Editor, Foreign Affairs
Pakistan & USA should seize opportunity
Editor, Foreign Affairs
14 January 2009
President-elect Barack Obama brings enlightened predispositions to his high office as well as a commitment to change policies that made George W. Bush the most unpopular President of the United States in several decades. Vice President-elect Joseph Biden is respected as a sagacious leader who has long exercised beneficent influence on US foreign policy. He has mature and sympathetic understanding of Pakistan and will no doubt be a source of strength to the new administration in devising a strategy for better bilateral relations to serve not only current but also long-term interests. Of course the opportunity has to be seized by Islamabad: it will require not only clear recognition of parallel interests but also identification of plans and policies for their efficient and effective promotion.
Both countries share equal interest in closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Just as saving America from another 9/11 remains the Number One external preoccupation of the United States, Pakistan, too, has a vital stake in containing this scourge. Our country has suffered more terrorist attacks and greater toll of death and destruction than any other in the world. Presence of Al-Qaeda foreigners on Pakistan territory and the rising tide of domestic extremism and militancy pose an existential threat both within and abroad. At stake is the vision of our founding fathers of a progressive, moderate and democratic nation committed to development of a modern Islamic state. Its rescue is vital for our nation’s future as also for peace in the region and coexistence between civilizations. Terrorist incidents in other countries have often been linked to extremist religious organizations in Pakistan.
The first issue requiring immediate attention in Washington relates to cross-border missile and drone attacks that have strained cooperation between Pakistan and the United States. Although directed against Al-Qaeda, the bombings have also killed many innocent Pakistanis. Indications are that Mr. Obama id cognizant of the seriousness of the problem and that he will abandon policy of such attacks in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan where air and artillery attacks on crowded villages have made foreign forces an object of hatred making Taliban a lesser evil. Too much should not be made of the statement Mr. Obama gave during the election campaign that he would authorize cross-border attacks because it was qualified by two conditions, namely if Osama Bin Laden was in sight in Pakistan and if Pakistan government was unwilling to ‘take him out.’
US Policy. An earnest attempt at comprehension of US objectives in Pakistan and Afghanistan should start by taking note that Washington twice disengaged from the region in 1970s following the collapse of its policy in South Asia and internal turmoil in Afghanistan after Daud Khan’s coup, and in 1990 when US terminated assistance to Pakistan and Afghanistan leaving them in the lurch with a colossal burden of problems created by Soviet military intervention. For over a decade US remained disengaged. It was 9/11 that triggered the realization in Washington that abandoning the region was a blunder. Only then United States decided to make a ‘durable commitment’ to both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Its purpose now was to eliminate international terrorism and contribute to alleviation of poverty which breeds desperation. The United States and the European Union are now investing substantial resources for economic development and stabilization of the two countries.
It is to be hoped that the current economic crisis and the need to save America from another Great Depression would not constrain US resources and undermine the durability of US commitment in our region. The imminent dispatch of additional US forces to Afghanistan does not necessarily evidence a desire to prolong US military presence. More likely it is a response to the need to counter the threat to stability of Afghanistan posed by the resurgent Taliban. American and NATO combat forces are too inadequate and the new Afghan army too weak to counter the threat. Surge of US forces in Afghanistan follows the success of similar strategy in Iraq and if it proves effectual it could lead to reduction and withdrawal of foreign forces.
Meanwhile, USA and EU are also likely to increase security assistance to reinforce the strength of the Afghan army and economic assistance for reconstruction of Afghanistan. Still another change is expected in strategy for political stabilization by induction of Taliban. The Obama administration is likely to revert to the original objective of the intervention in Afghanistan, which was to punish and destroy Al-Qaeda, and not to exclude religious parties from political power. The Taliban regime committed the blunder of allowing Osama Bin Laden to abuse Afghan hospitality but they are not ideological proponents of international terrorism.
Pakistan’s Policy. To revert to Pakistan-US relations, constructive changes in the offing provide an opportunity for Islamabad to intensify security cooperation with the United States in order to eliminate Al-Qaeda presence on Pakistan territory, promote internal security against terrorism by stemming the tide of obscurantism and extremism that threatens the realization of the progressive and modernizing vision of our nation. Islamabad also needs to prepare a strategy for reforms towards improvement of governance and launching the state on the road to development and consolidation. The United States and the European Union appear inclined to provide substantial economic assistance if Pakistan can set its own house in order. Months ago Senators Biden and Luger introduced a bill in the Senate to increase economic assistance to Pakistan several fold to $1.5 billion a year. Farsighted leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from both political parties, including Senator Barack Obama, recognized that greater emphasis needed to be placed on economic development and social progress in Pakistan.
Emphasize Education. Experience of fast-developing countries like China, South Korea, India and Brazil testifies to the crucial role of education especially in science and technology for economic and social development. Pakistan, a laggard in the field, needs to commit larger resources for promotion of technical education and improvement of standards. It has too long neglected the desperate need for upgrading the quality and scope of education. Enlightened governments in many Muslim countries have recognized the need to pay equal attention to this- as well as other-worldly subjects. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, there are no separate madaris confined to Islamic studies. Religious teaching is compulsory in all schools as one of the subjects of a broad common curriculum. Specialization in religious studies begins at higher levels.
It is high time for Pakistan to catch up with contemporary standards of broad basic education which is imperative for an ethical life as well as economic and social progress. A democratic government is better placed to introduce reforms and broaden curriculum in madaris. It is a primary obligation of the government to invest requisite funds to ensure education of children. Current fiscal constraints should not be allowed to obstruct the imperative.
Saudi Arabia: Reforms at deliberate speed
Editor, Foreign Affairs
12 December 2008
BROAD and quality education, rising class of intelligentsia and encouragement by enlightened rulers in Saudi Arabia are fostering an environment for fundamental and far-reaching social, religious and political reforms necessary for progress and stability. An empathetic visitor is pleasantly surprised by the intellectual ferment in the Kingdom and the systematic process that has been launched by the King Abdullah himself for discussion and dialogue on national issues and proposals for salutary action to ensure orderly development of the citadel of conservative Islam and modernization of a society once steeped in tribal culture. Held at the King Abdullah Center for National Dialogue several meetings since 2003 and attended by thirty to seventy scholars for intensive discussions lasting over several days, dialogues have identified core issues and made bold recommendations for reforms. Legislation to implement the recommendations is the logical next step.
While many of the recommendations are addressed to domestic issues some are of equal interest to Muslims in other countries. Particularly impressive in the latter category are proposals that relate to interpretations of Islam in the context of contemporary challenges and understanding of implications of the rapidly changing world. The very first dialogue held in 2003 made the seminal recommendation for utilization of the well established Islamic method of Ijtihad or exertion of analogical reasoning by councils of scholars for rebuilding the law of Sharia to discover answers to new problems.
Incidentally, Allama Mohammad Iqbal’s lectures on Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam considered Ijtihad indispensable for dynamism of society that could otherwise become immobile and stagnant. While conservative ulema would apparently confine resort to this method to doctors of Islamic law, Iqbal proposed inclusion of elected leaders in the process. Saudi religious scholars participating in the dialogue concurred in the recommendation for inclusion of specialists. Evidently, people in Saudi Arabia have benefited from a system of education that is broad in scope. All schools are required to teach a common curriculum with Islamic studies as one of several subjects. There are no madaris that impart only religious education.
Jihad: Among the priority issues identified by dialogue participants as requiring elucidation was the doctrine of jihad which is often mistranslated as ‘Holy War.’ Literally meaning striving or exerting effort, jihad has always been considered a broad and comprehensive term that requires a Muslim to participate in endeavour for rectitude at personal, social and state levels.
Individual effort against one’s own sinful self is considered the greater jihad. Improvement of one’s own character and conduct is the key to improvement of society and individuals must participate in that effort also. Bat, as participants in the dialogue emphasized, an individual is not permitted to issue a fatwa or edict binding on others, and matters of collective concern must be referred to qualified authorities. As for matters of peace and war, only the state has the right to declare jihad. Participants emphasized that distinction must be made between jihad and mischief on earth, and called for definition of terms of ‘land of war’ (dar-ul harab) and ‘land of peace’ (dar-ul aman). Another recommendation called for study and research of phenomenon of extremism and terrorism, its manifestations, causes and remedies. Special importance was attached to developing curricula for spread of spirit of tolerance and moderation. The youth who had been misled in to extremism and mischief needed to be provided opportunity for repentance and return to the mainstream.
Women’s rights: Particularly impressive if also unanticipated and surprising because of prevalent conservatism was the emphasis in the dialogues on promotion of the rights of women. Indeed one of the annual dialogues was devoted exclusively to this theme. Testifying to spread of higher education and enlightenment in Saudi society, the mostly male participants noted that many of the current practices were a legacy from the tribal past and called for distinction between custom and principles of Islam which recognized and expaned rights of women in various spheres of life. They supported reforms to ensure justice to women in all fields of life. Specific recommendations advocated women’s employment as a legitimate right and creation of suitable jobs for the educated.
It was emphasized that marriage did not mean dominance of husbands over wives, and called for legislation to prohibit violence against women and establishment of separate sections for women in courts of law. Still another set of recommendations sought appointment of committees of religious and social scholars to define concepts relating to women’s issues, delineation of their rights and duties and addition of women’s rights to the curriculum of study in schools.
Political and Social Issues: Need for political reform has by no means been ignored. Apparently discussions were calm and discreet testifying to a responsible and respectful approach towards important issues of governance. While participants in the first meeting in 2003 did not hesitate to pace on record their recommendations for expediting political reforms and expanding representation of elected members in the Shura Council, they avoid radical rhetoric and evidence preference for deliberate speed in considering complex issues which include separation of executive, judicial and regulatory branches of government, preservation of public wealth, transparency and accountability and priority for spending on basic needs of citizens.
Seen in perspective, Saudi Arabia is embarked on a progressive path towards evolving a political and social order appropriate to the changing domestic and international environment and responsive to the aspirations of its people. Broad public education and opportunity for thousands of youth to study in institutions of higher studies at home and universities in Europe and the United States are likely to foster a balanced and enlightened approach towards the inherently difficult and complex process of popular participation in governance.
Cooperating against terrorism - and war
4 December, 2008
There was no ambiguity on part of Pakistan in condemning the outrage in Mumbai and there is no hesitation on part of our government to extend cooperation in investigation of allegations linking perpetrator to terrorist groups in Pakistan. There was therefore no warrant for mudslinging and suspicion, setback to normalization process and build up of tension which activated alarm bells not only in Islamabad and New Delhi but also in capitals of friendly foreign countries. The problem evidently is not of intent to cooperate against terrorism but of capability on part of both Pakistan and India for efficient intelligence and preemptive administrative action. The two developing countries need desperately to build up capacity to enhance internal security but tragically limited resources are too often diverted for military contingencies. Also the legal infrastructrure needs to be erected for cooperation in investiagtion and transfer of suspects from one country to the other.
The immediate concern in the wake of the November 26 outrage in Mumbai is once again about peace between Pakistan and India. Alarmed at the recrudescence of tension between the two nuclear neighbors, the United States has dispatched its Secretary of State to New Delhi and Islamabad with the aim of preventing another confrontation. Sensing the threat of aggression Pakistan has had to focus efforts on galvanizing the nation for defence. The All Parties Conference on Tuesday placed necessary emphasis on declaration of ‘steadfast resolve of the Pakistani nation to defend its honour and dignity as well as Pakistan’s sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.’
Obviously the two countries need desperately to develop capacity for ensuring internal security. Unlike the United States which has acted to strengthen homeland security since 9/11, India has not succeeded to seal Mumbai against recurrent outrages that too heavy toll of life and property in 1993 and 2006, again last month. Our plight in Pakistan is even worse. Incidence of terrorist violence and suicide bombings have actually increased. After every major attack authorities announce appointment of investigation committees and issue orders for arrest and punishment of culprits. But seldom does one hear of follow up action or results. A year after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination the masterminds remain untraced and at large to plan and spread death and destruction.
Our government should realize it needs to improve governance. Signs of popular impatience are not confined to India where public opinion is seething against government’s inefficiency in preventing terrorist attacks. Indian authorities ignored reports of sightings of suspicious boats along the Maharashtra coast. A news agency has reported American intelligence agencies conveyed to their Indian counterparts in mid-October information about possibility of attack ‘from the sea against hotels and business centres in Mumbai.’ A week after the Mumbai attacks, Indian authorities apparently have no solid information about identities of ten terrorists who perpetrated the outrage. Only that can explain the New Delhi’s resort to despatch to Islamabad of still another copy of an old list of twenty Indian and Pakistani nationals allegedly implicated in crimes in India who were allegedly provided shelter in Pakistan. Whether any of them was allegedly involved in the latest terrorist attack remains unclear.
Like war, terrorism is a scourge outlawed by established principles of international law, and every state has an obligation to cooperate in efforts to eradicate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan has been in the front line of the war against terrorism. Adversity has consolidated consensus within the country against terrorism within Pakistan. The parliament adopted a unanimous resolution on October 22 to condemn extremism, militancy and terrorism and affirm commitment to eliminating the menace it poses to our state. The declaration issued by the All Parties Conference on Tuesday reiterates and reinforces Pakistan’s commitment: it ‘abhors any act of violence perpetrated against innocent people.’ Notable too was the fatwa issued by the United Scholars Councils in Lahore and Karachi declaring that suicide bombings are ‘haram’ – prohibited – and Islam does not sanction calls for jihad by any individual.
Another pointer to the emergence of an environment in favour of initiatives for peace and cooperation with India against terrorism is affirmation by the All Parties Conference of ‘Pakistan’s desire to pursue its constructive engagement with India in a comprehensive manner.’ If a similar atmosphere is fostered by the government of India, it would facilitate concrete forms of cooperation against terrorism such as thorough and transparent investigation and even transfer of suspects. The prospect for such cooperation can be strengthened by conclusion of an extradition treaty.
Under established international practice extradition is a legal act requiring arrest and transfer of an accused by authorities of one state at the request of another on basis of a treaty. Such treaties are always reciprocal in obligations and applicable prospectively from a date agreed by them. No law abiding state can undertake extradition without due process and no self-respecting state would acquiesce in an arbitrary demand for unilateral surrender of a person. After such a demand by one of the influential Indian participants in negotiations at the Agra Summit in June 2001 was predictably turned down by Pakistan, he was apparently so chagrined that he sabotaged the Agra declaration that was earlier agreed and ready for signatures.
IMF loan to induct needed discipline
Editor, Foreign Affairs
18 November 2008
Even more than billions of dollars to avert imminent default Pakistan desperately needs expert advice to break the habit of living beyond means and independent supervision to prevent corrupt practices that drain off public resources into personal pockets of indiscriminate exploitative elite. International Monetary Fund alone has the financial means, intellectual capability and international credibility to undertake multi-dimensional missions worldwide to rescue states from consequences of improvident economic polices. Impressed by its performance affluent states have decided to increase IMF’s resources with Japan taking the lead to contribute a hundred billion dollars so that it can play an even more effective role to rescue economies sucked into the vortex of the current global crisis.
The loan of $ 7.6 billion likely to be approved by the International Monetary Fund executive board later this week will not only enable Pakistan to service the international debt and provide fiscal space for orderly transition to self-reliance but hopefully also induct desperately needed fiscal discipline and remedial measures to stem the country’s descent into bankruptcy. Pakistan was brought to this humiliating plight by Government’s abysmal failure to take timely measures to rectify domestic and external imbalances between earnings and expenditures and stem the drain that was manifest in rapid decline of on foreign exchange reserves from $ 16 billion in October 2007 to less than $ 7 billion in October 2008. Also for a whole year the State Bank of Pakistan did nothing to prevent flight of capital and enforce laws prohibiting illegal transfer of foreign currency by private sector exchange dealers.
IMF’s supervision will also reassure foreign friends and benefactors who were reluctant to provide cash or credits to Pakistan because of its record of fiscal indiscipline, bad governance habitual, failure to balance income and expenditures, tolerance of corruption and transfer of illicit assets outside the county. The benefit of doubt friends gave to Pakistan in the past was no longer deserved after the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated by General Pervez Musharraf in 2007 which gave amnesty to persons in high places who were charged with crimes of corruption and government even withdrew cases where foreign bank records testified to accumulation of illicit funds. When our state in effect set its seal of approval on malpractices it was natural for friends to withhold charity likely to be abused to feed bad habits. We therefore deserve to be closely watched and supervised so that the assistance extended to Pakistan in future will be utilized for legitimate purposes.
The agreement with IMF will regenerate confidence. IMF loans are invariably subject to conditions that a borrower has to accept. The funds it provides can only be used for specified purposes and the recipient must also implement programmes which not only address the causes of the problems a country faces but also ensure build up of capacity for repayment of the loan. In the past Pakistan acquired notoriety as a one-tranche country because after receiving the first installment it failed to implement its solemn pledges. As a result IMF terminate transfer of further funds. Only once, during Shaukat Aziz’s tenure, Pakistan abided by the conditionalties of IMF loans.
Still IMF is not taking good performance for granted. According to indications it will also appoint experts who will not only assist Pakistan in devising efficient policies but also continuously monitor utilization of the loans for agreed purposes. Mercifully the possibility of abuse or diversion of loan to illegitimate ends will be prevented. IMF is not like our public sector banks which were pressured to give loans to influential people who later used their influence to secure write-offs.
The main objectives of the IMF loan are stated as restoration of confidence of domestic and external investors by addressing macro-economic imbalances while protecting the poor from hardship and preserving social stability through a well targeted social safety net. The loan is expected to save the country from serious balance of payments difficulties and default on existing liabilities in foreign exchange.
Unlike World Bank and Asian Development Bank loans which usually have long maturities, the IMF loan will be repayable in five years. Although the interest rate of 3.5 to 4.5 percent is concessional, the loan of $ 7.6 will add about two billion dollars a year to Pakistan ’s debt servicing burden during 2011-2016. Since the servicing liability on the existing debt burden of an estimated $ 50 billion is already about $ 3 billion a year, the IMF loan will raise the annual liability to $ 5 billion a year.
It is high time Pakistan once again embarked on determined effort to stabilize its debt burden. In 1999 the government decided on a strategy to break the debt trap. Although constrained by multiple nuclear and democracy sanctions, it embarked on rigorous austerity so that the debt burden was not allowed to exceed the inherited figure of $38 billion. Unfortunately the example then set is not valued by the present government.
Obama: Exponent and symbol of change
08 November, 2008
In electing Barack Obama as President a decisive majority of Americans has demonstrated a deep desire for fundamental change in US policies at home and abroad. The new administration can be expected to abandon arrogant unilateralism and jingoism in world affairs and adopt responsible postures in order to recapture international respectability. Never in recent history was the United States more disliked by liberal Americans and foreign friends. America has rejected policies of George W. Bush and NeoCon ideology that envisioned perpetuation of United States as sole superpower and imposition of imperial domination in world affairs. The vote for an Afro-American as President for the first time in US history also illustrates America’s ascent to a higher level of civilization committed to equal human rights irrespective of race and religion.
CHANGE was the leitmotiv of Obama’s election campaign. His pledge to promote equity between the rich and poor and the weak and powerful at home should incline him also to adopt similar aims in world affairs even though decline of the American economy may not permit larger allocations for assistance to developing countries. His eloquent statements during the election campaign have inspired hope that his foreign policy will be guided by respect for the United Nations and its universally recognized principles of international relations. The world community expects the greatest powers to abjure use of force and intimidation and instead provide leadership for consolidation of international peace and cooperation. A more enlightened Secretary of State can help repair the damage done by the arrogant Ms Condoleezza Rice.
Of particular interest to us is Barack Obama’s strategic vision for the Gulf region and policy towards Pakistan. An opponent of the war on Iraq he is committed to withdrawal of US forces from that country by end of 2009. He has also promised to change policy towards Iran and open direct negotiations with its government. While resolved to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Mr. Obama has declared intention to place greater reliance on diplomacy and collective action by major powers to persuade Tehran to break the current deadlock. He cannot ignore the fact that attack on Iranian nuclear installations by the United States or Israel trigger a protracted conflict, destabilize the entire region and interrupt oil supplies from the Gulf that are vital for the economic well-being of many countries.
Only delivery of promised change by the Obama administration can restore respect for the United States. Eloquent promises to change US policy will not command credibility unless the United States renounces doctrines of unilateralism and preemptive use of force reminiscent of a lawless era. The havoc wrought by the Bush administration’s policies is manifest in Iraq. US aggression against this ancient country, destabilized its polity and triggered sectarian strife. A million people are said to have been killed and five millions have been dislocated. If existing laws against war crimes were uniformly enforced there is a case for bringing Mr. George W. Bush to justice.
Obama’s Pakistan policy
In the limelight during the election campaign, Pakistan may be on top of Obama administration’s commitment to intensify the war on terror, liquidation of Al-Qaeda and elimination of threat of another attack on the United States. To that end Mr. Obama is pledged to reinforce US military in Afghanistan and galvanize Pakistan for greater effort. Greater economic support is calculated to persuade Islamabad to expel Al-Qaeda leaders and operative from Pakistan territory and prevent cross-border attacks by Taliban in Afghanistan. Since these objectives are consistent with Pakistan’s own interests, Islamabad can have no objection to their pursuit provided US strategy is consistent with principles of respect for sovereignty.
Mr. Obama’s statement that he would authorize strikes on Pakistan territory has provoked concern among Pakistani observers which are exaggerated because they do not read the nuances of the statement. For his declaration of intent to authorize cross-border attack is explicitly qualified by two conditions - if the US gets information of presence of Osama Bin Laden on Pakistan territory and if Pakistan is unwilling to take action against him. Firstly there is no evidence that OBL is hiding in Pakistan territory. Secondly, there is no reason to doubt Islamabad’s willingness to take action if reliable intelligence identifies his hideout in the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan. Our forces have not hesitated to use forces against Al-Qaeda operatives found on Pakistan territory in the past. Hundreds of them who resisted expulsion were killed or arrested and extradited by Pakistan forces. In contrast the achievements of US, NATO and Afghan forces have been less impressive. Nor has Pakistan been unwilling to do more. What may be lacking is not will but capacity for prompt and effective action. That capacity should be upgraded through cooperation even more than has already been done. Also greater cooperation in intelligence and operational coordination can yield the desired result as well as avoid unnecessary frictions.
Pakistan has equal interest in fighting terrorism because it is a victim of the scourge. Thousands of Pakistanis have been killed or injured by Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. Destruction of property and infrastructure has assumed grievous proportions. Pakistan has deployed a hundred thousands soldiers to eliminate terrorists. More than 1500 of them have embraced martyrdom. The campaign against them commands national consensus. The resolution unanimously adopted by our parliament on October 22 declares that ‘extremism, militancy and terrorism pose a grave danger to the stability and integrity of the nation-state’ and ‘the nation stands united to combat this growing menace.’
Mr. Obama can be confidently expected to take Pakistan’s sensitivities into account. He and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden are both friends of Pakistan in word and deed. They are co-sponsors of a bill in the US Senate that calls for increase in economic support to Pakistan to fifteen billion dollars for the next ten years. Its object is to enable our government to spread education and enlightenment without which we cannot eradicate extremism and terrorism. US cooperation is indispensable for Pakistan’s security and economic development. A provident policy should therefore strive to sustain mutual goodwill, promote better understanding and prevent misunderstanding.
Policy for time of peril
DESCRIPTION of Pakistan as ‘the most dangerous country in the
world,’ instant confirmation of the label in the suicide attack on
Asfandyar Wali Khan, a British Ambassador’s apprehension that
current US-NATO policy in Afghanistan could fail and the Karzai
regime collapse, a US General’s warning ‘there is a threat to
Pakistan’s very existence,’ and premonitions of the West’s
disengagement from our region are grave signals that call for
reappraisal of the deteriorating environment for success of
Pakistan’s current policy. Pakistan has to devise a more
self-reliant strategy to cope with the serious threat of Taliban
militancy because expectations of increased foreign assistance for
our deteriorating economy seem unreal at a time when the world is
afflicted with an unprecedented fiscal crisis. Need is obvious at
this time of peril for clarity of thought in identification of the
enemy, focusing greater effort on isolation and liquidation of
militants, convincing the world of our earnestness and husbanding
our resources with austerity and efficiency.
It would be illogical and dangerous to shut our eyes to the glaring ground realities and naïve to divert attention from the enemy within and alienate friends and sympathizers by casting aspersions on their sincerity and commitment. Senator Joseph Biden joined his Republican opponent in the debate between Vice Presidential candidates on October 3 to dub Pakistan as the most dangerous country because of insecurity of its nuclear assets. Logically, he also suggested actions to help Pakistan cope with the dire danger. “We should help Pakistan ,’ he said, to establish a stable government, support democracy, improves governance and build schools. He is the author of the propose bill for increase of economic assistance to Pakistan to $15 billion in the next ten years.
Similarly the statement of General David Petraeus, Chief of US central command, should be read in context. No doubt he used blunt soldierly language in saying ‘there is a threat to Pakistan ’s very existence’ but his purpose was not to demoralize the people of Pakistan , intensify prevalent insecurity or intimidate our government. On the contrary he assumes the threat posed by armed extremists can be countered and to that end he has underlined the necessity of Pakistan ’s ‘sustained commitment to deal with the militants.’ A sensible response to the warning should be based on clear recognition of the nature of the threat, identify the enemy who poses it and then proceed to devise and implement an effective strategy to liquidate the enemy.
Enemy is within
Fortunately there is increasing clarity in public mind about the identity of the enemy. Pakistanis at home and abroad are now awake to the realities. Attacks on our armed forces and security and administrative personnel, suicide bombings, arson of schools and destruction of the economic infrastructure of our poor country have triggered a storm of outrage against the perpetrators who abuse the name of Islam and blatantly claim ‘credit’ for the mayhem. Citizens in more seriously affected areas are now joining hands to fight and expel the enemy. Support for Army operations against militants has surged. Pakistani community organizations in the UK have sent a public message of solidarity to brothers and sisters in Pakistan who have suffered as a result of acts of terrorism.
Leaders of the post-election government have publicly proclaimed that war against terrorism is our war, not only that of the United States or the West. It is clear Taliban militant are engaged in hostilities against our state. They have no respect for the constitution, aim to overthrow the government and supplant its legal and administrative institutions with a reactionary and retrograde dictatorship. Although provided with lethal arms by foreign opponents of peace and progress, they are fortunately too small a minority to pose an existential threat to our state. Still there can be no doubt of the serious peril their violence and terrorism poses to the aspirations of our nation to develop a progressive, modern and democratic Islamic state as envisioned by the founding fathers of Pakistan.
A realistic strategy to counter and liquidate the threat to Pakistan requires first mobilization of the nation itself. All efforts should be made to expose the enemy, counter its propaganda and prevent it from misleading and recruiting impressionable youth to perpetrate suicide bombings. Other Muslim states have adopted strategies to reform education in religious and sectarian institutions and to prevent indoctrination that is inconsistent with the tolerant spirit of Islam. Their experience should be considered for emulation. In a democratic state every community has a right to establish facilities for specializations in religious studies but the state has a responsibility to ensure broad school education so as to enable children to think rationally and develop tolerance and respect for the rights of others. In contrast narrow and distorted interpretations inculcate religious and sectarian bigotry and discrimination.
By generating an environment of insecurity the enemy’s purpose is to isolate Pakistan internationally and push us back to the dark age of wars of religion. They target foreign visitors and project personnel to prevent economic development. Surely the interests of our state require prevention of a campaign of hostility and denunciation against friendly countries. Our effort especially at this time of peril should instead focus on courting sympathy, support and assistance of other nations of the world. The United States, Britain, China, Saudi Arabia and other countries have provided vital cooperation and economic and assistance. Clearly relations with these countries should be further strengthened. Loss of their support would cripple our capacity to ensure security.
Aid may decline
The possibility can no longer be ignored that aid to Pakistan might decline. Protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their enormous costs in blood and treasure have sapped domestic support for the war on terror launched by President George Bush after 9/11. Ominous indications are writ large in the unprecedented fiscal crisis, forty percent fall in stock markets and rising unemployment that the United States is suffering from what Harvard Professor Paul Kennedy called ‘imperial overstretch’ meaning over-extension of military and economic resources which, his analysis of Ming, Mughal, Ottoman and other empires showed, has historically led to decline of Great Powers.
The possibility can no longer be dismissed that the Pakistani nation might have to shoulder greater burden in order to rescue our state from militants who aim to impose an obscurantist interpretation of Islam and medieval system of government on us. To ward off that danger we have to recognize the perils and radically improve performance. A former British ambassador to Afghanistan has expressed pessimism about the West averting defeat in Afghanistan because ‘the current situation is bad, the security situation is getting worse, so is corruption and government has lost all trust.’ Only actions will save us from a similar fate.
Isolate enemy, not Pakistan
CLARITY of thought is imperative at this time when our state is
faced with a grave threat to its security and preservation of the
aim of our founding fathers who envisioned Pakistan as a progressive
and modern Islamic state. Never before was it more necessary to
identify the enemy that threatens our aspirations, and also to be
clear who can help us defeat the dangerous enemy. At this juncture
more than ever Pakistan needs friends and allies. Isolation is
dangerous for medium and small states.
To identify the enemy, all we need to do is ask: Who has killed one thousand four hundred Pakistani army men, hundreds of civil administration personnel and innocent citizens? Who has burnt schools and shops, destroyed economy of Swat and tribal areas and thrown tens of thousands of bread winners out of work and aggravated unemployment and poverty? Who has brainwashed young lads to become suicide bombers and spread insecurity? Who is responsible for collapse of law and order in the border areas that has forced lacs of people to flee their homes? Who threatens our state, its constitution, civil administration and normal life? Who has provoked retaliation by US forces that kill not only foreign terrorists and their local acolytes but also innocent Pakistani civilians?
Having clearly understood who our real enemy is, the next question is whether we can cope with their threat to our state by ourselves alone or whether we need sympathy, support, cooperation and assistance of friends and allies. It makes no sense to make more enemies or alienate and antagonise those who are in a position to assist us. Isolation is dangerous for middle and small powers. Can our economy already reeling under the impact of global factors cope with the consequences of isolation? With foreign exchange reserves having depleted by $7 billion in the past ten months, and hemorrhaging at the rate of $700 millions a month, how will Pakistan avert bankruptcy and economic collapse? The moment calls for realistic analysis and introspection.
Criticism of the United States is easy to make. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq on false pretext, killings of hundreds of thousands and displacement of millions of people in that country and destruction of its economic and administrative infrastructure are comparable in gravity to crimes committed by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. While superpowers escape accountability even they cannot escape economic and social consequences. Not only has the name of the United States been irreparably blemished once again as it was in Vietnam its people are paying a high price.
From Pakistan’s angle, too, the Bush administration can be rightly criticised for violating a basic principle of law that prohibits states from launching attacks across international borders. Bombing and missile attacks by US forces that kill innocent citizens in Pakistan are condemnable, and our government and people have done so clearly and loudly enough. On its part especially Pakistan recognises it has a responsibility under international law to prevent abuse of its territory by the Taliban Movement as a base for cross-border attacks on US and allied forces in Afghanistan, and it is endeavouring to prevent and punish these terrorists. According to American government itself Pakistani forces have played a major role in the war on terror. Al-Qaeda spokesmen confirm that sixty percent of their casualties are a result of actions by Pakistani forces and forty percent due to US attacks.
If we have not fully succeeded so far in containing and neutralizing Al-Qaeda and Taliban Movement that is not because of intent but lack of capacity. That capacity needs to be augmented and Pakistan has been grateful to the United States for the assistance it has been providing. With such assistance Pakistani forces can do the job more effectively and thus not only to prevent cross-border attacks but also terrorism within Pakistan.
Clearly both sides need to do more to liquidate terrorism and restore legality in the areas along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. But that object can be better achieved through cooperation between the two sides than if they operate at cross-purposes. Impatience of the United States is undermining cooperation and opening fissures that are being exploited by the common enemy. The need for reversing the current trends in Pakistan-US relations is both obvious and urgent. No country has been more generous in economic aid and military support. In the first three years after 9/11 Pakistan received $4.6 billion from the United States alone. Not only policy makers need to contemplate consequences of loss of aid and support by USA and other Western countries.
Aid cut-off will also undermine the capacity of Pakistani forces and could even compel their withdrawal from the tribal territory and adjoining areas. Terrorists would then extend their control and enlarge their operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States and NATO are already reinforcing their military in Afghanistan. They would no doubt increase air and missile attacks and ground incursions will increase targeting not only terrorists but in the process also increasing killings of innocents. The people of these territories are bound then to flee the embattled areas and seek refuge elsewhere in Pakistan. Neither militarily nor economically would Pakistan be in a position to cope with the resultant problems.
Commentators who attribute the present predicament to ‘wrong’ decision by General Pervez Musharraf’s regime after 9/11 evade analysis of what would have been consequences of failure to join the world community in the war on terror. Pakistan would have been alone to buck the tide in global affairs. On September 12, 2001 the General Assembly and Security Council of the United Nations adopted unanimous resolutions to condemn the Taliban regime for allowing Osama Bin Laden to abuse Afghan territory for international terrorism and calling for action to bring perpetrators of 9/11 to justice. NATO endorsed IS decision to invade the Taliban and states of the adjoining Gulf, Central Asian and South Asian regions offered transit facilities for the military action. Had Pakistan refused cooperation it would be all alone? Already isolated intentionally as the sole supporter of the Taliban, it would become vulnerable to US and allied military attacks similar to those against the Taliban. President Bush declared on September 13 ‘those who harbour terrorists would be treated as terrorists.’
The vast majority of influential Pakistanis whom General Musharraf briefed on the crisis in October 2001 endorsed the conclusion there was no feasible alternative to joining the world community in the war on terror. They included political personages, former Ministers and government officials, strategic analysts, media luminaries, respected intelligentsia, influential persons from territories adjoining Afghanistan, Mashaikh, leaders of labour, women and students, etc. The only group where a majority opposed the decision was that of Ulema who argued religious duty required Pakistan to support a fellow Muslim state; but even within this group respected religious scholars emphasized government’s primary responsi-bility was to protect the security and welfare of the people of Pakistan. They recalled the decisions of the Prophet (PBUH) to enter into treaties with the Jews of Medina and non-Muslim rulers of Mecca which contributed to the long-term interests of the Muslim community.
Intelligence agencies under siege
Editor, Foreign Affairs
While India has always been quick to ascribe blame for communal and terrorist violence to Pakistan,
President Hamid Karzai chose to abuse the SAARC Summit in Colombo on July 31 to launch a broadside
against Pakistan’s intelligence agencies for nurturing terrorists to target his ‘tolerant and
peace-loving’ country. On the same day, a Bush administration official joined the chorus by claiming it had evidence of ISI’s involvement in the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul. Unfortunately, the timing of the announcements first of transferring administrative control over Inter-Services Intelligence from Prime Minister’s secretariat to Interior Ministry and then of revoking the decision played into the hands of ISI’s foreign and domestic critics. The notoriety of this agency for interference in domestic politics and conducting objectionable operations at home and abroad lent credence to allegations and the government felt obliged to offer to probe deeper into the allegations if it was provided with evidence. There is no doubt a solid case for review of decisions made not only by military dictators by also an elected head of government in the 1970s to expand the jurisdiction of ISI and the Federal Bureau of Intelligence, especially to limit if not prohibit resort to extra-legal measures such as prolonged detention and punishment of suspects of breaches of internal and external security but countries with such agencies as CIA and RAW that are notorious for documented intelligence operations like those that toppled the Mossadeq regime in Iran and divided Pakistan into two should remember the adage of a pot calling the kettle black.
Whatever the merit or lack of it in the allegations against Pakistani intelligence agencies, Mr. Karzai’s diatribe was illogical and incredible besides displaying ingratitude for the enormous sacrifices of Pakistan army and security personnel in the fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban opponents of the Karzai regime. Unlike Afghanistan which allowed sanctuaries to Al Qaeda during the Taliban regime, Pakistan government has sought to expel foreign militants who entered Pakistan after US intervention in Afghanistan. These illegal entrants and their Taliban cohorts have no doubt suborned some of the inhabitants of Pakistan’s tribal areas to carve out havens for hostile activities against Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. Mr. Karzai is not alone to overestimates Pakistan’s capacity to contain the scourge.
Mr.Karzai as well as US and NATO allies can legitimately expect Pakistan to do more to stop abuse
of its territory by Taliban for cross-border attacks. But there is no justification for impugning
Pakistan’s policy which is transparently aimed at liquidating terrorism. Realism requires instead
recognizing of Pakistan’s capcity limitations. The United States has therefore assisted Pakistan to
augment its capacity for fighting terrorism and militancy.
In contrast, Mr. Karzai has leveled accusations implying connivance by Pakistani agencies in Taliban
attack. His charge that Pakistani agencies are behind Taliban terrorists makes no sense simply because they Taliban have targeted and killed more Pakistani security personnel and inflicted greater destruction in Pakistan than they have done in Afghanistan. In analyzing the root causes of the challenge to his regime Mr. Karzai distorts facts and misconstrues Pakistan’s policy. The Taliban who abuse Pakistan territory for murder, mayhem and destruction on both sides of the border are enemies of both nations. They attack and kill state employees and civilians, bomb power pylons and gas pipelines, burn schools, kidnap and execute civilian officials, threaten critical media and impose arbitrary and savage rule wherever they succeed to supplant government authority. They are a threat not only to Afghanistan but also Pakistan and to the vision of its founding fathers of a free, democratic and progressive Islamic state. That is why the government of Pakistan joined the fight against terrorism and that is also why Islamabad supported the UN in promoting establishment of a consensus regime under Mr. Hamid Karzai in December 2001 and has sought to assist it in reconstruction of the destroyed state. A peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interest of the entire world and no neighbour has more at stake in its consolidation than Pakistan. Mr. Karzai’s attribution of ill will to Pakistan government flies in the face of reality and history.
