Oct 20, 2011

The Jewish question

Uri Avnery Right from its founding, the state of Israel became the Holocaust-state. But we are not a helpless ghetto anymore – we have powerful armed forces, we can indeed do unto others as others have done unto us. The old existential fears, mistrusts, suspicions, hatreds, prejudices, stereotypes, sense of victimhood, dreams of revenge, that were born in the Diaspora, have superimposed themselves on the state, creating a very dangerous mixture of power and victimhood, brutality and masochism, militarism and the conviction that the whole world is against us. Can such a state survive and flourish in the modern world? European nation-states have fought many wars. But they never forgot that after a war comes peace, that today’s enemy may well be tomorrow’s ally. Nation-states remain, but they are becoming more and more interdependent, joining regional structures, giving up huge chunks of their sovereignty. Israel cannot do that. The vast majority of Israelis believe that there will never be peace. They are convinced that “the Arabs” are out to throw us into the sea. They see mighty Israel as the victim surrounded by enemies, while our “friends” are liable to stick a knife in our back any time. They see the eternal occupation of Palestinian territories and the setting up of belligerent settlements all over Palestine as a result of Arab intransigence, not as its cause. They insist that Israel be recognised as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”. This means that Israel does not belong to the Israelis (the very concept of an “Israeli nation” is officially rejected by our government) but to the worldwide ethnic-religious Jewish Diaspora, who have never been asked whether they agree to Israel representing them. It is the very negation of a real nation-state that can live in peace with its neighbours and join a regional union. I have never laboured under any illusions about the magnitude of the task my friends and I set ourselves decades ago. It is not to change this or that aspect of Israel, but to change the fundamental nature of the state itself. It is far more than a matter of politics, to substitute one party for another. It is even far more than making peace with the Palestinian people, ending the occupation, evacuating the settlements. It is to effect a basic change of [or “in”] the national consciousness, the consciousness of every Israeli man and woman. It has been said that “you can get the Jews out of the ghetto, but you can’t get the ghetto out of the Jews.” But that is exactly what needs to be done. Can it be done? I think so. I certainly hope so. Perhaps we need a shock – either a positive or a negative one. The appearance here of Anwar Sadat in 1977 can serve as an example of a positive shock: by coming to Jerusalem while a state of war was still in effect, he produced an overnight change in the consciousness of Israelis. So did the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House lawn in 1993. So did, in a negative way, the Yom Kippur war, exactly 38 years ago, which shook Israel to the core. But these were minor, brief shocks compared to what is needed. A Second Herzl could, perhaps, effect such a miracle, against the odds. In the words of the first Herzl: “If you want it, it is not a fairy tale.”

Degrees, doctorates and dishonesty

Kamila Hyat The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor The text of the citation was read out at the Karachi University where a beaming Mr Rehman Malik, clad in a green and gold robe plus of course the traditional mortar cap, could easily be mistaken as the work of a comic writer, commissioned to produce a script for a stage play. The text describes Mr Malik – now of course ‘Dr’ Malik, as a former ‘brilliant student’ of the university. Without access to academic records, we of course have no way of ascertaining whether this is true. But certainly most citizens have been left stunned by other aspects of the citation, which states among other extraordinary claims that as Pakistan faced the brunt of terrorist violence, Rehman Malik “with his leadership qualities and dedication strategised the operational plans and led the war on terror to contain Taliban throughout the country. The terrorists’ network stands broken due to his aggressive management of law-enforcement agencies with singular and extraordinary leadership skills and qualities”, these feats apparently going a long way to boost the morale of the nation. Beyond this, Mr Malik is credited with providing “strategic and operational support to the government of Sindh to combat and contain the miscreants operating in Karachi which helped to root out the menace of anti-social elements and thus maintaining a stable law and order situation in Karachi. It has since been improved considerably and normalcy has retuned in Karachi. He has been pleading the national cause and the unmatched sacrifices of Pakistan in war on terror in UN, Interpol and other international forums very effectively and professionally.” The unknown, and unacclaimed, individual who wrote out the flowery phrases of the document which continues at length along the same vein clearly has a big future ahead of him or her as a fiction writer. But moving beyond the surreal and coming back to reality, it is obvious no one believes what has been stated in this document. Mr Malik is widely regarded as a buffoon, what with his comments about aggrieved girlfriends or wives being behind target killings in Karachi. The doctorate will not change this image. All it really does is highlight the wider issue of academic dishonesty, even at the most prestigious institutions in our land. The fierce debate raging at KU, where 307 members out of the academic staff of 550 have questioned the award and the manner it was made, with the university’s vice chancellor and Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad apparently using his influence to grant the degree without consulting the University Syndicate as required as per the usual protocol. Perhaps Dr Ebad will consider retrieving the degree and the sycophancy which underlies it, following the latest threats of a PPP-MQM fracas following the decision by the Sindh PPP leadership – under pressure from dissenters backing Dr Zulfikar Mirza – to take back a decision to restore the controversial local bodies system to the province, as the MQM had demanded. Of course this is not the lone example of academic controversy surrounding doctorates and other degrees. Senator Babar Awan refused, despite the pages of printed information put out, that his ‘doctorate’ was received from a ‘degree mill’ college in Hawaii, forced to shut down by the US authorities several years before he claimed to have obtained his degree from it by correspondence. The existence of a degree held by the president is equally dubious, since the UK authorities have no information whether the college he says he attended and from where he obtained what he thinks is a BEd degree even exists anywhere on the British Isles. But in many ways all this is irrelevant. Whether or not a person holds a degree is in some ways unimportant; it makes no difference as far as their standing as a legislator goes. And of course the 2009 Supreme Court ruling, followed by legislation to eliminate the essentially undemocratic decision made by a dictator is welcome. What is far more disturbing is the dishonesty inherent in attitudes towards academic degrees – and of course so much else in our lives. This was highlighted by the 2008 drama as the Higher Education Commission declared degree after degree put forward by the legislators to be fake. Perhaps the distortions in our sense of morality were exemplified by the comments made by Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani who sagely remarked at the height of the debate that a “degree was a degree”, whether it was fake or authentic. This of course raises a quite unique philosophical debate, with one tempted to ask Mr Raisani if we have reached a point where distinction between truth and false has become so blurred that it is indistinguishable. Coming back to the fierce controversy raging at KU over the Malik doctorate issue raises new questions about the state of higher learning in our country. It seems degrees and other academic honours have lost their worth. Universities around the world are increasingly reluctant to accept academic qualifications from Pakistan, and PhD theses sometimes contain material that one would expect an eighth grader to produce with ease. This of course is not the fault of the student but of the system that produces such people and determines the limited scope of our educational system. Plagiarism is commonplace with entire paragraphs stolen off the internet. At the Punjab University, even professors have been found guilty of such academic dishonesty. We need to find ways to save our institutions of higher education. The farce permitted at KU must not take place again. In the past our institutions were respected. And they produced scholars, thinkers and scientists and didn’t pandering to political needs. The HEC, the future of which remains dubious, has made some attempt to stem the slide towards disaster. Universities are losing esteem among the people because of the way important decisions are made and the manner in which events take place especially when someone who hardly commands any respect in the eyes of citizens steps down from the academic stage clutching the gilded scrolls of academic excellence.

