, as we have already done many times. If it contains any inherent life and relevance, it will improve. If it does not, it will fail, but it will fail by itself, not be forced to seem to have failed. We have aborted the people’s learning experience repeatedly and paid dearly for it. Let the people learn and decide for themselves whether they like this constitution or they want something different. Let them decide whether they want this political system or that. Let them decide which politicians and political parties are good and which are bad. Let them decide what democracy really means. And let them strive towards it. It is only through experience, and mostly through bitter experience, that human beings learn – but only if you don’t keep aborting that learning process.
The usual problems associated with civilian rule – corruption verging on loot and a total absence of governance – were to be expected, no matter which party or parties formed the government. No surprises here. This is in the nature of the governments this system will throw up in a largely feudal country with an agrarian economy.
The new problem is the president: powerless though he may now be, he is also the co-Chairperson of the ruling party. That is where he derives real power from and that is what is holding the prime minister and his cabinet hostage, for fear that if they don’t comply with the president’s wishes they risk not getting party tickets come the next elections. If Mr. Zardari is forced out of the presidency, he will still continue to wield his real power over the executive. The change will only be cosmetic. If the courts rule that he cannot hold dual offices (albeit one is private and without profit) he will hit back and hit back hard. He might force a vote in the National Assembly that the executive order of the prime minister reinstating the Supreme Court judges was invalid. The cute argument that they were never thrown out of office in the first place may prove to be just so much sophistry. So let’s be careful, lest we force the Deep State in.
Rational pragmatism demands that the judges must decide how far to go and which is more important – Pakistan or the constitution? The time to amputate a limb to save the body, as Abraham Lincoln said, has not yet come. Our pseudo analysts keep referring to Article 190; I don’t see how it provides for the Supreme Court to order the army to intervene. The justices should know that even if the Deep State follows the so-called Bangladesh Model – which is unconstitutional anyway – they could be its earliest victims.
A frustrated, cynical people ask: will the army save us when there is nothing left to save? Did it save us in the past or just gave us breathing space and left us back at square one? And why did you the people elect this assembly in the first place? Don’t duck the question by saying that you didn’t vote. That is terrible. Our responsibility is collective regardless of which way a particular person voted or didn’t vote at all. Now we have to learn our lessons so that we don’t make the same mistakes again – hopefully.
The Deep State is a state within a state, very much like the Khwaraji concept. Here the state within largely comprises the army, the ISI and the USA with its intelligence, defense and official and unofficial security organs. The army should know that even if it is forced to intervene, directly or indirectly, by the Deep State, America may support it covertly but will oppose it overtly for hypocritical appearances sake, with economic sanctions imposed. That is in its nature. A bankrupt treasury and an economy near collapse will not be able to withstand the strain and we will fall either totally in America’s lap or the many laps religious extremist groups with each carving out his own warlord-like fief. Therein lie the seeds of disintegration. Think about it.
(Humayun Gohar is a free lance writer and an analyst).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Public Opinion in Pakistan

By Brig Samson S Sharaf     
A recent survey carried out jointly by New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow (NAF-TFT) with the local assistance of Community Appraisal and Motivation Programme (CAMP) a Pakistani NGO operating in FATA is testable. Conducted in seven tribal agencies of Pakistan, it managed to collect 498/1000 (49.8%) samples from the worst hit agencies like Orakzai, Khurram, North and South Waziristan. This particular survey in Waziristan excluded the NAF-TFT for security reasons but yet resulted in consistent conclusions.
The survey could have resulted in better insights had some questions peculiar to political sociology of Pakistan been included. Yet responses to different questions if collated scientifically point towards accurate conclusions of the ground realities. Once combined with the second part ie the Leadership Sample, the findings and inferences will be further synthesized and revealing. US research organizations adept at producing biased analysis from a stand-off need to analyse this important document in detail to mellow their anti Pakistan rhetoric.
In many ways the survey reinforces the common perceptions and analysis vocally spelled out by the Pakistani media and excluded political groups. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf has been the most vocal critic of the manner in which WIT has been conducted and is closest to the hearts of the people in FATA. The survey accurately brings out the aspirations of a representative sample living in a violence ridden environment yet conforming to the awareness of Pakistani print media, common people and civil society. In many ways, it reinforces the national construct and belief in Pakistani nationalism. It is also an important document for the Government of Pakistan to redirect its policy on foreign affairs and WOT consistent with the aspirations of the people amply reflected in this document.