No doubt Pakistan has many problems of governance but Afghanistan’s are unfortunately even more
forbidding because it lost military and administrative sinews during a thirty years long period of
troubles. The narcotics mafia and rival militias have further undermined the Karzai regimes precarious
capacity to cope with the challenge of the Taliban. Unfortunately its earlier promise of building popular support at home has suffered setbacks. The massive aid Afghanistan has received since 2001 has not been purposefully utilized. Too much of it has been pilfered by corrupt elements in the regime. Instead of reform and reconstruction that would have provided better lives for Afghans, the Karzai government has allowed Afghanistan to become the world’s biggest narcotics supplier and like its predecessors connived in smuggling and other illegal activities to the detriment above all of Pakistan. Instead of recriminations, Afghanistan and Pakistan would better serve common cause through better mutual understanding and intensification of cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Failure to do so would play in to the hands of extremists. Already left behind in the world community’s march towards progress and more productive lives for their people, they face dire danger of religious obscurantism, social regression and descent into chaos.
Taliban threat to freedom and democracy
Editor, Foreign Affairs
Civil society’s unanimous condemnation of the threat to Aaj Kal newspaper for criticizing Taliban policies and actions represents the tip of the iceberg of fear, foreboding and resentment that has been gathering mass against extremism and militancy that menace peace and security if not also the survival of the dream of Pakistan as a democratic, progressive and enlightened Islamic state. Terrorism, suicide bombings, attacks on armed forces and civilian personnel, burning of schools for girls, destruction of businesses and livelihood of workers and incitement of sectarian strife have outraged common people. Citizens still look upon persons of religion with respect but now that is mixed with doubt and apprehension that religious garb may conceal a terrorist. News of Taliban attacks on police and armed forces evoke sympathy for victims and silent words of prayer that state authorities will prevail and find ways of isolating, disarming and liquidating the militants and reestablish security, peace and progress at home. At the same time the nation cannot but feel deep concern about Pakistan ’s international image as a cradle of extremism and terrorism. Pakistan ’s prestige in the world community has declined, foreign countries have tightened issue of visas and relations with otherwise friendly countries are threatened due to abuse of Pakistan territory by militants for cross-border attacks. The spectre of intervention has begun to haunt as US and NATO casualties in Afghanistan have risen to record levels in June and nine US soldiers killed on a single day on July 13. Pressure is bound to mount on Washington to neutralize the aggravating threat posed by insurgents operating from lairs in the tribal areas. Democratic candidate for US Presidency, Senator Barack Obama has called on Pakistan to prevent cross-border incursions from its tribal areas and warned that otherwise ‘ America will do so.’
The argument of Pakistan ’s title to respect for its sovereignty has a legal basis so long as our country also fulfills obligations of sovereignty. International law requires a state to ensure that its territory is not made a launching pad for attacks across borders. Taliban militants who violate domestic law and global norms incur international odium and undermine the credibility of Pakistan ’s claims it can prevent the crime. As the elected government’s strategy of combining military action and political negotiation has so far proved counter-productive, the view has gained ground in the world that Pakistan is failing to fulfill its responsibilities. US and NATO officials have described the situation in Pakistan as ‘dysfunctional.’ If Pakistan cannot successfully reverse current trends on its own, the rationale for foreign forces to supplement Pakistan ’s efforts in the tribal areas would gain greater understanding if not support both at home and abroad.
No responsible state can accept the obscurantist interpretation ‘Islam does not recognize state borders.’ Having violated universally recognized principles of international law the militants have exposed themselves to international penalties and sanctions. If foreign forces then violate our border in hot pursuit or attack militant lairs Pakistan would be faced with an agonizing dilemma. People expect their armed forces to defend Pakistan ’s borders against foreign aggression but they are also realistic and would wish the state to ensure against giving cause for conflict. Pakistan must instead address the imperative of preventing outlaws from exposing the state to international isolation and unwarranted confrontation with Afghanistan , United States and NATO.
Taliban incursions into Afghanistan have already clouded the judgment of besieged and embattled President Hamid Karzai who has unleashed a barrage of baseless allegations against Pakistani agencies for conniving in Taliban attacks. The outbursts have needlessly jeopardized friendly relations between the two fraternal neighbours. Having personal experience as a refugee in Pakistan he knows his countrymen have abused Pakistan territory as a base for cross-border operations. He knows also it is as difficult for Pakistan as it is for his government to put that genie back in the bottle. The object can best be achieved by continued close cooperation between New Afghanistan and Pakistan .
In contrast with Kabul , Washington has been sympathetic. It understands that lack of complete success in anti-terrorist operations by Pakistani forces has been a matter of capacity and therefore it has provided assistance to increase efficiency of Pakistani counter-terrorism forces. That process has to be sustained. The vast majority of Pakistani people well understand that war on terror is as much in the interest of our future as it is in the interest of the world community. It is well aware of the international consensus against terrorism. While Islamabad has from time to time explored negotiations with influential people in tribal areas but that should not be interpreted as lack of commitment to the anti-terrorism cause.
No doubt Washington has dilemmas of its own that do not permit neglect. But the US and NATO allies should also understand that pushing the elected government in Pakistan into a corner is not a salutary option. There is no substitute for the strategy of closer cooperation in pursuit of the common aim. Pakistani people are distraught at the costs in lives and destruction the country has suffered as a participant in war. Their state’s capacity to contain terrorism has been insufficient but they have faith in the potentials of their armed forces and believe given the means they can do the job. Patient persuasion can overcome reservations and reluctance. One cardinal lesson from the past Pakistan cannot ignore is it cannot afford international isolation
Sindh’s treasure of black gold
Editor, Foreign Affairs
LAKHRA coal reserve is one of the world’s largest, Sindh’s treasure trove for prosperity and a silver lining on Pakistan’s dark energy horizon. It can be used for generation of electric power sufficient to end load-shedding. Also it can be converted into oil and gas to reduce if not rid us of dependence on imported oil and gas. Estimated at 185 billion tons, equivalent to 350 billion barrels of oil, Lakra coal can launch Sindh on a trajectory to development and progress. Why hasn’t that been done so far defies common sense. Precise reasons are difficult to identify. However, more relevant now are prospects that should beckon the Sindh government to seize the initiative and launch a resolute drive for exploitation of its natural wealth. With the same political party in power also at the centre, it can secure prompt fulfillment of the federal government’s obligation to formulate an integrated policy for development of nature’s bounty. With the constitution vesting the right to minerals in provinces Sindh would be entitled to royalty as well as due share in benefits and profit on investment. Technology for multiple uses is well known and corporations in China, Germany and South Africa have abundant experience. China generates 70 percent of its energy from coal. South Africa produces 350,000 barrels of oil and 4 billion cu. ft. of gas per day from lignite coal similar to Lakhra’s. India has built a 1200MW power station in Rajasthan using coal from the seam that is an extension of the reserve at Lakhra. World Bank, Asian Development Bank and even commercial corporations can be expected to invest in profitable coal-based ventures. But government has to first formulate policy and foster a social and economic environment conducive to foreign investment. That unfortunately has been delayed.
Pakistan has known of the available reserve but did not undertake necessary preparation of a project. Islamabad approached Beijing some six years ago and as usual Chinese leaders responded positively. A Chinese corporation invested $25 million in exploration and feasibility study. Chinese government indicated willingness to participate in investment. Final agreement was within sight as Chinese government intervened to reduce price to 5.8 cents per unit, lower than the rate government gave to private power producers a decade earlier, but the deal collapsed because of imprudent bargaining on our part. In exasperation the Chinese company left.
Nor was the above the only instance of missed opportunities. Over nearly forty years one government after another succumbed to misinformed pressure and political manoeuvring so that no new major dam has been built since Tarbela in 1960s. The cost of procrastination is writ large in long hours of load-shedding, inconvenience and hardship to consumers and damage to commerce and industry. Experts also point to failures to formulate appropriate policies to encourage prospecting for oil and gas on a scale necessary to attract foreign investment. Promising on- and off-shore fields were found in Balochistan and along Sindh coast decades ago but follow up actions were not taken in good time to develop the finds. As a result Pakistan is heading for an energy crisis even earlier than the rest of the world. Only immediate policy decision and fast track implementation to develop Lakhra coal field offers hope of amelioration. It does no require technical expertise to realize we would otherwise be confronted with a multi-dimensional energy crisis. More than most other countries, we are short of alternatives. Oil and Gas. Currently supplying 50% of energy supply, production of natural gas in Pakistan is projected to decline and as early as 2009 brown-outs are likely to add to misery of load-shedding across the country. In five years indigenous gas will meet only about a quarter of the demand. So far no alternative arrangements have been made. Even if agreement with Iran is signed the pipeline will take several years to build. Besides, imported gas will entail fivefold increase in consumer price. Oil prices have sky-rocketed already. The trend is global and irreversible.
Fossil fuels are a finite and depleting resource, discovery of new mega-fields has been leveling off and average output per oil well has been in decline. At current trends global demand is projected to rise from 85 million barrels per day in 2008 to 130 million bpd by 2030, which is unlikely to be met by increase in production. Driven by imbalance between supply and demand, price is bound to maintain a rising trend. The era of cheap oil is gone for ever. Newsweek has predicted rise to $200 a barrel. Unless production of energy from domestic resources is rapidly increased, the country will face unmanageable supply and price problems. Apart from developing Lakhra we also need to build more dams and invigorate prospecting for oil and gas. Oil and gas bearing geological structures have been identified in Balochistan, both off-shore and inland. Their development has been delayed, because of suspected pressure on foreign oil companies from their governments. Load-shedding already afflicts consumers. Petrol and diesel prices have sky-rocketed. There is no relief in sight. Pakistan’s exchange reserves of $16 billion in 2007 are already down to about $10 billion. At present rate of depletion these will not last much longer than a year or so. Then oil imports would be inadequate to meet demand with predictable consequences for individual and corporate sector. Wheels of industry would not continue at present pace. Increasing numbers of private car owners even in rich countries are switching to public transport. In our country that is not an inviting option. Neither government nor private enterprise has developed efficient bus facilities in urban areas. School children and office workers depend on private cars for conveyance.
Electric Power. The picture of electric power is equally bleak in the short term. Pakistan’s current installed capacity for power generation is variously estimated at 18000-19400 MW, with hydel generation contributing 10000-13400 MW in different seasons. About 4000 MW is generated from natural gas and the rest mostly from diesel. The power crisis of 2008 is more acute because demand has continued to increase while little has been added to generation capacity over the past years. New river dams will take several years to build even after sites have been selected. Government has announced it will install 4000 MW new capacity by later 2009. Cost of electricity to be supplied by private producers may be 20-25 cents, i.e. up to 20 rupees per unit. THERE IS NO TIME TO LOSE. Government should immediately appoint a cabinet committee with a mandate to focus on development of Lakhra coal reserve for power. The committee should include one or more ministers of Sindh government, deputy chairman of Planning Commission, secretaries of concerned federal and provincial ministries. The committee would benefit much if it invited energy expert and former minister Osman Aminuddin for counsel. While launch of the power project should be priority number one, the same committee could be tasked to recommend proposals for projects for conversion of coal into petrol and gas.
A personal lament for Malam Jabba
Editor, Foreign Affairs
LAST Thursday unknown militants destroyed the motel and chairlift at Malam Jabba in Swat, one of few if not the only ski resort in Pakistan that attracted national and foreign enthusiasts of the sport. On reading the news I heaved a deep and heartfelt sigh of grief even though I am neither a skier nor a tourist who ever visited Malam Jabba. Still I felt a deep sense of personal grief mixed with lament at the destruction of a beauty site that thousands visited every winter to feast their eyes on the serene beauty of pure white snow.
I mourn for the loss partly because as ambassador to Austria in 1976-78 I invested considerable time and effort to persuade the government of Chancellor Bruno Kreisky to allocate foreign aid funds for equipment and experts to be sent to Pakistan to install the chairlift and build tourist resort facilities. It was not an easy decision for the Kreisky government because some Austrian newspapers had mocked at the project in a country that had little knowledge or enthusiam for the snow sport. Then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took personal interest in the project for Swat because it would bring employment to local people and income to small businesses that flower around a tourist resort. In order to expedite the project he sent direct instructions to the Pakistan embassy to accept the terms proposed by the Austrian government in order to attract skilled technicans to be deputed to Pakistan to oversee and complete the project in a reasonable period of time.
Partly too my spontaneous sense of mourning arose from a gnawing feeling of loss of direction by a section of our unfortunate and uneducated people who not only lack capacity to appreciate natural beauty but more alarmingly misconceive and ignore the values of our glorious religion that emphasizes the spirit of tolerance and respect for feelings of others and want to deny the opportunity to nationals and foreigners who derive happiness from innocent sports and peace of mind from snow scenery. Infuriated by some dark forces injected inside their misguided minds marauders indulged in an orgy of destruction that will also rob employees of the motel and business people of their livelihood. How far have some of our extremists strayed from the hopes and expectations of our founding fathers who envisioned Pakistan as a progressive and moderate Islamic state! One can only hope and pray that the deviation will be corrected and that reactionary elements will not be allowed to determine the future of our nation conceived by enlightened leaders.
Trapped in Taliban dilemma
Editor, Foreign Affairs
The storm-in-a-tea cup raised by President Hamid Karzai’s threat of attack on Taliban targets in Pakistan and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s rejoinder warning him to desist from such intervention has passed with equal speed. Of course no realistic observer projected an Armageddon. Afghanistan lacks the power and Pakistan the motivation. They have not only common intersts and friends to restrain them but also common threats and enemies. The Taliban, Afghan as well as Pakistani, menace peace and progress in both countries, and contemptuously reject the principle of non-interference in internal affairs that the governments of the two countries invoke against each other. Neither of the two is strong enough to prevent Taliban militants from terrorist attacks on armed forces, schools for girls and innocent citizens. The two countries are therefore condemned to muddle through the mess inherited from shared history and try to ferret out what is called modus vivendi or expedient compromise.
Bent on abusing Pakistan territory in pursuit of their revolutionary aims, Taliban led by Commanders Baitullan Mehsud and Maulana Fazlullah have trapped the new Pakistan government in a dilemma as agonizing as that its predecessor faced. If Islamabad persists in military policy against outlaws abusing Pakistan territory it incurs heavy costs to its armed forces deployed in tribal areas and to civilians in cities and towns across the country. If instead it tries to reduce costs by entering into compromises that leave Taliban free to pursue their illegitimate aims it is exposed not only to censure for failure to fulfill its international obligation but to even graver and unacceptable risks of confrontation with US and NATO forces. The elected government has enjoyed a honeymoon period to decide policy but that will not last much longer. Warning is implicit in growing US and NATO intolerance of increasing insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan . The outgoing US commander of NATO’s international security assistance force, General Daniel McNeill affirmed two days ago that insurgent attacks on ISAF in eastern Afghanistan increased 50 percent in April. He has gone on to clarify all these troubles could not justly be attributed to Pakistan . On the contrary he said even if the borders could be sealed that will not end the insurgency in Afghanistan. Equally realistic was his remark that stabilizing Afghanistan would be ‘impossible’ without a more robust military campaign against insurgents in Pakistan, which emphasizes the need for strengthening cooperation between the two countries and their friends and allies. President Karzai, too, underlined the same conclusion in his clarifying remarks on Monday saying the two governments should join hands to eliminate their common enemies. On the need for cooperation there should be no difference. Only the two sides need to clearly understand components of cooperation. Prime Minister’s statement - we do not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs – provides a good basis. It reflects Pakistan government’s intent to abide by a universally recognized principle of law but intent alone is hardly sufficient to convince the other side of Pakistan ’s bona fides. What they expect is action to prevent cross-border attacks.
The underlying issue at present concerns our new government’s policy-in-the-making of peace agreements that seek respite from Taliban attacks at home but leave the militants free to perpetrate cross-border attacks against Afghanistan. Nor are their apprehensions merely theoretical. US and NATO spokesmen have made no secret of their mounting concern. If Taliban from the Pakistan are not prevented from crossing over ‘to come and kill Afghan and coalition troops’ in Afghanistan their victims would have to think of alternative measures of self-defence. President Karzai’s stance is more logical and therefore it has won greater international sympathy.
Actually US and NATO forces have resorted to recurrent cross-border missile and bomb attacks on Pakistan side of the border. Every time they do so Islamabad denounces violations of Pakistan ’s borders and parliament adopts strong resolutions condemning US aggression especially when victims are innocent. But such outpouring of emotions serves little more than expedient purpose. Our government cannot expect the other side to remain indifferent to cross-border attacks from Pakistan territory. It must either prevent Taliban insurgents from abusing Pakistan territory or acquiesce in consequences. It does not have a viable alternative to cooperation with US and NATO partners in the fight against terrorists. Pakistan cannot complain of lack of understanding of its predicament by allies. The US and NATO have responded sympathetically to our legitimate requests aimed at strengthening Pakistan ’s capacity to safeguard its legitimate interests. If so far that capacity has been insufficient to prevent abuse of Pakistan territory by outlaws, it should prepare a better plan to achieve that objective. The allies who have pledged $4 billion a year for reconstruction of Afghanistan can be legitimately expected to extend adequate assistance to upgrade Pakistan ’s homeland security. Any evidence Pakistan has lost heart to pursue a principled policy is bound to be counter-productive.
Transformations warrant change in war on terror
Editor, Foreign Affairs
MORE curious than the evident difference between Islamabad and Washington on peace negotiations with Taliban is the commendable restraint and reason manifest in their statements on this inherently critical issue. The explanation and the rationale of their cautious statements is probably to be found in two fundamental factors.
While the United States and NATO have resources necessary to fight war on terror abroad and simultaneously ensure homeland security, they both know Pakistan does not. Secondly, the United States has tended to equate Taliban with Al Qaeda while Pakistan perceives a clear distinction between the two. Al Qaeda has an international agenda but Taliban’s aims are domestic, in Afghanistan as in Pakistan.
Some of the US allies in Afghanistan have already recognized this difference and advocated negotiations with the Afghan Taliban even before the new government in Pakistan embarked on a parallel course with Pakistani Taliban.
If Washington has been slow to perceive the distinction it is because of its understandable preoccupation with Al Qaeda which explains also its belief that any future terrorist attack on the United States would be planned and organized from Pakistan’s tribal territory where Al Qaeda is alleged to have regrouped even though the premise has begun to seem increasingly dubious.
The fact is Al Qaeda is no longer what it was before the US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001. The terrorist organization suffered heavy casualties due to US bombing and was then obliged to shift and establish a base in the tribal territory which Pakistan opposed with all the might it could muster.
Caught in a nutcracker between US forces on one side and Pakistan army on the other the terrorist organisation lost hundreds of high ranking cadres. Most of those escapees who initially found refuge with sympathizers in tribal territory were in course time liquidated, arrested or expelled.
Al Qaeda was all but crushed. In the past couple of years little has been heard or seen connecting Al Qaeda with armed clashes or acts of terror in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Afghan Taliban, not Al Qaeda, have fought American, NATO and Afghan forces and similarly Pakistani Taliban, not Al Qaeda, have perpetrated suicide and terrorist bombings in Paksitan.
As for Al Qaeda instigation of violence in Iraq US allegations have lacked credibility because everyone is aware of the indigenous dynamics of sectarian rivalry in that unfortunate country. Al Qaeda activity has been so conspicuous by its absence that it seems reasonable to conclude its back has been broken. It is time therefore to deal with new realities.
Correctly diagnosing the transformation, the new government in NWFP decided to embark on a policy of peace negotiations with the Taliban and expeditiously concluded an agreements with the Taliban in Swat. The accord signed on May 21 merits close attention by those who apprehend adverse consequences.
Basically the Taliban have agreed to hand over all foreign militants and dismantle training centres for terrorists and suicide bombers. Also they have pledged to refrain from attacks on government offices, police stations, army personnel, bridges and roads and girls schools.
In exchange the government has conceded reasonable demands which focus on reform of notoriously inefficient and corrupt governance. People of Swat were used to simple, low-cost and paternalistic rule when the state was under the Wali. In contrast, the administration extended to the state after its accession to Pakistan has proved insensitive, inefficient, venal and exploitative.
No wonder the Taliban demanded action against bribe-takers, adulterers, thieves and dacoits. The same is the logic for return to Sharia law. The judicial system under the Wali was fair and speedy. In contrast the Paksitani system - a legacy of British colonialism - now applicable in the Swat has entailed regression in the name of modernization. Not in a position to defend state’s performance since independence government negotiators wisely conceded Taliban demands for reform.
The above is not to say the NWFP government or people support the Taliban’s antiquated political agenda. Pakistan’s founding fathers envisioned an enlightened, modern and moderate Islamic state with equal rights for citizens free of discrimination on basis of race, religion or social status.
People expect the state to discover and implement policies aimed at realization of the dream. It is because government in Pakistan has failed to deliver on the promise that poor and powerless people have turned to other, at times medieval practices. Savage killing of three dacoits by a crowd in Karachi the other day was attributable in part to popular frustration at the dismal record of police in apprehending and prosecuting criminals and endless delays that amount to denial of justice.
Mushroom rise of extremism and militancy is similarly due to failure of state to provide broad and contemporary education facilities for all children. As a result too many of the poor are trapped by schools with narrow curriculum and agendas that promote extremism and militancy.
The agreement with the Swat Taliban represents a good model and hopefully it will be implemented in letter and spirit. If so, it may help overcome the memory of Pakistan’s 2005 agreement with Taliban in the Tribal territory which was counter-productive.
The tribal Taliban not only did not honour their commitment to expel foreign terrorists and refrain from attacks against Pakistan but also exploited the ceasefire by Pakistani forces to strengthen their organization, resume training and increase cross-border attacks on US, NATO and Afghan forces.
If another agreement were to be signed by Pakistan with the Taliban in Waziristan the probability of repetition cannot be discounted. Taliban Commander Baitulla Mehsud was quoted to have declared at a press conference at Kotkai in South Waziristan on May 24 that while he favoured an agreement with Pakistan because the conflict between Taliban and Pakistan government was ‘harming Islam and Pakistan’ his forces would ‘continue the jihad against the US and its allies in Afghanistan’ because ‘Islam does not recognize any man-made boundaries.’
Clearly such an agreement should be unacceptable to Pakistan because it would violate recognized principles of international law. Every state has an obligation to prevent persons on its territory from organizing attacks on another state. NWFP Governor Owais Ghani surely did not mean to disavow the international obligation when he was quoted to have told US Operation Command chief Admiralk Eric Olson, ‘Pakistan will take care of its own problems, you take care of Afghanistan on your side.’ Giving Pakistan the benefit of doubt, US Secretary of State said on May 24 she did not believed Pakistan wanted to exacerbate the situation in the tribal areas or create problems for Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, mature diplomacy by Islamabad and Washington has prevented a crisis over Pakistan’s strategic switch from exclusively military to peaceful means for relief from Taliban terrorism. The United States entertains grave reservations on Pakistan’s decision to enter into agreements with the Taliban but it has not pushed or pressured Islamabad to abandon its new policy of negotiations for peace in order to save the country from carnage and destruction it has suffered as a result of terrorist attacks. Islamabad on its part is by no means dismissive of apprehensions of United States, NATO and Afghanistan that Pakistan’s attempt to solve its problem could aggravate the problem in Afghanistan as Taliban could now organize, equip and train in Pakistan territory for operations in Afghanistan.
‘The government has declared it ‘will continue the war on terror’ and assured friends and allies it remains committed to preventing abuse of Pakistan territory for cross-border operations. Of course the underlying contradiction cannot be resolved by promises. While Washington appears willing to wait its bottom line is ‘results.
An agenda behind IPL?
Dr Abdul Ruff
There is a historical great game along the ancient Silk Road, but the concept is being played out in new disguises in many parts of the world today, the era of so-called terrorisms, state and private. Slamming Islam and tracking Muslims have become order of the Western civilization shred by countries like India for selfish reasons by contributing to the total tally of Muslim murders in their “backyards”, Palestine and Kashmir, etc. India has gone all out of try the great game even in sports, in cricket, - more precisely. What in fact is happening in cricket is just another racket involving sport mafia and billionaires. The Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament being showcased for nearly two months in Indian towns is essentially an attempt to maneuver in cricket tricks, deceptions and skills, but the real motive is to create a new crop of cricketers in every sub-field from different parts of India to store and use the stand-in- specialists in cricket. India wants to achieve this feat with the assistance of eminent cricketers from all countries that are involved in cricketeering.
India has now endeavored to use the available international cricket mastery drawn form countries to train the Indian cricketers both the current teams and the junior ones. Hence several top masters in the field of cricket, from all sectors like bating, bowling, fielders, wicket keepers, etc, are seen toiling on the field to bat or bowl. The expertise of these cricketers is being used by India to make a strong contingent of Indian cricketers with surplus, so that Indian team can withstand any pressure form countries like Australia, South Africa, West India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, etc. With a “formidable” national team with extra members always ready, India would be able to win every match it plays any where and it needs not go appeasing the foreign governments or cricket mafia for crucial victories with necessary “suitable favors”
The matter of fact is India has been in an awkward position facing strong teas like Aussies and South African and West Indies. At times, India fails to make even 100 runs losing all wickets and over quickly. The opponents have strong teams where most of the team-mates are good at bating and if one is out, unable to make sufficient runs, the next would supplement for that with quick runs and hundreds. Indians are awfully worried and feel ashamed, therefore, that its team fall apart facing strong teams, like a waste pack of useless cards.In gearing up a strong Indian team, the foreign cricketers are helping India cricket players both senior and junior, with their tips, expertise and the Indian cricketers would learn more by playing with different country’ cricketers. Hence the new strategy of involving renounced cricketers from the global cricket world. By playing with each cricketer from abroad Indians can feel the pulse of each top order cricketer their plus and minus points and they themselves as guests would shares some secrets of the trade as well. By using different colors blue-wearing Indian cricketers also enjoy non-blue blues.
New Delhi is keen to be the winners in every aspect including terrorism and in cricket it is a great challenge it has to face always. One does not know if with this new arrangement of joint cricket exercises, India probably hopes to get teams ready in which every batsman would make at least 100 and every bowler, fieldsman and wicket keeper would get at least one wicket in every match, no matter how many wickets are there. The plan is not too bad, is not it? However, Indian separatist mind is discernible in naming of IPL teams and many states and towns are neglected. Is it not a shame that world class cricketers have agreed to play with junior in India when they don’t do it in their respective countries? India strategies are really amazing! India can get any thing it sets its eyes on by crooks. Cricket I s nothing. It annexed Kashmir valley, known then as the Paradise on earth, under the pretext of Pakistan interference there, but quickly colonized it, militarized it with heavy weaponry and surveillance –cum-remote terrorism systems. Now thousands and thousands of Kashmiris have been killed by Indian forces there to keep “peace” in the region. So many unknown “pieces” have been discovered in grave-yards in Kashmir recently.
The present IPL joint cricket exercises are the extension of the joint cricket exercises conducted by India and Australia recently both in India and Australia. One outcome could be that the current cricketers would develop trends of depression in the days ahead when there could be more players. IPL would generate a few more millionaires among sportsmen. All said and done one most important outcome of these inter-continental joint cricket exercises is to create a few sportsmen richer by crores each month, while over has been rising in the country along with price rocketing , immensely affecting the common people. When Manmohan Singh government could cleverly devise strategies to further the capitalist economy to appease the imperialist world, it does not undertake steps to lift the poor from the pavements of India. Manmohan still thinks he is just the chief of Reserve Bank to distribute the national resources among a few rich “patriotic” Indians and military establishment. He selectively chooses already wealthy persons for onward monopoly of Indian economic sources. As a prominent capitalist economy specialist Indian PM cannot be other wise.
Cricket, then, is nothing for India. Intention is not too bad and it does not look like being arranged by Indian cricket board and government by cleverly using “third” party from none-sports sector. Now it has come to fore that the countries leading capitalists are playing behind the Cricket for huge profits. Ambani, whose Reliance Mobiles loot the general public day in and day out would make more profits. Manmohan Singh as the governor of Reserve of India promoted such select classes of capitalism using the public money and he continues to gain the support of these “patriots” and they keep growing further with Indian cash.
It is funny to note that Manmohan, whose Congress party refused to give him a second run for presidency and instead chose Pratibha Patil woo was involved in a criminal cases, now is trying to rope in former Indian president Abdul Kalam on Indo-US nuclearism. Kalam’s double-speak is also well known: he gives sermons on peace and wile helping India to develop missiles that could target the entire Islamic Middle East and beyond. It is awful to watch when Ms Patil distributed the national awards to a select group of Indian recent on Republic Day gifts for their “services and sacrifices” highest award for most “deserving” candidates.
However, India could not get USA, the strategic partner of the season under any provision under India-US nuclearism, play in the current cricket tournament, because Americans, like Israelis, don’t play cricket. They are specialists only in genocides and destruction in Islamic world. But India could still claim partnership citing the crude fact that India also kills Muslims in its vicinity. India could now confidently ask USA to start playing cricket as part of strategic and nuclear pact between them. Alternatively, India could also choose an American, non-terrorist, game to play along with Americans and Israelis. However, initially India could defeat USA in cricket which the Indian media would blast as “India Thrash Americans” and India lobbyists could use that to silence the US Congress on Indo-US nuclearism. But one question remians: Do the Indian strategists claim to be sharper and more ruthless than their counterparts in USA and Israel?
Power struggle in judges’ guise
Editor, Foreign Affairs
Despite solemn declarations to reinstate sacked judges of superior courts and establish independence of the judiciary Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N) failed to agree on the method of fulfilling their pledge. Protracted negotiations in high-level meetings between their leaders held in and outside Pakistan proved abortive. While precise causes of the shipwreck are at present shrouded in mystery and both parties remain reluctant to accuse each other of torpedoing agreement on implementation of the joint pledge, objective observers are bound to recall that PPP at first agreed to restoration through a resolution of National Assembly but later decided to insist on a package that would include constitutional amendments in order, its spokesmen said, to preempt a judicial crisis. While the necessity of such amendments will be debated by legal experts the issues involved were apparently not merely legal. At stake is the prize of political power; the question is who is to be the arbiter.
PPP and PML(N) are traditional rivals and it is as natural for each of them to strive for the helm as it is difficult for either to reconcile to a backseat. If both have recently hoisted the flag for independence of judiciary it is mainly because it has become a popular cause after the unprecedented judicial atrocity of 2007. Otherwise, neither brings historical reputation for respect for judiciary while PML(N)’s credentials were particularly blemished by the physical attack on the Supreme Court when it was in power. Arguably experience of authoritarian excesses during the 1999-2007 period may also have taught both the lesson that respect for independent judiciary is indispensable for democracy with which interests of political parties are inextricably linked.
PPP’s decision to woo smaller political parties was transparently part of a strategy to reduce dependence on PML(N) for majority in National Assembly. Transcending historic rivalry for power in Sindh PPP made an over-generous power-sharing deal with Mutahida Qaumi Movement and even threw out a baited line to hook the previously untouchable Pakistan Muslim League(Q). Meanwhile, the second largest political party PML(N) was again and again given promise of fulfillment of the demand for restoration of judges and finally driven to the unenviable dilemma where it could either retain share in power or save its honour.
Still another factor in the murky situation has been the US demand on PPP leadership to implement the power-sharing deal it mediated between former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and General Pervez Musharraf. The latter fulfilled his part of the bargain by shedding uniform, withdrawing emergency, proclaiming the National Reconciliation Ordinance and holding free elections. US honour as also its perceived interest in continuity of partnership with Pakistan in the fight against terror require that PPP must also keep to its part of the bargain. The only mysterious element in the situation relates to the levers at Washington ’s disposal to ensure observance of the deal terms by PPP. Given the price in popularity PPP has paid by going back on its pledge to restore the sacked judges, it seems unlikely that economic and military assistance for Pakistan was the sole factor.
PML(N)’s gain in popularity on account of a clear and forthright stance in favour of restoration of sacked judges may necessitate a policy review by PPP. While it will no doubt embark on a campaign to explain substantive legal and administrative compulsions for a comprehensive package, going back on commitment to restore the judges first by April 30 and then by May 12 will not easy to justify. Already knowledgeable commentators have pointed out that persons responsible for the decision were out of touch with popular opinion because none of them went to the grassroots during the election campaign, and those who did are too embarrassed to face the legal fraternity and non-partisan civil society which are resolve to sustain the campaign for restoration of the judges.
Already groaning under back-breaking burden of escalating food, fuel and energy crises popular opinion is likely to be further infuriated by the spectacle of confusion in the ruling party. Instead of focusing on implementing its electoral pledge to deliver ROTI, KAPRA AUR MAKAN to low-income and poor people, the party leadership has wasted too much time on a comparatively easy legal issue. Expensive visits abroad by political bigwigs at such a time will further provoke popular ire. Most people may not know enough about history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire but media commentators are bound to remind them.
Nero played the fiddle while Rome was half-burned, intentionally according to legend, in order to provide a realistic background for a recitation by the emperor in a play recalling defeat in war on Troy . At his death Nero sought vainly to justify his conduct claiming he was an artist, but even two thousand years later history remembers him as an evil schemer, matricide and tyrant who was ruthless against opponents and committed atrocities against Christians. One hopes political leaders will remember history in order to avoid its repetition.
Elected government: A waking dream
Pakistanis are today in a state of hope which Aristotle defined as a waking dream. We are entitled to be optimistic that the consensus government formed after fair and free elections in February can and will address the multiple problems facing our nation.
Obviously elected leaders, too, are entitled to pride in their legitimacy and all of us who wish to see our state progress towards democracy wish the new leaders Godspeed. Not all the current problems are the creation of the predecessor regime though President Pervez Musharraf inflicted grave injuries on state institutions in pursuit of obsession with self-perpetuation especially after March 9.
Food and fuel crises for example are due to global factors. The power crisis could have been prevented but it partly due to failure to build new neglect reservoirs over four decades. Corruption and inefficiency are endemic to developing countries and past political governments have made a large contribution to deteriorationin Pakistan. Extrication from all these crises will require transformation of populist approaches, purposeful planning and reformation of administration and its personnel.
Formation of consensus government after fair and free elections is worthy of celebration in itself not only because it is rare in our history but also because it marks significant advance on the road towards the nation’s desired destination of a progressive, modern democratic state which contributes to improvement of economic and social life of all segments of our society.
Democracy has rightly come to be considered as the best form of government and this conclusion is vindicated by the failure of revolutionary ideologies and dictatorships which failed to deliver on their tall promises. Nevertheless a system is a means to ends, and only performance of elected leaders will determine whether hopes and expectations of the electorate are realistic. For that judgment we must wait with patience and prayer.
A mere month after new government’s entry into office it is too early by far to begin an assessment of its performance. Even for a preliminary assessment one should wait at least till the expiry of the hundred days for which the Prime Minister has announced his government’s action programme.
Even this timeframe is too short because like many other developing countries Pakistan faces multiple problems among which some have reached crisis proportions. Aiming at solving these crises in quick time would be impractical.
The best one can hope is that government will succeed in containing and alleviating hardships of the people groaning under unprecedented rise in prices of essential consumer goods. The question for the present is only whether the government has embarked on a promising plan and set up mechanisms to conceive and implement salutary strategies.
Salutary strategies. Good governance is more than ever necessary if only because unprecedented crises threaten mass suffering and anarchy. Food crisis, to take an example at once most elementary and soluble, can be defused by right policies and vigilant administration.
There is no logical reason why wheat farmers should be subjected to discrimination when those who produce rice, corn or soybeans can sell their harvests at prevailing international prices. Nor is there logic in artificially maintaining wheat flour price in Pakistan at fifteen or twenty rupees a kilo while the item sells at equivalent of forty-five rupees in Afghanistan and thirty rupees in India.
If this glaring anomaly which has created more problems than the government has a capacity to solve is rectified farmers can be confidently expected to respond to remunerative prices. No doubt higher prices of wheat flour add to hardships of poor and low-income people and therefore government has a duty to devise an efficient safety net. Other countries, both rich and poor, have done so and so too can Pakistan.
Meanwhile, government publicity organs should refrain from eulogizing performance of coalition leaders or their mentors. Propaganda hype projecting them as icons of model governance is neither credible nor in good taste. Popular memory may be proverbially short but the record of the decade of 1990s is still remembered by many and it wasn’t entirely unblemished. The National Reconciliation Ordinance cannot obliterate that record though it gave immunity from prosecution which, incidentally, is contrary to principles of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Hope springs eternal and popular mind appears to be ready to rise above past experience.
Instead people are inclined to hope for repentance and moral reform on part of sinners. Almighty Allah can change mindsets and guide those who deviated from sirat al mustaqeem in the past come back to the right path and earn a memorable record.
Also useful if not necessary would be philosophic introspection. Those who think only of advancing personal or family interests seek satisfaction in acquisition of wealth and power which are no doubt a source of pleasure, especially if derived by licit means but such pleasure do not – and cannot - yield inner satisfaction and happiness. According to religious beliefs salvation depends on observance of prescribed conduct.
Secular and utilitarian philosophies also agree that enduring happiness depends on rational social conduct that is mindful of consequences for society as a whole. Even Epicureans reject the view that conduct should be guided solely by calculus of pleasure and pain.
Humans are endowed with spiritual drive to seek higher ends than those of beasts. Their life has nobler purpose and for its fulfillment thinking persons have to contribute to humanity’s struggle for collective harmony and happiness.
Divergence in war on terrorism strategy
No country has done more than the United States to help Pakistan achieve a peaceful political transition. Naturally, goodwill between the two countries should be stronger. But a shadow hovers over bilateral cooperation due to emerging difference over the conduct of the war on terror. While the new Pakistan government appears determined to initiate talks with local Taliban in order to bring an end to internal insurgency Washington is predictably apprehensive the resultant relaxation in pressure on terrorists would enable Al Qaeda to intensify preparations for attacks on American targets. There is no indication yet that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani statement of March 29 declaring ‘war on terror is our own war’ has diminished Washington’s concerns. US unease is bound to mount as a result of NWFP Assembly’s resolution of April 1 condemning CIA Director Michael Haden for threatening to bomb terrorists abusing Pakistan territory as sanctuary. Surely Pakistan does not intend to tolerate such abuse. Both sides need therefore to discuss the matter in the context of strategy as well as tactics in order to prevent damage to mutual cooperation.