The flyover frenzy

Tasneem Noorani It is not only that the urban population of Pakistan is on a sharp increase. Every year, 134,000 cars and 835,000 motorcycles are being added to Pakistan’s increasingly congested roads, not to mention the numberless rickshaws, to enable urban commuters to travel to workplaces and homes. The main response of the government, whether in Islamabad or provincial capitals like Lahore or Karachi, is to build flyovers and widen roads, even if this involves cutting old roadside trees. The provincial governments think this “progress” is going to get them votes while it incidentally eases traffic: the resulting relief in traffic is merely temporary and the impact on their vote banks at best remains doubtful and to be proven in the future. Like the population increase, the maddening traffic is growing exponentially in our cities, becoming such a scourge that it makes one wish one were living in a village. Countless billions of rupees are spent on flyover-building and road-widening projects, even though they only benefit the owners of cars, not the less fortunate Pakistanis who have few other means of viable transport in the absence of functioning public transport, like buses. The motorbikes and rickshaws used by those who can afford them in the latter group only serve to clutter the roads still further. All over the world, governments spend far more money on betterment of public transport, rather than on flyovers and wider roads. London, whose public transport we admire so much, is a fine example of this. London was spending £4 billion in subsidy on public transport every year until two years back when I had the opportunity to interact with its top public transport body, Transport for London (TFL). In Delhi, the government spent $4 billion on making the subway, apart from putting 3,000 state-of-the-art buses on city roads. Less than a decade ago, the city government in Karachi started 50 CNG buses with great fanfare, but because the model was unsustainable, they were discarded not too long after the launch. The government introduced a scheme of 8,000 CNG buses and even allocated money in the PSDP, but so far not a single bus has come onto the road. Similar headlines have been made in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the Islamabad administration has been making promises for the improvement of public transport in the country’s capital. But there are no additional vehicles on the roads there. In Punjab the government introduced the concept of exclusivity of routes and franchising. That experiment is in tatters. This was partly because of a court order striking down exclusivity and partly because the government was incapable of managing and supervising such a fleet even if it were owned by private operators. So after six decades public transport in all cities consists of the crudest buses driven by untrained drivers. In Faisalabad an experiment in organisation of public transport with the involvement of the community and owners of public service vehicle was started in 1993. A legal entity was created by the commissioner (your truly was the incumbent), which laid down the rules of plying PSV (public service vehicles) in the city. The FUTS (Faisalabad Urban Transport System) provided support to the owners of vehicles to make sure their investment gave them good returns. It was a smashing success. But it was deliberately undone by the-then government in Lahore, which wanted to introduce the franchising system all over the province. Because the model of FUTS was sustainable and realistic, it still limps along in Faisalabad and provides the bulk of public transport, without government support. In 2008, when the new government in Punjab came into power, a task force was set up to find a solution for public transport in the province. I was made chairman of that task force because of my Faisalabad experience. After due deliberations, it was decided to set up a company which would handle all matters pertaining to regulating and organising public transport in Lahore, while the ownership of vehicles would be private. The Lahore Transport Co (LTC) was the first organisation after the demise of the PRTC more than 20 year ago which provided the capacity to the government to run public transport. In all the provinces, public transport is expected to be managed by the transport department, which is actually manned and trained to make policy rather than regulate and run buses. Unlike other countries we have no organisation with specialists like transport planners, fare specialists and public transport engineers. The LTC was the first in this respect. The LTC started with great promise, by finding urban transport specialists (a rare commodity in Pakistan), making systems and setting up an electronic surveillance system to track and monitor buses. We offered an attractive subsidy package to investors to bring new buses and run them and the LTC was to regulate the investor’s buses, with the guarantee that he would make a 20 percent return on his investment. Despite all kinds of allurements, the investor was reluctant to come forth because of apprehension on account of the government’s track record on paying subsidy in time. He needed assurance of at least five years for the recovery of the cost of his vehicle. Only one foreign investor, with a promise of 200 buses, showed interest and reportedly is now bringing 110 buses. We pleaded with the government to place the budgeted money with the LTC, or in any arrangement where the investor would know that if the government changed his investment would be safe. But we were told that the government resources did not allow it to withdraw such a large amount in one go. However, a few weeks later the flyover of Kalma Chawk was launched, where about the same amount of money that the LTC required to bring buses on the roads was spent on brick, mortar and cement. There is no hope for public transport in cities without the government paying out substantial subsidies. If subsidies are needed in any sector, it is in public transport; as evidenced by experience in the rest of the world. But in our country the politicians’ priority seems to be infrastructure expenditure like flyovers, underpasses, wider roads rather than subsidised public transport through a transparent and sustainable system which a special purpose company like the LTC is capable of providing. It is time we stopped pampering and subsidising the motorist by building roads and flyovers and started channelling that money into public transport to enable affordable decent, comfortable transport to the public so that the mad rush to add more cars, motorcycles, and Quingqi would abate, and a modicum of order can return to our roads. The alternative is sick cities with clogged arteries in the next five years.

Glow of hope

Sadaf Shahid “Tonight is the night of power. Angels descend on earth and all prayers are answered”, said a friend of mine to her 22-year-old undergrad son, home for the summer break. “What should I pray for?”Asked Hamza, switching the television off. “Anything you like – happiness, success, forgiveness and a long healthy life” replied my friend. “Do you pray for me, Amma?” He asked pensively. “What kind of a question is that Hamza, mothers may forget to pray for themselves, but they always pray for their children and a mother’s prayers are always answered”. To which he replied, “What about all those boys who were kidnapped, tortured and killed? Didn’t their mothers pray for them? Does anybody deserve to die such a terrible death?” My friend was taken aback but maintained her composure. “Hamza, God has given man the power to choose between right and wrong. He has given us free will. This was not their ordained destiny but they became victims of people who chose to be wrong”. She was quite surprised at this new side to the young man known for his carefree attitude and cheerfulness. This was a different Hamza, made grim by what he saw around him. “You know what disturbs me most when I am in college? People only know Pakistan as the land of death; no one talks about our hospitality, our resilience and many wonderful qualities that we have. I feel as if we have crossed the Rubicon – we neither recognise nor fight our enemies, but have declared war against our own countrymen, our brothers in faith. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I am very scared; I have never felt this fear before. I want to go back, ALIVE!” Terrorism has occurred throughout history but today the world is experiencing its global rebirth. Writer Boaz Ganor highlights in his book “Modern warfare and the psychological trauma” that the purpose of terror is not only to destabilise the government but also to wage psychological warfare. It undermines the sense of security among the targeted population and disrupts everyday life, harming not only the economic machinery but also the individual’s ability to function in everyday life. It is indiscriminate and the identities of the victims, in most cases, are irrelevant to the perpetrator. The use of modern equipment has made this easier. In comparison to the damage done to property and economy, the resounding echo by the media, magnifies the message undermining people’s morale, reducing their confidence and sense of personal security, spreading panic, anxiety and depression, especially amongst the children and the youth. The perpetrators are aware of this and use this strategy effectively. Ganor further states that these terror traders don’t seem to be interested in the number of deaths; it could be three, thirteen, thirty-three, three hundred or even three thousand. They are more interested in the psychological impact. Whether their aims are political, religious or military, the psychological damage they inflict has far reaching consequences. In order to destroy a country, it is sufficient to paralyse its backbone i.e. its economy and the confidence of its people. The feeling of fear has become real to the extent that we feel stalked by the spectre of violent death, kidnapping, carjacking, mobile snatching etc. Constant fear traumatises the brain and creates excessive anxiety. The society is fragmented into frightened individuals unable to go about their daily lives. Security outweighs all other concerns. The attacks are mostly targeted at places a common man identifies with, so that the immediate reaction is “I was there just yesterday”; “My brother works in the next block”; “I take the same route everyday”. The tendency to personalise works to the criminal’s advantage. The message that is conveyed is imminent and dangerous – ‘It could have been me’. This was the overriding fear after the bomb blast outside schools in Karachi’s Saba Avenue that “It could have been my children!” The prevailing situation has successfully conveyed the message that life is no longer sacred. Women constantly call their husbands and children for no apparent reason. What they are actually confirming is that they are safe. Terrorism has become a global phenomenon. No country is unaffected. Take the example of the recent riots in England. The damage to property and looting was immense but the death toll was less as compared to other regions. Three unfortunate Pakistanis lost their lives. I don’t have the details of this incident but one can make out from the visuals that it was ‘almost’ a carnage. Imagine if the same incident occurred in our country. Hamza left for his college after the summer break. Before leaving he turned to his parents with a gleam in his eyes, his face glowing with hope. “Amma, I am still hopeful. I will fight my fear. How many of us can leave our homeland, and why should we? I will come back and then together we will cross yet another Rubicon. And this time the war we wage will be an open war, against illiteracy and poverty and inefficiency; a war which will not be fought with weapons of destruction, but with education and hard work. I don’t know what dreams the Quaid dreamt, I only know the dreams of the youth of today. Things have gone so bad, they can’t get any worse. We will bring light to this darkness, together” When the world says, “Give Up, ‘Hope whispers, “Try it one more time’’. – Anonymous