The outstanding conclusion of the survey is the opposition to US Military Operations pursuing Al- Qaeda and Taliban inside Pakistan (90%). The individuals who gave this opinion belong to a well knit tribal society where information travels like wildfire and show awareness of hostile intelligence agencies operating in the area. This is local knowledge consistent with what the majority of Pakistanis feel.
Given a choice, about 70% feel that this job should be left to Pakistan Army while over 90% are favourable to the role of Army and FC in their areas. This finding links to other points of the survey in which over 60% blame USA-India-Israel for the problems in FATA. Similarly 59% also see the same nexus as the biggest threat to Pakistan. In US strategic parlance, this means the ‘Long War’ in which US Policy makers wish to include India as a major partner. These opinions based on local firsthand knowledge later transcend to very strong emotional perceptions. 59% of the same people who otherwise hate the militants in the area opine that suicide bombings against USA are justified. Spread to a larger canvas, the majority of Pakistanis disapprove US War on Terror, feel convinced that the present US Nexus is involved in covert operations in Pakistan and therefore killing them is justifiable. This hate for US policy should cause concern and raise eyebrows in the State Department, because in a LONG WAR as they perceive it, this sentiment will grow exponentially.
This is what I have been terming as a War of Hate in many articles, and that based on the Social Dimension of Strategy, USA will lose it in the end. Just like Cambodia and Lagos, this creeping adventurism into Pakistan and forcing Pakistan to become the epicenter of terrorism by design may help USA in its narrow objectives but will create a reaction that the world will not be able to contend with. The same conclusion was forcefully put across by Rachel Maddow in her MSNBC show calling it ‘a New Frontier and a New War, this time Pakistan’. This also explains why young western educated men choose to act as foot soldiers against USA.
With over 122 drone attacks since the Obama surges began, not 10% of Al Qaeda leadership has been neutralized. Yet this remote controlled technology is stubbornly deemed the best option for killing OBL who many believe is already history.  As Bill Van Auken puts it,
‘Following the strategy dictated by his generals, Obama, just like his predecessor in the White House, is attempting to exploit US military superiority to offset American capitalism’s long-term economic decline. This course is producing regional and global instability that threatens to drag the people of Pakistan and the entire world into a far bloodier conflagration’.
The recent escalation in such attacks followed by physical violations of Pakistan’s international boundary have served to ferment angry reactions in Pakistan evidenced in a spate of attacks on NATO convoys. As more people shift from the fringe to radicalism, the only safe way for these convoys would be heavy military escorts provided by Pakistan; the undeclared enemy, or through the waste lands of Central Asia. US analysts and policy makers need to answer why they are doing this and what is their back up and exit plan if this already failing policy ultimately fails?
The second most important finding of the survey is the Pacification Operations; Win the hearts and minds. In any multi dimensional conflict, there always are containing fronts and in a Transylvanian such as this, there ought to be many pacification fronts. US policy makers strive to poke every conceivable fault line to stir instability and prove what Ahmad Rashid calls, ‘Pakistan’s descent into Chaos’.
This conclusion is a tribute to the concept of collective wisdom of a healthy society; The people who have sustained violence for over three decades, lived in least developed areas with minimum developmental and educational infrastructure and lost many kit and kin to war.  Though in awe of US policy maker they do not hate the people of USA, over 75% feel that USA could win hearts and minds by transiting to pacification operations centered on socio-economic development. These people like most Pakistanis are prepared to forgive and forget if USA leaves Pakistan to Pakistanis and engages its people through developmental economics.
Most important and motivating is the strong belief of these besieged citizens in the Federation of Pakistan. Majority are dismissive of Talibanisation.  Over 90% appreciate the presence of the Military and Frontier Corps in the region for law, order and development. This indicates the mistrust of the people in the present bureaucratic and political set up. It is also an indicator that these suffering masses just like other Pakistanis yearn for a new social contract. The single largest majority of 26.50 % wish to see Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf in power trailed by 10.10% for Pakistan Muslim League (N). PPP and ANP seem to have fallen from grace while MQM appears to be more popular than Taliban and Al Qaeda. Religious parties retain their influence of over 13%.
Like most analysts and thinkers in Pakistan, these people are progressive, dreamers and yearn for a new social contract. These are all winds of change that Pakistan needs.
(The writer is a retired Brigadier from the Pakistan Army.).
NOTE:This is a cross post from THE NATION.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Towards reopening Tourkhum Route: Yes or No?