It is increasingly evident that the so far parallel aims of Islamabad and Washington in the war on terror are beginning to diverge. While the United States remains focused on liquidation of Al Qaeda’s mortal threat Pakistan is primarily concerned about mounting loss of life due to terrorist bombings and suicide attacks over the past two years. People not only in tribal areas and Frontier Province but across the country desperately want an end to their suffering which they attribute to Islamabad’s flawed policy of fighting what they dub as America’s war. The new government does not share this mistaken perception but it cannot ignore the popular outcry. It has decided to discuss policy in the parliament. Dialogue with militants is on the cards. Awami National Party has already initiated contacts with ‘local Taliban’ believing that insurgency is a political issue and it can be defused through negotiations.
Local Taliban are no doubt a problem Pakistan needs to address but in doing so it cannot allow relaxation of the war on international terrorism which is the main concern of the United States. Both aims have to be pursued simultaneously. The alliance would become untenable if one side seeks to promote its own objectives at the expense of the other. Pakistan cannot evade its obligation under international law to prevent abuse of its territory by Al Qaeda terrorists and Afghan Taliban. The Taliban regime had to pay a high price for allowing Al Qaeda to establish a base for international terrorism on Afghan soil.
Cognizant of its obligation, Pakistan tried to prevent entry of Al Qaeda and Taliban fleeing Afghanistan after 9/11. Our armed forces engaged them and intercepted, arrested or killed hundreds of intruders. Scores of notorious ones were handed over to US authorities, extradited or deported. But others managed to carve out a sanctuary in the cavernous mountainous terrain of the autonomous tribal areas which were familiar to Al Qaeda since the Afghan liberation struggle and where local inhabitants were sympathetic and even reverential to Arab jihadis. The fight against outlaws has entailed high costs in lives for Pakistani forces but they have continued efforts to locate and eliminate foreign terrorists. If too many have eluded pursuit it is often because of protection by local militants motivated by ideological affinity, tribal tradition of hospitality to asylum-seekers or crass considerations.
The task of clearing Pakistan territory of foreign terrorists has become interminable because Al Qaeda’s advocacy of struggle has drawn new recruits from Central Asian and other foreign countries as well as Taliban from within Pakistan. Their ranks have grown because antagonism and hatred have been fuelled by multiple grievances. A credible impression prevails of US indifference if not hostility to legitimate causes of Muslim peoples and spread of Islamophobia, social and economic discrimination, selective targeting of Muslims residents and visitors for harassment and dissemination of blasphemous anti-Islam propaganda in the West. Also relatives and friends of innocent victims of so-called collateral damage join militants to take revenge. Rectification of grievances would be a complex exercise even if there was an appreciation of the causes and political will on part of the United States and other Western countries of which unfortunately there is no sign.
Such a difficult popular and political environment in Pakistan is obviously not conducive for an objective reappraisal of policy by the democratic government. Yet it has to make the effort patiently and carefully so as to prevent damage to Pakistan-US cooperation which is vital for Pakistan no less than for the United States. The key to a solution lies in making a distinction between Al Qaeda with an international agenda, Afghan Taliban whose primary aim is power in Afghanistan and Pakistani Taliban and tribal militants who are motivated largely by their opposition to Pakistan’s alliance with the United States and its deleterious consequences for their internal aims.
A comprehensive strategy should make it emphatically clear that Pakistan’s attempt to wean back the Pakistani Taliban and militants would not relax military operations aimed at expulsion of Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban from Pakistan territory. Washington on its part can and should help Pakistani initiative by relying on Pakistani forces for action against Al Qaeda encampments in Pakistan and by joining Pakistan to provide compensation to families of victims of collateral damage.
Meanwhile there should be no doubt in Washington about the goodwill of the leadership of Pakistan People’s Party towards the United States. It cannot ignore the indispensable contribution Washington made towards persuading President Pervez Musharraf to take off uniform, withdraw emergency and hold fair, free and transparent elections. Even more important was the National Reconciliation Ordinance that President Musharraf proclaimed as part of the deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Without this unprecedented concession granting indemnity from criminal cases pending in courts involving alleged violations of laws prior to October 1999, the struggle for revival of democracy would have been more protracted and probably also sanguinary.
Bijing’s mature response to reactionaries
ACTING with restraint to rioting against Chinese inhabitants of Lhasa on March 14, the Chinese government has refrained from excessive use of force, acted with proportionate firmness to contain the section of Tibetans misled by reactionaries resident abroad and took enlightened steps to expose malevolent propaganda by allowing a dozen representatives of foreign news agencies to visit the Tibetan capital and see evidence confirming its version of the events. It has thus checkmated the design of traditionally hostile lobbies from making a mountain of a molehill. Those who might have been tempted to exploit the situation for self-serving propaganda appear to have realized that in dealing with powerful and dynamic China discretion is better part of misguided valour. President George W. Bush phoned President Hu Jintao for an amicable hour-long conversation. The United States has disavowed speculation about intention to boycott the Olympics. President Sarcozy of France who kept the option open last week is unlikely to pursue the idea.
Every decent person supports respect for human rights and every respectable state has an obligation to protect and promote equal rights of all citizens without discrimination on basis of race, religion, gender, nationality or language. This is part of rapidly evolving international law which has however to be taken to its logical conclusion in integral practice of legal principles by states. Meanwhile observers have to be objective. They have to appreciate that developing countries cannot be expected to achieve in one leap standards enunciated in the Universal Declaration and International Covenants on of Human Rights regarding civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights. China’s record is by far above the global average. No country in the world has ever lifted so many hundreds of people out of poverty as has the People’s Republic in the last thirty years. Buddhist People of Tibet and the Muslim Uighurs of Xinjiang are participating in spreading prosperity as also in progressive extension of personal freedom across China.
Lobbies with a history of hostility towards the People’s Republic of China tried to pounce on the unfortunate incidents in Lhasa to mount a campaign of defamation and vilification totally disproportionate to both the scale of reported unrest and the action taken by Chinese police in order to restore peace and normalcy. Foreign drum-beaters ignored the fact that Tibet is an integral part of Chinese territory, so recognized by the United Nations as also almost all countries of the world. States cannot forget their obligation under international law to respect China’s integrity and refrain from support, instigation or encouragement of separatism amounting to interference in internal affairs. Paradoxically those who were loudest in maligning China also suffer from convenient amnesia about the dismal human rights record of their own governments that fail to protect minorities and bring perpetrators of communal carnages to justice. They also forget history of aggression by their countresi against other states, massacres of thousands of people under their illegal occupation, torture of prisoners and brutal executions under detention. Cleary such practitioners of double standards cannot command credibility or make an impact on decent opinion int he world.
Take for instance the havoc perpetrated in Iraq since 2003. According to credible reports half a million people have been killed, a million or more have been forced to take refuge in Jordan and Syria, twice that number have been made homeless inside, power generation has been crippled by bombing and nearly half the total population is deprived of potable water. Still the President of the United States takes pride in bringing democracy to Iraq. Yet another contrast glares in the West’s annual commemoration of Tiananmen Square in their enduring neglect of Gujarat where thousands were butchered with the connivance of the state government. A hundred thousand people lost their lives in the Kashmiri struggle for the right of self-determination pledged to them by the Security Council but flag-bearers of freedom do not shed even a crocodile tear for them.
Convincing evidence of foreign interference in China has been documented in the book entitled CIA’s Secret War in Tibet by James Morrison and Kenneth Conboy. Richard Bennet of AFI in a timely research article in Asia Times has recalled that for two decades CIA funded subversion in Tibet and maintained close relationship with Indian intelligence. Dalai Lama has been allowed to use a base in India for waging a campaign to destabilize Tibet. Former senior Indian intelligence officer B. Raman has reported said that the March 14 uprising in Lhasa was preplanned and orchestrated from abroad.
Non-interference in internal affairs is an obligation under the universally recognized principles of international law sanctified in the United Nations Charter. States that violate this principle on the pretext of support for human rights in foreign countries in pursuit of narrow political gain cannot serve the cause they profess to champion. An objective if not sympathetic stance mindful of shortcomings at home is more likely to achieve the desirable goal and at the same time foster international peace and cooperation.
Policies for a better future policy
FEBRUARY 18th’s was not the first fair and free election in our history and it alone cannot extricate our nation from the escalating spiral of challenges in which we are trapped. Getting out of the welter of political, economic and social problems will require a firm grasp of the nature and depth of the crises and planning and implementing salutary strategies. Our leaders failed to do so in 1971 and as a result the ship of state foundered. Following elections in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997 victorious political parties wasted too much of their time and attention on politics of confrontation and personal goals, sapping energies that should have been devoted to improving governance and consolidating democracy. Hopefully, lessons have been learnt and leaders elected this time will ensure that no justification or pretext is provided ever again to any would-be dictator. Past breakdowns of constitutional rule have exacted too high a price in nation’s unity, confidence and capacity to sustain civilized democratic institutions. Pakistan just cannot afford another relapse.
Emphasis of all parties on goodwill and harmony is a good augury. Another positive factor is necessity of coalitions at the centre and in three of the provinces which should constrain cooperation between major parties. Pakistan People’s Party and Awami National Party have already agreed to work in unison and Pakistan Muslim League (N) has assured support to PPP-led government even though it may not join it pending a solution of its principled demands for reinstatement of ousted justices of superior courts and restoration of 1973 constitution. Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Jamiatul Ulema-i-Islam of Maulana Fazalur Rahman have indicated willingness to join government. Equally auspicious is graceful acceptance of defeat by Pakistan Muslim League (Q) and the unprecedented pledge to play a constructive role in opposition.
This new political environment represents a sea-change from traditional politics of opposition for sake of opposition which should be an invaluable asset for the new government. But it will not by itself pull us out of the vortex. That will require redress of grievances against the previous government and solution of problems that add to the burden of their lives. Our practical and patient people will no doubt allow time to the parties they supported but with promises of leaders fresh in their minds they are bound to hope for beginning of relief from deteriorating security conditions preoccupy of insecurity of life, high food prices and energy crisis. These complex problems will not be easy to resolve.
Scourge of Terrorism. Most complex of the problems haunting people is that of spreading terrorism with mounting toll of innocent lives. It is the most complex because planners of violence are faceless men with diverse and ambiguous political and religious aims. Some are said to be opposed to Pakistan’s current alliance with the United States in the war on terror. Others want government to withdraw its forces from territories they want to rule such as Waziristan and Swat. Still others want education ministry to refrain from interfering in the syllabus they want to teach and training they want to impart in madaris. Analyzed in depth, each of these demands will be found to be unreasonable.
Taking first the demand for end to participation in the war on terror, it involves more than might appear at first sight. For, this policy was necessitated by objective circumstances following the 9/11 outrage when the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council adopted unanimous resolutions of sympathy and support for the United States as well as for action to bring the culprits to justice. The United States then sent its forces to topple the Taliban and dislodge Al Qaeda. NATO and other countries joined military operations in Afghanistan. Pakistan did not send forces to Afghanistan but faced with incursions of Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban it had to take action against them in order to prevent abuse of its territory for terrorist activities.
The assumption that Pakistan will not be targeted by Al Qaeda and Taliban if it renounces alliance with the United States is rather facile. What the terrorists want is freedom to use Pakistan territory as a base for terrorist operations which Pakistan cannot permit without violating its obligation under international law and exposing itself to international sanctions as well as to possible attacks by US, NATO and other forces in Afghanistan on hideouts of terrorists in Pakistan. In addition Islamabad should have to analyze consequences of renouncing the alliance for its capacity to restrain and resist foreign and home-bred terrorists from operations in Pakistan. Still another question is whether Pakistan can acquiesce in the demand for withdrawal of forces from Waziristan, Swat and other places, and allow the militants to impose their agenda? There should be no doubt about the consequences. Surrender to demands of militants in administered or even autonomous Tribal Areas would mean free rein for them to establish their own writ, administration, laws and courts in violation of Pakistan’s constitution.
Logical analysis of implications and consequences makes it obvious that surrender is not an option. It militants were reasonable and humane law men they would not indulge in brainwashing impressionable youth to become suicide bombers and perpetrate massacres of innocent people. Those who believe it is till possible to reach an understanding with militants and extremists must therefore elaborate their assumptions and offer a strategy that might persuade the militants to revise their demands and make them consistent with the constitution and laws of the state. The new government anxious to pursue a more efficacious policy can be expected to welcome and closely examine one or more feasible alternatives.
Considering that Pakistan’s founding fathers were enlightened leaders with firm faith in moderation and respect for religions diversity, we need to study causes of the rise of religious extremism and militancy. Almost all terrorist incidents are attributed to our own people, mostly impressionable youth. Clearly, something has gone wrong in our educational system and a strategy needs to be devised to inculcate moderation and tolerance in religious beliefs. A conference in Darul Uloom, Deoband, recently issued a declaration condemning terrorism. One wishes ulema in Pakistan would convene a similar conference. Particularly necessary are authoritative scholarly interpretations of the doctrine of jihad and concept of kufr which are too often mistranslated to justify violence against those who do not accept the dogmas of extremists who appear unaware of the fact that humanity believes in dozens of religions and philosophies. Almost all people in the world are born in religions they profess and almost all die in the religion in which they are born. Clearly that is evidence enough for peaceful coexistence and mutual respect. Public media should also be harnessed to broadcast the message that Islam is a religion of peace and mercy.
A suggestion: For peaceful coexistence in our world marked by variety and diversity of religious beliefs the community of nations has formulated a large body of principles that have been endorsed also by most sates with predominantly Muslim populations. The International Bill of Human Rights includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and two International Covenants on Civil and Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Knowledge of these principles is indispensable for peace in human society. One of the principles affirms everyone’s right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. And the right is as fundamental as everyone’s obligation to respect the right of others to the same. Respect for religious beliefs of others is a logical prerequisite for expectation of respect for one’s own religious belief. All parents want their children to study their religion, but children should also be enabled to learn about diversity of religious beliefs and principles endorsed by humanity and the necessity of respect for beliefs of others.
Right choice of priorities
Terrorism, economy, governance
TWO news items on Monday highlighted the juxtaposition between terrorism and Islam. Lt. Gen. Mushtaq Baig, killed along with seven other persons by a suicide bomber in Rawalpindi, was the highest military officer and a highly qualified and experienced medical expert reputed also for piety. Secondly, 20,000 scholars assembled at Darul Uloom, Deoband, progenitor of conservative madaris in India and Pakistan, condemned terrorism reminding the world that Islam is a religion of mercy for all humanity. They also declared murder as one of gunah-i-kabira – gravest sins. Muslims should know all that but evidently masterminds who incite Muslim youth to commit such terrorist acts violate this basic tenet of faith and at their behest the scourge has spread across our land. Meanwhile, it is of some comfort to read that Pakistan People’s Party cochairman Asif Zardari told a foreign correspondent that his party regards terrorism as one of ‘very serious’ challenges facing our country. People hope this statement presages urgent attention by the government his party has been elected to lead.
Unfortunately solution to this problem is going to be hard. Extremists, foreigners and our own are rigid in their determination to impose their own agenda which is at cross purposes with the vision of our founding fathers of a democratic, moderate and progressive Pakistan ruled under a contemporary constitution framed by its leaders. Wherever they get a chance the extremists set up parallel administration, police, legal system and courts. They have too many acolytes and brain-washed followers ready to kill and get killed. In contrast, government has lost credibility due to corruption and maladministration, and courage and commitment of functionaries has suffered erosion. Few of those who promise reforms bring requisite credentials and reputation.
Hopefully, political leaders have been chastened by adversity to turn a new leaf and political parties will now bring a new resolve to improve governance. But even so they are obstructed by road blocks erected by autocratic rule in recent years. Still a smooth transition to democratic rule appears problematic. No single party commands majority at the centre to force the issue. Perhaps the principled decision of Pakistan Muslim League (N) to support a PPP-led government at the centre but not to join the coalition until the road blocks have been removed will awaken the President to the necessity of getting out of the way. Until then PPP has to shoulder the responsibility of clearing the way.
The challenge before PPP is hard. Committed to the deal on coexistence intermediated between its deceased leader and the President by Washington, PPP can at best try to persuade the President to see the writing on the wall. Meanwhile, it has done well to seek advice from legal and constitutional experts on ways to resolve the issue of reinstatement of ousted judges of superior courts. Equity demands the injustice should be rectified. So long as that is not done bar associations and civil society will not rest in peace. The matter has to be defused if not fully resolved before the anniversary of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry’s illegal suspension on March 9 last year. Supreme Court Bar Association President Aitzaz Ahsan – a star of the PPP - has given fair warning of countrywide protest. Not only Tehrik-i-Insaf, Jamaat-i Islami and other constituent parties of All Pakistan Democratic Movement are bound to agitate the issue.
PML-N also insists on prior resolution of issues relating to the President’s questionable reelection by National and Provincial Assemblies barely days before expiry of their mandate, constitutionality of November-3 emergency and admissibility of amendments decreed by him in violation of prescribed procedures for changes in the basic law of the land. These are hard nuts to crack. PPP, PML-N and Awami National Party may put together two-thirds majority in the National Assembly but not in the Senate. Perhaps the coalition will find less formal political levers to achieve the purpose within the time given to it by PML-N. Already, President Musharraf is reported to have pondered resignation. The constitution confines the head of state to ceremonial duties and requires him to refrain from policy pronouncements and free-wheeling press conferences unless previously cleared by the Prime Minister. Such deprivation of accustomed power combined with loss of respect due to barrage of criticism by media, civil society and even former Army colleagues could make fading away an attractive option.
Other even more difficult problems requiring fast-track policy decisions are economic imbalances, rocketing prices of consumer staples and shortages of power and gas supply. Swing of votes to PPP and Pakistan Muslim League (N) in the February 18 election was in no small degree attributable to popular outrage against PML (Q)’s failure to take timely remedial measures.
The new government cannot be expected to ensure a quick fix. But it should promptly task economic experts to formulate extrication strategies in order to set the country on road to higher agricultural and industrial production. Increase in procurement price of wheat to 510 rupees per 40 kilos (12.75 rupees per kilo) is too small and its announcement on February 25, two months after the passing of the sowing season, is too late. Area under wheat has declined. With smuggling to Afghanistan and India notoriously difficult to prevent, inadequate production could once again catch us in a squeeze at a time when world food production is at a low ebb and within last year wheat price has risen from $130 to $500 a ton equal to 30 rupees a kilo!
On positive side, a provident government should seek to improve governance by replacing personal fiat with institutional decision making. The executive has to shed power and the parliament and judiciary need empowerment to discharge their constitutional functions. As different political powers have won plurality in provinces, federal government should extend them cooperation in exercise of their autonomy. Any differences that emerge should be resolved strictly in accordance with the constitution. Chief of Army Staff has done well to pull Army out of politics and recall officers seconded to civilian ministries. Agencies that have infiltrated civilian administration have to be leashed and morale and confidence of civil servants has to be rebuilt.
Meanwhile, the new government would deserve the good wishes of all citizens for success in addressing the multiple challenges it confronts. It can retain this goodwill so long as it is seen to be sincerely embarked on reform.
Road ahead rocky but beckoning
The Farsi proverb ‘Zaban-i-khalq naqqara-i-Khuda’ – Voice of people is God’s trumpet – distills the wisdom of the ancients and surely it would be wise for victorious leaders to heed the message that has come loud and clear out of the election on February 18. The core of that message is demand for rectification of the wrongs done since March 9. Until then the country was basking in the sunshine of economic progress and President’s popularity rating was high. Then civil society was convulsed by the suspension of the Chief Justice, violation of the rule of law, imposition of emergency and evisceration of the superior judiciary. Anger combined with the rage of the masses at the food and power crises to generate a powerful tsunami of protest that has swept out most of those who colluded in the iniquities. Opposition parties successfully capitalized on the opportunity but they will now be under pressure to deliver on promises of rectification of the wrong decisions of the past year. They should not expect a long honeymoon. Angry people are short of patience.
Not one but all the political parties that have benefited from the popular upsurge owe it to the electorate to work in unison. They have to because no single party is in a position to go it alone. Pakistan People’s Party commands a plurality in the National Assembly but it cannot form the government by itself. Pakistan Muslim League (N) with only about one-fourth of the total seats in the National Assembly is in even greater need of PPP’s support if only because, unlike PPP which has won an absolute majority in Sindh, PML-N depends on PPP also to form government in Punjab. The alliance between them may appear natural but it will not be without difficulties. Firstly bitterness of close contests between them during the election campaign has left bruises too fresh to forget. More substantively, they have to work out compromises between their differing strategies with regard to key issues. While the late Benazir Bhutto reportedly accepted the US suggestion for coexistence with President Pervez Musharraf, PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif will find that pill too bitter to swallow. Moreover, he has gone public after the election to call for resignation of the President and restoration of the judges of the superior courts. PPP has reservations on both these issues.
Fortunately for both PPP and PML-N formation of a national government offers a way out. Such an alliance could justify compromises and a more patient strategy for fulfillment of election promises. Awami National Party has a lot to offer in exchange for PPP’s support in NWFP. Its unblemished record of principled politics and strong commitment to good and honest governance will lend prestige to PPP and PML-N. Both should be anxious to win ANP’s association if only to improve their reputation based on record of performance on the 1990s. The plea for time to rectify difficult issues of legal and constitutional excess might win understanding as new governments have to first address current food and power crises. Nor can PML (Q) be entirely ignored because it remains the third largest party in the National Assembly with 37 seats and has won plurality in Balochistan.
The new government needs time for negotiations with the President. He may be expected to understand that political parties cannot betray their election promises without mortal damage to credibility. Civil society and the legal fraternity are important and articulate segments of society and cannot be indefinitely ignored. Besides, the glaring injustice to sixty honourable justices has to be rectified. A way out could be found in restoring the judges and using the additional strength of the superior courts to speed up delivery of justice and dispose off the accumulated case load and bring relief to litigants.
The question of constitutionality of amendments to the constitution decreed by the President after November 3 is more difficult but less urgent. Unless addressed with great care and discretion, it could trigger a confrontation between the President and the new government which both sides can ill-afford. While the President has little support in the new National Assembly, the coalition government would lack two-thirds majority in both houses of the parliament necessary for amending the constitution. A mature approach should resort to persuasion of the President to agree to return to the constitution as it existed prior to October 1999. The other point to remember is that military interventions in the past did not rely on any provision in the constitution. The best way for political governments to preclude repletion is to deny the opportunities corruption at high levels and egregious misrule provided for extra-constitutional interventions.
The question of President’s title to a second term requires a similarly sophisticated approach. Most of the members of the dying Assemblies that reelected him have been defeated in the election. Therefore neither in law nor in logic is the mandate they gave binding on the new Assemblies for the next five years. Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, the President might himself take the initiative of seeking a vote of confidence by the new Assemblies. If necessary the new government might advise him to do so. Only in extremis might the issue be brought to the floor of the National Assembly.
Fortunately, the country is well placed in the international mainstream. It can count on the goodwill and support of influential powers. Percipient observers have noted that foreign policy was not a controversial matter in the election campaign. Religious parties which exploited popular hostility towards US military intervention in Afghanistan during the 2002 election campaign remained all but silent this time around. Foreign terrorists who have abused Pakistan territory for planning and perpetrating bomb blasts and suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent people are now totally isolated. A broad realization prevails that for its own sake Pakistan has to fight these terrorists and their Pakistan acolytes who have defamed Islam and provoked discrimination against Muslims in other states.
Presence of large number of election observers from European Union and the United States including powerful legislators and media persons no doubt encouraged those in government who were anxious to do their duty for fair and free elections, and discouraged and deterred others with evil intentions, so that the poll was transparent and credible. Noting with grateful appreciation the contribution of foreign friends, the nation can breathe with relief at having averted dangers of rigging, and elected members of National and Provincial Assemblies can devote their attention and energies to addressing the people’s agenda.
One can only hope and wish that the new government will also find time to promote consensus on long-term issues that underlie the problem of poverty. Development of human and physical resources provides the key to a better future. Education has to receive the highest priority. Also decision needs to be expedited on construction of new water reservoirs. Addition to water storage is indispensable for increasing agricultural production and power generation.
Tide of violence and terrorism stemmed by Armed Forces
FIRST Swat and now Darra Adam Khel have been cleared of Taliban
militants substantiating hope this mortal threat to peace and stability
of tribal territories and adjoining areas of Frontier Province can be
contained by determined action of the nation’s security forces. Use of
state forces is unavoidable when religious mountebanks instigate
fanatical followers to disrupt efforts for economic and social
development, unleash violence and subject peaceful citizens to terrible
suffering. These adventurers have defied persuasion to act within bounds
of law and reason and continue to make unacceptable demands requiring
the government in effect to abandon parts of the country to their
autocratic rule. Some of them even declared the establishment of an
emirate in South Waziristan and issued edicts for burning schools for
girls and torching businesses they dubbed as un-Islamic.
Given the history of the tribal territories, government’s thin presence and lack of access roads in the mountainous terrain the task of subduing well armed rebels is difficult and demanding but it is eminently doable. Too, history offers solace and encouragement because extremist and anarchical movements that rose in the past were successfully contained and crushed. Zealots, a secret fanatical band of Jews that targeted Roman rulers as well as moderate Jews in ancient times were ultimately wiped out as were Assassins – so called because they ate hashish – who spread terror among Christians as well as fellow Muslims. More recently the Red Brigade in the West and Om Shinkario in Japan who embarked on campaigns of indiscriminate terror have also been liquidated.
Not all terrorist movements were motivated necessarily by religious fanaticism or political movements. Oklahoma Bomber Timothy McVeigh who perpetrated one of the bloodiest terrorist incidents before 9/11 did not fit into either of these categories. Nor is religious militancy confined to Muslim states; one of the worst such orgies recently took place in the state of Gujarat in India . Undeniably, however, such militancy has been incubating in some Muslim states. Its proliferation in Pakistan is largely attributable to the permissive environment fostered by not only Pakistan’s but the world’s support of the Afghan Mujahideen. Pakistani Taliban are allies of Afghan Taliban who gained control of large parts Afghanistan in mid-1990s and were subverted by Osama bin Laden to give him a free hand in organizing remnants of ‘Arab Afghans’ for international terrorism. Scion of a rich Saudi family, and a veteran of the Afghan liberation war he first spent a hundred million dollars to purchase lands in Sudan as a base for his brainchild of Al-Qaeda and after he was evicted by the Khartoum government used his wealth and messianic zeal to persuade the Taliban to provide a sanctuary for his organization in the mountainous areas in Eastern Afghanistan.
Giving benefit of doubt to these veterans of the Afghan freedom struggle, the regime in Kandahar and their allies in Pakistan perhaps did not fully know of bin Laden’s grandiose plans. They remained incredulous of allegations against Osama even after UN Security Council adopted resolutions in 1998, 1999 and 2000 condemning Osama for attacks on US embassies in East Africa and a naval ship in Aden harbour. After the 9/11 outrage the United States mounted a war on terror that forced Al-Qaeda to go underground. Unwelcome in their own countries after the end of the Afghan liberation war because they were imbued with insurrectionary ideology aimed at overthrow of existing governments, Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban remnants then infiltrated into Pakistan. Ungrateful for the support, help and assistance given by Pakistan, they turned back to bite the hand that had fed them during the protracted struggle. The land that gave them shelter has since been the target of their onslaught.
Al-Qaeda and Taliban have since made Pakistan their prime target because they consider it fertile ground for their ideological pretensions especially in tribal areas where literacy is low, process of modernization slow and the government’s hold has been traditionally fragile. Internal political turmoil in Pakistan has provided them another pretext for exploitation. People not only in tribal territory are vulnerable to false and misleading propaganda that the Taliban militants only want Pakistan to end its support of the United States and NATO and once Islamabad changes its policy they would not cause any further harm here. Yet knowledge of their past can leave no doubt they actually seek a base in Pakistan as they previously exploited Taliban acquiescence to use it as a launching pad for their which they to abuse Pakistan territory preparing and implementing plans for international terrorism. Were Pakistan to fall in their trap it could be exposed to the same fate as the Taliban have suffered. The United States and NATO could use forces to eliminate Al-Qaeda base on Pakistan territory. We should therefore be clear that in resisting Al-Qaeda and Taliban encroachments Pakistan is fighting for the survival and realization of its dream of renaissance as a modern, democratic, progressive and moderate Islamic state in step with the rest of the world community.
Fortunately the state can rely on the armed forces to display their professional dedication, expertise and fortitude to successfully cope with the challenge. Fortunately, too, major political parties are all alive to the threat fanaticism and terrorism pose to our future.
Unrealistic expectations of embassies
Implicit in the President’s reported exhortation to Ambassador in
Washington to stem the rising tide of criticism in US media against his
conduct of state affairs is a flattering tribute to the capability of
his personal friend but also a dangerously unrealistic expectation that
the envoy can transform the President’s tarnished image. With experience
of eight years at the helm he should know that whatever their
ideological biases independent media have to mirror reality and those
most respected are least susceptible to personal intercessions for
change in their professional approach. That conclusion is reinforced by
the fact that for six years they showered encomiums on the President and
if that was deserved so must be their recent criticism. Instead of
blaming them he should make an honest appraisal of his own recent
performance, benefit from identification of errors by critics and try to
rectify them. Only thus can he assure himself a high place in the roll
call of honour. A leader should heed the proverb ‘Zaban-i khalq,
naqqara-i khuda’ - Humanity’s voice is God’s trumpet.
Governments everywhere and more so in developing countries can benefit by remembering Abraham Lincoln’s aphorism of a century and half ago: ‘You may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time.’ In the twentieth century totalitarian states succeeded to manage information for some time but in the long term that experiment with state controlled media led to the ruin of their system. Freedom of expression and independent journalism are now a global norm and although spin doctors can still mislead opinion their impact is ephemeral. Access to diverse sources of information enables the audience to rectify biases and therefore there is little chance of making black permanently white. Neither Tony Blair nor George Bush could get away with offences against common sense. Even before their allegations of possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein regime were exposed as white lies, international public opinion rejected their rationale for war on Iraq. People in UK did not forgive Blair and Bush too will wish he had not committed the blunder.
In contrast with the curiously high expectations of present and past Pakistani leaders, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had a low and condescending appraisal of embassies. He once disparaged them by comparing their late and dull diplomatic dispatches on political events in foreign countries with instant and more readable reports in the media. Trudeau was fundamentally wrong in fallaciously equating embassies with news agencies but he got away with his flippant flamboyance because he was not only a brilliant politician but one of Canada’s all time great leaders having served the cause of preserving the unity of Canada. He could even afford to provoke Canadian farmers by telling them, ‘Why should I sell your wheat?’ Farmers protested but diplomats were too decent to publicly challenge and refute their respected head of government.
Of course both high and low expectations from embassies erred on the side of exaggeration. In the context of expanded functions of embassies in modern times, they are legitimately expected to promote exports and project state interests. On the other hand it is unrealistic to expect that more proactive lobbying by an ambassador can change the image of his country or its government. No independent media in the world at large should be expected to turn a blind eye to the evisceration of the constitution, ouster of a score of judges of superior courts, restrictions on media and detention of prominent political leaders under questionable arrogation of emergency powers. No less disturbing for well wishers of Pakistan are spreading insurgencies in parts of the country and proliferating extremism and terrorism. As Pakistan and its people have grown more despondent opposition politicians have predictably sharpened their criticism and independent media everywhere have become increasingly censorious. Only better thought out policies and improved ground realities can achieve relief from adverse portrayal abroad.
Public memory is proverbially short, perhaps more so in Pakistan than elsewhere. In consequence leaders cannot count on credit for past services however meritorious they may have been. Shaukat Aziz transformed economic and fiscal management to rescue the state from brink of bankruptcy but today he is reviled by some columnists and blamed by politicians even of PML(Q) for the flour crisis which is ascribable to erroneous estimates of harvest and failure to prevent smuggling. The same tendency is manifest in popular appraisal of President Musharraf who led Pakistan’s recovery from failed-state syndrome. Few gave him due credit even earlier for his achievements but some of his decisions since March 9 last year have exposed him to mounting criticism with opinion shifting focus to questions of legitimacy and credibility. Even fewer give thought to the objective problems of improving governance, putting the genie of extremism back in the bottle and re-establishing political consensus in the polity. The task of reuniting the people in purposeful pursuit of reform and rectification will demand great courage and wisdom and one can only hope and pray these qualities will be forthcoming after the election next month.
Restoring legitimacy and credibility
Countrywide shock and grief on Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was as natural as the eruption of emotions in Sindh. Only the affiliations of anarchic crowds who went on an orgy of arson and destruction remained a mystery. Instead of joining others in mourning and eulogizing the lost leader marauding multitudes indulged in arson, pillage and destruction targeting public and private property. Government offices, railway wagons, locomotives and track bore the brunt of the fury. No less extensive was the devastation let loose on buses and cars, houses and shops, petrol stations, banks, businesses and industries. More than fifty innocent lives were lost. Though not instigated by a political party or directed by an ideological group, demonstrating multitudes included some people with sinister motivations. What else could explain destruction of a canal bridge between poor villages and selective attacks on non-Sindhi houses and shops in some areas? Worst-case analyses were prevented by noble action of Sindhi villagers who provided food and shelter to two thousand passengers of a stranded train from the north.
Predictably, the Government was blamed for failure of security. Official spokesman confounded confusion as to the precise cause of death. Why the scene of the crime was immediately washed clear of possibly useful forensic evidence and why text of doctors’ report was not released remained a mystery. Confidence was not restored even after President’s delayed decision to invite Scotland Yard experts to participate in investigations. People’s Party persisted in demand for independent international inquiry as to existence of conspiracy and detection of masterminds. Without a credible investigation, another prominent name will be added to the catalogue of unsolved murders that includes Liaquat Ali Khan and President Ziaul Haq. Some people are bound to wonder if there was a design to deprive Z. A. Bhutto of posterity.
Opinion in the country is dangerously polarized due to the yawning credibility gap between government and opposition parties. Even objective reasons cited by the Chief Election Commissioner for postponement of election for six weeks have failed to carry conviction. Recommendations of interim governments at the centre and in provinces do not commend credibility because they are not considered impartial even by civil society let alone opposition parties which were given promise of consultation that was apparently not fulfilled. The President’s address to the nation failed to overcome deep anxieties of a people traumatized by the tragedy of 1971 much less antipathy of those who question his legitimacy. Urgent salutary measures are imperative to rescue our polity from chaos and confrontation.
American and British leaders as much as Pakistani well-wishers of peace, stability and transition to democracy are relieved by decision of Pakistan People’s Party and Muslim League-N to participate in the election. All of them wish election will pave the way for reconciliation. But these opposition parties remain censorious of postponement though both were at first inclined to seek postponement of poll. Analysts at home and abroad attribute their change of mind to electoral calculus and expectations of a wave of sympathy.
But few are inclined to criticize their motives as opposition parties alone cannot be expected to heed appeals for exercise of responsibility in the larger interest of the state. Government as well must contribute to the process of healing the wounds that have lacerated bonds of unity by setting an example of legal and ethical propriety.
Politics is no longer a mere game for power; it has become a lethal contest with little regard to the nation’s future. Hope of political reconciliation has suffered a body blow due to PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari’s reference to PML-Q as ‘qatil party.’ PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi has retaliated in kind by accusing PPP Co-Chairmn of complicy in destruction and plunder. Such inflammatory exchanges can only add fuel to the spreading fire of hatred and discord between leaders of political parties and their followers. Analysts already worried about post-election prospects of cooperative relations between winners and losers of the election are bound to despair. Could Pakistan be ravaged by Kenya-like violence if victory expectation of political parties are not realized?
Earnest and positive thought needs to be given to issues that have opened avoidable cleavages and divisions. Restoration of sanctity of the 1973 constitution in letter as well as spirit should be on top of the agenda. That basic represents the nation’s consensus. It alone bears the seal of unanimity. It should not be subjected to recurrent surgeries much less distorted by amendments imposed by an individual. Secondly, legitimacy of the President’s reelection needs to be established to the satisfaction of the majority by a pledge to submit the issue for a vote of confidence by the new Electoral College after the election. No less important will be resolution of the problem created by evisceration of superior courts. Reestablishment of confidence in the independence of the judiciary requires restoration of justices ousted without due process.
The period of six weeks before the election should be utilized for introspection and identification of other positive initiatives to pull back from the threatening precipice.
Assassination sabotages political modernization
Editor, Foreign Affairs
Cruelly cut down on climbing trail
back to political power, Benazir Bhutto’s death is a tragedy of
classical proportions. She was a talented and courageous leader with an
educated and perceptive intellect capable of comprehending imperatives
of a developing country, and assets and skills necessary to mobilize
masses yearning for reform of its stagnant social order. With no
confusion in her mind that fanaticism poses the gravest danger to our
nation’s progress and development and a place of respect in the world at
large, Ms Bhutto committed herself boldly to lead the struggle to
eradicate terrorism and restore cooperative coexistence in our
For modernizers committed to inculcation of global values, promotion of human rights and elimination of discrimination on grounds of race, religion, language or gender Benazir Bhotto was a model, having herself broken free of antiquated prejudices. Like her father, she was a national and international figure, proud of her country and protective of its unity and strength, and aware that it needed to accelerate its march so that it would not be left behind in a fast-changing world.
Respected nationally and internationally for a potential for leadership, she was expected by her admirers at home and abroad to assimilate modern democratic values of good governance, improve fiscal management and eliminate malpractices that spread poverty and frustration in the past. If she was too combative in defence of her rule during past tenures in high office, privations of life in exile for nine years as much as her maturing mind could not but impress her with importance of building a new legacy worthy of respect in history. Assassination deprived her of that chance and Pakistan of reaping the benefits.
Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has struck a severe blow to hopes of normalization of politics and launching the state on road to inclusive democracy that were generated by return of leaders of the two largest parties and their decision to participate in the scheduled election. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has now reverted to his preference for boycott and Pakistan People’s Party Vice President Amin Fahim has declared mourning for forty days while anger and sorrow have erupted in violence across the state. Those cognizant of the desperate need for rescuing the state from chaos and confrontation must hope that government will redouble efforts to promote political consensus for transition to inclusive politics.
Will US violate Pakistan territory?
Editor, Foreign Affairs
Unmindful if not ignorant of extent
of Pakistan’s key contribution to combat against terrorism, political
leaders in United States recurrently revive debate on whether US forces
should cross into Pakistan territory in pursuit of Al-Qaeda leaders. It
is one of favourite questions debated by candidates for presidential
nomination, and even President George Bush was cornered into saying he
would authorize intrusion in response to the leading question what he
would do if intelligence pointed to presence of Osama bin Laden on
Pakistan side of the border. Reports from Washington then provoked
President Musharraf to declare government would not permit violation of
Pakistan territory. Do these hot exchanges portend a clash between the
two sides? Cold cost-benefit analysis of options would indicate such a
contingency is unlikely to arise.
Both sides have much to lose and little to gain from precipitating a crisis that is wholly avoidable so long as both carry out their obligations under international law. While Pakistan has to prevent abuse of its territory by outlaws for terrorist attack on another state the United States is required to refrain from intervention in another state. Our government acknowledges its responsibility and has deployed nearly a hundred thousand soldiers in the mountainous territory adjoining Afghanistan where terrorists have established hideouts. Pakistan army has demonstrated the will and actually done a superb job in apprehending, expelling and eliminating hundreds of Al-Qaeda cadres over the years. Its capacity and performance has continued to improve with supply of arms and communications equipment. If any gaps still remain these can and should be covered through bilateral cooperation and coordination between commanders of our forces on Pakistan side and US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Those in the United States who doubt our army’s unity and commitment in pursuit of the task do injustice to our forces which have suffered much larger casualties in the operations than have the US and NATO forces on the Afghan side of the border.
When questioned why they consider cross-border intrusions necessary, a US protagonist explained targeted Al-Qaeda elements seldom stay at any one location for much time and therefore unless the intelligence information is used instantly for attack on the hideout the opportunity is lost and expenditure on purchase of information wasted. Even those who do not impugn Pakistan army’s commitment imply they have not yet attained a level of efficiency sufficiently high to mobilize quickly and further that they lack equipment and skill to attack targets accurately so that loss of time allows Al -Qaeda elements time to escape. This conjecture lacks factual corroboration. US military has made no such allegations. On the contrary American officials have frequently paid public tribute to Pakistani forces for their strong and steadfast contribution.
Effective operations against terrorists are in mutual interest of the two sides. Pakistan is engaged in combat against the scourge for its own sake as much as for that of United States and the world community. Extremism which breeds terrorism obstructs economic and social progress. The combat against it would have to be waged even if US interests were not served. A developing country, Pakistan lacks adequate resources to effectively address the problem alone. Assistance by the United States also brings technology and resources to enhance cability of forces. Further training for real time communications and precision attacks can overcome residual deficiencies. More intensive coordination between force commanders can ensure greater operational efficiency in extirpating terrorists in border areas.
Theoretically if there is a contingency when one side is unable to act instantly against a target considered by both sides to be of high value they could work out an arrangement to prevent escape. Conceivably if the Pakistan side decides it needs help, it could request cooperation. According to press reports such cooperation has taken place in the past and the Pakistan side even covered up for US side when the latter attacked Al-Qaeda elements on Pakistan side. That is all the more reason why a unilateral decision of intrusion by US or NATO forces would be counter-productive. Intelligence is often less than fully reliable as has been demonstrated and costs of a botched operation with heavy civilian casualties would be unacceptable to the aggrieved.
Meanwhile, calls by critics of US policy for reduction or cutoff of cooperation with Pakistan are worse than perverse. Of hundreds of billions of dollars in US expenditure on operations against international terrorism since 2001, only $9.6 billion has been spent in Pakistan. Of this amount $600 million a year has been transferred to the government for economic and military assistance. The bulk represents direct payments to the military to cover part of actual costs of operations. Denied such assistance, Pakistan would be unable to carry on operations at present scale. US and NATO forces on the Afghan side would then have to assume greater burden at a much higher cost. Already the US is spending tens of billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan. Cutting a few hundred million dollars annually to Pakistan would be a classic penny-wise-pound-foolish approach. Only a purblind analyst can ignore the cost-benefit calculus.
As responsible White House and Pentagon leaders are aware the problem is best addressed through more not less cooperation. Official spokesmen have publicly explained how US interests would be damaged by reducing assistance. Cross-border intrusions by US or NATO forces would precipitate a crisis for the government. It is presumable that US will not resort to putting a kmife into the government’s back.
UN should end Iran curbs
Editor, Foreign Affairs
On merits alone UN Security Council should now rescind sanctions against Iran because legal and political rationale for penalties is no longer valid. Iran has complied with the bulk of demands of International Atomic Energy Agency for more information on its nuclear programme, and the US-EU suspicion Iran was engaged in secret pursuit of nuclear weapons has been falsified. The United States has been proved wrong and Iran has been proved right. The US National Intelligence Council has stated with ‘high confidence that in fall of 2003 Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme.’ Actually there is no proof Iran ever had such a programme. Iran repeatedly declared it remained faithful to its obligation not to acquired nuclear weapons. If President George W. Bush still remains adamant in his suspicions the world community should not allow a single state to become ‘judge and jury’ and condemn Iran to unjust sanctions. Particularly France and Germany should reconsider support for sanctions. They earned credit in 2003 by joining the majority in Security Council to oppose war on Iraq by USA and UK. China and Russia have been vindicated in their reservations about sanctions against Iran. They should feel emboldened now to lead a call for an end to unjust sanctions.
Grounded in principles of international law, Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA’s Statute, Iran’s right to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes cannot be denied. IAEA Board of Governors called for suspension of uranium enrichment pending settlement of outstanding issues relating to compliance with safeguards obligations in respect of projects about which Tehran had failed to provide requisite information. Tehran could and should have acted sooner but it has finally complied with the demands, answered most of the questions, given access to officials and scientists and is in the process of further negotiations with IAEA in respect of residual issues. The sooner these are settled the stronger will be the case for withdrawal of sanctions. Meanwhile, there is no justification in US demand for more stringent sanctions.
Throughout the past three years IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has acted with independence and propriety, upholding Iran’s right to peaceful uses but urging it to comply with its safeguards obligations. Meanwhile he courageously defied pressures to support US and EU allegations stating IAEA inspections found no evidence to support the charge Tehran was embarked on a weapons programme. The US intelligence community also appears to have decided to return to path of objectivity and thus save itself from further damage to its credibility which was fatally wounded by its performance in 2003 when it succumbed to Bush administration’s pressure to misinterpret and even manufacture evidence about possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein.
Ignoring President Bush’s preference manifest in his recent statements of suspicion and hostility towards Iran, US National Intelligence Estimate of October 31, 2007 has publicly declared ‘Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon’ and even though it ‘has made significant progress in installing centrifuges in Natanz, but . . . it still faces significant problems operating them.’ Even making the worst-case assumption that Tehran intends to build nuclear weapons, NIE states categorically: ‘Iran is unlikely to achieve this capability before 2013 because of foreseeable technical and programmatic problems. All agencies recognize that this capability may not be attained until after 2015.’
Acting on basis of IAEA’s declared view that Iran is not engaged in pursuit of nuclear weapons, now conceded even by the US intelligence estimates, the Security Council has a clear obligation to rescind sanctions. In doing so it will face difficulties on account of US veto. Unlike China and Russia which refrained from using veto to block the resolution of sanctions, USA under the present administration is unlike to evince equal consideration for equity and descent opinion. Still an attempt should be made by some courageous members of the Security Council to rescue humanity’s hope in an equitable international order.
Mohamed ElBaradei has suggested immediate negotiations should begin between Iran and Western critics. Prospects for rapid progress might be better if EU’s foreign affairs chief Javier Solana resumed contacts with Tehran. He has a merited reputation for objectivity and patience. He seemed to express frustration at lack of progress in his meeting with Iran’s envoy last week, the testimony to Iran’s credibility implicit in the US intelligence community’s report should help him regain confidence in the value and usefulness of his characteristic open-mindedness towards the other side.
If President Bush still sounded hawkish against Iran in his December 4 comment on the NIE he might be only dissembling. It is too much to expect he would have exhibited penitence. But he should feel relieved he will be no longer under pressure of dogmatistists in his party who led him in to the historic blunder of invading Iraq that has ruined his hope of a place of respect in history. A wiser course would aim to earn some credit by promoting a just settlement between Palestinians and Israel and even normalisation with Iran.
Threshold of political transformation
Vital contribution of friends
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
PRESIDENR Pervez Musharraf’s decision finally to retire as Chief of Army Staff eight years after the coup, return of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto after ten years in self-exile and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after seven years in forced exile, and filing of nomination papers by candidates of all major political parties for elections are momentous developments that a few weeks ago only dreamers imagined possible. It may be still too early to celebrate but we are entitled to a deep sigh of relief at the concatenation of these auspicious events. No less promising is the restraint in resort to imperious and strident rhetoric by the President and two former Prime Ministers. All seem to have wisely abandoned path of confrontation. Hope has surged that a credible election with all major political actors present in the new parliament could pave the way for a genuine transition to stable democracy.
Kingdome of Saudi Arabia - always a brother, friend, well-wisher and supporter – has made a timely and crucial contribution to extricating Pakistan from a political quagmire of our own creation. For a chance for prevention of crisis and threatening chaos it was imperative that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should return to Pakistan . The earlier deal with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto presaging power sharing for her alone with President Musharraf seemed too ominous because exclusion of the other major mainstream political party would fatally undermine credibility of democratic process. Of course we are not yet clear out of the wood. Today’s meeting of the All Parties Democratic Movement hangs like the proverbial Damocles sword over the prospects for successful transition to constitutional governance.
Politics is known to make strange bedfellows and the inclination in favour of coexistence is strengthened by adversity. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif abandoned mutual confrontation after 1999 as both found themselves sidelined. Politicians are too vain to feel remorse for poor governance but experience of life in exile should have a sobering effect. As the proverb says a peacock dancing in a wilderness has no admiring spectators. As for President Musharraf he is too realistic to ignore indispensability of smooth transition to democracy for a respectable place in history. There is besides the glaring fact of popular fatigue with self-serving politics.
With feet planted firmly on the ground, a vast majority of our people has taken the emergency in stride. There is a broad recognition that the past eight years have ameliorated problems of poverty and unemployment and life in rural areas has somewhat eased as a result of more remunerative prices for agricultural produce, spread of the road network and expansion of means of communication. The state is now stronger economically in contrast with the brink of fiscal insolvency to which it was driven by corruption and irresponsible policies of the 1990s. A politically maturing public would not want to imperil the positive trends. Only extremists are misled to die and kill in pursuit of misconceived causes.
Role of Friends. Another important factor in the present situation is continuing interest of major powers in peaceful transition. President George W. Bush has remained cognizant of Pakistan ’s key role in the combat against extremism and the danger that chaos would pose to these efforts. If Washington earlier seemed embarked on promoting a Musharraf-Bhutto combination, it has been well advised to abandon a person specific approach in favour of an all inclusive strategy. Particularly helpful in this respect was Senator Joseph Bidden, chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, who sagaciously suggested the switch from support from President Musharraf to support for people of Pakistan in the interest of durable US relations with Pakistan.
Especially relevant was the November 22 message of President Hu Jintao emphasizing not only that smooth transition in Pakistan was in the interest of Pakistan but also of peace and stability for the whole region. His advice for a smooth transition merited close attention as it came from the leader of a great nation with a long history of goodwill towards our people and record of solidarity with our state through thick and thin. Besides the advice is grounded in experience of China itself which was threatened by turbulence in 1989 but its people realized incremental steps were preferable to impatient revolutionary change as political stability was indispensable for steady economic transformation.
Our country has achieved significant economic and political progress over recent years. From brink of fiscal insolvency in 1999 it has risen to considerable strength. Politically too it has achieved notable progress and was poised in 2007 for transition towards improved democracy when its steady if slow march was suddenly interrupted by rise of extremism and terrorism and political disturbances triggered by individuals lacking in patience and wisdom necessary for organic reform.
As the ship of state return to an even keel, it would be advisable to rectify the lurch manifest in mutual interference by the executive and judicial branches in each other’s affairs, lift emergency and restore constitution. President Musharraf’s compliance with the constitutional bar on dual offices and patience on part of powerful political parties are as necessary for return to constitutional rule as are good governance and abandonment of malpractices that led to near failure of state in the lost decade of 1990s.
Commonwealth penalties and rewards
Ostracise corrupt leaders, not States
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
PAKISTAN is again
under threat of suspension from the Commonwealth and this time around
the interim government deserves greater sympathy than the interim
government in 1999. When following the imposition of the first
extra-constitutional rule by General Pervez Musharraf the Commonwealth
Ministers Action Group visited Islamabad to ask for an explanation, we
in the interim government could argue from conviction that so-called
democracy during the had driven Pakistan to brink of bankruptcy and
state failure. Now Mohammadmian Soomro and Inamul Haq cannot blame the
In 1999 several of the CMAG members were sympathetic to the convincing argument of miscarriage of democracy and hence the justification for respite, rescue and rectification of the consequences of economic mismanagement, corruption and maladministration during the ‘lost decade’ of 1990s. Later one of the delegation members told me off-the-record that when CMAG delegation met some of the leaders of previous governments he felt they deserved the sack. If this view made no difference in the decision of the Commonwealth Summit to suspend Pakistan it was because membership criteria adopted a decade earlier left no loophole for an exception to permit participation by a state without an elected government.
Protesting suspension. Unlike the United Nations and most other intern-governmental organizations that do not question how a government comes in to power in a member state, the Commonwealth insists on legitimacy and democracy for participation in its meetings. Criteria are unambiguous and therefore Pakistan is likely to be suspended again as it was in 1999 and our government’s protest will avail little. Accepting the inevitable, the government should save its breath and instead just wait until elections scheduled for January and if these are free and fair as promised by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Soomro the successor government can claim restoration of its rightful status.
Meanwhile the interim government need not pretend indifference to suspension because Pakistan has been down that road before having even quit the Commonwealth in 1971. Past experience is proof that sooner than later government will swing to the other pole of supplication for lifting the sanction.
It is not that Commonwealth membership brings any substantial material or political rewards. But suspension is a stigma and elected leaders will be keen to wipe it off and seek restoration as acknowledgement of their legitimacy.
Moreover political leaders always welcome opportunities to meet their peers. Goodwill of other members is a worthy objective and there is no reason at all why a state should throw that away by excluding itself from a multilateral forum.
If Commonwealth is unique in judging legitimacy of the government of a member state it does little to deserve that power.
It is censorious after the overthrow of an elected government but it remains a silent spectator when elected leaders stray from the straight path and does nothing to advise and caution them for timely rectification.
Even worse is the conduct of some old member states that have enacted laws that facilitate and encourage corruption in developing states and thus contribute to discrediting the democratic system of government.
Their banking secrecy laws encourage corrupt rulers to amass illicit wealth and transfer it into secret accounts and then permissive political asylum laws help the culprits to evade accountability. Predictably, those who protest the loudest against overthrow of democracy are usually the most hypocritical.
Fight corruption. Both Pakistan and Commonwealth could usefully review their performance for lessons to avoid recurrent wrangles. Pakistan on its part has to find ways and means of leashing corrupt politicians as well as the Army. No other country in or out of the Commonwealth has a worse record of failure of political leaders and recurrent military interventions.
Starting with ambitious bureaucrats who overthrew the government in 1954, we had Army takeovers in 1958, 1969, 1977 and 1999. Nor should the nation forget that elected governments were dismissed in 1990, 1993, 1996 and 1999 – the first three by civilian Presidents – were all charged of maladministration, fiscal mismanagement and rampant corruption. Their ouster was never mourned by public and their actions damaged prestige of democracy.
On its part the Commonwealth should shed sanctimonious posturing and instead appeal to the relevant states to rescind unethical and exploitative laws to suck illicit money from poor developing countries.
The world community has recognised that corruption is a cancer fatal for good governance. The UN Convention Against Corruption requires members states to reform laws so as to prevent money laundering, cooperate in prosecution of persons who have acquired assets with illicit funds, confiscate the assets upon conviction and return these to the victim state.
Commonwealth states that claim to cherish high standards of legality, legitimacy and democracy owe it to themselves if not to the world at large to act consistently with their professed values.
Void PRO. Unforgivably the Political Reconciliation Ordinance proclaimed by President Musharraf on October 9, 2007 has undercut the powerfully persuasive argument Pakistan has been making from UN forums to criminalize international transfer of illicit funds. It violates a key obligation of the UN Convention that requires state parties not to permit ‘immunities and jurisdictional privileges’ to public officials against investigation and prosecution for crimes of corruption.
One of the lessons taught by the great moralist Saadi Shirazi is you cannot carry conviction in prohibiting another person from consuming sugar to excess unless you yourself observe restraint.
Good governance in Pakistan requires enforcement not exceptions to accountability laws in favour of public men and women. Fortunately, the constitutionality of the Ordinance has yet to be examined by the superior courts.
Concerned citizens would hope the Attorney General of Pakistan will be proved right and that the Political Reconciliation Ordinance will be voided.
International isolation will
Twilight hour to protect proud legacy
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
Monumental achievements of the past eight years are at risk if the government does not heed the iron logic of its commitment to smooth transition to democracy. It took Herculean effort to extricate Pakistan from international isolation and rehabilitate it in the goodwill of the mainstream of world opinion, get relief from multiple sanctions and resumption of foreign aid, and implement domestic reforms to rescue the state from fiscal bankruptcy. Saving their proud legacy from ruin should be the foremost objective at this twilight hour and that requires the leadership should resist the temptation to take detours from its considered commitment to ensure smooth transition to democracy. It should listen to the advice of friends and well-wishers and resist the temptation of second thoughts. It is too late to go into reverse gear also because domestic opinion is impatient for return to normalcy and use of armed forces would blunt the vital instrument necessary to combat the grave danger of anarchy posed by extremism.
Friends and allies are agonizing over the imposition of emergency in Pakistan, human rights organizations have denounced the action in strong language and major donors are threatening sanctions. Prime Minister of Turkey has counseled our President to ‘change course and hold elections as promised.’ China’s confidence in Pakistan’scapacity to find a way out of the present crisis is not unmixed with concern and apprehension. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has asked the Pakistani leadership to ‘take early steps for return to demdcratic rule. President George W. Bush has exhorted President Mu,sharraf to hold elections and relinquish his army post ‘as soon as possible.’ US Defence Department has suspended defence cooperation talks with Pakistan and embarked on review of military assistance and sale of F-16s. European Union’s foreign affairs chief Javier Solana has said ‘abandoning the path of democracy is not the answer.’ Even before EU’s review of budgetary assistance, Holland has suspended economic aid.
Karachi stock market’s nosedive on Monday, due according to analysts to flight of foreign portfolio investment, is an ominous sign of erosion of confidence in stability of economic policies. Capital rightly called ‘the greatest coward’ runs away from risks created by political uncertainty. Fortunately, with reserves of $16 billion Pakistan is in a good position to sustain its fiscal solvency. Still without early return to normalcy inflows of capital are bound to decline and combined with reduction in economic assistance it will be impossible to maintain the high growth achieved in the past five years. To compound the difficulties ahead, threat of return of economic mismanagement, fiscal irresponsibility and corruption at high levels witnessed in the ‘Lost Decade’ of the 1990s, hangs like Damocles’ Sword over the economic prospects of the country.
Implementation of promises by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on November 5 assuring transition to democracy ‘very soon’ and holding of election on schedule is an indispensable imperative of the deteriorating situation. The option to extend the tenure of the National and Provincial Assemblies is unviable not only because members of Opposition political parties have already resigned undermining the credibility of the legislative branch but also because the nation by and large questions the need of the emergency that would be used as grounds for extension of their life.
President Musharraf s emphasis on the principle of harmony between the three branches of government would appeal to all people who yearn for sustainable democracy. The problem is not with the diagnosis but with the treatment by the executive of the judicial branch which has been reduced to a rump following the evisceration of the superior courts with a large number of senior judges excluded because they refused to take another oath that would falsify the oath they have earlier taken to uphold the constitution which has been suspended by decree issued in the name of the Army Chief of Staff. If one of the pillars of the democratic triad is cut down the structure cannot stand nor the system sought to be imposed command support.
Unlike 1977 and 1999 when large sections of people welcomed overthrow of political misrule, the dominant reaction this time around is one of disapproval. The civil society is in a state of shock while opposition political parties are up in protest. The government has reacted unwisely. Human rights activists have been placed under detention, scores of politicians and hundreds of lawyers are under arrest not to mention thousands of television workers who are forced into unemployment. The trust-gap between government and public opinion has widened to a chasm in proportion to the scores of independent TV channels that are now mute witnesses to the opacity of government that until a few days ago rightly took pride in a policy of transparency.
President Musharraf highlighted the deleterious impact of the Supreme Court’s disrespect for high functionaries. He was not alone to criticize the excesses implicit in interference by the judiciary in administration. But even greater anxiety surrounds the question of the impact of the November 3 action on the morale of public servants, both civil and military. They are the sinews of state and their high morale and efficiency are vital for a polity to secure its survival. The army especially is already stretched in the face of resistance by extremists and separatists, and given the heart-rending nature of action against their own compatriots they need to be spared any further demand for involvement in action against political opposition. Political contentions must be resolved through dialogue and compromise.
Time before November 15 is short and people of goodwill must hope the leadership will engage in serious and deep thought and make decisions that will protect and build on the progress it has achieved.
Ominous unilateralism on Iran
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
THERE is plenty of time for diplomacy to resolve outstanding issues about Iran ’s nuclear programme. The problem is time is running out for the Bush administration and ideologues who in 2003 used the pretext of Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction to invade Iraq might once again concoct another false accusation in pursuit of their preconceived design against Iran. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is worried that bellicose statements by US leaders are fuelling war scare. In statements during the past week he has underlined (a) there is no evidence to suggest Iran is building a bomb, (b) even supposing it wants to build one it will take three to eight years to acquire the capability, and (c) issues about Iran’s inspection obligations and uranium enrichment can and should be resolved peacefully.
ElBaradei’s anxieties are not unfounded. The Bush administration has refused to rule out unilateral use of force. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are beginning once again to sound rather impatient. Ominously, Washington has fired the first shot by imposing economic sanctions against Iran . China and Russia have criticised Washington for unwarranted unilateralism. Any such action should have followed a decision by UN Security Council which is due to resume consideration of Iranian compliance with its earlier resolution after it receives IAEA’s report on current negotiations with Iran .
ElBaradei said on October 28 there was no evidence to suggest Iran was engaged in ‘a concrete active nuclear weapons programme.’ Three days earlier he expressed the opinion, no doubt based on expert technical knowledge of IAEA nuclear scientists, Iran is ‘three to eight years away’ from making the bomb even if it wanted to make one. There was thus ‘plenty of time for diplomacy, dialogue, sanctions and incentives.’ Iran has already agreed with IAEA to provide explanations about its past defaults in providing timely reports on its nuclear programme. If progress is unsatisfactory, the Security Council can resume consideration as and when it deems necessary in case Iran declines to comply with its demands.
So why is Washington in a hurry? Apparently because some in the administration believe adding Iran to their achievements in Iraq would enrich the Bush legacy and therefore want to complete the job before relinquishing office in January 2009. Neither Democratic control of Congress nor public outrage at the horrible costs and consequences of the war on Iraq might deter lame-duck President George W. Bush from another adventure. He may no longer command public support but he can still start a war, for strangely enough US constitution does not bar a President from doing so. November and December are crunch time for diplomacy to resolve outstanding issues. This window of opportunity might close if the stalemate between Iran and UN Security Council persists, allowing warmongers in Washington to exploit the situation for the ‘last hurrah.’
Outstanding issues. The issues are neither urgent nor irresolvable. One of these involves questions about Iran ’s past record of implementation of safeguards obligations. Apparently Tehran did not provide required information about new nuclear programmes to IAEA. In October 2003 Iran and EU3 ( Britain , France and Germany ) agreed that issues of concern to IAEA should be resolved through full transparency and any possible failures and deficiencies should be clarified and corrected. However, controversy arose in connection with Iran ’s uranium enrichment programme. In November 2004 Tehran agreed to suspend enrichment in return for recognition of its right to nuclear technology and cooperation by EU3 in peaceful uses and security guarantees. The agreement broke down as EU3 delayed discussion on cooperation and made a new demand for cessation instead of suspension of enrichment. Negotiations then broke down and Iran resumed enrichment.
Tehran has allowed conduct of IAEA safeguards but declined to halt enrichment. It has consistently argued the Non-Proliferation Treaty not only permits parties to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes but also entitles Iran to receive technological cooperation for such uses. A dozen states parties to NPT including Germany and Japan maintain uranium enrichment and plutonium separation facilities. Ignoring that argument IAEA Board of Governors adopted a resolution demanding Iran halt enrichment pending settlement of past safeguards issues. When Iran declined to acquiesce in the demand it considered illegal and discriminatory IAEA Board decided in February 2006 to refer the matter to UN Security Council for enforcement. In July the Security Council called for suspension of enrichment first and when Iran declined to do so it adopted a resolution in December to impose sanctions which failed however to break Iran ’s will.
In an effort to find a solution IAEA resumed negotiations with Tehran which agreed to provide answers to outstanding issues by November. In case of any residual points IAEA could seek further clarifications. ElBaradei has said delay until December would present no problem. In case the problem still remains unresolved the Security Council could resume consideration of the issue and decide on further collective action. Meanwhile there is no justification for unilateralism. China has criticised Washington ’s sanctions reiterating its view ‘dialogue and negotiations are the best approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue.’ Russia too favours persistence in peaceful approach.
Dangerous unilateralism. But the Bush administration does not appear ready to wait for a patient peaceful approach. Nor does it appear chastened by the the costs and consequences of unilateralism in Iraq . As a result concerns are mounting also in the United States , as depicted in the photograph of a protestor with her hand, painted in blood-red colour, raised as if to slap Condoleezza Rice. Many who saw the photograph would share the protester’s outrage at US intervention that has inflicted terrible suffering on the Iraqi people and devastation on the developing country’s economic and social infrastructure. According to estimates hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed, four million dislocated or forced to emigrate to Jordan and Syria and the developing country’s physical infrastructure has been devastated. The protester had a point in calling for trial by the International Criminal Court of decision-makers in respect of war on Iraq . The same applies to those responsible for horrors perpetrated by the Soviet forces in Afghanistan and earlier by US forces in Vietnam .
Iran urged to halt enrichment. Reverting to the Iranian nuclear issue, imperatives of peace demand the outstanding issues should be resolved peacefully. Both sides need to act responsibly and with all deliberate speed. Iran should not discount the growing impatience of the world community. The Security Council has already adopted two resolutions unanimously. It is dangerous for a medium power to be isolated in the comity of nations. One must hope dismissal of Ali Larijani as head of National Security Council does not imply a turn to an even harder line.
Mountains to climb: Developing democracy
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
Political horizon is not clear of clouds but all political partisans and nonpartisan civil society hope for further development of democracy and holding of fair and free elections with the superior judiciary adjudicating residual issues of transition to civilian rule. Inherently the situation is full of promise but seeing well-wishers keep their fingers crossed. Omens and portents abound. What if the Supreme Court rules against the President-elect’s eligibility? Would the Election Commission deliver on its constitutional obligation to prevent interference by the executive and enforce prohibition on corrupt practices by candidates for election? Looking further ahead, would the President-elect get the confidence of the next National Assembly? Still beyond lurks the main question: Would leaders of the post-election government display greater responsibility and wisdom, deliver good governance and refrain from repeating the kind of conduct that brought the country to the brink of fiscal bankruptcy and failure of state in the past?
A retrospective glance recalls that consensus has always obtained in Pakistan in favour of democratic system. Our founding fathers led a popular movement for freedom and our country was established by the explicit exercise of the democratic right of self-determination. The Objectives Resolution adopted by the first parliament of elected leaders envisioned a democratic form of government. The constitution adopted with near unanimity by the elected National Assembly in 1973 institutionalized the democratic system. Unfortunately some of those responsible for implementing the system failed to abide by the spirit of democracy, traits of culture and character misled them to assert and impose personal preferences, and abuse of power for accumulation of illicit wealth and for benefit of family and friends. Rule in the interest of rulers and to the detriment of the ruled undermined popular support for the system provoking and encouraging Army leadership to intervene in the name of rescuing the state from collapse.
Sixty years after independence we are still short of the ideal. The journey has been long and too often frustrating. We have moutains to climb, hurdles to overcome. Yet the ideal continues to beckon and the nation is more than ever determined to attain the destination. Demand for Army’s withdrawal from politics has become irresistible.
Lessons to learn. Debate will go on as to causes of setbacks. Surely, there is plenty of blame that can be objectively and justly ascribed and apportioned between both military and political rulers. This exercise can be useful. There are lessons to be learnt even if sins of omission and commission are not confessed. The condition for faster political progress in our country is objectivity of analysis and assimilation of lessons. Prolonged transgressions into politics by Army Generals should not be whitewashed. Nor should analysis overlook personalized politics, autocratic drives and corruption of political leaders that pushed the country to brink of fiscal bankruptcy and political failure.
But past history need not induce despair. Social development is a difficult and time-taking process. Of nearly a hundred and forty new states that have emerged since 1947 a vast majority are still struggling to achieve political stability. However a few have successfully established satisfactory and sustainable democratic systems. A promising approach would emulate success stories.
Turkey, for instance, has made a successful transition from long periods of army rule to electoral democracy. Even a fundamental issue of ideology relating to secularism has been overcome and the Army has acquiesced in the will of the majority. Farsighted leaders of Malaysia have successfully built and sustained democracy despite challenges of differences of civilization between majority Malays and minorities of Chinese and Indian origin. Sri Lanka has preserved constitutional government even in the face of rebellion by Tamil Tigers.
Sustained democracy calls for avoidance of personal confrontation between political leaders, live-and-let-live politics and tolerance and accommodation of differences between political parties. That has not been a norm in Pakistani politics. Feuds and vendettas have not been unknown. Extremists pose more difficult challenges because they don’t accept even the constitution and laws of the land. Other preconditions for successful democracy are convergence on fundamental aims as well as success in delivery of good governance and economic development.
Accountability necessary. Rule of law is a prerequisite for civilised society and those who violate law should be held accountable without fear or favour. In this sphere as in others developing countries have a lot of ground to cover. Pakistan is however unique in retrogression. Apart from continuing challenges of dilatory court proceedings and exploitation of loopholes in the legal system by resourceful lawyers to frustrate prosecution our state has proceeded to legitimize evasion of accountability by ordering immunity from due process. There is no precedent on record of a country that has sustained or achieved democracy by exempting holders or future aspirants to public office from the law of the land.
The threat corruption poses to good governance and democracy due to systemic weaknesses in a developing countries is compounded by collusion of unscrupulous developed countries that have enacted permissive banking laws to provide havens for illicit funds in secret accounts enabling the likes of Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Mobuto and uncounted numbers of public officials to siphon off vast portions of scarce resources of poor countries. It is difficult and expensive enough for victim states to trace the concealed wealth. Almost insuperable are delays in investigation, prosecution, recovery and return. Vincent Fournier, a Swiss judge acknowledged the other day: ‘For ten years Pakistan has constantly pushed us to see that justice be done.’ Conveniently he did not identify the role of Swiss laws in frustrating the objective.
Evasion and immunity from due process is bound to have a devastating impact on governance. When the state degrades standards a society’s ethics suffers, corruption loses stigma and criminals are emboldened. Hundreds of party loyalists justify the indefensible deal, purblind to its implications for good governance and democracy. To that list will be added millions of people who vote for such partiers and thus collude in a process destructive of fundamental standards of ethics and democratic politics.
The present predicament calls to mind Sheikh Saadi’s warning: If the foundation is not laid level, the edifice that rises on it will have a dangerous tilt.
UN convention against corruption
Pakistan not serious to implement
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
NOT even two months have elapsed since Pakistan ratified the Convention Against Corruption but it has already acted to ignore one of its key obligations. Articles 29 and 30 of the convention require member states to establish ‘long statutes of limitations’ in which to commence proceedings so as not to permit ‘immunities and jurisdictional privileges’ to public officials against investigation and prosecution for crimes of corruption. Clearly the Ordinance issued on October 5 violates the spirit of the Convention and its central purpose of preventing and eradicating corruption. States are exhorted to realize that acquisition of illicit personal wealth by public officials undermines democracy and rule of law, jeopardizes national economies and poses a threat to the stability and security of developing societies.
As it is the Pakistan accountability law has not been fairly implemented. Those in power have often abused it for political vendettas. Although they rarely succeeded in their aim discriminatory application undermined the credibility of the system. The really big fish escaped the net because they had enough money to hire high-price lawyers who are experts in exploiting loopholes in legal procedures. Because of failure to bring the culprits to justice the judicial system too was discredited.
No doubt, too, that the Convention Against Corruption has not fulfilled expectations of reform of bank secrecy practices which facilitate concealment of illicit wealth. Some countries in Europe and the Caribbean are notorious for permissive laws. Besides the banks with a vested interest in keeping the illicit moneys are not very cooperative. Expensive litigation beyond capacity of poor states to afford and interminable judicial procedures effectively prevent prosecution, confiscation and return of assets to victims even after the banks are forced to disclose names of beneficiaries and balances in their accounts. Swiss courts, for instance, have procrastinated for years even after disclosure of millions of dollars held in account by prominent Pakistani politicians.
However deplorable, neither discriminatory abuse of accountability law for political purposes, inefficiency of prosecutors nor defects in judicial procedures can justify a reversal from criminalization of corruption to its legalization. Civilization demands progress towards a law-based society. Acceptance of crime as a norm is a counsel of despair for humanity yearning to emerge from age of darkness. Failure to bring terrorists to justice cannot be advanced as an argument for legalization of terrorism. And corruption has been equated with financial terrorism especially in countries which as a result of it remain steeped in poverty.
It took years of hard work on part of delegations of states to achieve consensus on the draft of the convention. But in retrospect that task was easy; once again it has proved much more difficult to translate words into deeds. Paradoxically Pakistan, one of the developing states that championed the convention because of their experience of rampant corruption and accumulation of illicit wealth by public officials, has chosen not only to acknowledge failure but also to lurch to the other extreme of ordering immunity for offenders.
Obviously politics is not a morality play. It is a ruthless game of power in which those who win power exploit it for their own aggrandisement. Rulers especially in poorly governed countries only promise benefits to the ruled; in reality they themselves reap the benefits at the expense of the poor and the weak. Ironically in Pakistan large categories of officials succeed to win exemption from application of law. Officers of the armed forces and members of the superior judiciary were the first to secure immunity from investigation by law enforcing authorities. Now thousands of current and former members of parliament and provincial assemblies and tens of thousands of ‘workers’ of political parties all over the country have been granted amnesty for past crimes and immunity from arrest and due process in the future. The world community will no doubt sympathize with Pakistani citizens’ cynicism and loss of confidence in their rules.
The ‘National Reconciliation Ordinance’ is obviously misnamed because its objections are not national but personal. It will do nothing to bridge divisions between the rulers and the ruled, moderates and extremists, different sects and regions. Its sole purpose is to facilitate power sharing of unaccountable power between political parties supporting the President and Pakistan People’s Party. A politician rightly described the ‘deal’ between the President and the PPP leader as ‘bundar bant’ or monkey-work in self-interest. The society at large will derive no benefit. Even if we witness a reduction in the magnitude of political confrontation it will be temporary. The outraged civil society has no alternative except to carry on the struggle for good governance. There can be no surcease to disaffection unless and until law and constitution are implemented in a fair and non-discriminatory manner.
Sustainable peace and progress depends on good governance and justice. Privileges need to be curtailed, not expanded. Every citizen must be equal before the law. Public officials no less than public servants have to be accountable. Equality before the law is a fundamental tenet of the constitution. In the words of constitution, sovereignty belongs to Almighty Allah and the authority to be exercised by the people of Pakistan has to be within the limits prescribed by Him. Those who flout the basic premise lose moral authority to speak in the name of the state.
Finally the role played by the US administration in this ‘dirty deal’ will be long remembered as another unfriendly act. Its partiality towards a particular leader was manifest even in the public statement of the US Secretary of State who singled out this leader for a ‘future role in Pakistan.’ Such interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs cannot rectify the ‘Ugly American’ image prevalent in Pakistan.
Independent judiciary pillar of democracy
Emerging triad for stability
Editor, Foreign Affairs
THE Supreme Court has acted
consistently to exer cise independence and courage, first in the
reference case, then confirming Mian Nawaz Sharif’s right of return and
ordering release of Javed Hashmi and then of opposition leaders from
unlawful detention and now by dismissing petitions of politicians who
hoped the Supreme Court would opt for popularity in preference to
performing its sworn duty to apply the law and constitution. The
executive branch demonstrated correct appreciation of the spirit of the
time by bending before supremacy of law. A dignified reaction by the
opposition and their lawyers to the dismissal of the petitions would
have strengthened hopes of smooth transition to democracy.
Efficient and law-abiding executive, elected parliament and independent judiciary are recognised pillars of triad for democratic stability. If everyone of the institutions plays its part in a responsible manner prospects are good that within the next four months Pakistan will have a functioning democracy with a President without uniform and National and Provincial Assemblies representative of the popular will. Threats of disruption of the electoral process need however to be contained. Unfortunately, partisan lawyers seem to have lost their professional cool.