Media and the masses

Shahid Lateef The recent protests in all big cities of the country by infuriated mobs who ransacked public property were unfortunate. The protesters were demanding an end to the long hours of load-shedding. When the public pressure became intolerable, the government put a temporary lid on the boiling cauldron. The potentially precarious situation was defused by the Rs10 billion injected into the cash-starved power generation industry. However, it is anticipated that the monster of power deprivation will be back soon. There are innumerable examples of the leadership’s non-serious attitude towards the serious problems facing the country. We are groping in the dark with no light visible at the end of the tunnel. Pakistan must be the only country that exists without a clear definition of its national interests. Seriously perturbed about the rapid slide of our country into crisis, I embarked upon a series of articles to present an analysis of the situation and offered solutions based on the initiative by the judiciary (the only credible institution in the country and trusted by most people), for the enforcement of its judgments. The judgments were being blatantly defied by the government. In my article in The News titled “Inviting the army: the judiciary should come clean” (Aug 11), I had written, “At this crucial juncture of our history, the higher judiciary and supporting agencies (the army) bear a large responsibility, to stem and turn the oppressive tide in order to help the hapless nation. It is by fulfilling this obligation that they can be truly portrayed as the guardians and saviours of people, as well as the custodians of their legitimate rights.” In another article, “Behind the violence in Karachi” (Sept 7), I had stated, “It is heartening to see the formerly dormant judiciary spring into action, and taking suo motu notice of the killings of innocent citizens, by the hundreds, in Karachi. The people of this city had been clamouring for the higher judiciary to come to their rescue, by invoking Article 245 of the Constitution. They want the army to bring durable peace, by undertaking surgical operations against the barbarians who have been unleashed upon them.” The objective behind my campaign is to seek a constitutionally legitimate joint action by the judiciary and the army to pull the country out of the dire straits it is in, and formulate a national government to put it back on track, before another election is held, for the resumption of our march towards the democracy. There was a reason behind this desire for a pause so that we can get our act together and put our house in order. While we witness feverish political activity being launched in the form of protests by the main opposition party to dislodge the present government, the motive is purely selfish. People have suffered badly from unprecedented corruption, poverty, unemployment, inflation, load-shedding and out-of-control terrorism during the three-and-a-half years of the present regime. While they have been groaning under unbearable pain, no political party has come to their rescue by putting up joint resistance in alliance with the other parties to mitigate the miseries of the masses. Now that the Senate elections are getting closer and there is fear that the sitting government will secure a majority in the upper house, which would further help it win the next general elections, the politicians have again turned to the masses for support. Let us briefly analyse whether elections at this point in time are a viable option. If we really want to avoid a bogus exercise, a lot of work needs to be undertaken in their preparation. First of all, the Election Commission needs to be made independent and the criteria for eligibility of candidates to be subjected to scrutiny, particularly in the light of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. Second, there is a constitutional requirement to hold elections under a caretaker setup, whose members are to be nominated by the president. Can he be trusted to form a non-partisan team to accomplish this onerous task? Third, the system of elections to the Senate is flawed and needs to be corrected through debate, and to be based on proportional representation. Fourth, it is common knowledge that there were as many as 35 million bogus votes cast in the last elections due to false voters’ lists. This will need revision, which is a time consuming activity. Fifth, the security situation in the country is simply non-conducive to an election, and how long it would take to get normal is anybody’s guess. If the elections are held without the system being revamped, the same faces will appear that have repeatedly let us down in the past. The conclusion is very clear. In the absence of any other saviour, the media and the masses have to join hands once again and rise to the occasion. It was this winning combination that performed historic feats in the past, first by forcing the restoration of the judges twice, and more recently, compelling the authorities to terminate the long inflicted load-shedding. Encouraged by the efficacy of street power against an incorrigible and intransigent leadership, they have to stand up and act as agents of change. This change must lead to the formation of a national government which should stabilise the country, clear the mess and create suitable conditions for transparent, fair and free elections, to resume our march towards true democracy. The media has to clearly define its objectives, whereby instead of wasting precious TV time on useless discussions in talk shows that only facilitate political actors settling of personal scores with each other, it should focus on programme that increase the masses’ awareness and focus on events that form the big picture. At this crucial juncture, destiny has carved out a key role for the media and the masses. Let it not be said that they did not prove equal to the task.

Let’s get angry in the right way

Zafar Hilaly The New York Times carried an article by Bruce Reidel, on October 14 titled ‘Containment - a new policy for dealing with Pakistan’ and followed it up only three days later with yet another front page report captioned ‘Suspicions of Pakistan grow with attacks’. Bruce Reidel, once a key Obama adviser on South Asia, now works for Brookings, one of the numerous ‘think tanks’ that abound in Washington DC and vie for influence on policy making. These institutions promote their brand of politics and many of them who work in those elite outfits are not really scholars but publicists. Reidel, a former CIA sleuth, is one of those so-called scholars, while the New York Times often doubles up as an apologist of Israeli foreign policy. Both Bruce Reidel and the New York Times seem to have launched on a twin crusade to get the Obama administration worked up sufficiently to teach Pakistan a lesson for blocking the United States from making an honourable exit from Afghanistan if not for denying an outright military victory. Reidel’s article is the work of a publicist. Had it been the work of a scholar, it would have been less jagged, more rounded and much better informed. Nor is it a serious re-examination of the present US policy. Reidel’s basic contention is that the only recourse left to America is ‘containment of the Pakistan Army’s ambition until real civilian rule returns’ to Pakistan. For a start, this is puzzling because Pakistan cannot really ‘return’ to ‘real civilian rule’ since it has never existed before. A scholar would have known, for instance, that the Constituent Assembly, elected prior to partition, was supposed to draft a constitution and although it subsequently acted as a legislature, it failed on both counts and was dissolved. Subsequent attempts by Major General Iskander Mirza and Field Marshal Ayub Khan to give Pakistan a durable constitution also failed. The latter’s bespoke constitution fitted him but not the country. The ‘civilian’ interlude which followed under ZA Bhutto was an aberration since Bhutto assumed power as a martial law administrator, being the only civilian in the world to have enjoyed that dubious distinction. Admittedly Bhutto did give Pakistan a constitution in April 1973 but the very next day he suspended provisions of the constitution that granted citizens the right to approach the courts. Not a democrat by instinct, Bhutto finally fell victim to his own vanity. Thereafter the military has seated and unseated governments much as it has wished. Hence, for Washington to wait out the military ‘until real civilian rule returns’ would be like mistaking a mirage for an oasis in the desert. Reidel’s second piece of advice for Obama is equally impractical. He suggests a policy of ‘containment’ towards the Pakistani establishment which is not aimed at ‘hurting Pakistan’s people but at holding its army and intelligence branches accountable’. Implicit is such advice is the belief that the Pakistani public is averse to the army’s involvement in politics. That might have been true for a while but not after the mess created by the Zardari-Gilani duo. They have mired the country in governance issues, corruption has soared to unprecedented heights under their watch and the country is assailed on all sides by terrorists, while their political opponents and a disgruntled public are now hollering for their removal. Once again, sadly, many are looking to the army to act as the proverbial deus ex machina. Ironically if the current dispensation is still in power it is because of the army’s restraining influence. Furthermore, even a cursory reading of Pakistan’s history will show that it is the military that has had a soft spot for the US albeit, as many believe, for selfish and ill-advised reasons. The people have never been able to work up a similar enthusiasm for the US or its policies. Thus, it was the military that pushed for Pakistan’s membership of Cento and Seato in the 1950s when the foreign office advised caution; and it again prodded the government of the day in 1956 to support the western intervention in Egypt, during the Suez crisis which infuriated the public. Moreover, two recent parliamentary resolutions calling for a military response to the US drone and ground attacks, which the military has repeatedly ignored, shows that left to parliament, the US-Pakistan relations would have been a lot worse by now. So much for Riedel’s notion that with the ‘return’ of real civilian rule, all would be hunky dory between Washington and Islamabad. However, Riedel is spot on when he says the strategic interests of the US and Pakistan ‘are in conflict and not (in) harmony’. Indeed the two countries stand on opposite sides of the fence. Our enemies are different; our thoughts and plans for what is best for the region are poles apart; the roles we envisage for each other are in stark contrast; our respective positions on controversial matters of international law as much as on current world issues such as Palestine, Kashmir, Iran, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, nuclear and disarmament, etc, are very different if not completely at odds. How can a return to ‘real’ civilian rule make a difference when there is so much divergence? Riedel is right to ask why Pakistan seems so obstreperous and why it has not yet buckled under. But his answer (that ‘they seem to think they are invulnerable because they control Nato’s supply line from Kabul to Karachi and have nuclear weapons’) is far too simplistic and irresponsible, not being based on facts and hard analysis. Admittedly, the nuclear shield does help Pakistan to deter India and hence generates a sense of confidence within the country. It ended Pakistan’s perennial need for allies, like America, to offset India’s conventional military superiority. In that sense American goodwill for Pakistan though important is no longer essential. But that is by no means the only reason why the Pakistani worm finally turned. Poor American diplomacy made worse by some crass insensitivity towards Pakistan has played a bigger role. Obama callously bypassed Pakistan during his visit to India; the US-India civil nuclear power deal is estimated to vastly augment India’s ability to multiply its stockpile of nuclear warheads; the opening of America’s armories to India; the failure to push harder on Kashmir after initial promises to do more; the Raymond Davis matter and Obama’s personal assurance that that the violence prone murderous CIA thug was a diplomat and scores of niggly incidents that remain unreported but take place almost daily in dealings between their respective officials. All these have accelerated the decline of the US-Pak relations. Other developments have also done further damage, sometimes dramatically, like over the Bin Laden raid and Mullen’s diatribe in the Congress against the ISI and that, too, just after he had a constructive session of talks with Kayani. The latest bone of contention is, of course, the safe haven granted by the US-Afghan forces to the murderous Fazlullah gang whose attacks into Pakistan from across the border have resulted in the death of nearly a hundred Pakistani soldiers. No wonder then many Pakistanis too are willing to throw caution to the wind and risk ending a relationship that is still, in some important respects, clearly in the interests of both countries. Currently the US really has very little to offer given the mood prevailing in the Congress and the dire warnings and threats that have been pouring out of Washington. These are identical in many respects to Riedel’s own advice to consider sanctions, hot pursuit, targeted killing of ISI officials and who knows perhaps also an invasion eventually. Far from reducing the army’s role in the country’s political life these ill-conceived threats will make it more intrusive even as politicians clamber over each other, for their own reasons, to come to the defence of the armed forces, thereby postponing even further the inception (not the return) to real civilian rule in Pakistan. Aristotle’s words seem to apply aptly to the current US-Pakistan imbroglio: If you have to get angry ‘let’s get angry at the right things and with the right people and in the right way and at the right time and for the right length of time’.