By: Yasmeen Ali   

On October 7 the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization military allies began the tenth year of their war in Afghanistan, over 3,000 miles from NATO Headquarters in Brussels. As the U.S. delivered its 20th deadly drone missile attack of the month inside Pakistan on the 27th, five times the amount launched in August and the most in any month since they were started in 2004, NATO conducted a series of attacks with helicopter gunships in Northwest Pakistan. Claiming the “right of self-defense” and in “hot pursuit” of insurgents that had reportedly attacked a NATO camp, Combat Outpost Narizah, in Afghanistan’s Khost province near the Pakistani border, this past weekend NATO attack helicopters conducted two forays into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas where U.S. drone strikes have killed a record number of people this month.
Estimates of those killed, dutifully referred to in the Western press as insurgents, militants or terrorists, were 30, then 50, afterward 60, 70 and later “82 or higher.” The death toll in Pakistan this month is well over 200 and for this year to date over 2,000. The justification for this carnage offered by the U.S. and NATO is that it is intended to extend the policy of Barack Obama to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” insurgent networks in Afghanistan into Pakistan, supposedly the sooner to end the war.
However, should situation be reversed, will the USA allow Pakistan or any other country for that matter to take the same action and launch attacks, killing thousands of men, women And children, not to speak of Armed Force personnel in the name of” collateral damage”?
Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister for Pakistan, was forced to denounce the attacks in face of mounting public rage against these gross violations and anger at a weak government unable to defend the borders of the sovereign state.
Most of the time, the government has turned a blind eye to the atrocities, in spite of repeated news by the media of damage done by the drones on Pakistan soil. Not any more.  Public anger mounts at both the attackers and the inept and corrupt government of Zardari which has failed on all fronts to deliver on it’s promise at elections.
As a result of this anger, NATO trucks have been torched and burnt to ashes by angry gunmen- who see the government failing to register a complaint with the relevant authorities and for once, see justice done.
Gareth Porter, renowned historical investigative journalist, in his article, published by IPS News, states,” The crisis in U.S.-Pakistani relations was the result of a decision by the Obama administration – which press reports suggest was on the basis of a strong recommendation from Petraeus – to act much more aggressively and unilaterally if the Pakistani military did not do more to attack militant groups in North Waziristan, especially the Haqqani group, which dominates the successful insurgency in eastern Afghanistan.”.
He further states,” One element of the decision was to increase drone strikes in Waziristan dramatically to an unprecedented 22 in September – more than four times the average number in the previous six months. In the past, the United States had gotten permission from the Pakistani government for specific geographic “boxes” in which drone strikes could be carried out, as revealed in “Obama’s War” by Bob Woodward.
Evidently that was not done, however, before the sudden dramatic increase in drone strikes in September.
The second element was to carry out at a series of cross- border helicopter gunship attacks in Pakistan that were not cleared in advance with the Pakistani military.” UNQUOTE.
US forces pursued the Taliban into Pakistan “after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self defense,” Master Sergeant Matthew Summers, an ISAF spokesman, told The Long War Journal on Sept. 26.
But a spokesman at Pakistan’s Foreign Office rejected reports that such an agreement between ISAF and Pakistan exists, and said the incursions are a violation ISAF’s mandate.
DAWN Newspaper, reported on 9th October 2010 that a principled stand has been taken by the Pakistan Government to reopen the Torkhum route.
Note that roughly 80% of NATO supplies pass through the Pakistan route and is vital for strategic interests of the NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, the Pakistan Government has kept the Chaman, linking Baluchistan and Kandahar route open for the NATO supplies and has not completely closed off the supply line.
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson has apologized on behalf of the American people for killing of Pakistani paratroopers in a cross-border raid by NATO helicopters on September 30th. But is that enough? If USA can send Dr Afia Siddiqi to jail for 86 years owing to the alleged attempt on the lives of US soldiers, should those directly responsible for the death of Pakistani paratroopers get off scot free after rendering a grudging apology? USA would do well to understand the anger by the Pakistanis on this show of  double standards and injustice.   
Unless and until, NATO takes a firm action on ground against those responsible, public anger in Pakistan shall not be appeased. Worse attacks on NATO trucks can be expected. According to Reuters, up to 40 trucks of supplies have been burnt by angry gunmen. Can the unpopular government of Asif Ali Zardari sustain the onslaught of public anger? Can Zardari’s government convince NATO to take a firm action against those responsible?
USA’s policies are clearly destabilizing Pakistan. A destabilized Pakistan will destabilize the Region. Can the USA afford this in face of their aim to vacate Afghanistan soon? The Think Tanks in USA must reevaluate their strategies for this part of the world. The United States must also take into account the diplomatic repercussions of such ill advised actions besides the dramatic increase in anti American sentiments in Pakistanis.