Spectacle in Supreme Court. A surprising paradox was enacted in the Supreme Court after announcement of the verdict on September 28. Usually a losing party may express disappointment but lawyers maintain decorum. In present case spokesmen for petitioners evinced comparative restraint but their lawyers indulged in vociferation, slogan-shouting and denunciation of judges. Some of those very lawyers who a month earlier praised the Supreme Court justices to the sky for judicial independence now resorted to gutter language against the majority that dismissed the cases filed by leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaf. A prominent member of the lawyer fraternity went to the extent of calling the honourable judges ‘puppets.’ Such disgraceful conduct was seen only once before over a decade ago when supporters of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif attacked the Supreme Court.
In contrast, a spokesman of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal was restrained in his comments. The verdict, he said was expected but it only meant loss of a legal battle and the opposition parties combined in the All Pakistan Democratic Movement had already decided to continue the struggle for restoration of democracy by launching streeet demonstrations. Apparently the decision to resign seats in the National and Provincial Assemblies six weeks before the assemblies complete their 5-year tenure is a token of the strategy for drumming up popular support in the general elections that will follow. A major opposition party does not agree with them but it has a different aim of sharing power with the ruling coalition.
What is indisputable is the aspiration of the people of Pakistan for establishment of a proper functional democracy, different from both the present one headed by Army chief of staff, and different also from so-called democracy the nation was unfortunate to suffer in the decade of the 1990s when maladministration and corruption drove the state to the brink of failure. It is a commentary in the nature of confession that one of the Prime Ministers of that ‘lost decade’ seeks a deal that would include indemnity from prosecution in pending cases and the other curtailment of the period of ten years for which he agreed to refrain from return to politics.
Fair elections best hope. Focus should now shift to transparent, fair and free elections which the independent Election Commission is empowered to organize. The constitution authorizes it to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure honest, just and fair elections and guard against corrupt practices. The Election Commission can prevent interference by the executive branch which will in any case be headed by an interim non-party cabinet. The Election Commission should also enforce rules setting limits to election expenditure by candidates. Determined efforts will be needed to restrain those in possession of illicit wealth.
People could then hope for a government that would deliver better governance than we have had provided of course the majority does not include those who robbed our poor country of billions. To prevent reversion to politics for self-aggrandisement it is obviously necessary that persons notorious for corruption should be brought to just and impartial accountability. A deal for indemnity would in effect legitimize corruption. The danger is that the United States with a one-dimensional agenda will use its leverage to install its favourite in power ignoring the longest ever report published in The New York Times based on investigation of the trail of corruption by a former prime minister of Pakistan, and the findings of the US Congressional Sub-Committee on Money Laundering released on November 9, 1999.
us hypocrisy. Professions of commitment to promotion of democracy will be hypocritical if the United States continues to ignore the fatal injury corruption by so-called democratic leaders inflicted on Pakistan in the past. Precious resources were stolen and transferred to secret accounts abroad and then used to finance opulent living and political activity from headquarters in London and Dubai, with foreign banks and their governments colluding in their aim of undermining good governance in Pakistan. Once again avaricious politicians have their mouths watering in hope of laying hands on some of the 16 billion dollars Pakistan now has in foreign exchange reserves, accumulated as a result of salutary economic and foreign policies pursued by the government during the past eight years. This unprecedented achievement needs to be safeguarded even if Washington has to be disappointed. Perhaps enlightened people will see that continued economic progress and poverty reduction is more likely to lead to a moderate and enlightened opinion in Pakistan while misrule, bad governance and corruption are a recipe for intensification of frustration and poverty that foster extremism.
Saudi Arabia: Friend, benefactor, rescuer
Editor, Foreign Affairs
Confused and distraught by our domestic situation, too many of us have allowed emotions to carry us off our feet in the wake of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s controversial deportation on September 10. Instead of confining comments to legal and political propriety of the deportation, some have made piquant and offensive remarks on Saudi permission for Mr. Nawaz Sharif to enter the Kingdom and the restrictions that have been placed on him. Incautious remarks often made in disregard of facts are liable to inflict lasting damage on Pakistan’s unique and valuable friendship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The moment therefore demands cool reflection, objective appraisal and avoidance of bitter words. All the anger any one feels is better poured out in words addressed to our leaders in and out of power who are pushing our state to brink of division and failure. We should scrupulously refrain from compounding damage by unmerited and offensive criticism of a brotherly state that has been a pillar of strength to Pakistan ever since our state became independent.
Hafiz Shirazi said seven centuries ago, ‘Kind consideration towards friends is the key to salvation in both the worlds.’ William Shakespeare also eloquently verrified the same advice: ‘Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried/grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.’ Faithful friends are hard to find. Cultivating and developing friendships takes time and effort, but these can be undone instantly by bitter words.
One fundamental fact should guide thought: the decision to deport Mr. Nawaz Sharif was made by Islamabad. Comments on its legality or political propriety are entirely legitimate. The same can be said about the decision in 2000 leading to Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s exile. It was the consequence of the initiative taken by him to approach the Kingdom for intercession to rescue him from incarceration and prosecution by the Government of General Pervez Musharraf. The Kingdom used its good offices only and solely to promote a compromise between the former Prime Minister and the new Chief Executive, which saved Pakistan from another lasting ignominy before our state can live down the folly of hanging another prime minister. The Kingdom sought to grind no axe of its own.
The Kingdom had earlier provided asylum to for President Idi Amin of Uganda. When Mr. Nawaz Sharif decided to go to Saudi Arabia in 2000, the Kingdom was generous to him and his family who were given a palace for their residence and luxurious facilities for comfort. When he applied for permission to go abroad for medical treatment, Riyadh believed and allowed him to leave. It did not make a public issue of the fact that he breached the promise by taking asylum in UK instead. Similarly the Kingdom eschewed comment on his decision to reenter politics. But when Mr. Nawaz Sharif decided to return to Pakistan, Islamabad invoked the Saudi guarantee of performance. With a culture that expects both parties to honour their word, the Kingdom reminded Mr. Nawaz Sharif of his pledge and then to enforce the conditions of asylum. International law requires a beneficiary of asylum to refrain from abuse of hospitality for activities that compromise its foreign relations.
Cradle of Islam and custodian of Harmain Sharifain the Kingdom has been dedicated to promotion of welfare of Muslim people worldwide and rendered generous and selfless help and assistance to Muslim states. Endowed by Almighty Allah with generous resources for its development and the progress of its people, it seldom seeks reciprocity or even gratitude by countries it generously helps.
Pakistan, founded in the name of Islam, has been fortunate to enjoy a unique friendship with Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom has extended strong support to Pakistan on international disputes. Over a million Pakistani workers receive preferential opportunities for gainful employment in the Kingdom. Whenever in trouble, Pakistan has knocked at Saudi doors and never returned disappointed. After almost all other countries cut off aid to Pakistan in 1998, the Kingdom bailed out Pakistan by supply of petroleum worth two and a half billion dollars over five years. The debt was later converted into grant.
As citizens we have a right to criticize our rulers for ruling to advance their own interests instead of those of the people. Corruption, maladministration and poor governance have too often caused us irreversible damage. Half of our country was lost in 1971. We should not compound our misfortunes by improvident actions in field of foreign policy. Friendship of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a precious and indispensable asset. We should not allow it to be damaged.
When extremism, terrorism was taboo
Halcyon days of Muslim unity
Editor, Foreign Affairs
SEVENTY-FOUR years ago when Muslim League adopted a resolution in 1931 against terrorism, leaders of the Muslim community were clear in mind killing of innocent people cannot be tolerated by a civilized people. Consistent with the League’s principle of peaceful political struggle, its leaders condemning the terrorist movement launched by extremists and appealed to all sections of the Muslim society to combat their outrageous activities. The sponsor of the resolution reminded audience at the annual session that the ‘shedding of innocent blood was against Muslim culture and religion.’
Targeting pedestrians and bus passengers in Rawalpindi on September 4, devil’s disciples killed twenty-five innocent persons raising the total in last three months to over two hundred and adding another savage act to their long list of dastardly crimes against humanity. With the government evidently powerless to prevent suicide bombers, parents, children, relatives and other sympathizers of the victims and their families can only pray to Allah to consign these vampires to everlasting torture of hell.
‘Wages of sin’ of extremism are writ large in recent history. Extremism made Taliban an international pariah, expelled from United Nations and OIC, scorned by humanity for denying education to girls and destroying Buddha statues, shunned by Muslim states that indignantly rejected their distortions of sharia and unanimously condemned by the Security Council for allowing foreign adventurers to abuse Afghan territory to mount terrorist attacks on the United States. Algerian extremists outraged world community by their savage slaughter of innocent countrymen, and Somalia has all but ceased to exist as a state while its self-proclaimed government in warlords-surrounded Mogadishu depends for survival on the hated forces of historic enemy Ethiopia.
Rights and duties. Every person has a right to hold any opinion - even an extreme one - but no one may commit or collude in a criminal act without legal consequences. Extremism today is associated with militancy, terrorism and contempt for fundamental human rights to life, liberty and security of person. Rejecting the legitimacy of governments, extremists arrogate to themselves the authority to proclaim arbitrary codes of conduct and to use armed acolytes to enforce their writ through intimidation and violence, kidnapping and killing citizens and burning their property. Innocent civilians are often main victims of their indiscriminate attacks perpetrated through angry youth who are lured by promises of paradise in the hereafter to commit murder and mayhem which Islam explicitly prohibits as a cardinal sin.
In exploiting others, extremists – always a miniscule minority – have the aim of capturing power by violent means and then to impose their version of morality and rectitude on society denying fundamental human rights and freedoms and subjecting dissidents to summary trials and brutal penalties. Knowing the impossibility of achieving their aim in strong and mature democracies extremists try to convert or subvert autocratic rulers of small and weak developing countries in the hope of gaining a foothold and then abusing the base for their fiendish objectives.
The United Nations has condemned terrorism and supported states victims of terrorist attacks in their efforts to eradicate the scourge. UN Security Council unanimously condemned the Taliban regime in Afghanistan for allowing foreign terrorists on their soil in 1998, 1999 and 2000. After 9/11 both General Assembly and Security Council denounced the Taliban and authorized use of force to bring perpetrators to justice. The Taliban were toppled from power and Al-Qaeda was driven out from Afghanistan. Foreign adventurers then selected Pakistan as a base for their malign activities. Evidently they concluded Muslim people of Pakistan were easy prey for propaganda, the rugged terrain of tribal territories is difficult for armed forces to penetrate and our nuclear state is less likely to be targeted for a counter-attack by their adversaries.
Targeting soft states. Terrorists use soft developing countries as base for their activities because affluent and mature democracies have the means to apprehend, prosecute and punish them. Spain, Britain and France have amply demonstrated their will and power to improve homeland security. Osama Bin Laden and his band of outlaws who were on list of hunted criminals in their own countries first established a base in Sudan but could not maintain it after Khartoum realized their aims and activities were inimical to the interests of Sudan and its people. Fortunately for Sudan it did not have ungoverned tribal areas, its terrain did not permit terrorist hideouts and its people were less vulnerable to propaganda. Arabs by culture did not look upon the bearded terrorists as holy men.
Terrorist masterminds in Waziristan succeeded in trapping local religious influentials to provide hospitality and protection. Bribed and subverted they became allies in resistance against Pakistani armed forces and using Islam and patriotism as weapons to soften the government and dissuade it from strong action. Instead the government was inveigled by local Taliban into an agreement which they had no intention to honour. The government released captured prisoners and weapons and paid compensation for collateral damage. But the other side did not fulfil their commitment to expel or incarcerate foreign terrorists and local extremists even exploited relaxed vigilance by government for extending their campaign of subversion in adjoining districts of NWFP. Evidently our authorities did not realize that extremists do not feel bound to honour agreements with governments they consider ‘un-Islamic’ conveniently forgetting that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) ensured implicit observance of agreements with the Jews of Madina and non-Muslims of Makkah.
Today as we are besieged by extremists and terrorists one cannot but wish our leaders commanded the same influence and loyalty as the leaders of the Muslim community did, during the independence struggle. Their aim was to unite Muslims irrespective of their sect or creed. Never from 1906 to 1947 did they ever discuss or debate doctrinal issues. When a section of Muslims in Delhi organised a demonstration against Chaudhuri Mohammad Zafrullah Khan, president of the League’s annual session in 1931, others present roundly condemned them.
Opaque deal, transparent evasion
Editor, Foreign Affairs
EUPHORIA generated by legal victories in July and August is rapidly evaporating as news spreads of a deal-in-the-making between two leaders who share but one common interest: evasion of constitution and law, one to retain the highest office in the land and the other to become prime minister once again. Rhetoric pouring out from both negotiating camps about their ardent desire for promotion of democracy and political stability should not deceive informed citizens who have inkling about the contents of the deal. Apparently differences over the uniform issue have been resolved and the former Prime Minister Benzair Bhutto has agreed to support President Pervez Musharraf for reelection, of course in exchange for upfront-reciprocity. She is to return to Pakistan at a time of her own choosing.
According to reports the current focus of the deal is on two amendments to the constitution: one would remove existing prohibition on candidacy for office of President before expiry of two years after retirement, and the other would provide for indemnity against prosecution for past violations of laws — a matter of interest not only to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto against whom cases are pending in courts of law at home and abroad but also to President Pervez Musharraf against whom a case has been admitted in the Supreme Court for continuing violation of law by retaining uniform after he superannuated in 2003.
The nauseating situation is relieved by an anecdote: a Pakistani says ‘we are condemned to choice between two evils – rule by army or rule by corrupt politicians.’ But a foreign benefactor intervenes to say,’ why not a coalition between the two?’ However the situation is not without hope!
Even if the deal is concluded, hope is not lost of preventing its implementation. In the first place, proposed amendments might not be endorsed by both Houses of our Majlis-e-Shoora. In view of impending elections, politicians should be particularly sensitive to their image and therefore keen to avoid impression of supine acquiescence. Even if that hurdle is successfully crossed, a case could be filed in the Supreme Court to question consistency of the amendments with the letter and spirit of the constitution.
An even bigger question mark hangs over sustainability of the deal as people are bound to impugn its morality. Would they continue to overlook the record of political leaders who held reins of power for eleven years from 1988 to 1999 when Pakistan became notorious as the second most corrupt country in the world and teetered on brink of bankruptcy and becoming a failed state? The good people of Pakistan could rise during the election to vote for alternative candidates who promise to rescue the nation from return to the ruinous politics of the past.
Energized by the assertion of independence by the Supreme Court, the Election Commission could play a pivotal role to ensure a transparent transition to democracy. It has the duty ‘to organize and conduct the election and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with law, and that corrupt practices are guarded against.’ It also has the power to prevent rigging as the executive authorities are required to assist the Election Commission in the discharge of their functions.’
The sad part of the situation is that the President could avoid not only the risks but also the loss of deserved credit for his contribution to the transformation of Pakistan since 1999. The economy of the country has entered a period of fast growth, financial position is robust with foreign exchange reserves have risen from $300 million in 1999 to nearly $16 billion now, and the country has come out of its isolation and joined the global mainstream. He could have opted to refrain from filing a reference against the Chief Justice, abide by the constitution to which he is sworn, retired from the Army and leave his future in the hands of the people in a fair and free election. In the process he could have retained the nation’s respect.
9/11 law flawed but not another Pressler
Editor, Foreign Affairs
FOR clarity of thought it is useful to start with the bottom line. Firstly, we have to fight terrorism because it is a scourge for us no less than for the world community. Similarly, we have to prevent abuse of Pakistan territory by Al-Qaeda adventurers and by Afghan Taliban because that is a prerequisite for friendly relations with our neighbour, friend and brother Afghanistan apart from being an obligation under international law. Secondly it is our problem and we have to fight it alone, if necessary. Foreign assistance can speed up the solution as well as lighten the burden, though such aid is seldom altruistic and, therefore, involves constraints on policy. Adjustment and reconciliation of priorities of aid donors and recipients is the crux of the task before governments. One does not throw out the baby with the bath water.
Coming now to the topic for the day, the problem with the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act, 2007 is the proviso that requires Pakistan to make ‘demonstrated, significant and sustained progress towards eliminating terrorist safe havens from Pakistan’ failing which US aid pledged for fiscal 2008 and 2009 would be discontinued. Clearly, the wording is offensive with its explicit mercenary undertones. But Congress which inserted the condition overruling White House objections is not a repository of infallible wisdom, as should be clear to it from hindsight on the Pressler law, as argued below. The law is fundamentally flawed also because the aid cutoff it envisages would be detrimental to interests of both Pakistan and the United States.
Reaction in Pakistan has been bitter because the proviso summons the biter memory of once-bitten-twice-shy Pakistanis of what was popularly considered as US betrayal in 1990 when President George Bush Sr. invoked the infamous Pressler Amendment to abruptly terminate the decade-old aid programme to Pakistan. Islamabad was left – abandoned, as many said – to single-handedly cope with the fallout of a joint policy in support of the liberation struggle in Afghanistan and the onerous burdens of five million refugees who were stranded because of civil war in Afghanistan. In the euphoria of victory over its superpower rival, the United States forgot to foresee the costs of disengagement from Pakistan and Afghanistan that came to haunt it later.
Pressler blunder: The 1990 aid cutoff proved an egregious blunder. Apart from aggravating Islamabad’s burdens and undermining its capacity to influence the Mujahideen, closure of the aid pipeline fatally crippled US influence on the evolution in Afghanistan. Denied arms and money, Mujahideen leaders became more recalcitrant than ever in pursuit of suicidal power rivalries which led to anarchy and rise of Taliban. In turn the Taliban, shunned and denied assistance for reconstruction, fell under the spell of foreign extremists who then abused Afghanistan territory to mastermind terrorist attacks onx US embassies in East Africa, USS Cole and finally the devastating attack on Trade Towers in New York.
Arguably, 9/11 was a logical consequence of Pressler. But until that disaster fell few in Washington were prepared to acknowledge the blunder. As late as June 2001, hardly three months before 9/11, Condoleezza Rice inveighed against Pakistan, accusing it of failure to prevent Taliban from allowing Osama bin Laden to conduct terrorist operations against the United States. Surprisingly for a supposedly well informed high official she assumed as did the naïve in Pakistan that the Taliban were ‘our boys!’ Spellbound by that fallacy she failed to realize that the fault for lack of influence lay with Washington. An objective policymaker should have known Pakistan did not possess the wheels on which influence travels.
Folly repeated: Faulting US disengagement with Pakistan and Afghanistan as a contributory cause of the 9/11 disaster, the 9/11 Commission recommended a consistent and durable commitment to partnership with countries of the region. That key recommendation has been ignored and negated by Congress. Were the proviso to be invoked it is liable to confirm those who the dictum those do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. In doing so Congress has failed to realize that aid cutoff would be entirely counter-productive. Not only it would undermine Pakistan’s capacity to maintain 80,000 troops on the Afghan border to eliminate safe havens, bring its government under pressure from domestic opinion that wrongly accuses the Musharraf government of following Bush administration’s policy, and embolden Al-Qaeda and Taliban to flout Pakistani policy of denying them sanctuary. It would also aggravate the task and burdens of the United States and its coalition partners.
Perverse arithmetic: To the extent Pakistan’s contribution declines, US and NATO forces would have to assume greater burden of combating Al-Qaeda and Taliban. Costs in blood and treasure would further escalate. Congress would then have to add to budget for operations in Afghanistan over and above the current level of some twenty billion dollars. Recalling the proverb cutting off the nose to spite the face the Congress has failed to grasp the perverse arithmetic: by invoking the proviso US would save $700 million a year in aid and $90 million a month to offset costs of Pakistani collaboration along the border but at fearful cost to US and NATO. Such a penny-wise-pound-foolish policy defies rationality. No doubt that explains White House reservations on the new law which, incidentally, gives the US President the power to waive the proviso.
Apples and oranges: Notwithstanding objection to the 9/11 proviso, to equate it with Pressler Amendment is like comparing apples and oranges. Pressler sought to address a fundamental clash of interests between the two countries in the 1980s: while Islamabad was resolved to acquire nuclear weapons capability it considered indispensable for its security, Washington was intent on preventing Pakistan from achieving its objective. However there is no contradiction between the two countries at present. On the contrary their interests are convergent as both sides equally need to combat international terrorism and promote stability in Afghanistan.
To conclude, Pakistan has come a long way from the nadir of 1990s. From corner of isolation it has moved into the international mainstream. Restoration of foreign assistance programmes and expansion of trade access to affluent markets has contributed to rapid economic growth. No less important is revival of goodwill in the world. Even the 9/11 Act endorses democratic reforms in Pakistan, extension of the rule of law to all parts of our country and holding of fair and free elections in 2007. For realization of the dream of our founding fathers of a progressive, moderate and modern Islamic Pakistan, we have to follow policies consistent with the spirit of modern times.
Pakistan-US histrionics better avoided
Abdul Sattar , Editor, Foreign Affairs
ILLUSTRATING the sensitivity and fragility of Pakistan-US relations, statements of hotheads in Washington threatening US raids against Al-Qaeda cadres suspected of sheltering in tribal areas of Pakistan provoked angry denunciation by Pakistani officials of any such intervention in our territory as irresponsible. Since Islamabad
and Washington agree on the strategic objective of combating international terrorism and neither
side can afford to damage mutual cooperation, mature observers discount fears of any sudden
policy reversal by either country. At a time of increasing incidence of terrorist attacks the logic of
the situation demands the two sides should refrain from bitter public debate and instead deepen
dialogue in order to make cooperation more efficient and productive.
Although clouds of doubt have still not dispersed, official Washington has wisely
disowned any impending reversal of strategy to deal with the menace posed by Al-Qaeda cadres
who are suspected to have shifted to the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan. Meanwhile official
Islamabad has reiterated its resolve to take necessary action against Osama bin Laden and his
followers if they have indeed relocated across the Pakistan border. These are not empty words as
Washington is fully aware of Pakistan’s massive contribution to the fight against international
terrorism manifest in the deployment of some 85,000 troops in the border area with Afghanistan
and the brave and effective role they have played at the cost of over 700 lives. Particularly
reassuring in this regard was the statement made by US Deputy Secretary of State Nicholas Burns
before a Senate committee on July 25 describing Pakistan as ‘one of our closest partners globally
and the most indispensable ally’ in the fight against international terrorism.
Sagacious distinction. Reiterating ‘commitment to consistency of engagement with
Pakistan’ Burns also made a significant distinction between the state and the government of
Pakistan, declaring ‘Pakistan does not mean the Musharraf government.’ Obversely, a Pakistani
can say that criticism of Bush administration’s policies of military intervention in Iraq and
proclaimed doctrine of preemption should not be construed as lack of appreciation of the
importance of durable cooperation with the United States for peace and security in the region and
elimination of the scourge of international terrorism. Necessary as well as legitimate, such
collaboration needs not only to be sustained but even strengthened. To that end the two sides
should intensify investigations to locate Al-Qaeda cadres if they are in Pakistan’s tribal areas so
that Pakistani forces can then launch appropriate operations to liquidate the infiltrators.
Liquidate outlaws. Pakistan on its part is mindful of its responsibility to prevent abuse of
its territory by outlaws and adventurer. Default on this score would be fraught with grave
consequences. Taliban government committed a costly blunder by allowing Al-Qaeda to abuse
Afghan territory to plan and launch terrorist attacks against other countries. Failure to fulfil their
government’s responsibility to prevent violations of international law provoked three resolutions of
sanctions against the Taliban government by UN Security Council in 1998, 1999 and 2000. After
the 9/11 terrorist outrage the General Assembly and the Security Council gave unanimous support
to the US led attack to oust the Taliban from power.
Although Pakistan has already deployed a larger force on its side of the border than US,
NATO and Afghanistan are fielding on the other side, influential voices in the United States
continue to allege not only inadequacy of Pakistan’s contribution but even question the sincerity of
its commitment to the prevention of Taliban from cross-border raids in Afghanistan. Alleging bad
intention is the surest recipe for poisoning discussion. In the present case it is both perverse and
offensive as it belittles the sacrifice of Pakistani forces. It also detracts fruitful discussion of the
legitimate issue of adequacy of contribution by Pakistan as indeed by the US and NATO forces.
The fact is that every one of the allies including the Hamid Karzai government can and should do
more to realize the shared objectives.
Having been ruined by a quarter century of conflict and war, Afghanistan needs to
rebuild its armed forces before they can ensure national security and even defend the Karzai
government against resurgent insurgency. Meanwhile it is dependent on international assistance
and presence of foreign forces. USA alone is reported to have allocated $10 billion in aid for
Afghanistan. In contrast, Pakistan is fortunately in a much better position to undertake the task on
its side of the border. It requires more modern equipment for combat operations and some
financial assistance but fortunately no foreign troops. If the US, NATO or Afghan forces have
reliable information on Taliban or Al-Qaeda presence in Pakistan territory that should be shared
with the Pakistani forces for immediate counter measures.
Provocative US threats. Meanwhile, influential persons and media in USA had better
refrain from threats and pressures on Pakistan which unnecessarily embitter bilateral relations.
Pakistan is not a dependent or appendage of the United States. Islamabad is engaged in
counter-terrorism combat because it is in our own vital national interest. American critics commit
an offensive error by assuming and projecting Pakistan as a proxy which undermines the prestige
of its government.
Former New York Mayor Giulani, now a candidate for Republican Party nomination, was
ill-advised to advocate ‘tougher US action in Pakistan.’ In contrast, the Democratic Party
front-runner Hillary Clinton displayed better judgment by opposing unilateral decision to send US
troops into Pakistan’s tribal areas. US commentators can benefit by emulating Nicholas Burns,
appreciate Pakistan’s contribution and encourage and assist it to improve the efficiency of its
Constitution can avert political deadlock
Religious extremism greater peril
Abdul Sattar Editor, Foreign Affairs
Supreme Court verdict not only brings justice to the
Chief Justice of Pakistan and surcease to the wholly
unnecessary confrontation between the executive and the judiciary but
also points the way to legal solutions to political issues of uniform
and election to office of President. More difficult and menacing
because of passion and rigidity on part of extremists is the problem of
militancy. It has far-reaching implications for internal security as
well as international standing of our state. Errors committed by policy
makers over decades cannot be rectified in short order because it is
difficult to bring back generations of misled and angry youth to the
right path. Experience of other Muslim states can help in development
of a salutary strategy. Al Azhar scholars in Egypt are revising
curriculum to prepare youth to cope with the imperatives of a
multi-religious civilization emphasizing mutual tolerance and respect
for global norms. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides
establish consensus as foundation for harmony in diversity.
The uniform issue is eminently resolvable in the context of the
constitution. Personal preference cannot and should not prevail over
legal legitimacy. Now that fallibility of individuals has been exposed
at cost of egregious waste of precious lives and resources, leadership
should have been duly chastened enough to accept an institutional
solution to ending the anomaly of one person holding both offices of
President and Chief of Army Staff. The question of election to the
office of President can also be determined in accordance with the
letter and spirit of constitution. The ruling party should realize that
election by assemblies which have all but exhausted their mandate will
have little credibility at home and abroad.
The dire peril of spreading terror that is confronting the
state was brought home to us by the rebellion of the Lal Masjid
establishment and the suicide bombing at the lawyers meeting in F-8
Markaz. All the more regrettable was the fact that few religious and
opposition critics blamed the militant maulanas for accumulation of an
arsenal in the mosque in criminal violation of the law of the land and
instigation of youth to take over administration in the capital. Yet
civil society rose in unison to express horror at the enveloping gloom.
John Dunn said five hundred yeas ago “any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for
whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
But empathy and grief alone are an inadequate response. At
times like these when hordes of extremists and militants are striking
at the foundations of the state, the nation has a right to expect the
leadership to rise above self and concentrate on development of a
salutary strategy to neutralize the danger. The enemy with blind and
erroneous faith in an erroneous ideology is intent on forcible
overthrow of government. To achieve that nefarious objects its takfiri
doctrine, evolved by extremist ideologues in Egypt, considers
government leaders apostates and sanctions murder of innocents. Such
people played havoc with peace and security in that country, desecrated
the Haram in Makkah with bloodshed of hundreds in1979 and continue to
bedevil Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
At this crucial juncture Pakistan needs leaders to inspire and
galvanize a sense of purpose in order to cope with the terrible danger.
That however requires more than words. Integrity and conviction are
preconditions for credibility of leaders. Unfortunately credibility has
sunk in the chasm between propriety and self-interest. Clearly those
who attach higher priority to personal — and questionable — aims
cannot carry conviction. To succeed the government has to bring clean
hands to the task.
Now that consequences of concentration of power have been
exposed, the President’s insistence on retaining ‘unity of command’ in
his own person lacks logic. Besides it exhibits contempt for decent
opinion of civil society at home and abroad. Mirroring demands of
non-partisan commentators and independent media in Pakistan, European
Union and United States have publicly called upon President Pervez
Musharraf to give up military uniform and seek election if he wants
from new assemblies after fair and free polls, instead of present ones
that have all but exhausted their mandate. To reject such sane advice
is to squander confidence and goodwill of Pakistan’s friends and expose
Pakistan once again to international isolation which is dangerous for
medium and small states as we know from our nation’s experience in
Tolerance for the extra-constitutional army action in 1999 has
long been exhausted. Any attempt to impose unity of command now is to
court disaster. What the nation desperately needs at this critical
juncture is unity of purpose. And that cannot be ordered into
existence. It can only be inspired by exemplary conduct. The ‘forces of
moderation’ the President seeks to mobilize against extremism and
terrorism cannot be expected to respond so long as he does not respond
to their legitimate expectations of democratic propriety. He should
therefore take another honest look at facts, for empty slogans are
bound to be counter-productive.
Deployment of 85,000 army men to counter international
terrorism and cross-border operations by Taliban has impressed friends
and well-wishers abroad. But it is a gross mistake to believe the
enormous sacrifices can be leveraged for promotion of personal
ambition. Foreign observers have already noted the diminishing returns
in terms of efficacy of operations.
Their well informed analysts ascribe falling benefits to
declining credibility of leadership. Democratic states know the folly
of dependence on individuals with a declining base of national support.
Leaders who try to leverage foreign backing by pandering to external
interests are liable to see the rug pulled from under their feet.
Extrication strategy: History offers salutary lessons. Potentates and
dictators who concentrated power in their own hands often paid a high
price for assumption of excessive burdens. Isolated from objective
counsel, their overstretched capacity for rational judgment is exposed
to fatal errors. Our legacy of ‘darbari culture’ is an added pitfall.
Too many functionaries proffer advice they think will please the boss.
Subsequent lament of bad advice is however no excuse because the boss
is himself responsible for the system that fosters such conduct on part
of subordinates. The explanation that the case of reference against the
Chief Justice was ‘mishandled’ cannot exculpate the decision maker.
The ship of state is sailing between the mythical rock of
Scylla and whirlpool of Charabdis. Return to the ruinous corruption of
the so-called democracy of the 1990s is fraught with perils as daunting
as an attempt to prolong the authoritarianism of the recent years. Even
though a risk-free solution is difficult to identify, a collision
course would be the worst option. The best option even at this late
stage appears to be compliance with the constitution.
Fair and free elections held under a credibly impartial
transitional government by the Election Commission with its
independence and powers to prevent corrupt practices strengthened
appear to be the only viable exit strategy. The key to the paradox of
criticism and support for the Pakistani leader, it is also likely to
command endorsement of both civil society at home and Pakistan’s
Extremists imperiling relations with China
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
IT IS not yet clear who killed three Chinese nationals a week ago but
the Lal Masjid maulanas were clearly responsible for the earlier attack
on a legally established business premises in Islamabad and kidnapping
of its seven Chinese women employees that provoked a protest from
Beijing. The indifference and contempt of the obscurantist militants for
the impact of the crime committed by their acolytes exposed the dire
danger extremism and terrorism poses to Pakistan’s external relations.
Even China, a constant friend and strategic pillar of peace and security
in southern Asia, is not immune from the spreading peril.
Two years ago several Chinese engineers and technicians working on the construction of a water reservoir project in NWFP were abducted and later assassinated. Although expressions of sincere grief and apologies by Pakistan government assuaged Beijing’s official reaction and the Chinese government recognised the crime was perpetrated by outlaws, the news prominently covered in the Chinese media over several days nevertheless provoked popular concern about the security of Chinese citizens in Pakistan and understandably the Chinese government had to withdraw its workforce from the construction site.
The Chinese government is no doubt aware that the crimes against Chinese nationals in no way reflect any diminution in official and popular sentiments of friendship in Pakistan towards its great neighbour. Maintenance and continued development of cooperation with China not only remains a highest priority objective of the government but also an ardent desire of all sections of political opinion in Pakistan. The government has rightly initiated special security precautions for the safety of two to three thousand Chinese in Pakistan and, further, one can confidently hope that the decisive military action taken by the government against malevolent mullahs who controlled the Lal Masjid will broadcast a deterrent message to their ilk in Pakistan.
One must also hope that the Chinese government will place incidents of extremism and terrorism in their proper historical context. Although the problem in Pakistan is largely a blowback from the Mujahideen liberation struggle in Afghanistan, the scourge is a product of diverse and not fully understood causes. Its roots are traceable to ideological and religious extremism. In the first century AD an underground sect of Zealots targeted other Jews in a campaign of slaughter. Similarly the cult of Assassins perpetrated massacres against other Muslims in the 12th century. Red Brigade in Europe, Om Shinkario in Japan and Jihadi groups in the Muslim world are heirs to the same tradition of indiscriminate targeting of government forces and innocent civilians.
Ideological roots of contemporary religious militancy in the Muslim world are traceable to injustice to Palestinians and deep humiliation following defeat of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1948. People held corrupt governments responsible for failed policies and fundamentalist movements surfaced, especially in Egypt where Gamal Abdel Nasser was the target of an assassination attempt in 1955 and again following defeat in 1967. Militants not only believed in return to pristine Islam as a panacea for revival of past glory but also in violence to overthrow the existing order and capture of power for imposition of their own version of Islam. In November 1979 a large band of Saudi insurgents led by Mohammad Abdullah al-Qahtani who claimed to be the promised Mahdi and his companion Juhayman al-Oteibi staged a coup attempt in the Haram Sharif in Mecca. Their liquidation cost the lives of 127 and injuries to 461 Saudi soldiers.
Unpopular dictators have often blundered to court militants in hope of consolidating their hold on power. Anwar al-Sadat made such a fatal compromise with Muslim extremists after succession to Nasser in 1970 and Sardar Daud with Communists after overthrow of King Zahir Shah in 1973. Both were swallowed by the tigers they attempted to ride. Extremists were encouraged by Pakistani rulers in the 1980s and 1990s. The high price Pakistani army is paying is a direct result of past political blunders.
A turning point
The tragedy in the state’s capital is bound to have far reaching consequences. First and foremost, vulnerability of extremists and militants has been exposed. Also they will note there is a limit to government’s acquiescence in intimidation. Those who breach the bounds are doomed to destruction as the state has the resolve and the power to crush those who flout the law. Equally the government will as it should learn the lesson not to procrastinate in the face of defiance. Where confirmed information is available that students are brainwashed and trained for militancy or about accumulation of weapons in a mosque or madrassa premises the government should take timely and effective action to squelch mischief in the making.
Government’s patience in the conduct of Operating Silence in order to spare innocents was commendable but not the failure to monitor militancy and prevent accumulation of weapons in Lal Masjid. Delay in effective action against notorious militants exposed inefficiency and neglect on part of police and intelligence authorities that must be investigated and rectified. Timely action would have saved lives of soldiers and civilians, spared trauma to the nation, bad name to Islam and loss of international confidence and prestige to the state.
Restoration of confidence in the stability of the state calls for a proactive approach to contain spreading militancy and enforcement of the writ of the government. All citizens are entitled to freedom of opinion but there is no warrant for militancy and rebellion against the state. Those who violate laws must be held accountable and prosecuted. Compromises with militants as part of politics is improvident for power holders and disastrous for the nation.
The government should appoint a committee of impartial experts to inquire into the Lal Masjid disaster and identify errors that enabled the militants to pose a challenge to the state as well as the lessons that need to be assimilated in order to preclude procrastination in political decision making and delay and inefficiency in administrative action. The nation cannot afford such traumas.
Constitution key to continuity
PLEADING for trade access in official talks at the White House in 1987, Prime Minister Moh-ammad Khan Junejo said to President Ronal Reagan that Pakistan was confronted with a huge trade deficit. Unprepared to address this non-agenda item, Reagan said he was always surprised at how much United States and Pakistan had in common: ‘You have a big trade deficit; we have a big trade deficit!’ Were these good men alive today, they would marvel at other parallels between their nations. Both ignore history with mindless abandon: United States repeatedly intervenes in foreign countries with frightful costs in blood and treasure; Pakistani leaders gamble with the country when faced with challenges to their power.
Concurrent visits of US State Department’s deputy secretary and assistant secretary, and CENTCOM commander to Islamabad and the anxiety of leaders of our pro- and anti-government political parties to welcome the opportunity to secure US support for their claims to power mirrored another similarity: a US ever ready to play king-maker and Pakistani power seekers ever willing to concede the imperial role. When our own power elite abdicate responsibility to safeguard our state’s rights, how can people blame the foreign interferer?
Nor is this the first time our leaders have fallen so short of the nation’s expectation. In 1977 Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto encouraged the Saudi Ambassador to mediate in the domestic crisis triggered by election rigging. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif occupy themselves in self-exile with pleadings before foreign officials and media to restore their brand of democracy in Pakistan, each now out in the open with a design for another terms as prime minister to continue misdeeds of earlier tenures that brought Pakistan to the brink of bankruptcy. Altaf Hussain, leader of a coalition partner in the present government, visited India to obsequiously apologize with folded hands for migrating from his Indian homeland. Earlier, Awami League solicited India’s assistance to prepare for 1971 and Al Zulfikar leader paid clandestine visits to New Delhi to secure arms and training for terrorists.