Oct 13, 2011

India and the Gulf

Tayyab Siddiqui While Pakistan is caught in the vortex of political anarchy and economic instability, India is making rapid strides in the Gulf as the most influential regional power. India’s emphasis is on economic relations with the countries of the region where two-thirds of its oil imports originate. There has been a phenomenal increase in India’s relations with Saudi Arabia, in particular, which meets 36 percent of India’s energy needs. Its trade with Saudi trade has risen threefold over the last five years and its investment there doubled in the same period. India is Saudi Arabia’s fifth-largest trading partner, and the fifth-largest market for Saudi exports. There are huge opportunities of Indian-Saudi cooperation in the oil, power and IT sectors. Before Dr Manmohan Singh became prime minister in May 2004, India’s relations with the region had largely suffered from neglect. Dr Singh designed a vigorous strategy to make up for this. In January 2005, less than a year after he came into power, Dr Singh articulated India’s policy approach towards the Gulf. “Besides energy imports, there is also ample potential for India to evolve broader long-term economic relations with the region. This could include expanding our contacts with the Gulf Cooperation Council and other regional bodies into an enduring institutional relationship. We could also examine a more proactive strategy of seeking investments from West Asia (India’s preferred official term for the Middle East), given India’s emergence as an exciting and safe destination for foreign direct investment.” He visited Qatar and Oman in 2008. Another initiative was his invitations to heads of states from the Gulf countries as chief guests on India’s Jan 26 Republic Day ceremonies. These included then-president Hashemi-Rafsanjani of Iran and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi king’s visit in 2006 visit was far from ceremonial, however. King Abdullah was accompanied by a 300-strong delegation, including 12 princes of the House of Saud. The emphasis was on closer economic partnership through investments and trade agreements. Energy was at the top of the agenda. Dr Singh’s three-day return visit to Riyadh last year, from Feb 27 to March 1, was a landmark in bilateral relations, in terms of both protocol and substance. (The previous visit to Saudi Arabia by an Indian prime minister had been Indira Gandhi’s trip in 1982 to Jeddah, where the Saudi government was then based.) The Indian prime minister was welcomed at the airport by the entire Saudi cabinet led by Crown Prince Sultan. During the visit, as many as ten agreements and MOUs were signed. Saudi Arabia agreed to double the supply of crude oil to meet India’s growing requirements. The process of expanding bilateral relations and intensifying cooperation between New Delhi and Riyadh is also manifested in terms of defence ties. Last week a delegation from the National Defence College visited Saudi Arabia. The NDC is one of the Indian military institutions where Saudi officers have participated in training programmes. India has enhanced its military ties with other Gulf states as well. This includes exchange of visits by service chiefs and naval ships. Another important instrument of India’s diplomacy in the region is the presence of Indian expatriates, including an estimated 1.8 million in Saudi Arabia. Their total number in Gulf states is estimated as six million. Their annual remittances to India are a major source of Indian foreign reserves, exceeding $50 billion. For Pakistan Saudi Arabia is its closest friend and “natural ally.” But while fraternal feelings do reinforce mutual friendship on the political level too, mere sentiments cannot be a strong-enough basis for sustainable bilateral relations. India’s aggressive diplomacy in the Gulf region can have serious affects on our national interests.

Intolerance in the curriculum

Kamila Hyat The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor There have been several shocking incidents over the past week or so that go only to highlight the kind of intolerance we are facing in our society and the manner in which this is spreading. Worst of all the spirit of hatred has also seeped into classrooms, and is being used to poison the minds of children. This process will of course lead to the emergence, even before our watching eyes, of yet another generation persuaded that it is acceptable to discriminate on the basis of beliefs or other factors, or that minority groups are inherently inferior to the majority – deserving no place in mainstream society. Just a few days ago, 10 Ahmadi children, seven of them girls, were expelled from a school in the Hafizabad area, simply on the basis of their religious identity. The incident took place soon after preachers promoting anti-Ahmadism had visited the town and lashed out with familiar vitriol against a religious group that has been thrust out of the mainstream and then subjected to years of vicious discrimination. The feeble plea by the principal of the private school, that he did not wish to turn away the children from the school doors but had no choice in the face of threats made by villagers, just goes to show how weak we have become. No one has answered the question of the distraught father of three of the girls driven away from school who asks how his daughters will now receive an education. Beyond the representatives of the Ahmadi community in Rabwah and some human rights groups, no one has spoken out in their support. The issue has not been discussed by furious media anchors, even though the Constitution of our land lays down in unequivocal terms that every citizen has a right to education and cannot be denied this under any circumstances. Such silence is perhaps the most dangerous element of all. The streets and other public places have been left to bigots, such as those who have been on the streets demanding the immediate release of Mumtaz Qadri, the man sentenced to death for the murder of Salmaan Taseer. Precisely the same silence prevailed after yet another horrendous incident at a school a few weeks ago when an eighth-grade Christian girl was turned out of a POF-run school in the town of Havelian after making a minor spelling mistake in an Urdu paper. Her teacher interpreted the mistake as an act of blasphemy, publicised the matter – which essentially revolved around one dot in a paragraph about a ‘naat’ – and as clerics staged protests the powerful POF management chose not only to expel the girl, but also to transfer her mother, a nurse at a hospital. Such incidents have occurred elsewhere too. Ahmadi children have been punished in schools, their faith ridiculed and admission denied simply on the basis of their religious beliefs. Amidst all this, we talk of ‘the silent majority’. But do we really know what people believe and think? It is true that many, indeed most, do not agree with the rabid views of the extremists. We would like to believe this is true. But popular thinking has been warped over the years by all kinds of factors that began essentially with the deliberate and evil distortions initiated in the early 1980s when our society first began its most serious transformation into an uglier, nastier place. Discrimination is not based on religious beliefs alone. At an elite Lahore private school, a child from a different ethnic background was mocked and subjected to continuous ridicule for his appearance. It seems that the school management didn’t do very much to check this behaviour or persuade the majority of students who had resorted to uncivilised conduct towards the student to correct their ways. Racism and bigotry of course need to be stopped using some degree of force within an environment in which the two have spread quite far and grown deep roots. African students based in colleges in Lahore and other cities will no doubt testify to the kind of treatment they face, solely on the basis of their skin colour. One question that we all need to ask is why the government sits by as a silent spectator while all this happens. It needs to play a far more proactive role. We stand where we are today as a result of carefully thought out behaviours and policies put in place in the past. They succeeded in twisting minds and creating an atmosphere in which hatred, distrust and intolerence could blossom. The need now is to begin an immediate reversal of this process. In the first place, the relevant authorities need to take notice of the instances of expulsion from schools on the basis of open and undisguised discrimination; this would put in place a good example of what should be done and where right separates from wrong, like oil from water. There is no time to lose. It is quite obvious that things are growing worse and worse virtually by the day. Our only hope for the future lies in nurturing a generation that is able to think more openly and adopt an approach which is different to the destructive one that has become a normal part of our society today. The provision that all citizens are equal needs to be turned into reality and not just a clause in a document that fewer and fewer people seem to be very bothered about. How do we begin this? Schools are a good place to start. Government schools are perhaps the best, given the number of children attending them and the control the administration should have over them. Through curriculums and training for teachers, both children and those entrusted with the delicate task of educating them need to learn to think differently. This is not an easy task of course. But it has been done elsewhere; Ireland, where Protestants and Catholics were deeply divided in the north for so many years, is one example where attempts towards greater harmony through schools have met with some success. There are other examples in the world. We need to emulate them and move towards building a place where people are ready to speak out for what is right and refuse to allow extremist elements – who attempt to validate their intolerant ways by citing a distorted version of religion – to dictate how we live and what we do.

As Kabul and Delhi edge closer

Zafar Hilaly It would be like riding the proverbial tiger. If we think we can somehow play the kingmaker and reap the harvest, that would be like Alice in Wonderland. Even the Taliban are no longer a cohesive force and some of them have developed their own agendas and are in cahoots with the TTP. In other words, the forces we can mobilise against the Northern Alliance and their external allies cannot be expected to serve as our strategic instrument. Indeed, given our internal and external situation, especially if there is a major rift with the US and others, the balance of power between us and the Taliban will shift in favour of the Taliban. And we may end up becoming their instrument. So much for strategic depth. The balance of power will not only shift in favour of the Taliban. Our own extremist groups that want renewed confrontation with India will also seek to force the pace of events by provoking India into retaliatory strikes if there is another Mumbai-type operation by them. What happens then: we have a war on our western border and also a dangerous war-like situation on our eastern border, both at the same time. The TTP would do all it can to seize territory as they did a few years ago, but this time with the additional advantage of our military being stretched too thin. And it would not take much for the TTP and Lashkar-e-Taiba to weaken the government and military further by stoking sectarian and other forms of violence inside the country. Nor would external forces opposed to our strategic depth hesitate to weaken the military by doing their bit to destabilise the country. Prolonged regional stalemate and progressive domestic degeneration might even undermine the military’s stature, making it more vulnerable to the machinations of our extremist groups. We saw a bit of that over the Osama bin Laden episode. So the TTP and other groups would be the real beneficiaries if we tried to put the Quetta Shura back in the saddle and threw caution to the wind. During the ten years that have elapsed since the Taliban were ousted from Kabul, the nature of the Taliban has changed in some respects. It has become a decentralised force consisting of commanders who have been operating more like warlords with their own sources of funds and areas of local dominance, some with close links to Al-Qaeda’s lucrative connections and to its regional ambitions. In other words, there are now various localised power centres, and their connection with the TTP as well makes the situation much more complicated. There are many foreigners too that are embedded with local Taliban outfits in a common cause not only to regain Kabul but also to pursue Al-Qaeda’s regional agenda encompassing Pakistan and Central Asia. Nor should Al-Qaeda be written off simply because it has weakened at the top. In a protracted conflict it will find new opportunities that might see it bounce back and the Af-Pak border might become more important than prospects in Somalia and elsewhere. Clearly, then, there seem to be two courses of action open to Pakistan. To go down the old route and risk further conflict with the US, India, et al, and international isolation; or continue cooperating with the US and, rather than frittering our energies and attention in closing off the wiggle room Karzai has provided India, to do a better job in securing their lives and property and growing the economy. Besides, in my opinion, India is not the issue. That’s a secondary thing. It’s the dysfunctional relationship between the US and Pakistan, more than anything else. And there are questions about their respective ambitions. Unless those ambitions are trimmed and brought into some balance, there is little hope of ending a war that seems interminable. That hurts Pakistan more than it does Afghanistan, which is already a failed state, or America, which is far away. Any peace settlement, unless underpinned by the US and Pakistan, has little hope in getting off the ground. We should be taking the lead on this, rather than allowing the deteriorating situation to overwhelm us. The bilateral and trilateral diplomatic mechanisms are not enough as the past three years have shown. A more multilateral approach is required, if only to keep the main players (the National Alliance, the Taliban, Pakistan and the US) on the path to a negotiated settlement. Right now we are in a dangerous limbo, all the main players sharpening their knives for yet another decade of mayhem.