Lesson of past blunders
Another weakness too many of our leaders have displayed is tendency to make wrong assumptions. No foreign country has ever succeeded either to install a leader in power in Pakistan or to protect one when people refused to tolerate him. No one could save Ayub Khan from fall in 1969, Yahya Khan in 1971 or Z. A. Bhutto in 1977. They sowed the wind, and they were bound to reap the whirlwind. Similarly, they failed to see the rushing end and act to avert disaster. As a result Ayub Khan was obliged to hand over power to a General and in the process destroy the constitution he was so proud of, and Z. A. Bhutto paid an even more horrible price by procrastination in agreeing to a free and fair election.
Stakes in 2007 are infinitely higher as Pakistan is a nuclear state and the world community has an arguable interest in avoidance of chaos. Reforms of the United Nations after genocides in Kampuchea, Bosnia, Rwanda and Burundi have enhanced the power of the Security Council to authorize preemptive deployment of international forces. It has done so in Liberia, Ivory Coast and now in Darfur in Sudan.
Clearly the point is not that the current situation in Pakistan is so grave as to justify intervention by the United Nations. Nor is it to exaggerate a possible threat of foreign aggression. The point is that contemporary international standards require a state and its people to resolve internal problems in a manner so as to maintain minimum standards of law and order and protect fundamental human rights to life of people. Use of excessive force to suppress popular agitation provokes international abhorrence and condemnation. Not merely the government is condemned; also the state loses its good name and title to sympathy of the world community presenting to an adversary an opportunity to pursue its malign ends.
The best course in the circumstances is to observe limits of law and propriety and try to ensure domestic law and order. The 1973 constitution, despite mutilations by Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto and subsequent authoritarian regimes, remains the only document with a degree of consensus. It is the only civilised framework for resolution of internal conflicts. Only by respecting the constitution in letter and in spirit can the government and the opposition ensure continuity and prevent another breakdown. Never was responsibility greater on the government to devise a salutary strategy to urgently break the momentum of spreading unrest.
What respect for the constitution implies in concrete terms is outstanding issues, including reference against the Chief Justice, retention of dual offices by the President, pursuit of legal cases against leaders in self-exile and organization of free and fair elections and prevention of corrupt practices must be resolved in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. Clearly, the spirit of the constitution also requires that a fresh mandate for President be obtained from assemblies with a fresh mandate. Election by current assemblies with expiring mandate will lack credibility. The proposal to advance election for assemblies to August or September is eminently wise.
Rethink inviting US interference
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
It is a humiliating commentary on our political underdevelopment that a galaxy of leaders of both pro- and anti-government political parties made a beeline to call on an American official on visit to Islamabad to seek support for their divergent claims and viewpoints. Oblivious to the universally recognised principle that forbids interference by any state in the internal affairs of another our political leaders not only do not object to US interference but actually invite it, illustrating their naive belief that the United States is our king-maker. Actually evidence does not support the erroneous assumption that the US can make or break foreign governments in developing countries. Still Washington must be delighted that at last one country does the reverse of condemning its historical tendency to support and sustain pliable dictators in foreign countries.
No leader in our history was installed in office by a foreign power. Field Marshal Ayub Khan, General Yahya Khan, General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf were all home-grown as were Z. A. Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. Neither did the US ever succeed to sustain a blundering leader in power. Ayub and Bhutto were felled by the Pakistani people, not by foreign intervention.
Interference is harmful in the long run to both the victim and the perpetrator. Short term success of US intervention in Iran in 1955 was a dismal failure in the long run, and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979 proved a disaster. Historically both were monumental blunders responsible for wrecking the influence of the great powers and damaging their image the world over. For generations to come Iranians will condemn the United States for prolonging their subjection to a corrupt and tyrannical regime as Afghans will Russia for its crime of intervention that caused death of millions, expulsion of a quarter of population and destruction of their state.
Instead of soliciting foreign interference, our political leaders should have confidence in the people of Pakistan who have more than once demonstrated the will to safeguard the nation’s self-respect. Political leaders and civil society should instead invest their energies in mobilising mass support. They can play a key role in determining political outcomes as the agitation since March 9 has demonstrated. As a result the movement for restoration of democracy has gained irresistible momentum. Hope for fair and free elections under a strong and independent Election Commission has revived. With political awakening and greater popular effort Pakistan could also look forward to more efficient, effective and corruption-free governance. No foreign country can or will give these gifts to us.
Vital to success of democracy will be the role of the Election Commission. Under the constitution it has responsibility to hold fair and free elections and prevent corrupt practices. An interim government with no possibility for continuance of its members in office will reduce temptation to rig elections. But it is the Election Commission that can and should exercise its constitutional powers to prevent government interference and proscribe expenditures on electoral publicity beyond reasonable prescribed limits. Some of the opposition parties have stashed away illicit funds to try to buy the next election.
Public opinion needs to be awakened to the necessity of transparent accountability. An independent judiciary can now be expected to resist pressures to discontinue pending cases of corruption, crimes of violence and maladministration by politically influential persons. It can and should ensure that cases are not allowed to be withdrawn or consigned to limbo. Whatever the position the accused hold in ruling or opposition political parties, they should face the allegations in courts.
If a foreign friend honestly believes it has useful counsel to proffer it can try to do so privately and it is then up to the leadership to listen or reject the counsel. Under no circumstances should a government worth its name acquiesce in expressions of support or criticism of Pakistani leaders by foreign governments. But that requires first that the government adopts a consistent principle-based policy and refrain from directing Pakistani diplomats abroad to explain internal policies to foreign governments. Of course the best guarantee of avoiding foreign interference is strength of our institutions and more management of domestic affairs in accordance with law and constitution. As elsewhere in the world foreign states will then realize that the best guarantee of continuity of friendship with Pakistan is to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s government decided in 1977-79 to strictly refrain from interference in internal politics of neighbouring countries so much so that it did not even comment on the conviction and execution of former Prime Minister Bhutto. He only said he was prepared to offer counsel but President Zia did not ask for it. Of course nothing any foreign leader said to him on the subject had any impact. Opposition leader Indira Gandhi, an arch-interventionist, criticised Desai for failure to capitalize on Pakistan ‘s vulnerability. The result of Desai’s principled policies was unprecedented improvement of India’s relations with Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka .
One wishes the United States avoided paternalistic lectures and acted with discretion limiting its statements to recognised principles of international law. If unavoidable, a friendly state may at best express support of the consensus in Pakistan in favour of democracy, respect for constitution, independence of judiciary, freedom of media, and fair and free elections.
Most commentators in Pakistan also want compliance with law on dual offices issue, return of political leaders from self-exile and accountability under law. But these matters would be best left to unpublicized diplomatic conversations. Exceeding limits of propriety can only revive ugly images.
Wiser for states than the popular proverb ‘Firend-in-need-is-friend-indeed’ is the verse ‘That friend is better who like a mirror portrays the blemishes to friend’s face’ - but in private!
OIC: A realistic assessment
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
achievements since 1971 are no doubt modest but impatience with rate of
progress in cooperation ignores the nature of the problem of sublimating
individual and current interests of sovereign states which calls for a
process of reconciling and pooling ideas for collective and long-term
benefits of the community. The shortfall between ideals proje and
realization common to most interstate organizations is writ large in the
failure of the United Nations to rise to the level of humanity’s great
expectations. The clarion call of unity of purpose implicit in the
Charter beginning with ‘We, the peoples seldom been echoed in the
conduct of member states, each pursuing its own national interest,
blocking, ignoring or defying resolutions of the General Assembly it
does not endorse while the Security Council is often paralyzed by veto
of one permanent member or another.
The OIC comprising the Ummah bound together by a glorious faith, shared values of human fraternity and a common culture is certainly more coherent. The heritage of a common civilization provides a strong and durable foundation for the building of a grand edifice of multi-dimensional politico-economic community. But the process is bound to take time as member states look for equitable sharing of the costs and benefits of integration. We in Pakistan should be particularly patient as we have first-hand experience of difficulties of ensuring equitable apportionment of unity between two parts of our country.
Judged in the perspective of level of development and diversity of resources of its members, OIC’s record is by no means discouraging. Fifty-seven states have successfully evolved consensus positions on major international issues. The Foreign Ministers Conference in Islamabad on May 15-17 not only reiterated calls for settlement of Palestine, Kashmir and other political issues in conformity with principles of justice and international law but also thrashed out common positions on withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq and support for the right of Iran to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. This wasn’t an easy task given the fact that the government of Iraq wants the US forces to stay for a longer period, and some Gulf States are known to nourish suspicions of Iranian intentions.
Economic cooperation: Even though OIC was not conceived as an economic or trading bloc, it has not neglected this vital aspect. Thanks largely to generous contributions by Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, the Islamic Development Bank has provided substantial assistance to low-income members. Remarkably, OIC has now decided to establish a Poverty Alleviation Fund of $10 billion to enhance the capacity of the organization to contribute to the promotion of enlarged development in member states. Also, OIC’s potential for economic collaboration is expanding with investment flows of which Egypt and Pakistan are major beneficiaries. A balanced, rational judgment must not look at the half-full glass as half-empty.
Integration of markets is a comparatively slow process among developing countries because they are producers and exporters of primary commodities and depend on import duties for their budgetary revenues since preferential trade involves sacrifices of taxes without commensurate immediate benefits. For that reasons ASEAN proceeded deliberately until the member states built up industries that benefit from economies of scale in larger markets. Similarly, recognizing problems of new members, European Union gave them long periods of transition and provided financial assistance to accelerate their development. In OIC the affluent countries can better afford to reduce duties on imports from other members without insisting on immediate reciprocity.
Renaissance: Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad reminded the OIC audience some seven years ago that we Muslims pray for ‘hasana’ in this world before seeking ‘hasana’ in the hereafter. Progress in economic and social spheres therefore required greater attention. As Mohammad Iqbal lamented much earlier, Muslim peoples had ignored pursuit of science and industry for five centuries, lost the preeminent position they enjoyed for seven centuries and then fell into decline and stagnation. The community has to awaken to the economic and technological imperatives of modern times and accordingly reorient development priorities.
Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution laid the foundation for Europe’s emergence from the Dark Age. Developing countries have to assimilate and adapt that experience, each taking into account its own environment. Japan since the 19th century and other East Asian countries more recently have done so successfully. Malaysia has been a prime exemplar in the Muslim world. The historical process has begun in other OIC countries too but, unfortunately some of them are currently obstructed by the rise of obscurantism within.
Combating extremism within: OIC cannot shut its eyes to the havoc being perpetrated in the name of Islam by extremists and militants who abuse the concept of Jihad to spew hatred against followers of different sects and religions. Reiteration of calls on the international community to ‘prevent incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims’ as reiterated by the Islamabad Conference of Foreign Ministers on May 17 are unlikely to yield desired results.
Too many of the terrorists in recent years have been Muslims. Extremism and terrorism have to be countered by effective strategies in countries where these scourges have been bred. Ulema in Egypt have already started reviewing text books so as to spread correct understanding of Jihad.
Madaris in the Muslim world were once seats of learning in all fields ranging from engineering to architecture, and medicine to astronomy. That tradition has been lost. Instead, in some Muslim states, including Pakistan, madaris have become seminaries with narrow syllabus that does not equip the Taliban for diverse professions in a modern economy. Pakistan would do well to learn from the example of Saudi Arabia where all schools have a uniform and broad syllabus and only after high school can students go to institutions of higher learning for specialization in religious studies.
Observing universal standards: Four-fifths of humanity professes faiths other than Islam. It follows that for peace and harmony among followers of different faiths every one has to observe and respect the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirming the fundamental right of every person to freedom of religion. The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights elaborated the principle further to include the ‘freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.’ Humanity’s contemporary ethos has to be assimilated in the legal systems of those OIC states which have not done it so far.
Turkey model of secular
democracyIqbal admired Turkish Ijtihad
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
Fostered by vivid scenes of a
red ocean of flags on display in the largest demonstrations in Turkey’s
history on April 29, fears of an Armageddon-in-the-making between pro-
and anti-Islamic parties in Turkey have fortunately abated. Abdullah Gul
withdrew his candidature for the office of President, and the majority
party in the Grand National Assembly has opted to seek a popular
verdict. Despite its overwhelming manjority of 361 seats out of 541, the
Justice and Development Party does not seek to impose its will on the
minority Republican People’s Party which has 178 seats in the current
In the first ballot on April 27 Abdullah Gul obtained 357 votes, just ten short of the requisite two-thirds majority. He could have gone on to win the office of President in the third ballot when a simple majority would have sufficed but the Republican People’s Party challenged the validity of the first ballot in the Constitutional Court which ruled in its favour on the ground that two-thirds of the Assembly’s 550 members were not present. All opposition parties boycotted the Assembly’s session on April 27 and again on May 6 when the second ballot was due to take place. Since this position remianed unchnaged on May 6 when the second ballot was taken, the country was faced with a stalemate.
To interpret the political debate in Turkey as a confrontation between pro- and anti-Islam forces would be a distortion. For even the Justice and Development Party with its Islamic roots has repeatedly declared its loyalty to the constitution of the modern state founded by Mustafa Kamal Ataturk nearly ninety years ago.
The constitution is irreversible because in addition to the strength of the popular sentiment and the ruling of the Constitutional Court , the President is widely expected to safeguard the secular principle. Also the Turkish armed forces are fierce guardians of the secular constitution. Their chief General Yasar Buyukanit has made it clear that the next President should be loyal to the constitution. Also, it remains unclear whether President Ahmet Sezer and the Constitutional Court would acquiesce in Justice and Development Party’s proposal to amend the constitution to provide for election of the President by popular vote. Pending resolution of the issue, the incumbent President will continue to hold office although his term expired on May 16.
The ruling Justice and Development Party is suspect in the eyes of secularists because of its Islamic roots. So strong is their opposition to revival of religion in politics that they object to Abdullah Gul’s wife wearing a scarf to cover her head. This apparently unreasonable stance can only be understood against the background of the history of the Ottoman Caliphate which suffered humiliating defeat in 1918 due to corrupt and decadent governance protected by obscurantist interpretations of religion.
Turkey is of course not the only country faced with the difficult question of relationship between the state and religion. European nations resolved the controversy after decades of sanguinary wars of religion by separating religion from state. But Muslim states have found it hard to address the problem.
Iqbal supported Kamal Ataturk: In his lectures on Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam Allama Iqbal voiced admiration for the progressive spirit of Ijtihad in Turkey . He noted that while the dynamic ethos of Islam had enabled Muslims to scale unprecedented heights in philosophy, arts and science and hence in political power that extended from the Arabian Peninsula to Morocco and Spain in the west, Balkans in the north and Indonesia in the east, they suffered decline after religious thought in Islam became stagnant.
Yearning for the renaissance of the Muslim world, Iqbal expressed understanding for the demand of the younger generation of Muslims in Asia and Africa for a fresh orientation of their faith. He saw nothing wrong with the movement towards the West in the domain of intellectual thought as it was a further development of some of the most important phases of the culture of Islam.
Iqbal followed closely the policies of the Nationalist Party in Turkey which sought to end confrontation between the state and religion. While he believed that the spiritual and temporal domains are not distinct in Islam, he also realized that ‘Islam was from the very beginning a civil society having received from the Qur’an a set of simple legal principles which carried great potentialities of expansion and development by interpretation.’ Close scrutiny of the dynamic outlook of the Qur’an led him to agree with the Nationalist Party’s conclusion on ‘freedom of Ijtihad with a view to rebuilding the law of Shari’ah in the light of modern thought and experience.’
Iqbal further pointed out that various schools of law propounded by Muslim Ulema were ‘after all individual interpretations, and as such cannot claim any finality.’ As the world of Islam is confronted with new forces set free by the extraordinary development of human thought in all its directions, Iqbal disagreed with those who opposed Ijtihad.
On the question of who is competent to conduct Ijtihad, Iqbal came to the conclusion that in view of the changed circumstances, including the growth of opposing schools of interpretation of Islam, the task should be transferred to a committee of members who could obtain the assistance and guidance of Ulema.
Adjustment to the process of progressive change represents, in Iqbal’s view, the spirit of Islam: ‘Verily God does not change the condition of a people until they (first) change that which is in their hearts.’ (Al Quran, 13:11)
‘Stone Age’ threat came on 9/13
Bush said those who harboured terrorists would be treated as terrorists
Post-9/11 policy made in Chaklala
Former CIA Director George Tenet has described the message US conveyed to Pakistan after 9/11 as an ultimatum. Whether it was that or a threat or arm-twisting or bullying is a matter of interpretation. A diplomat might use the neutral term ‘demarche’ and qualify it as strong. But there is no mystery about the substance of the US message. Statements of US President and Secretary of State are on the public record. What Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said to the Pakistani Ambassador and ISI Director General on September 13, 2001 has been published in the US 9/11 Commission’s report. Apart from heavy atmospherics, he conveyed seven steps – later described variously as requests of demands – that the US wanted Pakistan to take in support of its strategy to liquidate Osama bin Laden and the Taliban who allowed his band to abuse of Afghan territory for terrorist attacks on the United States.
What is evidently not known to the vaunted spymaster is the fact that Islamabad decided its post-9/11 before, not after, receiving messages from the Washington. Our policy was made in Chaklala at a top level meeting of Defence and Foreign Ministry officials convened by President Pervez Musharraf. It began at 8 in the evening on September 12 (which was 11 a.m. in Washington). The policy was determined on basis of our own analysis of the crisis triggered by the 9/11 terrorist attack, anticipation of likely US response and projection of grave implications for Pakistan. The purpose of the provident decisions was solely to safeguard and advance the vital interests of Pakistan.
To President Musharraf is due the credit for ensuring advance planning and formulation of a clear-sighted strategy to deal with the storm that mushroomed on 9/11. Unfortunately his famous statement about a US threat ‘to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age’ created the wrong impression that our policy was made under duress. Not only was this recollection inaccurate - both Armitage and Tenet have contradicted the President - but it was also misleading because he failed to clarify that Pakistan’s post-9/11 policy was decided on September 12, at least twenty-four hours before Islamabad received the misquoted threat from Washington.
Incorrect fallacies: The impression that our policy was decided under US pressure has fed the fallacy of cynics who hold the self-demeaning view that Pakistan’s foreign policy has been ‘always’ made in Washington. As a service to history, the writer (Foreign Minister at the time) has recapitulated policy planning exercise of September 12 in ‘Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, 1947-2005.’ The book will facilitate a correct comprehension of the post-9/11 policy as well as rationales of policy decisions at critical junctures in history starting with the decision to seek alliance with the United States in order to mitigate the threat from India which was bent upon exploitation of the power disparity to impose its perverse preferences on Pakistan. Readers will also note that Pakistan was steadfast in pursuit of its own vital interests in the 1960s when our leaders resolutely defied US pressures and persevered in pursuit of friendship with China. Similarly, not only our leaders are entitled to due credit for persevering in acquisition of nuclear deterrence capability but also our people who bravely bore the sacrifices imposed by US sanctions from the 1970s to 1990s.
Post-9/11 Policy Planning: With three thousand persons killed and losses amounting to a hundred billion dollars or more, the unprecedented assault on the US mainland was not merely more destructive than the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. Humiliated and traumatized the American nation seethed with the urge for revenge. US media instantly pointed a finger of accusation at Osama bin Laden as the mastermind behind the terrorist attacks, implicated the Taliban and speculated about likely US action against them.
It was presumable that the world community would support a US attack against the Taliban. No proof would be considered necessary of their collusion with Osama bin Laden. Three resolutions were unanimously decided by the Security Council in 1998, 1999 and 2000 to condemn the Taliban. In the more grave circumstances now some of the other states might join in the US attack. Arab countries and Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan would allow use of landing facilities for US aircraft. India, already canvassing Indo-US cooperation against terrorism, was likely to provide assistance.
Because of its location and the misperception it was a Taliban ally, Pakistan too was in the eye of the storm. Two years earlier US had fired missiles from ships at sea at terrorist camps in Afghanistan without asking Pakistan for permission to over-fly its territory. What should be Pakistan’s response in case the US made even more problematic demands?
The horizon was dark with dangers. Pakistan might be bracketed with the Taliban, declared a “terrorist state” and its territory subjected to attacks to neutralize opposition. India, with expanding economic and strategic relations with the United States, could be expected to offer cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Pakistan’s vital interests would be in jeopardy if India got a free hand against Pakistan. The Kashmiri freedom struggle might be labelled as terrorist. Azad Kashmir and Pakistan territory could be attacked on pretext of eliminating terrorist bases. In the 1980s India had pondered attack on Kahuta. It might again entertain thoughts of targeting Pakistan’s strategic assets.
Analysis of the objective situation pointed to an obvious conclusion. Pakistan had to pursue a strategy that would reduce risks to Pakistan’s own security and strategic interests. It had to steer clear of defiance and avoid confrontation with to the United States. The question was not whether Pakistan could exploit its strategic location for economic or political benefits from the United States and ask for a price. The weightier and decisive factor was the predictable cost of non-cooperation. Great Powers may be unreliable as friends but they are dangerous as enemies.
A refusal to cooperate would not only be ineffectual but might also provoke US hostility, it was necessary to evolve a realistic strategy to safeguard Pakistan’s vital national interests. Pakistan had to pursue a policy that balanced global and regional constraints, immediate imperative and long-term interests, cultural priorities and principles of a law-based international order was thus self-apparent. Cautious cooperation in a UN-approved action emerged as the imperative of the moment.
The meeting decided on broad policy outlines best likely to protect Pakistan’s vital interests. Its main thrust was that Pakistan should (a) join the global consensus, (b) give a generally positive response to likely US requests for cooperation leaving details for subsequent negotiation, and (c) avoid participation in attack on Afghanistan. Cultural and geographic bonds precluded any actions that might offend the interests or sensibilities of the Afghan people. A good neighbour is an enduring blessing that should not to be bartered for transient gain.
US Policy: Pakistan’s analysis was soon confirmed by event. On September 12 President George W. Bush spoke of a ‘monumental struggle of good versus evil.’ Secretary of State Colin Powell announced the US expected ‘the fullest cooperation’ of Pakistan. In another statement on September 13, President Bush said those who harboured terrorists would be treated as terrorists. Asked whether he had made any progress in obtaining cooperation from Pakistan, Bush replied, ‘We will give the Pakistani government a chance to cooperate.’
On September 13, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage summoned the Ambassador of Pakistan and ISI Director General who was on a visit to Washington. He painted a stark picture: the situation was black or white. Pakistan had a choice to make. Either it was with the US or it was not. There were no half measures. There was no room for manoeuvre. The future starts today. He then elaborated seven steps US expected of Pakistan. He then gave a list of seven steps the United States wanted Pakistan to take.
When the list of seven steps – diplomatically called requests but deemed as ‘demands’ – was received on September 13 Islamabad was in a position to give a prompt and generally positive response leaving details on some points to be worked out later. Pakistan’s policy had already been decided a day earlier.
Slow grind on Security Council expansion
Editor, Foreign Affairs
A group of five ambassadors nominated by the General Assembly has recommended innovative and salutary ‘notions’ to achieve forward movement on the long pending issue of Security Council expansion. Reflecting a comprehensive and practical approach, the reforms suggest new categories of non-permanent seats, more seats for developing countries, limitation on use of veto and improved working methods. In effect the ambassadors of Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Netherlands and Tunisia have suggested the break issue of more permanent seats should be sidelined. Whether the sweeteners of longer and consecutive tenures would persuade aspirants to permanent membership to swallow the bitter pill of non-permanent status without a veto remains to be seen.
The question of Security Council expansion is important because it involves humanity’s hopes for a more effective role by this apex organ of the United Nations than it has played in the past. The five ‘facilitators’ have not made specific recommendations about the size of the expanded Security Council or number of seats in the new categories of longer-tenure, renewable and non-renewable seats.
The demand for more seats commands wide support as the number of independent states has vastly increased especially in Africa and Asia since 1965 when the Charter was amended to add four non-permanent seats. Western countries favour smaller increases so that the Security Council does not become unwieldy. Preservation of the efficiency of this apex organ charged with primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security has been an important consideration.
The main obstacle to expansion has been the demand of new major powers for permanent seats. While it involves vested interests of only half a dozen states, they are influential and command significant support for their argument that the Security Council with only five permanent seats no longer represents the transformed power realities. Japan and Germany, now second and third in the global hierarchy by size of GDP, claim permanent status because of their large contribution to the UN budget while Brazil, India, Nigeria and South Africa, the largest states in their regions, assert their claim on grounds of equitable geographical representation.
Opponents however question the propriety of new permanent seats on grounds of logic and experience. Those who have played a prominent part in the campaign against more permanent seats include Argentina and Mexico from Latin America, Italy and Spain from Europe, and Pakistan and Republic of Korea from Asia. They argue that the world community’s objective of a new, more equitable international order require a more representative Security Council with members who are accountable to the General Assembly. That can only be assured by requiring that members should be subject to periodic election.
History provides ample testimony to confirm that permanent members have been often insensitive to majority opinion of the world community. Immune from sanctions they even defy the Charter when their own interests are at stake, ignoring imperatives of international peace and security. USSR occupied East European countries and committed aggression against Afghanistan; UK and France attacked Egypt in 1956, and the United States struck a near-fatal blow to the organization by invading Iraq in 2003 in defiance of the Security Council.
The Charter provisions for permanent seats and veto are legacy of a bygone era. Victorious powers rewarded themselves after World War when other states were prostrate. Veto was justified on the theory that enforcement of a decision against a major world power could trigger war. While that might have seemed ‘realistic’ at the time, veto is by definition a device to protect the interest of the use or its friends and allies against the will of the majority. Inevitably it led to paralysis of the Security Council. USA and USSR shielded violations of the Charter that require settlement of disputes consistently with principles of justice and international law. As a result Palestine and Kashmir disputes, to mention only the main ones, remained unresolved.
In contrast, non-permanent members know if they ignore principles during their tenure, they would lose support for their candidacy when they seek re-election. The Charter envisages that in electing states to the Security Council due regard would be paid in the first instance to contribution of candidates to the maintenance of international peace and security, in terms of protection and promotion of principles of justice and international law. Contribution to the UN budget was not a factor. Member states were free to decide which candidates would best represent the hopes and aspirations of the world community for international organization.
The transitional arrangements now suggested mark signification advance and sophistication of ideas conceived by the High Level Panel of eminent persons appointed by Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2005. Its Plan B suggested a third category of eight seats with four-year renewable term. The idea seemed a reasonable compromise but was not accepted by states claiming permanent seats. The plan was said to be acceptable to a large majority of members. Its relieving feature was that the requirement of election. The electorate would retain the option to refuse support to candidates who did not come up to their expectations during the first term.
The recommendations of the group of five will be considered and debated by the General Assembly. A solution will require approval of the Security Council. If existing rigid positions are not reconsidered by both groups of states, the stalemate is unlikely to be resolved soon.
Fight terrorism for us, not US
Editor, Foreign Affairs
The crux of the issue confronting us is whether Pakistan is fighting
terrorism to appease the United States or to serve our enlightened
self-interest. US critics threatening aid curtailment assume our motives
are mercenary. So also domestic critics who argue ‘war on terror’ is an
American war, not ours. Both are wrong but their arguments need to be
refuted logically, by explaining the rationale of Pakistan’s policy. A
threat to quit the war is doubly flawed: it implies either that we do
not believe in the cause or that we accept defeat and give up the fight.
That would not only be a foreign policy blunder but also a breach of
faith with our founding fathers who envisioned Pakistan as a democratic,
moderate and progressive state committed to a better life, good
governance and protection and promotion of human rights of all its
Events are helping clarify the debate. Recognition is growing that extremism and militancy pose a mortal threat to our own peace and security and to the future of ours state. First we were afflicted with acts of terrorism and sabotage. Now we witness vigilante attacks on video and barber shops and educational institutions, and threats to women students who do not submit to the obscurantist version of purdah. Self-appointed guardians of morality are flouting the law of the land in a drive to impose their own interpretations of Islamic law on society.
Media have condemned clerics in Islamabad who instigated danda-wielding talibat to take the law into their hands. Civil society has risen in protest against the excesses of the Burqa Brigade. Even MMA leaders have dissociated religious parties from the extremist challenge to state authority. Despite its own record of violent politics, MQM has demonstrated alarm at the threat posed by what its leader Altaf Hussain described as ‘Kalashnikov Sharia.’
Pakistan government’s decision to fight terrorism has a preeminent national rationale. That the policy happens to coincide with the needs also of the world community which has witnessed horrifying acts of terrorism can only reinforce its logic. The objective of countering terrorism commands universal consensus but each state is free to decide how best it can contribute to that objective. To join the global fight against terrorism does not imply endorsement of Bush administration’s policies which are by no means endorsed by the world community. US aggression against Iraq and the threat of attack on Iran are condemned by a vast majority of decent people throughout the world.
Ownership of the struggle against extremism and terrorism is the most convincing answer to critics at home and abroad. It will help disabuse them of their perverse assumptions. They should realize Pakistan is engaged in a struggle to safeguard its future against mortal threats of extremist and militant enemies within. Foreign assistance helps us in more effective pursuit of humanity’s common aim of addressing problems of poverty and ignorance which is the root causes of the scourge; it is not an end in itself.
Pakistan has an impressive record of achievement in combating terrorism. It has apprehended and extradited more terrorism suspects, deployed more forces to fight foreign jihadis and their local supporters, and incurred heavier casualties than US, NATO and Afghan forces on the Afghan side of the border. Responsible foreign leaders and spokesmen have recognised Pakistan’s contribution and paid public compliments. Islamabad should not be over-sensitive to opinion of uninformed critics.
One of the criticisms requires more pointed rebuttal, however. It involves beguiling allegation by analysts who ascribe Pakistan’s under-performance in preventing abuse of its territory by Afghan to ambivalence inside military and political hierarchies. Security agencies are said to be divided on whether the Taliban are an asset or liability in the context of security strategy against Afghan-Indian collusion while political strategists do not want to irrevocably alienate religious opinion during this election year.
As a responsible state, Pakistan cannot deny the fact of illegal border crossings. But it can and must continue to explain the fact the problem in the context of the nightmare legacy bequeathed to us by the liberation struggle in Afghanistan. We still have millions of Afghan refugees in our country and it is difficult to identify insurgents among them. Also, foreign jihadis who were brought by the American CIA to fight the Soviets were later left in the border areas. Preventing cross-border movement is not a simple or easy task in the mountainous terrain with thousands of trails. That problem requires greater effort and Pakistan is not lacking in will to contribute to its solution.
Those in the US who threaten to curtail or cut off assistance exaggerate the aid amount and its leverage. According to figures quoted by former State Bank Governor Ishrat Hussain, during 2002-07 Pakistan received $787 million a year in all types of assistance from the United States. The additional payment US has been making to Pakistan is not aid but reimbursement of expenditures Pakistan incurs out of its own resources for logistic services provided to the US forces in Afghanistan. Obviously, refund of expenses cannot be considered aid. Neither are aid and reimbursements indispensable. Averaging $1,747 a year, the total transfers represent only an insignificant 4.5% of Pakistan’s total foreign exchange receipts.
Seen in perspective, the threat to curtail or cutoff aid is a double-edge weapon. Reduction for resources for Pakistan would result in less, not more, effective operations on our side of the border, and consequently require larger US and NATO forces on the Afghan side. A manifestly penny-wise-pound-foolish approach, it defies logic. For Afghan military and police forces alone the US administration has already proposed an allocation of $11.8 billion for the next two years.
To conclude, Pakistan has to have a policy and a programme of its own in order to combat threats to the future of our own state. Our government should not allow misguided criticism or blackmail to deter us from pursuit of our own imperatives.
Pak-Russia relations: Time for
Abdul Sattar , Editor, Foreign Affairs
Heir to one of world’s greatest civilizations with monumental contribution to human heritage in arts and literature and a record of stunning strides in science and technology, Russia has achieved rapid progress towards reintegration with the global mainstream since abandoning the failed communist ideology and divesting itself of an anachronistic empire. Cooperation has since replaced confrontation with other powers and new Russia has developed friendly relations with all countries. The current visit of Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov promises to give a needed impetus to cooperation also with Pakistan that has anomalously remained on slow track despite initiatives by Islamabad.
Overcoming ideological antipathies and suspicions is relatively easy due to transformation of the strategic environment. Too, the bitterness bequeathed by opposing alignments of the past and especially the conflict in Afghanistan can be expected to recede. But greater effort is needed to rectify mutual ignorance by fostering interaction between the two nations at levels not only of trade and commerce but also in fields of art and literature.
Pakistan and Russia are not as far apart even physically as we might imagine. The two nations are even closer in sentiment and social ethos as we discover by the commonality between Alexander Pushkin’s poetical masterpiece Eugene Onegin and Waris Shah’s Heer. Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s lyrical poetry with its unique message of social reform has a wide appeal among Russian readers. Rimsky-Korsakov’s rendition of the tale of Scherezade into an emotionally stirring symphony and Leo Tolstoy’s ode to humanity in his great work War and Peace provide bridges of mutual sympathy and understanding.
Coming from the sublime to the mundane, Russia can open the door to rapid expansion in bilateral cooperation in trade and investment by reviewing the veto it allowed India in the past to exercise over supply of defence equipment and technology to Pakistan. A great power with a capacity to contribute to civilizing the international order, Russia is in a position to set an example by promoting equity between states of diverse size and power.
History. Pakistan’s relations with Russia today are qualitatively much more promising but it is interesting to recall how relations with the USSR got off to an inauspicious start. The Soviet Union did not send even a routine message of felicitations on Pakistan’s independence. Alone among major countries to manifest such discourtesy, the Soviet Union also did not take an initiative to establish an embassy in Pakistan.
Pakistan, too, inherited prejudices against the Soviet Union as our administrative elite, nurtured in the British strategic view, suspected that the Soviet state nourished the Czarist aim of carving out land access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea and, therefore, posed a danger to Pakistan’s security. They also considered communism a secretive and revolutionary movement subversive of law and order, and its atheist philosophy antithetical to Pakistan’s Islamic ideology.
Still, the Soviet record of rapid economic progress evoked Pakistan’s admiration and its foreign policy of opposition to colonialism and imperialism made a ready appeal. Progressive artists and littérateurs lauded communist ideals of egalitarianism and full employment, sang paeans of socialist ownership of means of production and denounced capitalism for colonial domination and exploitation of labour for the benefit of the rich. Few spoke or were even aware of Soviet repression at home and its grab of territory and imposition of communism over East European countries.
Soviet Invitation to Liaquat Ali Khan: An episode that has aroused much historical interest involved the invitation to Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan who first solicited and accepted the invitation but then failed to visit the Soviet Union. The known facts are that after announcement of President Harry S. Truman’s invitation to Nehru to visit the United States in May 1949, the Pakistani policy establishment felt aggrieved at the implicit discrimination against Pakistan. Liaquat Ali, in Tehran on a visit, took the opportunity of a conversation with the Soviet chargé d’affaires to express his desire to visit the USSR. Moscow responded within five days. Josef Stalin’s invitation was delivered at the Pakistan Embassy in Tehran on June 4. Liaquat Ali accepted it immediately. Each side then considered suggested visit dates for August, which the other found inconvenient. It was then decided to defer the visit for two months, during which the two sides agreed to establish resident embassies. Follow-up action met with further delays. Pakistan designated an ambassador but Moscow took its time to give agreement and also failed to nominate its own ambassador. According to an informed Pakistani account, neither side acted with any sense of urgency.
The question as to why the visit to USSR did not take place has remained intriguing. It has been surmised that pique at Truman’s invitation to Nehru provoked Liaquat Ali’s initiative to solicit an invitation from Moscow. Conversely, it has been suggested that Moscow’s immediate response was prompted by a desire to cultivate Pakistan to balance Washington’s courting of Nehru. While no evidence is available to corroborate either conjecture, it is known that announcement of Liaquat Ali’s acceptance of Stalin’s invitation served to awaken Washington to its omission. Overnight, reported Ambassador Ispahani from Washington, Pakistan began to receive serious notice and consideration. In order to reassure Pakistan that there was no change in its policy of ‘objectivity, impartiality and friendly interests in both India and Pakistan’ Washington decided to invite also the Pakistani leader.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that Liaquat Ali’s prompt acceptance of Truman’s invitation and early scheduling of visit to the United States provoked Moscow’s loss of interest in his visit to the Soviet Union. Also, the cooling of Moscow’s interest was probably due to Liaquat Ali’s harsh anti-communist rhetoric, and official discouragement of contacts with the Soviet Union.
The episode left a mark on the evolution of Pakistan’s relations with the Soviet Union but its importance should not be exaggerated. The real and driving factor for Pakistan’s alliance with the United States five years later was Pakistan’s search for security in the face of Indian exploitation of power disparity to impose its hegemony on Pakistan, and the US need for allies to maintain its dominant position in the oil-rich Gulf region.
Isolation should worry Iran
Abdul Sattar , Editor, Foreign Affairs
THE additional sanctions imposed by UN Security Council resolution 1757 are probably not intolerable for a resource-rich Iran but the message implicit in the unanimous decision of the apex organ of the world organization should be a cause of serious concern for the Islamic Republic and its friends and supporters in the region. International isolation poses a grave danger to the welfare and security of a state, as Pakistan’s own experiences illustrate. Wisdom lies in avoiding a course of confrontation and possible collision.
On plane of logic confrontation is totally unwarranted. Iran reiterates its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The Security Council does not question Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy including uranium enrichment for use as fuel in civilian power reactors. Nor is that right compromised by the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which Iran is a party. However, Iran has an obligation to satisfy NPT partners of its verifiable compliance with treaty obligations. In event of a dispute, the obligations are enforceable by the Security Council so as to prevent diversion of nuclear materials to non-peaceful uses.
Iran and NPT parties have evolved an agreed system of verification. The International Atomic Energy Agency is vested with authority to determine compliance. It has withheld the requisite certificate because Iran did not provide satisfactory answers to questions about some aspects of the programme. For more than two years the difference has remained unresolved. Pending its settlement IAEA asked Iran to suspend enrichment. Interminable delay in compliance with the requests of the international organ necessitated reference to the Security Council. After failure of further efforts to reach a negotiated solution, the Council decided to apply sanctions.