Economic free fall ahead

Dr Muhammad Yaqub There is a near-unanimous professional view outside official circles that the economy is in a very bad shape. The political leadership is unable or unwilling to understand the depth of the economic troubles and is busy with its usual business, as if all is well on the economic front. For public consumption, government representatives talk about becoming self-reliant or depending on trade rather than aid, without evolving a strategy to do so. The government promises to control inflation without developing a concrete plan to limit domestic bank borrowing for deficit-financing. There is a daily promise to reduce unemployment without a coherent and consistent policy framework meant to promote private investment and economic growth. We hear talk about pursuit of an independent foreign policy and strong national defence, without the realisation that they are impossible amid a decaying economy. In short, the political leadership is trying to build a castle in the air and a fools’ paradise, promising the people to take them there out of the hell of their daily economic miseries. The technocrats hired to give politicians a sound professional advice are either unable to explain the real state of the economy to them or the politicians pay no attention to the views of their professional advisers, who even then hold on to their positions to enjoy associated perks and privileges. In their presence, and even through them, the government continues to spend without restraint by borrowing from the domestic banking system, including the State Bank of Pakistan, and incurring more external debt on increasingly harsher terms. The country is being mortgaged. We are used to the unfulfilled promises of politicians, but it is unfortunate that even the technocrats hired to do a professional job are acting like politicians. There is a general tendency on their part to depict a rosy picture of a gloomy economic situation, based on twisted facts, false hopes and empty promises. The most recent example is that of the finance minister (who is an economist by profession) informing the nation that the comfortable level of foreign exchange reserves has led the government to withdraw from the IMF programme with no fear of external debt default or adverse economic consequences. When the IMF programme was operational and people were suffering, they were led to believe that their economic hardships were mainly due to the tough conditionality of the IMF. Now when the IMF programme has been terminated, and people’s sufferings continue unabated, they are being misled that the economy is on its way to recovery and all will be well. There could be nothing farther from truth. History has also been a poor teacher for the economic managers in Pakistan. Both in 1994 and 2007, when foreign exchange reserves went up temporarily for exogenous reasons, the governments decided to pull out of IMF programmes with self-created illusions and poor advice of their immediate advisers. After a very short period, the government ended up back in the IMF’s lap on their terms. The current economic team of the government has also made a similar decision. Unable to persuade the political leaders to undertake the necessary economic reforms that would have kept the IMF programme operational they have pre-emptively disengaged from the IMF claiming victory for themselves over the IMF. They are likely to repeat history on their watch once again. The economic team has not found it necessary to tell the nation the truth that foreign exchange reserves have increased due to substantial borrowing from the IMF and other international financial institutions, bilateral loans and cash reimbursements by the US tied with Pakistan’s role in the Afghan war, unusually high export proceeds reflecting a high level of world cotton prices and unusually high inflow of remittances unrelated to government policies. All of these are nonrecurring and reversible factors, and in some areas reversal has already begun. It is an unsustainable situation without strong policy action and change of direction in economic management. From now onwards, there would be a net outflow to the IMF in the absence of a programme, other creditors would need to be paid while their disbursement levels will decline, export growth may be nominal and remittance inflows will remain uncertain. With market psychology turning negative, speculative holding of dollars will increase and foreign exchange reserves will decline at a steady pace. Once market panic sets in, the decline in reserves will accelerate. With the termination of the IMF programme, there is a more urgent need, not less, to address the structural economic problems to halt a further slide of the economy. The public needs to be taken into confidence about the forthcoming economic hardship for it to be prepared for more sacrifices if we have indeed decided to stand on our own feet. In the absence of an operational fund programme, there will be a decline in the net foreign financing of the budget from what was expected and budgeted, mandating more austerity in expenditure and a bigger domestic resource mobilisation effort. But given its track record, it is inconceivable that the government would be prepared and able to take tough additional revenue generating and expenditure reducing measures. The more likely scenario is that the government will engage in excessive spending on the eve of elections. The rising expenditure in the context of a fall in the net external financing of the budget will be financed by more domestic borrowing. This borrowing will mostly be from the State Bank and commercial banks which, in turn, will accelerate the rate of inflation and depreciation of the exchange rate. In its own turn, the depreciation will add to inflation, speculative holding of dollars and a further deterioration in the fiscal situation due to a rise in foreign debt servicing in rupee terms, completing a vicious circle. Inflation is taxation on the poor to subsidise the rich. Hence, economic disparity will widen and social tensions will mount. People’s trust in the local currency will decline and dollarisation, commodity hoarding and real-estate investments will be used as a hedge against inflation by those who can afford to do so. The other segments of society will begin to move towards the poverty line, if they are not already there. Ultimately all these developments will lead to political instability and social and economic chaos. If such a chaos is to be averted, it is important that the government undertakes prompt structural economic reforms. It should be understood that status quo is not a viable option. Those policy measures have been discussed in details in the print media, in TV talk shows and in drawing-room conversations. We have crossed the stage of discussions and the government needs to take concrete action if the economy is to be saved from freefall.

PCB after Ijaz Butt

Khalid Hussain Pakistan cricket had been crying out for change soon after Ijaz Butt took over as its chief in late 2008. Its prayers were finally heard last Tuesday when President Asif Zardari decided against giving Butt an extension and instead appointed Chaudhry Zaka Ashraf as the new chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Whether it’s the sort of change Pakistan’s cricket community was praying for is questionable. Only time will tell whether Ashraf, who had been serving as president of the Zarai Taraqqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL), manages to deliver at a time when Pakistan cricket is facing gigantic challenges on various fronts. Is Ashraf the right man to guide Pakistan cricket out of the current crisis? What we do know is that he has no cricketing credentials. It seems that Ashraf’s biggest asset is his close association with Zardari, who as PCB’s chief patron has the authority to hire or fire the board’s chairman. In that way, Ashraf reminds me of his namesake Nasim Ashraf, who preceded Ijaz Butt as PCB chief. Ashraf was handpicked by former president Pervez Musharraf only because of his close association with the general. But it’s unfair to rule anybody out without first giving him a try. Just hours after taking over as PCB chairman, Ashraf uttered all the right words. He talked about helping Pakistan regain its rightful place in international cricket. He promised to work for the return of international matches to our country. He talked about ending corruption and promoting unity within the team. He talked about promoting merit and developing a culture where winning matters more than anything else. Sounds promising? He does, but at the end of the day it’s just words. For Pakistan cricket, it will be Ashraf’s actions that will really matter. Once he takes over as PCB chief, Ashraf’s first few steps will be vital. For the best part of the last decade or so, PCB has resembled a ship sinking under its own weight. With an inflated staff, the board ends up spending more on its own operational costs than on the sport itself. Many of PCB’s senior officials are there thanks to their close association with Butt. Others are there because Butt won’t opt for competent people to replace them. Almost all of them are yes-men who wouldn’t dare raise their voices even as Butt made disastrous decisions during his three-year tenure. Many of them are almost as old as the 73-year-old Butt himself. It remains to be seen whether Ashraf persists with any of them, or lets them go. It also remains to be seen whether he too follows in Butt’s footsteps and appoints handpicked people, on his whims and fancies, to help him run Pakistan cricket. The fact of the matter is that Pakistan cricket cannot afford to suffer another Butt-like disaster. Ashraf should be well aware of the fact that Pakistan cricket is in neck-deep crisis. He comes at a time when a hearing related to last year’s spot-fixing trial in is full swing in a London court. The “evidence” being presented there against some of Pakistan’s leading cricketers, both from the past and present, is making headlines around the globe. That’s not all. International teams are refusing to visit Pakistan because of security concerns. We are hosting our matches on offshore venues, and that’s really costing us. If there ever was a time for a 180-degree change in Pakistan cricket, it is now. What PCB needs is a competent set of officials who are capable enough to make positive things happen. Ashraf should find people with the best available credentials and let them put the house in order. As an all-powerful chairman, he should exercise his authority only when it is really needed. There should be professionals to take care of the day-to-day business. The supporters of Ijaz Butt and his policies, though overwhelmingly outnumbered by his critics, used to argue that during his tenure Pakistan did reasonably well on the field. Pakistan won the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 title in England and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Champions Trophy, the 2010 World Twenty20 and the 2011 World Cup. This is certainly a fact, but that doesn’t mean Butt’s policies, which used to be irrational more often than not, enabled Pakistan to do well in those events. The results were mostly achieved on the basis of the sheer individual brilliance of players like Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi. Younis and Afridi joined hands as captain and vice-captain to help Pakistan lift the Twenty20 crown. Just weeks after that memorable triumph, Younis was deserted by Butt at a time when he was facing a mini-revolt within his own team. Less than two years later, Afridi suffered from a similar fate when he was axed as captain just weeks after he almost single-handedly shepherded Pakistan into the semi-finals of the World Cup. Even if Butt had any direct contribution to those results, the positives during his era were few and far between. In any case, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