Evidently a problem exists. But, fortunately, it is amenable to peaceful settlement. Pending a solution the impugned enrichment is required to be suspended. That is normal procedure. Suspension will not preclude resumption. Nor will a temporary halt to enrichment entail any immediate inconvenience. Iran does not yet have any nuclear power plant for which it needs enriched uranium for fuel.
Meanwhile, one-sided allegations of bias on part of the Security Council are best avoided. Except for the United States, few other members of the Security Council can be said to be inimical towards Iran. In fact several permanent as well as some non-permanent members are its well-wishers. China and Russia successfully opposed broader sanctions. South Africa and Indonesia made a positive contribution to further amend the resolution prepared by P5 and Germany. The friends were disappointed by Iran’s failure to respond to the requests of the Security Council for suspension that they have endorsed.
Continuation of the present stalemate is unlikely to benefit Iran. In the absence of a forthcoming response from Tehran the Security Council will probably resume consideration of the issue and adopt a third resolution adding more stringent sanctions that would be more costly. Iran will be driven into deeper isolation. Defiance can only weaken Tehran’s credibility and provide ammunition to its critics and adversaries.
Tehran knows too well that the United States is intent on exploiting the technical issues of safeguards and inspection. The Bush administration’s record of manufacturing a pretext for aggression was illustrated in the case of Iraq. It may have a sinister design also against Iran. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former director of US National Security Council, fears the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran.
Saddam Hussein committed a blunder of miscalculation. Overconfident of his country’s military power, he needlessly obstructed implementation of a Security Council resolution. Had he allowed UN inspections the Bush-Blair propaganda of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction would have been exposed as false. His reckless defiance allowed warmongers in Washington and London to exploit doubts and fears Iraq had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.
To its credit, the Security Council did not authorize use of force against Iraq. The United States and the United Kingdom were guilty of aggression. Manifestly, the international political order is not just. Powerful states can get away with a gross violation of the UN Charter while less powerful states are punished for a comparatively minor infraction. Our world has a long way to travel before it leaves its primitive past behind and achieves a civilization based on equal rights and principles of justice and international law. The rise of that dawn requires continued struggle. But, meanwhile, the less powerful states have to live with the cruel realities.
Sane analysts believe the United States cannot afford another war. Its military is already overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. A closure of the Hormuz Straits could devastate economies of countries dependent on oil supplies via this key route. Paradoxically, the possibility of irrationality on part of a powerful state imposes greater responsibility on the less powerful to preserve peace. Times are perilous – ‘fitna angez’, as Hafiz Shirazi would say. The situation calls for exercise of wisdom and circumspection.
Crisis dynamics; management or solution?
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
The most precious asset of a leader is credibility. Right actions,
not pious declarations of good intentions win trust. Leashing police to
prevent excesses, restoration of the legitimate rights of the Chief
Justice and appointment of Justice Rana Bhagwandas as acting chief of
the Supreme Court have defused the crisis. But management and
window-dressing can only retrieve the lost ground temporarily. A durable
solution requires genuine efforts to fathom the root causes of the
prevailing disaffection, and concrete action to build hope that
aspirations to democracy and governmental legitimacy can be realized
through the electoral process.
Cost of wrong actions. Richard Nixon in 1972 and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 would probably have won elections any way. Both were undone by blatant malpractices to rig the electoral process. More recently, President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair built up a case for invasion of Iraq on false grounds. Both tried to excuse themselves by stating they were misled by wrong intelligence. Whether true or false, few believe them. Their credibility was irreversibly damaged. People view everything they say with suspicion and disbelief. Decent people no longer want to hear them. They will be condemned in history.
The point is not to equate the suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan with the Bush-Blair war of aggression. The point is about truth. Few believe the unprecedented reference against the chief justice was founded on merits. Suspicion was rife it was motivated by a sinister design to perpetuate power by clipping the wings of a judge who had demonstrated the courage of independence and raised hopes of restoration of the constitutional balance between the executive and the judiciary.
Crisis dynamics. Every crisis has a dynamics of escalation. It does not remain confined to the issue that started it. That issue merely lights a fuse which triggers a chain reaction of accumulated grievances and builds up momentum as the rulers resort to suppression and outraging the silent majority. The trigger issue is like the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Had we reliable polls, the government could get a clearer idea of the root causes of the prevailing disaffection. An armchair commentator in Islamabad is ill-equipped to speak with authority. Yet the scale and spread of outrage visible in demonstrations across the country evidenced a seething situation. The outrage was not limited to the legal fraternity. Almost all independent newspapers, TV channels and media commentators denounced the government action. Transparently false explanations by official spokesmen added fuel to the raging fire.
Even those people outside the government who earlier defended it for its achievement in rescuing Pakistan from the ignominy of a failed state were driven into silence because they saw trends in motion towards destruction of institutions that should instead be nurtured for the nation to retain hope in a future better than the past.
Results of protests. Nationwide protests have served a useful purpose. The President has conceded the reference against the chief justice was mishandled and that crackdown against the protests was counter-productive. Return of Justice Rana Bhagwandas has provided a ladder for honourable retreat. A gentleman respected for his rectitude and piety, he will lend credibility to the judicial process. The objections reportedly raised by the chief justice against the presence of some of judges on the Supreme Judicial Council can be expected to receive due consideration. Law requires exclusion of judges suspected of bias from a tribunal trying an accused. The mystery of why references against some other judges said to be pending before the Supreme Judicial Council have not been heard needs to be cleared.
Simultaneously, the government needs to cleanse its hand in the matter of appointment of the chief justice’s son. Why was he given unmerited positions by the government of Balochistan, the FIA and the Ministry of Interior? Shouldn’t those who violated appointment rules be prosecuted first? Otherwise, this case would be another proof of the government itself fostering favoritism and the sifarish culture which has demoralized civilian officials and undermined efficiency. Scores, perhaps hundreds of serving or retired persons have been favoured with jobs often with lavish packages of salary and perks in departments of which they have no experience. Appointment of armed forces men as vice chancellors has disgraced academic institutions. There is no logic in generals heading institutes that train civilian officials.
Core issues. The real issue is credibility and the yearning for return to constitutional legitimacy in the country. In 1999 there was a case for extra-constitutional measures to rescue Pakistan from becoming a failed state. In 2001 the intelligentsia understood the imperatives of a policy change. Authoritarian rule has failed to contain corruption. As the saying goes absolute power corrupts absolutely. The accountability process has lacked credibility because it has been selective. If the imperatives for rectification are ignored, cynicism and despondency will aggravate and the nation doomed to another crisis.
Our history is full of failures and depressing precedents. Governor General Ghulam Mohammad got a couple of years in power but dismissed Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin has lived in the nation’s eternal esteem. Nemesis caught up with Iskander Mirza within one month of toppling Malik Feroz Khan Noon. President Ayub Khan ‘won’ the election against Fatima Jinnah in 1964 but the rigging lost him the nation’s respect. The hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto made Ziaul Haq an international pariah and the dismissal of the honest and dignified Mohammad Khan Junejo in May 1988 on grounds Zia knew were spurious earned him enduring obloquy.
Keeping history in mind can help avert its repetition.
Too much is at stake
Abdul Sattar , Editor, Foreign Affairs
President Pervez Musharraf has a creditable record of achievements that is in danger of being wrecked. The legal and media fraternities have risen in protest; the civil society has been outraged by the virtual suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, his rude and harsh treatment and imposition of restrictions on his freedom amounting to punishment without trial. The danger of a veritable crisis is looming on the dark horizon. Unless remedial action is taken protests could snowball and engulf the nation in countrywide chaos and violence. Externally, too, the omens are writ large in the denunciation of the detention of the chief justice by Human Rights Watch and the prestigious non-governmental International Commission of Jurists. Legislators of donor states have historically cut cooperation with governments that unleash repression.
Too much is at stake. Too little too late will not do. Only an imaginative leapfrog by the President can break the buildup of the momentum, defuse the crisis and save Pakistan from irreversible damage. He possesses the requisite resources of intellect and good sense to identify and set in motion initiatives that might avert a grave predicament and save his lifework from destruction.
The President has led the multi-dimensional transformation from indiscipline, insolvency and isolation in 1999 to the present economic dynamism, restoration of democratic process and a respectable position in the international mainstream. He has launched the polity on a path of social modernization, development of a pluralist, multi-party political culture, containment and reversal of extremism and militancy, promotion of tolerance and empowerment of women. His record of monumental achievements ensures to him a place of honour in the history of Pakistan. Protection of the positive legacy should be the President’s foremost consideration in the present anxious moment. In our chequered past leaders undermined their position in history by actions motivated by greed to prolong their hold on power.
The central objective has to be averting the on-rushing crisis. There are few precedents in our history that show the way to extrication. President Ayub Khan’s manner of exit destroyed the constitution he had devised, and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto first used the Federal Security Force in a brutal attempt to suppress the agitation and prolong his rule, and then dilly-dallied for months losing the possibility of a political transition. Only President Ghulam Ishaq Khan persuaded himself to agree to a solution in 1993 that saved the country from ruinous political confrontation.
Past traumas have shattered the confidence of our nation. Cynicism abounds. People have been numbed by recurrent betrayals of promises and hopes. The older generation is defeatist - almost indifferent to questions of legitimacy of government. Innocent youth with hopes of a future better than the past are in danger of falling prey to cynical. They deserve to be assured of light at the end of the tunnel.
Restoration of confidence in the present government is likely to be an impossible task. Too many of its spokesmen have a malodorous past of corruption; too many have been discredited by their willful blindness to current facts. Too many in opposition parties have an even worse record of malfeasance while in office. Some committed or defended more egregious excesses by attacking a chief justice in the Supreme Court. A coalition government with one or more of opposition parties will generate no enthusiasm.
Probably the best hope lies in reposing confidence in the people. Advancement of the election date and empowerment of the election commission to ensure a credible, fair and free electoral process appears to be the most promising if not indispensable means for a salutary strategy. One of the questions that frustrated a political compromise in 1977 was whether Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto could retain his office pending a fresh election. Some opposition leaders apparently did not believe election could be fair so long as he was the chief executive. Our constitution provides a remedy, namely induction of an impartial interim government.
A consensus framework could ensure that the interim government would function with complete independence and to the exclusion of the President from any administrative arrangements considered necessary by the election commission.
The question whether the President may retain the office of chief of army staff need not constitute an insuperable obstacle. It could be deferred till after the election for determination by the new parliament. If the election confirms the finding of the recent poll that a majority has greater confidence in the military than in politicians, let the issue be decided by the next parliament.
Composition of SJC
An immediate first step has to be prevention of confrontation between the executive and judicial organs. Constitutionality of the composition of the Supreme Judicial Council has to be established before the charges against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry can be adjudicated. By right, Justice Rana Bhagwandas should head the Council in the reference against the Chief Justice. He could be summoned back from leave. A week’s delay in the commencement of the hearings against the chief justice is not a credible argument against circumvention of the constitutional requirement.
It should be necessary also to clarify the objection raised by the chief justice that references of misconduct are ‘pending before the SJC’ against two of the five members of the SJC. If so, the two gentlemen should not sit on the council.
Even if the reference had not yet been authorized by the President, allegations of corruption against them by the chief justice merit investigations first. A recognized principle of law requires a judge to withdraw from a tribunal that is to adjudicate a case in which he cannot be deemed to be impartial towards a party.
In brief, the President should take inspiration from his own motto ‘sab say pehley Pakistan’ by putting the country first. Conformance with the provisions of Article 209 in letter and in spirit, and a decision to advance the election date with credible arrangements for free and fair elections seem to be the only promising route to a peaceful extrication from our dangerous predicament.
Kabul should reappraise policy
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
The terrorist attack on Bagram on February 27 during Vice
President Dick Cheney’s visit, and arrest of Taliban deputy chief Mullah
Obaidullah in Quetta on March 2 juxtaposes another failure on the Afghan
side against a major success on that of Pakistan.
The fact that the bomber in Kabul succeeded to penetrate to the perimeter of the fortified citadel in the capital despite the presence of ten thousand US and NATO soldiers and more numerous Afghan army and police personnel illustrates a grave and deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. In contrast the arrest of a high-ranking Taliban leader by Pakistani authorities points to improving efficiency in preventing abuse of Pakistan territory for cross-border violence and sabotage.
Requiring fundamental reappraisal is the assumption of President Hamid Karzai’s government that upsurge of fighting and sabotage in Afghanistan is attributable to Taliban infiltration from the Pakistan side. He and his allies need to earnestly ponder the causes of the spreading insurgency and devise a salutary strategy for security and stability in the country.
That there are Taliban on both sides of the border is not new. Nor can the need to prevent violations of the border be gainsaid. But it is also necessary to remember that there was little fighting for four years, and that anti-state violence is not limited to the territory bordering Pakistan. Rebellion is rife deep inside Afghan provinces. Kabul’s loss of control over parts of Helmand province requiring the current large-scale offensive by NATO forces evidences the reality of a wide popular base of the insurgency. A large section of the Afghan people has turned against the government. Something has gone wrong inside.
Multiple causes: Numerous factors appear to be simultaneously at work: disaffection with governance, disappointment with delivery of reconstruction, dissatisfaction with power structure, outrage at the scale and spread of corruption, rivalry of warlords and tyranny of mafias, deteriorating security and traditional hostility to presence of foreign forces.
No one from the outside can presume to prescribe solutions. But it is obvious the problems are to a large extent political and administrative, involving commitment and competence of political leaders and government functionaries. Evidently, the situation calls for buildup of commitment and morale, a more equitable apportionment of power among ethnic communities and promotion of efficiency of civil and military personnel.
The task is extremely difficult and remedies are not easy in a state destroyed by decades of war. Afghanistan has to reconstruct not only the economic infrastructure but also almost everything - political institutions, civil services, other sinews of state, education and social services, ethnic harmony and cooperation.
The process will require sustained effort by the Afghan government and durable commitment on part of foreign allies. Large amounts in aid have been pledged but actual delivery has been notoriously short and slow. Too much of it is said to have gone to foreign NGOs with large overheads or into the coffers of the domestic corrupt. Reports indicate development on the ground is meager and people have benefited little.
President Hamid Karzai’s record has been outstanding. But a record is not something to stand on; it needs to be built upon. He has the unenviable but unavoidable responsibility to cleanse and rejuvenate his government.
Pakistan’s sacrifices. Blaming Pakistan will not resolve Afghanistan’s internal problems. No objective observer can lose sight of the reality that Pakistan has deployed more troops, suffered more casualties, expelled and eliminated more militants, and established more border posts to prevent illegal crossings than have Afghanistan and allies combined. Furthermore, Islamabad agrees more can and should be done. What it rightly resents is the implication it alone is not doing enough and, worse, the insinuation that the Pakistan government is insincere.
Aspersions on sincerity ignore both the concrete contribution mentioned above as well as evidence and logic. Pakistan has nothing to gain from turmoil in Afghanistan; on the contrary, it has many concrete reasons to wish for peace and stability in a country that is neighbour, friend and brother.
Reconstruction of Afghanistan is as much in Pakistan’s interest as it is in that of Afghanistan itself. Only then can Pakistan hope to be relieved of the burden of three million Afghan refugees. Afghanistan is a bridge to our cultural hinterland in Central Asia. We have a billion dollars in trade.
Both the Afghan government and allies should realize Pakistan’s resources are already stretched and official patience is approaching exhaustion. Financial costs and military casualties have mounted. A large body of opinion and religious parties are dismayed by the spectacle of Muslims killing Muslims.
They attribute extremism and militancy in Pakistan to the government’s decision to join the US war on terror. President Musharraf cannot afford to ignore the ground swell of criticism. Not only the Karzai regime is under siege. Need for durable commitment. Many of the problems in Pakistan and Afghanistan were aggravated by the sudden decision of the US government in 1990 to disengage from the region. Cut-off of aid undermined Pakistan’s capacity to cope with the plethora of problems. The 9/11 Commission, which criticized the cut-and-run policy, acknowledged this and recommended US government should adopt a far-sighted policy of durable commitment.
Those in Washington who assume threat of cutoff of US aid would elicit greater effort from Pakistan evidently misperceive Pakistan’s motives as mercenary. Apart from insult, their analysis is based on ignorance and miscalculation.
Pakistan’s driving rationale is its vision of a developing, progressive and modern Islamic state. Pakistan has to curb extremism and militancy even if US aid were to be cut off. Amounting to $600 million a year, the aid represents a mere 3% of Pakistan’s own annual earnings from exports and remittances. International cooperation can help accelerate success just as pressures can retard it.
Only a penny-wise-pound-foolish approach can explain the delusion manifest in the recommendation of the House of Representatives.
Undercutting Pakistan’s effort on the border would require far greater expenditure on the Afghan side. Already, the administration has asked for an additional $10 billion for US expenditures in Afghanistan. An even more dangerous idea recently floated by two senators is that of attacks by US forces on so-called Taliban and al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan.
Nothing would undermine Pakistan government’s efforts against extremism and militancy than cross-border incursions by US or NATO forces. Such illegal and provocative acts would outrage opinion in Pakistan and require the government to condemn the aggressors and defend and protect security of Pakistani citizens. If the US side has information of hostile concentrations, it should share it with Pakistan for appropriate action.
Pakistan-US clash and convergence
Editor, Foreign Affairs
Remembering past swings from alliance to estrangement between Pakistan and the United States, opinion in Pakistan is concerned about the durability of the current phase characterized by close cooperation. Too many people are inclined to assume that as in the past the United States will again prove inconstant and walk away, and Pakistan will then be saddled with the consequences of what they regard as a shortsighted policy which in their opinion serves the interests of the United States and is contrary to those of Pakistan.
Nothing is more distorted, and dangerous, than the perception Pakistan toes the US line. This self-deprecation ignores the reality that despite US sanctions and penalties over three decades Pakistan was not deflected from pursuit of its vital interests in strengthening relations with China in 1960s, and similarly its aim of acquiring nuclear capability. Still another example of Pakistan pursuing a divergent policy from that of Washington was our support for the Taliban although it cannot be said to have served Pakistan’s interests. In fact the policy incurred isolation even in the Muslim world which abhorred Taliban’s narrow and anachronistic interpretation of Islam.
Post-9/11 Policy: The perception that Pakistan capitulated to dire threats to fall in line behind the US policy after 9/11 is based on ignorance of the reality that our policy was decided before Islamabad received any communication from Washington. A policy planning meeting in Chaklala on the evening of September 12, 2001 conducted in-depth analysis of Pakistan’s own interests, based on percipient anticipation of unanimous support by all states for bringing terrorists to account. Pakistan was not alone to make this decision. Most countries of South, Central and West Asia offered to provide base and logistic facilities for the US action against the Taliban who ignored three resolutions of the UN Security Council, in 1998, 1999 and 2000, that warned them to desist from that policy.
Looking back over the past five years it is increasingly evident that the policy of cooperation in the fight against terrorism has served Pakistan’s vital interests as well as those of entire humanity. Terrorism is condemned by all states of the world. Pakistan has been a victim of this scourge. Seven hundred Pakistani soldiers have died in fighting extremists and uncounted people have been murdered in sectarian violence. Fanatic Mohammad Sarwar proudly declared in a Gujranwala court on Wednesday that he killed Punjab Minister Zille Huma Usman and earlier four other women. The Senate unanimously condemned this heinous crime.
Posing a grave peril to Pakistan’s peace and progress, the spreading lawlessness should galvanize the government and the civil society into intensifying efforts to uproot extremism and promote civilized norms of tolerance and respect for all religions. Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and religious madaris can take more effective initiatives for containment of chauvinism and militancy. Islam enjoins respect for human life, promotion of social welfare and protection of minorities.
Convergence and Divergence. Returning to Pakistan-US relations, interests of the two countries have been often parallel, some times convergent, and at other times at cross purposes. In the 1950s both needed allies even though they could not agree on ‘alliance against whom.’ In the 1980s they agreed on the adversary and the convergence lasted till the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Neither parallelism nor convergence could overcome the tension between Islamabad’s security imperatives in South Asia and Washington’s drive to pull bigger and more powerful India into its orbit. Divergence marked bilateral relations in the 1960s when Pakistan proceeded to strengthen cooperation with China while the US opposed that policy. For a quarter century the policies of the two countries clashed as after 1971 Pakistan’s security imperative necessitated acquisition of nuclear capability while the US opposed and penalized Pakistan’s programme with sanctions in pursuit of its policy of preventing proliferation. In 1990 the US suddenly reimposed sanctions and refused to transfer F-16s and other military equipment even though Pakistan had paid for them. President Clinton recognized the US action was unjust though he took years to rectify it.
No Permanent Friends. The oscillations of Pakistan-US relations illustrate the saying of a British statesman to the effect that states have permanent interests, not permanent friends. The point has special relevance for us in Pakistan as our culture imbued friendship with obligations of eternal faithfulness and spirit of sacrifice, no matter what the costs and consequences. We were disappointed because the US did not rise to our sentimental expectations.
Objectively, bonds of civilization and culture are valuable in relations between states. At the same time, realism and the obligation to safeguard the security and welfare of their people require states to reappraise policy if the underlying international realities are transformed.
Pakistan’s foreign policy has in fact been realistic. Immediately after independence Pakistan took the initiative to seek US cooperation because of the objective need to strengthen the sinews of the infant state. In October 1947 the government sent Mir Laiq Ali to Washington to ask for a loan of $2 billion over five years for economic development and defence purchases. The United States, then the only country in a position to provide assistance, was sympathetic but not to the extent naively assumed by Karachi. Pakistan’s policy of cultivating US goodwill was rewarded in 1953 when heightened threat of Soviet penetration persuaded Washington to launch alliances in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
Clearly the United States did not suck Pakistan into the Baghdad Pact and SEATO. Pakistan sought membership of both and also welcomed the bilateral defence agreement with the United States, and the alliances proved beneficial. Between 1955 and 1964 Pakistan received $4.9 billion in assistance. Equal to $30 billion in current dollars, the aid helped economic development and built the armed forces for effective defence.
The US 9/11 Commission criticized the decision for precipitate disengagement in 1990 that left Afghanistan and Pakistan in the lurch and allowed extremism and militancy to tale root. The Bush administration and the Congress have now decided to pursue a durable policy of cooperation with both. Experience has demonstrated that sudden swings of policies can be harmful, that it is never wise to alienate old friends, and wisdom lies in slow and deliberate adjustment to change.
Nations can greatly benefit from the wisdom of Hafiz Shirazi who said ‘Salvation in both worlds is explained by these two words: Generosity to friends and courtesy to adversaries.
Baglihar way: civilized, exemplary
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
THERE could be no better outcome than an impartial resolution of the dispute over the Baglihar hydro-electric project in accordance with the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty. Pakistan and India are both happy at the verdict of the neutral expert. That both claim victory is a bonus. But the real significance of the outcome transcends the result. Even if one side had lost – which is the norm in cases of disputes taken before judicial tribunals – the outcome would merit a reaction of relief if not also satisfaction because the award marks an end to a bitter and protracted dispute and to the time and effort expended in long and infructuous by technical experts and high officials of governments. Now each side can get on with more constructive business. For this salutary outcome no praise is enough for the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty and the World Bank which sponsored and mediated successful negotiations.
Negotiations for the treat began in 1952 after World Bank President Eugene Black offered the good offices of the bank for a peaceful settlement of the dispute over rights of upper riparian India and lower riparian Pakistan to the waters of the rivers in the Indus basin. It was a dangerous dispute with an explosive potential. Two years earlier David Lilienthal, former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority had said, ‘No armies with bombs and shellfire could devastate a land so thoroughly as Pakistan could be devastated by the simple expedient of India’s permanently shutting off the source of waters.’ Pakistan could not submit to any such design.
Indus Waters Treaty: The treaty was finally signed in 1960. It conceded exclusive rights to the waters of the eastern rivers to India, and reserved those of Indus main, Jhelum and Chenab rivers for Pakistan except for domestic and non-consumptive uses and limited quantities for agriculture in upstream areas. It also provided $1.3 billion (comparable to $10 billion in current prices) for construction of dams and link canals in Pakistan. $500 million was contributed by USA and the rest largely by Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany and New Zealand. India was required to pay $170 million towards cost of replacement works.
The treaty is farsighted in providing for solution of problems that could arise in implementation. Issues would be highly complex. The treaty provided for technical solutions excluding as for as possible narrow considerations of national pride that often complication and hinder resolution of international disputes. It therefore provided for establishment of Permanent Indus Commission that would first address differences of interpretation of the detailed provisions of the treaty. In case the commission fails to reach agreement, either side is entitled to refer the matter for settlement at the level of governments. If governments, too, are unable to reach a mutually acceptable solution, the difference can then be referred to the World Bank for the appointment of a ‘neutral expert’ whose decision is binding. The treaty also provides for arbitration of in case the difference does not fall in the mandate of the neutral expert.
By expressing happiness at the neutral expert’s award, the Indian government has demonstrated a new and commendable political predisposition in favour of an impartial settlement based on merits of the case. An earlier Indian government reacted differently to the award of the arbitration tribunal in the Kutch boundary case in 1966. Of the disputed area of about 3,500 square miles in the Rann claimed by both sides the tribunal awarded 350 square miles to Pakistan and the rest - 90 percent - to India. Still New Delhi was indignant! In contrast, Islamabad was relieved that a dangerous dispute that nearly led to war in early 1965 was settled on basis of merits.
Progress of Civilisation: Both of the above instances of settlement of disputes through impartial adjudication illustrate a civilized approach that has been evolved over millennia to save humanity from the destructive consequences of unilateral solutions through use of force. Progress of civilization itself can be best measured by the extent to which societies have succeeded in supplanting intimidation or use of force with peaceful means for settlement of disputes on basis of law and equity. The progress is however far from uniform at intra- and inter-state levels.
The progress in substituting force with peaceful means for determination of disputes is far greater within human societies than it is in the community of states. Panchayat and Jirga systems were evolved centuries ago. But use of such systems was not compulsory and individuals could opt for unilateral forcible methods. Only with progress, states prohibited and criminalized duress or force and established courts of law for impartial adjudication of disputes.
But evolution at the international level has been slow and imperfect. While principles of international law and the United Nations Charter require states to refrain from the threat or use of force, the norm is too often ignored by powerful states and the procedure for bringing aggressors to book is weak and defective. A willful state can ignore international law with impunity. A permanent member of the Security Council can veto any resolution against itself or its allies or friends. Moreover, duress which constitutes a crime in laws of civilized states is tolerated in international law and does not delegitimize an international treaty.
Yet the impulse for civilizing force is strong and enduring. Humanity yearns for regulation of state behaviour. The UN Charter requires settlement of international disputes in conformity with principles of international law and justice. It requires that UN members ‘shall’ seek a solution of any dispute by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, adjudication or by other peaceful means of their own choice.
ICJ: While negotiation, conciliation and mediation are by far the better means these can unfortunately be frustrated by willful parties. That should not be countenanced by a civilized community. Hence the imperative need for compulsory settlement through impartial judicial means in accordance with law and justice. For that purpose, the world community has established the International Court of Justice. Unfortunately the ICJ’s jurisdiction is not compulsory and too many states have either not signed the Statute or have entered reservation reserving to themselves the option to refuse the court’s jurisdiction.
Pakistan should review its reservation. In retrospect, the past decision to exclude the ICJ’s jurisdiction in regard to any dispute with a Commonwealth member was flawed. It is time that the government should review its policy and withdraw or at least revise the reservation in respect of disputes with other states that also accept the world court’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Putin’s nostalgia for balance of power
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of the recent policies of the United States at the security conference in Munich last week has reverberated around the world not only because it was just and forthright but mainly because he dared to articulate humanity’s outrage while leaders of other powers have remained silent, afraid to offend President George Bush. In highlighting the pervasive sense of insecurity generated by the US exploitation of the unipolar power structure and illegitimate use of force to impose unilateral solutions of complicated problems on less powerful states, Mr. Putin also projected his country’s recovery of self-confidence that was shattered by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yet his critique of Bush appealed more to sentiment than reason as his nostalgia for return to the balance of power of the Cold War period is flawed.
A distraught world yearns for restraints on lawless behaviour and hopes Mr. Putin’s salvo marks the beginning of an onslaught that may bring an end to strategic domination by the United States. But does it? Still another question is whether audacious hopes of an emergent multipolar world are realistic. Thirdly may humanity expect the evolution of a more effective salutary and law-based system for maintenance of international peace and security and solution of what Mr. Putin called complicated problems in conformity with principles of law and justice.
Decline of Sole superpower: Mr. Putin referred to the emergence of China, Brazil and India as evidence of the coming end of the unipolar world. Other strategic analysts have argued the decline of the United States has already begun, especially in terms of the ‘soft’ power to influence and intellectually lead the world community. Not only decent humanity but even US friends and allies no longer respect the Bush administration much less heed the US lead. Even in terms of raw military power some detect the beginning of US decline in the protracted war in Iraq. Concerned at the increasing international isolation of their country US analysts believe their country’s resources are over-stretched and diminish its capacity to project power to address threats to international peace. Leaders of the Democratic majority as well as some thoughtful Republicans in Congress have exhorted the Bush administration to desist from another adventure by attacking Iran.
Imperial overstretch: The splurge of over a trillion dollars in military expenditure on the campaign in Iraq over the last three years recalls to mind Paul Kennedy’s conclusion in his monumental study, The Rise And Fall of The Great Powers: ‘Great Powers in relative decline instinctively respond by spending more on security, and thereby divert potential resources from investment, and compound their long-term dilemma.’ He persuasively argued that such ‘imperial overstretch’ was responsible for the fall of Ming China, the Mughals, the Habsburgs, the Ottomans and Britain.
To that historical list we can add the Soviet Union. Heir to the Czarist Empire, Stalin set the Soviet Union on a ruinous course of further expansion after WW-II. He built the Soviet military power to rival that of the United States. In the process the Soviet government stunted economic and technological development undermining the state’s capacity to sustain its power position. It also denied fruits of development to the Soviet people already alienated by the oppressive rule of the Communist Party to the point that in the end they seemed to wish for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under attack in the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party in 1989 for withdrawal from Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Eduard Shevarnadze was reported to have argued that the Soviet Union ‘ruined’ itself by expenditure of trillions of roubles on the occupation of Eastern Europe after WW-II and then on the needless boundary confrontation with China which necessitated the raising of yet another large army. Finally the decade-long intervention in Afghanistan costing a hundred billion roubles added the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back.
The United States is by no means comparable to the Soviet Union. Its GDP of some eleven trillion dollars remains far and above that of any other potential challenger. Its economy remains strong and it is still a leader in scientific research and technological innovation.
But Neocons in the Bush administration who believed the US could and should maintain its imperium over the twenty-first century have been discredited. Leading American strategists are now worried about current tends. One of the Democratic Party’s contenders for nomination as its candidate for the presidency, Senator Barak Obama has spoken of the need to end involvement in Iraq, rebuild the alliance and reshape US policies for the digital age, invest in education, address poverty and healthcare. Also the leading aspirant, Senator Hillary Clinton opposes the Bush plan for surge in US troops in Iraq. Thoughtful security analysts have evidently concluded the US cannot sustain ‘imperial overstretch’ for an indefinite period.
Balance of power flawed: Mr. Putin’s critique is flawed because his nostalgia for the balance of power of the Cold War era ignores the costs and perils of that period. No objective historian can share his enthusiasm because the Cold War period witnessed recurrent crises that pushed the Doomsday Clock close to the midnight of global annihilation. A balance of terror no doubt restrained the two power blocs from a suicidal Armageddon but the Cold War period was far from a golden age of international peace and security. States of Eastern Europe were occupied and satellitized by the Soviet Union, ideological rivalry fuelled devastating wars in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan and protracted proxy wars in Southern Africa. Abuse of veto by USA and USSR paralyzed the United Nations and encouraged their aggressive allies to pursue expansionism, occupation and repression of the people of Palestine and Kashmir. The UN’s promise of a peaceful and secure world was brutally betrayed. Predictably humanity heaved a sigh of relief at the lapse of the Cold War.
Reinvigoration of last best hope: The end of the Cold War raised hopes of stabilization of international peace and security, of revival of the United Nations, of end to the abuse of veto by the Soviet Union and the United States, of return to the principles of the UN Charter, of disarmament and even of a peace dividend that would expand economic aid for eradication of poverty. But the dream was betrayed as Great Powers neglected festering problems. The UN Security Council did not act with a unity of purpose and after 9/11 the Bush administration took to unilateralism and interventionism flagrantly violating the law that required Security Council’s authorization for use of force against Iraq and pouring scorn and contempt on the world organization.
Hopefully, not the United States alone will learn lessons from the terrible toll exacted by the aggression against Iraq that should induce a fundamental reappraisal. Also, old and new great powers are in a better position to restrain illegitimate use of military force. But not only the great powers need to mend their ways. Imperative for international peace and security to endure is respect for the United Nations, prevention of war and promotion of peaceful settlement of international disputes in conformity with principles of justice and law.
US House Bill a gratuitous hurt
Editor, Foreign Affairs
On the pretext of implementing recommendations of the US 9/11 Commission two years ago in favour of long-term commitment to sustain the current scale of aid to Pakistan, the House of Representatives recently adopted a bill that has caused unnecessary offence to inform people in Pakistan. Representing the views of the Democratic Party-controlled House, it can only undermine the credibility of the United States as a strategic partner in pursuit of shared objectives in the South Asian region. Fortunately, the ill-considered bill is unlikely to become law because the more mature Senate appears to favour continuity of collaboration with Pakistan. Besides there is at present no clash of interests between the two countries and, more importantly, Pakistan is no longer dependent on US financial assistance and is therefore not as vulnerable to arm-twisting as it was in the past.
Already by asking for an annual certificate of Pakistan’s compliance with prescribed requirements the bill has stroked bitter memories of the Pressler law of 1985 which made economic assistance and arms sales to Pakistan conditional on Pakistan refraining from acquisition of a nuclear weapon. President George Bush Sr. refused to give the certificate in 1990 and as a result not only assistance to Pakistan was abruptly terminated but also delivery of F16s and other equipment was withheld even though Pakistan had already paid for the hardware in advance, thus putting a sudden end to cooperation that developed during the 1980s and precipitating a crisis between the two countries. Over a decade later the US reaped the bitter harvest of its disengagement from the region.
Not only the aid cutoff failed to force Pakistan to abandon acquisition of nuclear deterrent capability which was objectively indispensable for its security but the decision left both Pakistan and Afghanistan in the lurch, undermining restraints on the Mujahideen and leading to civil war and the rise of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda which abused Afghan sanctuary for terrorist attacks on the United States. Wiser after 9/11, the Bush administration implicitly repented the past policy, acknowledged the necessity of a durable engagement with the region and declared it would henceforth be a more reliable strategic partner. Too, the Congress adopted a law in 2004 pledging durability of cooperation and continuity of US assistance to Pakistan even after the expiry of the current $3 billion aid programme in 2008.
In throwing the lesson of the past to the wind, the House appears to ignore the facts of the present situation which is qualitatively different from that of the past. In 1980s the US non-proliferation objective clashed with Pakistan’s need for nuclear deterrence. In contrast, there is at present no fundamental contradiction between the interests and policies of the two countries on prevention of nuclear proliferation. Pakistan has not only weeded out individuals from its strategic establishment who sold sensitive technology for personal gain but also strengthened custodial safeguards to prevent recurrence. No leakage has taken place since 2001 and Pakistan is open to suggestions for further improvements.
Most of the other objectives identified in the House bill are also in Pakistan’s own national interest. These include combating poverty and corruption, promoting democracy, improving governance, and extending and maintaining effective authority in all parts of its territory including tribal areas. Achievement of these goals will require patience and perseverance. If Pakistan willfully falters in pursuing these goals with all deliberate speed it will pay a high internal price. Disappointment of its friends will then be understandable. If they then consider circumstances warrant reduction or termination of aid, that will be understandable. Donors do not have an obligation to help a country that does not help itself.
Also there is no need for the US to threaten aid cutoff in case Pakistan does not continue to fight terrorism or prevent the Taliban from abusing Pakistan territory for recruitment and training for cross-border military attacks.
These policies, too, are in Pakistan’s own interest. The goals are also shared by the US and NATO, the world community at large. The purpose of the aid to Pakistan is to help build its capacity for more effective pursuit of the shared objectives. If, God forbid, Pakistan fails it will undermine its own peace and freedom and disqualify itself for goodwill of the world community.
The US house bill is objectionable and indeed insulting because it asperses Pakistan’s sincerity of intent and gives the impression as if the objectives are dictated by the US and it should implement them in order to get aid. This is not only a travesty of truth but also demeaning for Pakistan. The House should realize Pakistan is following policies that serve its own interest and that it is the best judge of its own circumstances and of the most feasible policies it can effectively purse.
That the present efforts to restrain and contain the Taliban upsurge are not entirely effective is obvious. But the objective cannot be achieved by any one of the stakeholders single-handedly. Already Pakistan has invested greater effort and given more sacrifices in pursuit of the common objectives that the other partners combined. The opinion that Pakistan should do more on its side of the border may be correct but it is equally true that the US and NATO states and especially the Afghan government can and should make a greater contribution on the Afghan side. This requires willingness but also capability. The US has decided to invest $10 billion in building capacity on the Afghan side. Also NATO intends to increase assistance. An assessment should be made whether the current aid level of $600 million a year is adequate for enhancing Pakistan’s capacity to implement agreed policies.
A threat of refusing assistance and military sales is fundamentally crude. Pakistan is not pursuing its policy of cooperation with the US and NATO because it needs $ 660 million a year in US aid.
The House should know that Pakistan is no longer dependent on US aid. Earning $20 billion a year from exports and remittances by overseas Pakistanis, it can finance most of the development projects out of its own resources. The US aid of $600 million is a paltry 2% of its disposable resources.
Policies aimed at curbing terrorism generally and civil war in Afghanistan in particular are founded in common interest and these are best promoted by cooperation in an environment of mutual reliability. Threats of cutoff cannot but undermine confidence in durability of commitment.