The new brass on the block

Wajahat S Khan The game is on. Not the brash politicking from Raiwind that promises to dismantle the Presidency. Not the unscrupulous ingenuity from the Presidency that has muzzled the MQM back into the fold. Not from the Supreme Court as it tries to throw its weight around in Karachi. And not from Kabul, or New Delhi either, where Hamid Karzai and Manmohan Singh have matured a strategic pact in half the time of a human pregnancy. No, those are all little games. In Islamabad – correction, Rawalpindi – there is only one game in town. And it’s called the Promotion Game. Up for grabs are stars...preferably four, but three will work too. And if they’re made of brass, then the political alchemy for converting khaki cotton into the armour-plating of power becomes so much more easier. Here’s the backgrounder: General Ashfaq Kayani is set to retire (for a second time) in November 2013. That’s when his office will be available for occupancy. But till that moment arrives, like any bureaucracy – and the army is Pakistan’s biggest, even most politicised one – the ‘grooming’ and placement of his subordinates is key for the operational efficacy as well as internal dynamism of the institution he commands. Kayani’s latest move – the promotion of four major generals to the rank of lieutenant general – is a critical indicator of what lies next for Pakistan’s most powerful institution. Who’s going to be Spook-in-Chief (DG-ISI)? Or the guy who keeps all the brass connected (chief of General Staff)? Who’s going to be GHQ’s record-keeper (military secretary)? Or the man who will fight with (or talk to) the Taliban (commander XI Corps)? Which general shall keep the Americans out of Quetta while ensuring Baloch separatists are suppressed (commander XII Corps)? What about the chap who watches the nukes (commander Strategic Forces), or the one who keeps India busy across the LoC (commander X Corps) while keeping his ‘Coup Brigade’ (the ‘111’) oiled and ready? And let’s never, ever forget the next probable for the COAS title. So let’s war-game what Kayani is thinking. He’s got several immediate (operational/tactical) and a larger (strategic) responsibility pending for keeping his institution loyal and intact; keep fighting Pakistan’s multiple conflicts (which alphabetically and incompletely are: Afghanistan, Balochistan, CIA, drones, economy, Fata, floods, IAEA, India, Kashmir, Karachi) but keep the army reigning supreme. Ambitious as that goal may be, Kayani will need his house to be in order. Thus, with the latest batch of promotions, the COAS has been conservative and not broken precedent. He has overlooked all the 2-stars from the Corps of Engineers who were due for promotion, preferring to supersede them instead. This decision has worked out politically too, as the leader of the seniority list, Maj-Gen Junaid Rehmat, the DG-NLC, has been the subject of the recent flak attack by Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s Public Accounts Committee. Thus, Kayani has preferred to play it safe: Supporting Arms (like the Engineers, to which Rehmat belongs), are usually given less love at the highest levels, primarily to ensure the elitism of the Fighting Arms. It’s the way the Pak Army has always worked. So, Kayani has played by the rules. But the resumes of his choice all reflect the political complications of the intra-GHQ chess-match. Vice Chief of General Staff, Maj-Gen (now Lt-Gen.) Nasser Janjua, a former director military operations, was a wise choice. As the most senior fighting-arm representative (from the Punjab Regiment), he was hailed a tactical genius as GOC of the 17th Infantry Division, Kharian (the formation operated in Swat District from the crucial phase of November 2007 to December 2008). Janjua is a thinking soldier, and earned his spurs long before the success of his well-crafted Operation Rah-e-Haq. He’s got the seniority along with all the right postings and battle honours. Kayani promoting him was simply the ‘right thing’ to do, as it covers the meritocratic angle. However, Janjua has not been dispatched to a new posting yet. That means a coveted office will have to be emptied to accommodate him. Lt-Gen Asif Yasin Malik, who has been leading Peshawar’s XI Corps, might be shifted to GHQ as CGS, a position that incumbent Lt-Gen Waheed Arshad is expected to rotate out of soon, probably for a Corps posting that suits his Armour background. Janjua would be natural fit in Peshawar, and him getting Malik’s office will keep the Pentagon at bay as well, for he has been documented in Washington as a trailblazer in counterinsurgency operations. Alternatively, Janjua could get ‘groomed’ for a possible 4-star role, which would require him to be operationally familiar with both sides of the border. Thus, his trajectory could replicate that of Lt-Gen Tariq Khan, who’s been appreciated internationally as a war-hero for his work with the Frontier Corps and the 14th Infantry Division. Since his performance in Fata, Khan has been moved east and awarded the India-centric I Corps in Mangla, one of Pakistan’s two “strike” formations. Expect him to be rotated back into GHQ as a Principal Staff Officer for his own run for COAS, as him getting two Corps commands would be rare, even unprecedented. But regardless of the job-matrix, keep your radar on for Malik, Arshad, Khan and Janjua. They’re all among the finalists who could get 4-stars stitched to their shoulders. Gallantry, however, is not the only qualifier in this game. Barring those superseded, the newly promoted Lt-Gen Tariq Gilani has been quickly accommodated. Unlike the pending office for Janjua, Gilani’s immediate appointment is an example of Kayani’s ‘continuity’ doctrine. Also at display is the COAS’s ‘safe hands’ approach, for Gilani was stationed as the GOC of the 22nd Division in Sargodha, where he was also responsible for the 47th Artillery Brigade (an original among the few reputedly nuclear-capable formations). Thus, Gilani has been kept ‘within the system’ and placed in charge of the Army Strategic Forces Command: Yes, the nukes – at least some of the land-based delivery systems. In effect, this Gunner (he’s from the relevant Fighting Arm, Artillery) was already in the ‘asset management’ business for the army. His immediate appointment and its announcement is a signal to all: the bombs (some of them, for sure) are in safe, familiar, even academic hands. But remember that the ASFC is not regarded as a top-tier posting. Gilani will probably not press the red button when things go ballistic, though he will have some of the coordinates to shoot his birds at. Also, his political CV is, internationally, very acceptable, for he is a graduate of US Army War College (where he extensively researched Pak-American military ties) and served as commandant of the Armed Forces War College in Islamabad. But there is a personal angle to the appointment of Pakistan’s new nuke commander: he is a schoolmate, if not a school-chum, of Kayani himself (both are graduates of Military College Jhelum). However, in case someone shouts nepotism, the COAS can keep those charges down to a minimum, primarily because Gilani does have the credentials. Kayani’s next two choices have institutional patronage written all over them. Both are ‘young’ major-generals, (from the second batch of 2008) compared to the other two, but both promotions have incredibly different backgrounds. Artilleryman Lt-Gen Ijaz Chaudhry just served as DG-Rangers in Sindh, where he essentially delivered the message of the army to the civilians: without being granted adequate powers, his forces will just stay put. Just like he made his 14th Infantry Division settle back down in Okara after the hell that was Operation Zalzala, Chaudhry ably secured the operational aim of Karachi’s V Corps think-tank: keep mum, till they beg you to return. Temporarily sidelined by the chief justice of Pakistan for the Sarfaraz Shah killing scandal, Chaudhry waited in the bullpen till his comeback was easily spun as an ‘at your service’ move when things really went south in the city by the sea. Promoting him is a message in simple soduku from the army to all and sundry: that despite a political showdown with a major branch of government, you can still get 3 stars. Just follow your damn orders. Also interesting to note is that versus Janjua and Gilani, Chaudhry has made it so far because he carries the ‘Made-by-Kayani’ brand, as the decision for his promotion to 2-star rank was made in 2008, when the first selection board was chaired by a then newly appointment, chain-smoking COAS. To have come this far, despite the complications in Karachi, Chaudhry has probably cost Kayani a few cartons of well-filtered cigarettes. Interestingly, his promotion has not been simultaneously announced with a posting; that means Rawalpindi’s Biggest Gun is still thinking hard about placement. Expect to hear more about Chaudhry, the not-so-lone Ranger. But the appointment of Lt-Gen Naveed Zaman, currently Chief Instructor B-Division at the National Defence University, requires particular attention. Zaman’s brother-in-law, Brigadier Moeenuddin Ahmad, was killed by assailants in October 2009, who ambushed him along with his driver and guard in Islamabad, attacking their jeep with automatic weapons in broad daylight. A probable cause was that Maj-Gen Zaman was holding a key operational position in Waziristan then, for as GOC of the historic 7th Infantry Division, he was in the midst of launching the critical Operation Rah-e-Nijat that very same month. If that connection caused the killing, then Zaman’s service and plight didn’t go unnoticed. As an alumnus of Cadet College Hassan Abdal, he enjoys the company of a strong old-boys network in the recent and current GHQ and the JCSC Secretariat: Lt-Gen. Khalid Shameem Wynne (CJCSC), Lt-Gen Masood Aslam (former commander XI Corps), Lt-Gen Shujaat Zamir Dar (just retired POF chairman) and the man who till recently pushed all the files in the right direction, Lt-Gen Mohsin Kamal (MS and former commander X Corps); All those Abdalian connections, along with the COAS who had personally promoted him to 2-stars, helped ensure that Zaman be honoured with a safer but respectable ‘desk-job’ as commandant of the NDU. As he is a ‘consensus candidate’, representing the fraternity of the army, the announcement of Zaman’s immediate appointment as MS indicates that future selection boards, though chaired by Kayani, will make promotions that carry the distributed weight of the round-table of Pakistan’s khaki knights. So, sizing up Pakistan’s new brass on the block, the COAS’s office politics show that he is increasingly going to make future decisions in a way outgoing generals tend to – or are forced to: as first, among equals. The writer is a former Shorenstein Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a broadcast/online journalist. Email: wajahat _khan@hks.harvard.edu