Sectarian Armageddon in Muslim East?
Editor, Foreign Affairs
The January 23 state-of-the union address by President George W.
Bush was yet another rhetorical performance. It was, like most of his
other written speeches, fast, fluent and flip, full of catchy
sound-bytes that momentarily grip audience attention and evoke
thunderous applause. But, also like his other stage performances, it
was ‘a tale . . . full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’
Twisting sequence and logic, he conjured up the danger of a Shia-Sunni
Armageddon in the Middle East as an argument for more troops and
longer stay of US forces in Iraq, superciliously ignoring the fact
that the current virulent phase of sectarian violence in Iraq is a
consequence of the US invasion and cannot therefore be remedied by
persistence in the blunder.
The US Congress saw through Mr. Bush’s stratagem. Everyone knows the President’s Iraq invasion was conceived in sin. The allegation that Saddam Hussein had defied the Security Council resolution for dismantling weapons of mass destruction was a lie. The second rationale for the war, namely Saddam Hussein’s nexus with Al Qaeda, was an ex post facto invention without basis in reality. Surge of Iraqi resistance against occupation forces which Washington sought to equate with terrorism was a consequence of the war, not the casus belli. Not surprisingly, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee promptly rejected Mr. Bush’s new strategy for the Iraq war. Presence of forces of aggression and occupation is a prime cause of the insurgency; logically, it cannot be part of the solution.
Sectarian danger. Yet the danger of a sectarian war is not entirely a figment of Mr. Bush’s imagination. Nor was he the first to voice the apprehension. King Abdullah of Jordan warned about it in the context of ongoing violence in Iraq , Lebanon and Palestine and so also did President Pervez Musharraf. The danger is real and it requires close analysis and attention especially by Pakistan and other multi-sect Muslim states in order to devise salutary strategies to avert and preempt a repetition of wars of religion and sect that have ravaged the world over the millennia and pose an existential threat to societies left behind in the march of civilization.
Jewish Zealots killed other Jews in the first century and Muslim bands of Assassins unleashed terror against other Muslims in the twelfth century. Medieval Christendom organized four Crusades between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries that inflicted colossal destruction on Muslim lands. In the sixteenth century French wars of religion between Catholics and Protestant Huguenots, Calvinists and Lutherans with carnivals of butchery by blood-thirsty fanatics. Anglican Britain and Catholic Ireland fought a sanguinary and protracted war that endured into the twentieth century. South Asia witnessed an unprecedented frenzy of gruesome massacres in which uncounted millions of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs perished in the 1940s.
Responsibility for the wars between followers of different religions and sects cannot be ascribed to doctrines. Religions preach peace and human brotherhood. Islam promulgated values and norms to sanctify life and enjoin respect for life, human dignity and equality without distinctions of race or language. ‘To you your religion, and to me mine’ is an article of Islamic faith. It is a recipe for inter-faith harmony and peaceful coexistence among people of diverse beliefs. Other religions too teach tolerance and respect but ironically bigots and fanatics have too often abused faiths and twisted doctrines to instigate violence and wars.
Sectarian violence among Muslims is a relatively new phenomenon. Ascribable largely to obscurantism within, it has also been fuelled by foreign imperial and dynastic interests who have exploited religions for the protection and promotion of their interests. Saddam Hussein exploitated fears of destabilization of the status quo in the Gulf and export of Iranian revolution to secure arms from the United States and Britain , and cash from the dynastic states of the Gulf.
Clouds over Pakistan. Our founding fathers transcended distinctions of sect and successfully united all Muslims under one flag. But while statesmen fostered unity, lesser leaders have failed to safeguard the heritage. Sectarian forces have since sowed division and disintegration between followers of diverse doctrines. Although the Ahmadi movement was never accepted by mainstream sects even before independence, it became the target of fierce agitation and demands for exclusion from Islam in the 1950s. Most political leaders resisted but Prime Minister Z. A. Bhutto, who lost popularity because of personal excesses, sought to retrieve ground by capitulation to the demand of fundamentalists. Exposed to discrimination and denial of freedom of religion, the Ahmadi community was alienated and large numbers of them opted for emigration.
Their appetite whetted, sectarian extremists then targeted one another. Illustrative of their narrow mind was an incident in 1974: an imam exhorted an Eid congregation in F-6 Markaz to join in curses against other sects. Fortunately, an enlightened participant was bold enough to stand up and urge the imam to refrain and get on with the conduct of namaz. More recently verbal abuse has been supplemented by violence. Mosques have been attacked and namazees massacred.
A majority of our people abhor divisive and hateful sectarian propaganda. Fortunately, the heritage of syncretic sufi teachings has endured. Also multi-sect committees of enlightened religious leaders have used their influence to promote peace and harmony. But it would be a folly to ignore or minimize the baneful effect of rising extremism within and foreign interference that entered the picture in the 1980s. Some states that officially sponsor propagation of their sect embarked on an aggressive campaign to export their ideology. With motives more political than religious, they started distributing lavish patronage to incite sectarian extremists to intensify nefarious preachings. An imam of a major mosque told the writer a foreign diplomat dangled seven lac rupees for a sectarian tirade on a Friday. A man of principle, he refused but men of lesser virtue bit such baits.
Sadly, sectarian extremists are on the rampage and unless the state and civil society join together to oppose them the forebodings of a destructive sectarian confrontation could engulf our state. The task is difficult but it can and must be addressed. Lessons of history, progress of rationalism and dawn of the era of fundamental human rights have opened a new chapter of tolerance and coexistence in large parts of the world. We need to take advantage of the opportunity.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has outlawed discrimination based on distinctions of race, colour, religion, birth or gender. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has sanctified the ‘right to freedom of thought and religion’ including the ‘freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief’ and the right to manifest that religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
It is ironic that followers of diverse Muslim sects are freer and more secure in Western countries than they were in Muslim countries of their origin. They are free to not only practice but also preach their belief. Many Pakistanis who go abroad for tabligh take pride in the conversions they have inspired. One wishes they also used their influence to promote emulation at home of the freedoms they enjoyed abroad.
Unforeseen consequences of Afghan jihad
Editor, Foreign Affairs
THE January 16 attack by army helicopter gun-ships on a border village in South Waziristan killing 20-25 foreign and local militants evidences intensification of effort by Pakistan to prevent abuse of its territory at a time when Afghan, US and NATO officials are orchestrating apprehensions of a bloody offensive in the coming spring led by Taliban who allegedly organize and train in sanctuaries in Pakistan and infiltrate across the border.
President Hamid Karzai has been too shrill in castigating Islamabad but he is by no means alone in demanding that Islamabad do more to prevent cross-border infiltration. US and NATO spokespersons have refrained from aspersing Pakistan’s intention but repeatedly demanded Pakistan should do more. Even more diplomatic was Defence Secretary Robert Gates who praised Pakistan as “an extraordinarily strong ally” but went on to echo concerns about the increasing flow of Taliban fighters across the border into southern and eastern Afghanistan. In contrast the diplomat-turned-spymaster John Negroponte was abusive and called Pakistan “a major source of Islamic extremism” hub of Al-Qaeda’s worldwide terrorism.
Pakistan does not deny the abuse of its territory by Taliban and Al-Qaeda activists but protests it has made earnest efforts and given unprecedented sacrifices in order to contain the problem. Sadly its voice has been drowned by the overwhelming noise generated by Kabul and Washington. In the process all sides ignore history.
The objective fact is that few decision makers in Moscow and Washington, Kabul and Islamabad and in other capitals involved in the Afghanistan war foresaw its lethal consequences. For the Soviet Union the intervention in Afghanistan proved the last straw that drowned the camel. Afghanistan suffered over a million dead, displacement of ten million people and devastation of its economic and administrative infrastructure.
Not far behind was Pakistan in long-term costs of supporting the Afghan jihad that range from the heavy economic and social burden of Afghan refugees to proliferation of arms and Kalashnikov culture, entrenchment of religious extremism and infestation of its territory by tens of thousands of foreign jihadis who were recruited and flown in by CIA which conveniently forgot to fly them out after the Soviet defeat.
In the euphoria of triumph over its Cold War rival, the United States lost sight of the enormous problems generated by jihad in Afghanistan and instead of helping rehabilitation and reconstruction it peremptorily disengaged from the region, leaving Afghanistan and Pakistan in the lurch. But history punished it for the mistaken assumption it had got away scot-free. The Frankenstein it helped build up in Afghanistan was to mastermind the 9/11 attack which became a turning point in history with repercussions that continue to exact a heavy toll on the United States, the Muslim people and indeed the world at large.
Like other supporters of the jihad in Afghanistan, Pakistan too had failed to foresee the downside of the policy and even compounded its problems by taking sides in the civil war, recognizing the Taliban and continuing support even after they ignored its counsel to rein in Osama bin Laden and his companions who exploited Afghan hospitality for their reckless campaign of international terrorism.
Fortunately Pakistan avoided another blunder after 9/11 by its well-considered policy of uniting with the rest of the world in condemning the terrorist outrage and joining the fight against terrorism. Pakistan has since taken energetic measures to contain extremism within and extern foreign militants. Hundreds of those who refused and resisted orders to leave Pakistan were captured, deported and extradited. It has deployed eighty thousand troops in the border areas who have proactively pursued the foreign militants and their local supporters. It has sustained heavy sacrifices and over seven hundred soldiers have died as the peace of the border region has been disturbed by the ingress of government forces into traditionally autonomous tribal areas.
While Afghans should best remember the sacrifices Pakistan made in support of their struggle, the US and NATO also should view the present difficulties in historical perspective. They would then understand that the legacy of the liberation war, radicalization of the people of the border areas and the relationships developed between foreign jihadis and local supporters over decades cannot be turned off in quick time. They as well as Pakistan need to deal with the problems with patience and perseverance.
An integral strategy to successfully address the problem must also recognize the need for revival of domestic consensus among the various ethnic communities, rectifying grievances of denial of due share, reconstruction of not only the economy but also of effective government and, last but not the least, combating the narcotics mafia and breaking its nexus with terrorism.
Empathetic dialogue with Kabul
Abdul Sattar, Editor, Foreign Affairs
More than any other country except Afghanistan itself Pakistan has a vital stake in the peace, unity and stability of Afghanistan as also its economic, political and social reconstruction and progress. A neighbour with unbreakable bonds of history, religion, ethnicity and language, Afghanistan is a bridge to our cultural hinterland in Central and Western Asia as well as an indispensable corridor to economic cooperation with the countries of the region. It is imperative for the Pakistan government to make earnest efforts to remove the current shadow over the common horizon and strengthen relations with this country.
Prime Minister Aziz’s visit to Kabul on January 4 was a part of that effort. Appropriately he resisted temptation to score points and scrupulously avoided querulous debate with President Hamid Karzai. Instead he highlighted shared interests and urged a salutary approach to the problems of cross-border infiltration. Terrorists, smugglers and narcotics traffickers are common enemies and both governments need to intensify efforts to contain and neutralize their nefarious activities.
Viewed in perspective, relations between the two countries have burgeoned since December 2001 when President Karzai took office. Pakistan heartily welcomed the installation of a consensus government pursuant to the UN-sponsored Bonn consensus among Afghan influentials.
Earlier, Pakistan joined with other states to pledge a substantial amount for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Trade and other economic exchanges between the two countries have since grown to mutual benefit. The gains obviously need to be consolidated and further developed.
Unfortunately relations have suffered a setback since the sudden upsurge of the Taliban in mid-2006. The diverse causes of their revival are rooted in Afghan government’s internal politics and ethnic grievances about denial of equitable distribution of political power.
Unfortunately, Kabul has instead chosen to ascribe the phenomenon to Pakistani malevolence which does not stand scrutiny. Placed on the defensive, Islamabad has at times reacted in kind, compounding the damage. Aspersing intentions is always a sure way of escalating tension and embittering the debate. Maturity requires that both sides eschew hot words and cooperatively discuss concrete measures that can and should be taken to mutual satisfaction.
Pakistan does not ignore the fact that Al-Qaeda terrorists and dissidents among Afghan refugees in Pakistan abuse Pakistan territory for hostile activities on the Afghan side of the border.
Equally patent is the fact that the Pakistan government has deployed colossal financial and manpower resources to uproot the Al-Qaeda infrastructure and prevent cross-border infiltration. A large number of terrorists have been killed. Many more were apprehended and extradited.
The United States has repeatedly expressed appreciation for the contribution Pakistan has made. Kabul alone has chosen to belittle the sacrifices and asperse Pakistani intentions which cannot but hurt.
If efforts to prevent cross-border activities by hostile elements have not been more successful the causes are not difficult to identify. Central among them is the continued presence of 2-3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. They are scattered all over Pakistan, have mixed with the co-ethnic citizenry of Pakistan and come and go across the border for family visits. Abusers of hospitality are difficult to isolate and apprehend. The border is notoriously difficult to seal.
Importantly, equal effort is needed on the Afghan side. Regrettably if understandably the Afghan government has not yet succeeded to raise, train and motivate an adequate and effective force. Too, the US and NATO forces seem insufficient. The Iraq Study Group has recommended, ‘the United States should provide additional political, economic and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved out of Iraq.’
Any suspicion on part of Kabul based on Pakistan’s past relations with the Taliban ignores the logic of the transformed world situation since 9/11. Islamabad has since supported the Karzai government and coordinated its Afghan policy with Afghanistan’s other friends and neighbours, including Iran and the Central Asian republics.
At home, too, its agenda of containing obscurantism and fostering religious moderation and economic modernization require strengthening of cooperation with like-minded states. Any thought of reversion to policies of a past dead and buried would be inconstant with Pakistan’s new priorities.
Mr Karzai’s allegation that Pakistan seeks a compliant government in Kabul can only be ascribed to misreading of facts. Pakistan is too well acquainted with Afghan history to ignore the fact Afghans are a fiercely proud and independent people who have historically opposed subservience to any foreign power.
Even the Taliban who appreciated Pakistan’s help and assistance during the Afghan struggle for liberation from Soviet occupation and hospitality to four million refugees pursued an independent policy paying little attention even to Pakistan’s friendly counsel on a host of issues including their disastrous decision to allow foreign adventurers to abuse Afghan territory for international terrorism. Pakistan joined with the world community to publicly condemn their demolition of the Buddha statues.
Introspection should enable Kabul to identify real causes of increasing unrest and opposition at home. The state of governance, spreading corruption, the nexus between narcotics production and proliferating crime, deteriorating law and order, failure to satisfy legitimate expectations of people for equitable distribution of opportunities and perceived imbalance in ethnic representation are all domestic factors that require remedies only the Afghan government can provide. Blaming a foreign government for domestic problems can only provide a temporary diversion.
Kabul would do well to reciprocate the approach recommended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at the press conference on January 4. He emphasized the need for evolving joint salutary measures to deal with the undeniable problems. The proposal to selectively fence the border is obviously designed to prevent crossings by criminal elements and not to obstruct normal exchanges between divided tribes straddling the border. For that purpose crossing points can be established and agreed procedures negotiated to prevent hardship.
Imperatives of reform of political parties
Editor, Foreign Affairs
As we enter the election year the question once again haunts whether the outcome will mark advance on the difficult road to usher in democracy, the dream ideal of the freedom struggle, or merely provide a cover for prolongation of authoritarian rule as happened during the Ayub Khan and Ziaul Haq decades. History of past manipulations lends substance to doubt and apprehension as some of the opposition parties even contemplate boycott if elections are held under the President-cum-Army chief of staff. The outcome depends largely on whether the election will be fair and free. Credible elections should certainly foster progress as examples are not lacking where elections fostered successful and peaceful transition from military rule to stable democracy.
Patient and positive role of political parties has been a key factor in ensuring progressive strengthening of democracy in democracy. Also in Greece and Cyprus, Ghana and Nigeria, Argentina and Chile dictatorial rule has yielded place to government by elected leaders.
Pakistan’s own experience is not reassuring, however. Even when struggle for restoration of democracy succeeded political parties squandered opportunities to consolidate the gain: Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was a towering intellect committed multiple errors. Take-over of private sector industries and educational institutions undermined economic and social progress while his wadera conduct, the urge to perpetuate himself and his party in power and finally the rigging of elections in March 1977 triggered a ruinous countrywide agitation that led to his tragic fall and relapse to dictatorship. In the 1990s again regression was due to a lack of political sagacity and personal integrity. Corruption in high places, economic mismanagement and poor governance alienated the electorate though once again the desire to monopolize power once again provoked the doom.
However discouraging, past setbacks do not warrant despair. Political parties and leaders can and should learn from past mistakes. That is part of the development process. Not only economy but also political and social institutions have to be developed. The legacy of feudal institutions and warring potentates is difficult to overcome. Political leaders have to devise and implement salutary processes to address the difficult and urgent agenda of political modernization, strengthening institutions and accelerating economic progress to reduce and eradicate entrenched poverty. Popular expectations are high and the margin of tolerance is low. Failure to deliver leads to loss of popular support which is especially dangerous for elected leaders. Every time they were toppled people in Pakistan celebrated their fall and welcomed military rule.
Political parties therefore need to undertake earnest introspection and assimilate lessons of past experience to evolve farsighted strategies aimed at prevention of repetition. Two recent polls serve to fortify caution. The less surprising of the two – a survey by the International Republican Institute, research wing of the US Republican Party – indicates merely that voters are divided in their perceptions and preferences as between different leaders and parties, and that no party or leader is viewed by a majority with great enthusiasm. Those who emerge with sizeable strength in the National Assembly should have to pursue a cooperative and pluralistic approach.
The finding of the other poll, by three foreign organizations, is even more instructive. Half the people in Pakistan are indifferent to whether we have democratic or undemocratic government. They are alienated because their understandable priority is relief from economic and social hardships. If their problems do not receive due attention they may are unlikely to worry about consolidation of democracy, which is indispensable for national cohesion and stability. As popular interest in systemic alternatives is at low ebb, opposition political parties particularly face a challenge because their past record does not evoke great enthusiasm. They have to demonstrate a capacity for internal reform, credible commitment to integrity and constructive politics. They have also to come up with concrete programme to inspire confidence that they can contribute to maintaining and improving the record of the past seven years.
Not only are President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz widely respected as competent leaders of integrity. Their achievements are impressive. The country has witnessed considerable economic progress. Industrial production has risen at an impressive pace, exports have doubled, foreign debt has remained stable, debt servicing burden has been halved and exchange reserves have been built up to record levels. Also increase in state revenues has reduced dependence on foreign aid and enabled the government to invest more in development. While benefits of economic growth are seldom evenly distributed there has been a significant reduction in incidence of poverty. The government has demonstrated courage in addressing key issues like protection and promotion of women’s fundamental rights, construction of dams and the demands for local self-government and provincial autonomy.
Pakistan People’s Party did well to support amendments to support the Women’s Protection Bill. In contrast the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal shot itself in the foot, alienating women and civil society. Provident politics should have actuated MMA to take cognizance of the heart cry of women and civil society and utilize their knowledge of Islam take by proposing changes in perverse procedures under the Hudood Ordinance that protected rapists but punished victims, and enabled corrupt officials to hound consensual couples at the instigation of influential families who sought to impose forced marriages of their preference.
The so-called mainstream political parties have also to rectify their image. Instead of demanding withdrawal of existing cases of corruption against some of their leaders they should welcome the opportunity to cleanse their ranks. The charge of selective accountability may not be unfounded but it does not justify legitimization of past malfeasance. Due process needs to be strengthened, not evaded, by political bargaining. Also the ruling coalition would only discredit itself by entering into a bargain with corrupt leaders that inflicts a mortal injury of due process and the rule of law.
Self-exculpation of Bush and Blair
Editor, Foreign Affairs
SELF-exculpation of President George W. Bush is no more than a provocative footnote to history but the destruction and disintegration of Iraq by the United States is a tragic consequence that even this mighty superpower cannot reverse. A fragile developing country has been wrecked and not ‘All the kings horses/ And all the king’s men’ can put Humty Dumpty together again. However, the United States, too, will not escape scot-free. The guilt and the penalties will be painful. Once again it will pay a price as high as it incurred after its unjust war on Vietnam if not as high as the Soviet Union paid after the crime of intervention in Afghanistan.
George Bush says he has asked himself if he was wrong in deciding to invade Iraq but after deep introspection concluded ‘No! he did nothing wrong.’ In fact he went on to declare he would make the same decision if he had to do it all over again. His proclamation of innocence will not surprise students of history. He is not the only leader of a great power to absolve himself of responsibility for a decision that led to egregious costs in blood and treasure. Tony Blair is a loyal poodle in self-exoneration as he was in joining the war of aggression. But history is more evenhanded and it will not endorse their verdict in their own favour.
History will judge Bush and Blair on facts. It will recall that they undertook the invasion of Iraq in contravention of the Security Council’s decision against authorization of use of force, justifying the decision on basis of alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein’s regime that proved to be a lie. Besides, the costs of the aggression in blood and treasure will be writ large in the annals. The US toll exceeding 2900 troops killed, 21,000 wounded and a total of over a trillion dollars in expenditure will feed the guilt of the nation and leave unforgettable scars on the economy as did the unjust war on Vietnam.
The losses of the UK are smaller but the magnitude of Tony Blair’s guilt is the same as that of George Bush. The midterm election results delivered a verdict of guilt against Bush and while the British elector4ate have been slow to penalize Blair hardly any conscientious person has any respect left for prime minister. The lie that was used to justify the war on Iraq has robbed his country of whatever good name it was left with after its imperial misdeeds and Blair of credibility even while he continues to occupy the high office.
More enduring and possibly also irreversible are the costs and consequences of the unjust US-led war for Iraq. A developing country with usual political and social fissures and fault-lines, its unity was already strained by Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical rule and atrocities against the majority Shia community and minority Kurds. The decisive blow was then struck by the heavy bombers and missiles let loose by the United States followed by the annihilation of the administrative and economic infrastructure. The blundering occupation administration was unprepared to control the chaos that followed the destruction of Iraq and the displacement of its government.
The US has prohibited release statistics of Iraqi civilians killed since March 2003 but informed sources and researchers place the toll at over a half million killed. The sack of Faluja city by US forces killed uncounted denizens and dispersed over three hundred thousand of its population.
Few have noted that the episode compares in savagery with the destruction of Persepolis by the army of Alexander of Macedonia two thousand three hundred years earlier. Occupied Iraq has since been beset by a fratricidal sectarian war fuelled by extremists within and foreign countries with devious designs of their own.
Those responsible for the horrible consequences are unlikely to face accountability for their decisions. War crimes trials have been historically held only by victorious powers to convict leaders of defeated states. Nuremberg brought to the victors’ justice only cohorts of Adolf Hitler who himself escaped by suicide. Hideki Tojo and Saddam Hussein were condemned to death. But Leonid Brezhnev did not have to account for his invasion of Afghanistan. John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon suffered no punishment for their decisions that led to death and destruction on a similarly horrifying magnitude in Vietnam. None of them have to worry about prosecutors, juries and judges.
But the inexorable law of crime and punishment will work. Not for the first time in history a superpower will find that latent in military glory are seeds of its own humiliation. The Soviet superpower learnt that lesson too late. Its occupation of Eastern Europe, the unnecessary boundary conflict it provoked with China and the intervention in Afghanistan ruined the Soviet Union as Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze reportedly told the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party in 1989. The US intervention in Vietnam debilitated the US economy that suffered steep devaluation of the dollar and the guilt of killing a million Vietnamese will continue to weigh on the conscience of decent people in the United States.
The unjust invasion of Iraq has exposed the United States to unprecedented polarization of opinion at home and condemnation by public opinion abroad. George Bush can pronounce himself not guilty but he cannot escape censure by history.
Prospect of a sane US policy
Editor, Foreign Affairs
SANE, erudite and penetrating, the Iraq Study Group’s report is a breath of fresh air redolent with hope for the beginning of an end to a long and oppressive era of unilateralism and interventionism in US foreign policy that brought disaster to Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, despondency to the world community yearning for a law-governed world, colossal losses in blood and treasure and condemnation at home and abroad. The down-to-earth recognition that not only the ‘grave and deteriorating’ situation in Iraq requires a salutary exit strategy but also that current US policy in the Middle East needs to be fundamentally recast is supplemented by well-considered recommendations that implicitly call for a veritable rectification of a mindset that sees the world in terms of good and evil, and consigns other countries and people to the category of enemies unless they submit to Washington’s preconceived preferences.
The bipartisan study group’s articulate and courageous co-chairmen, former Secretary of State James Baker and Democratic Senator Lee Hamilton, and its blue-ribbon panel of wise men and women have addressed the current policy issues in depth and made 79 concrete recommendations that if implemented could extricate the United States from the disaster in Iraq and to some extent help rehabilitate the United States in the esteem of decent people at home and abroad. President George Bush was realistic in his instant assimilation of the implications of his party’s defeat and loss of majority in both houses of the Congress.
Recognizing the new political realities and Democratic majority’s opposition to open-ended political and budgetary costs of the intervention in Iraq , he instantly signaled willingness to change course.
Reappraisal is however a painful process as it has been well served by resignations of hard-lining Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and UN-baiter John Bolton, representative to the UN. But the president will have to pull in to line other key officials who were responsible for policies that have made his administration the most hated in the history of this country.
High on that list would be Vice President Dick Cheney who advocated regime change in Iraq even before 9/11 and the arrogant Ms Condoleezza Rice who as director of National Secretary Council whipped Secretary of State to lie before the Security Council about Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction and has again been quick to rubbish the Iraq Study Group’s key recommendation of engaging Iran and Syria in peace efforts.
Any hope of salvaging his place in history would require President Bush to cleanse his cabinet of individuals who were involved in the fatal decisions that have brought disaster to his presidency.
The egregious blunder of invading Iraq on false grounds, flouting in the process the manifest majority opinion in the UN Security Council has cost the United States 2900 troops killed, 21,000 wounded and a total of well over a trillion dollars and taken an even higher toll in Iraq where hundreds of thousands have been killed, millions have seen their lives devastated and the country brought to the verge of chaos and disintegration with its economic and administrative infrastructure ruined so that the situation is much worse than it was even under tyrannical Saddam Hussein.
Women’s bill a courageous first step
Editor, Foreign Affairs
HUMAN rights activists as well as other citizens ap-palled by cases
of miscarriage of justice and cruel hardships inflicted on women due to
defective legal procedures had long demanded review of the Hudood
Ordinance. Civil society has therefore predictably welcomed the
amendments adopted by the Pakistan parliament to prevent travesty of
justice and discrimination against women.
More surprising has been the MMA’s reaction which manifests insensitivity to the heart-cry of women amd demands of the female citizens as well as defiance of the majority principle of democratic decision-making, and indifference to decent opinion of mankind, particularly the censure of the world community, especially non-governmental organizations that exposed and criticized Pakistani violations of universal humanitarian norms in the United Nations, Human Rights Council and international media.
A revolting absurdity in the legal procedure was exposed twenty years ago when a blind woman was sentenced to punishment for ‘admission’ of adultery because she lodged a complaint of rape but could not identify the rapist.
In numerous other cases women were convicted but men who perpetrated rape went scot-free because the victims could not produce requisite number of witnesses.
Hyperactive police were reported to have arrested husbands and wives who could not produce marriage certificates. Clearly the defects in procedures needed to be rectified which has been done albeit only partially in the amendment bill.
A provident and forward-looking leadership of the Majlis-i-Amal should have taken cognizance of the problems created by the ordinance for which it bore no responsibility. Instead of leaving it to other politial parties, it should have taken the initiative to suggest rectification of the defects of procedure. It is still not too late for them to review their stance.
They would earn respect as well as political support by projecting a commitment to reform consistent with the humane spirit of Islam and its progressive message evident in the rights of women that Islam proclaimed fourteen centuries before the West awoke to the plight of women and the world community adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Obscurantist opponents of the bill first tried to mislead opinion by charging that the bill amends the law, which was false because it does not.
Even more absurd was the charge the amendment would sanction ‘free sex’. Actually, the bill maintains the sanctity of the Hudood and the procedural amendments seek only to improve outdated legal procedures in order to prevent miscarriage of justice and assure to women protections recognized in the Holy Quran.
In the process the amendments also undo the damage to the good name of Pakistan in a world increasingly alive to civil and political rights of men and women. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948 and the two international covenants on Civil and Political, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted in 1966 enjoin states to ensure respect for human rights ‘without distinction of any kind’ such as race, religion or gender, political opinion or social status.
In his lectures on The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam Allama Muhammad Iqbal noted that the awakening of women in Turkey had created demands for equality of men and women in matters relating to divorce, separation and inheritance but that ‘while the peoples are moving the law remains stationary.’
In order to revive dynamism he urged revival of Ijtihad and suggested that it should be conducted by a legislative assembly of which the Ulema should form a vital part. That course has been adopted in the adoption of the amendment of the Women’s Protection Bill.
The Council of Islamic Ideology and many learned scholars have endorsed the amendments and a majority of the members of the National Assembly voted in favour of the bill. Of course, political parties components of the MMA have the right to oppose the bill on partisan religious or political grounds but a decision to prevent its implementation would betray an attitude antithetical to a fundamental principle of democracy and obstructive of review and reconstruction of centuries old interpretations of religious law that is indispensable for breaking stagnation for renaissance in the Islamic world.
Our founding fathers envisioned Pakistan as a progressive, moderate and tolerant state. They made conscious efforts to involve women in the freedom struggle and pledged to them equal opportunities for self-development and participation in national life. The nation has still to implement the pledge.
If men fail them we can be certain they will take up the challenge and raise their voice in support of their claim to equal rights in matters where they are still victims of denial and discrimination. All sensitive fathers, brothers and husbands should join to help them achieve their birthrights as Muslims and human beings.
Hu’s vision of grander edifice
In an elegant sentence describing Pakistan and China as ‘good neighbours, close friends, trusted partners and dear brothers and sisters’, President Hu Jintao captured the spirit and quintessence of our bilateral relations. In another sentence he touched heart strings of Pakistanis when he expressed gratitude for the valuable support Pakistan extended to China at critical junctures in its history. Of course we Pakistanis, too, can never forget China’s powerful political support and generous economic and military assistance for the consolidation of our state over the decades. Both nations can be legitimately proud of their farsighted leaders who laid the foundation of friendship and of the wisdom of their successors who have continued efforts to build on it a grand edifice of cooperation. Happily, the commitment of the leaders of the two countries to realizing that aim has been illustrated once again in concrete agreements signed during President Hu’s visit.
The significance of the free trade agreement and the five-year development programme signed on November 24 cannot be exaggerated in light of the fact that with nearly ten percent annual growth over the past twenty-eight years modern China has risen to fourth place in the world hierarchy of nations in terms of gross domestic product. It has already emerged as a key source of investment and technology for development of industries and infrastructure, railways and water and power projects. China remains the only foreign source of nuclear power technology for Pakistan and the only member of the Nuclear Suppliers Club that can be counted upon to advocate a criteria-based revision of the club’s policy that so far prohibited export of nuclear technology to countries not party to NPT but is now being modified in the wake of the US decision to make a country-specific exception in favour of India.
China’s cooperation in defence production remains invaluable because it has always emphasized the desirability of promoting self-reliance by Pakistan. Besides, Chinese ordinance industries are modernizing at a rapid pace and Chinese corporations can be expected to continue to quote reasonable prices. The memorandum on joint production of an aircraft equipped with early warning radar points to the expanding scope of cooperation in sophisticated fields. Already Pakistan has entered into contracts for joint production of fighter aircraft and frigates.
The potential for more extensive cooperation between the two countries has grown in proportion to their rising economic and technological capacity. China is making a vital and indispensable contribution to the development of Gwadar – the symbol of bilateral strategic cooperation in the twenty-first century as Karakorum Highway was a generation earlier.
Both governments and people cherish the bonds of friendship that were initially forged in the heat of external challenges but have been steeled by mutual sacrifices and gestures over a half century fostered by a common culture of fond appreciation of old friends. Chinese leaders evinced a penetrating understanding of Pakistan’s policies and empathetically responded to its needs. At a time when military pacts were unpopular China’s wise leaders understood that Pakistan’s decision to joint SEATO was ascribable to insecurity in the face of manifest exploitation of power disparity in South Asia, and that in no way it implied any suspicion of China’s policy of peace. Also Pakistanis remember China’s kindness during negotiations on the boundary when Prime Minister Zhou Enlai agreed to make an exception to the agreed watershed principle in order that the grazing lands along the Murtagh River on the other side of the Shimshal Pass should remain under Pakistan’s control so that the people of Hunza were not subjected to hardship.
Our ‘mujahidana dosti’ with China was a key facture in the 1965 crisis. In 1972 China supplied all weapons needed by Pakistan for equipping two army divisions, and its veto of Bangladesh’s admission to the United Nations pending release of Pakistani prisoners threatened with war crimes trials rescued the prospects of reconciliation between the two brotherly people. Although it was until recently a low income country developing country, China was generous in grant assistance for projects aimed at building plants on Pakistan for self-reliance in machine industries.
A young Chinese scholar on a visit to Pakistan earlier this month wondered if Pakistan might waiver under foreign pressure against signing the free trade agreement with China. But he was reassured by the memory of an earlier generation of Pakistani leaders who demonstrated the courage of commitment to the vision of partnership with China by defying pressures and penalties. Withdrawal of invitation to President Ayub Khan for a visit to the United States, aid cut-offs and warnings of dire consequences did not deter them from signing and implementing agreements on boundary demarcation, air links and construction of the Karakorum highway. Today when Pakistan is more self-reliant for its economic development and defence it is inconceivable that its leaders would sacrifice or compromise the national interest under foreign pressure.
The transformed world situation is more conducive to the development of Sino-Pakistan cooperation. Processes of normalization of relations between China and the United States in which Pakistan once played a part, between China and India, and India and Pakistan all contribute to the creation of a more conducive environment for cooperation. Positive benefits are a more enduring factor for sustaining cooperation than negative coincidences of interest in times of tension.
Particularly unique is China’s role in safeguarding peace and development in the Asian region. A great economic power, it eschews great power chauvinism, scrupulously refrains from throwing its weight about and emphasizes instead development of mutually beneficial cooperation with all states near and far. A pillar of strategic support for our efforts for peace and security in our region, China promises to become a powerful asset for civilizing international politics and maintenance of international peace and security in conformity with the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter.
No wonder that the people of Pakistan have demonstrated their happiness and pride in friendship with China by extending an effusive welcome to President Hu Jintao.
US election: Bipartisanship or gridlock
Electoral wind has blown away Republican control of the House of Representatives and is close to doing the same in the Senate. In an election that was a referendum on President George W. Bush, a majority of the American voters have rejected him and bitterly denounced his policy in Iraq and his administration for its patronage of corrupt corporations and scandals in the party. The blow to his power and prestige is qualitatively harder than the numbers of lost Congressional seats indicates. A lame-duck president will now face a Congress radically different from the rubber-stamp predecessor. For the first time since 2000 he has to share power with the Democratic-controlled Congress and learn the art of bipartisanship.
Of course confrontation is not an option for the Democratic Party either. Under the constitution the executive and the legislature are coequal branches even though the President is more so than the Congress. The House can withhold requisite budgetary appropriations and the Senate its advice and consent but the President can veto legislation he does not approve and a two-thirds majority is needed to override the veto. Consequently the two organs have to make adjustments and compromises when they are under control of different parties. Historically, bipartisanship has been the rule in such situations. President Bill Clinton worked with the Republican Congress for six out of his eight years. Bush can do the same for his remaining two years. But he has to learn the esoteric art of bipartisanship.
What will be needed is change of policies as well as Cabinet members who have stubbornly stuck to the disastrous misadventure in Iraq which has already cost 3000 dead, some 20,000 injured and $380 billion. Otherwise, loss of Congress seats in a mid-term election is a norm. On average, the party of the president loses 30 seats in the House. This year the toll is not much higher. The loss in Senate is even less crippling because only 33 out of 100 seats were at stake this year.
While the failed Iraq policy has been the principal factor in popular disillusion it is not the only foreign policy cause. The Bush administration has to mend its ways that have ignored the culture of consensual diplomacy. In the past the US sought to win friends and influence people through persuasion. President Bush has instead resorted to pressure, intimidation and use of force. Blatant arrogance of power has been manifest in its contempt for the United Nations. Its unilateralism has antagonized even some of European allies. Never in history was an administration in Washington so unpopular internationally. A recent survey by a British daily placed George Bush on the list of terrorists.
Impact on our region. The US policy in Afghanistan is less controversial, and support for durable engagement with the region has enjoyed a bipartisan consensus in Congress. The 9/11 Commission recommended long-term cooperation with Pakistan and the Senate and the House endorsed the multi-year $3 billion assistance package in 2004. Policy-makers will not soon forget the consequences of leaving Afghanistan and Pakistan in the lurch after the US achieved its aim against the USSR in 1989.
Pakistan is an active partner in a salutary policy against terrorism in the region. Its participation is as vital for USA as it is for Afghanistan's reconstruction and for peace in South Asia. Besides, Pakistan's economy is self-reliant. It is not dependent on US assistance.
Gridlock unlikely. If the Republican administration will now be under pressure to take new directions in policies at home and abroad, the Democrats too will be obliged to make compromises. Rarely has an administration or opposition-controlled Congress opted for a gridlock. Both know the political cost of inconvenience to the people resulting from decisions that close the government. Denial of funds for the military in Iraq or Afghanistan is not a practical option. Presidential Bush has fallen in popularity poll from 55% in 2004 to 30% in 2006. Democrats have benefited from failure in Iraq but they are not totally free of blame for the wrong policy. Their leadership did not effectively oppose the intervention and they have still to offer an acceptable exit strategy.
Economy was less of a factor in the 2006 election because US growth rate has been higher and unemployment lower than in most other industrialized countries. The Bush administration’s tax policy has however angered progressives because it has given giant-size reductions to the affluent and corporations at the cost of anti-poverty programmes. President Bush, the Vice President and the Pentagon have been bitterly attacked for sweetheart contracts in favour of Halliburton and other corporations.