Sep 23, 2011

Mastung carnage

Harris Khalique After the Mastung carnage the other day when people were dismounted from the bus, lined up and shot, followed by attacks on the attendants of the injured and mourners of the deceased in Quetta, I am really worried about the safety and security of Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum and Allama Iqbal’s tomb. Twenty-nine Shia Muslims belonging to the Hazara community of Balochistan lost their lives. Many are wounded. This was not the first time. Shia Muslims in the length and breadth of Pakistan, from Gilgit to Karachi, are being targeted in general. But those belonging to the Hazara community have taken the brunt in the last few years. They are continuously threatened, attacked and killed. Some say that the cause of this violence against the Dari-speaking Hazaras is rooted in the conflict between the Taliban and the protégé of the erstwhile northern alliance in today’s Afghanistan. Others blame it on the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran being waged in our country for years unending. Some also say it is the Jundullah, the separatists from Iranian Balochistan who have adopted a certain religious hue. Then the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, ingrained in the interior of Punjab but now spread all over, takes the blame. Without a doubt no one is spared in the killing fields of Pakistan. Sunni Muslims of different denominations are killed in their mosques, Christian churches and neighbourhoods are torched, Hindus are hounded out of Muslim areas if their children drink water from the same tap, Ahmadis are killed while saying their prayers, Pakhtuns, Baloch, Sindhis, Punjabis, Mohajirs, Seraikis, Hazarawals of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, all fight each other under the banner of different political outfits. School buses are attacked, houses and hotels are blown up, offices are ransacked, markets are bombed. However, Shias are being identified and killed indiscriminately for many years by no one else but their own countrymen. Be they doctors in Karachi, worshippers in Quetta, processionists in Hangu, passengers in Talagang, bystanders in Gilgit-Baltistan, they are all targeted. There is a newly found passion among a certain segment of Pakistanis for correcting the path our ancestors treaded and purifying our customs and rituals of any adulteration brought about by the spreading of Islam in the non-Arab world. That path is no other than the Saudi path. But something that always intrigues me is that it took the Arabs 1300 years to raze the graveyard of the family and companions of the Prophet (PBUH) in Medina to cleanse the faith from impurities. I would just want to come back to where I started. Why is the Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum in danger? Because Mohammed Ali Jinnah was born into a predominantly Ismaili family, got married the Shia Isna Ashri way and offered his prayers with Sunni Muslims. And something that I have shared once before about Shorish Kashmiri asking him if he was a Shia or a Sunni, to which he responded, “Was our Prophet Shia or Sunni?” Likewise, Iqbal says about himself in his poem Zuhd Aur Rindi (Piety and Profanity), “Suntey hain keh uss mein haiy tashayyo bhi zara sa... Tafzeel-i-Ali hum ney suni uss ki zabani (People say that there is a Shia tinge in his beliefs... He speaks of the primacy of Hazrat Ali). Iqbal’s son Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal quoted his father once, “I belong to the Ahl-i-Sunnat-Wal-Jama’at (Sunni sect) but in my view those who do not love and revere the Ahl-i-Bait (the members of the house of the Prophet) cannot be true Muslims.” So what do you think readers, are the resting places of the Quaid and Iqbal safe?

Pakistan at a crossroads again

Shafqat Mahmood The Haqqani network is like a bone stuck in our throats: can’t spit it out, can’t swallow it. With the US pressure ramped up to a level where threats of military strikes plus boots on the ground are being trotted out, the Pakistani leadership is at a crossroads. The choices with their pros and cons are anything but simple. Mount an attack on North Waziristan, where the Haqqani network allegedly has safe havens, and risk coalescing all Pashtun groups in Afghanistan against the Pakistani state. This would mean actually turning all Afghan ethnicities against Pakistan because the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and others of the Northern Alliance already hate us. We have enough on our plate handling a tense relationship with India in the east. A hostile Afghanistan, with no one standing up for normal relations with Pakistan, would become a serious headache. The impact of such a development in the war against militancy within the country could also be significant. The Pakistani Taliban are already creating enough trouble. If they get the support of the Afghan Taliban, who have so far kept a distance if not been actually discouraging, and of other armed groups in Fata, who have been neutralised so far, it would create a near insurmountable challenge. The reluctance of the Pakistani leadership to take on the Haqqani network through a dangerous incursion into North Waziristan is thus understandable. But, this does create the risk of a possible conflict with the might of the US military. I still think the risk of an outright invasion by the US of North Waziristan is a remote possibility. Even air attacks through warplanes are unlikely because they create more media noise than drone attacks. And just after bombing another Muslim country, Libya, the third in the last 10 years after Afghanistan and Iraq, the US is unlikely to risk more negative publicity globally. Boots on the ground also seem unlikely because it is not enough to come in and do a hit and run. It would not damage anyone, other than Pakistan’s sovereignty, which would have its own consequences. But if ground were to be held, it would mean heavy deployment in a difficult region for an indeterminate period. The US public is not ready for it and perhaps America’s financial troubles make another long-term military involvement unfeasible. Drone attacks can and will be ramped up causing far greater damage and civilian casualties but they will not solve the problem. So, the choices are not easy for the US either. It would much rather lean heavily on Pakistan and make it do something that it is unable to do. It is understandable that all nations only look at their own interests. And the US interest in the Afghan game today is for Pakistan to become an active military partner and attack its enemies who are allegedly taking refuge on Pakistani soil. If this creates problems for it, than it is not the American’s headache. They have to look after their own interests and not bother too much about those of others. The intense US focus on the Haqqani group is surprising. Is this the only problem standing between it and victory in Afghanistan? The Haqqani network is important and has been for many years. It played a useful role in the war against the Soviets, with US support, and later controlled Paktika and Khost provinces of Afghanistan. Yet, it was never in the forefront during the Taliban rule with Jalaluddin Haqqani holding a minor cabinet post dealing with tribal affairs. Even now, the overall control of the Afghan resistance against the US is with the Taliban leadership headed by Mullah Omar. The fighting in Helmand and other Afghan provinces that has been so troublesome for the Americans is led by the Taliban. The Haqqani group plays an important role in particular areas, Paktika, Paktia and Khost and because of its proximity to Kabul has the capability to launch attacks in the Afghan capital. This is indeed very annoying for the Americans – and for the Afghans – but does it follow that this group is the only reason for US failures in Afghanistan? Or indeed, is Pakistan’s lack of action in North Waziristan the only thing standing between the US and victory? Any serious analysis of the issues the Americans face in Afghanistan would show that it is not so. Pakistan’s involvement can be helpful but not decisive. In the process it would be seriously destabilised and would have to deal with grave problems long after the Americans have tired of the conflict and left. In a rational world, it would be enough to make a solid argument for others to accept your point of view but this is a world of power camouflaged in plausible justifications to control the media narrative. Pakistan’s argument will not be accepted because the more powerful interlocutor has the luxury to consider only its interests. It is also useful in an election year in the US to have a scapegoat and blame whatever failures there are on it. Pakistan finds itself in this difficult position right now. It has little choice but to do something. There is of course the dangling carrot too because if one does the US bidding there are plenty of goodies in the shape of bilateral and multilateral aid. It is not easy to scoff at this in times of serious economic troubles. The time may have come to lay down a principle. Make it very clear to the Afghan groups be it the Taliban or the Haqqani network that we can no longer afford to allow them to use Pakistan as a base to attack Americans or Nato and Afghan government troops. If they have to fight, they should do so from within Afghanistan. In other words, they should shift their bases, if they have any, out of Pakistan. Sirajuddin Haqqani has already declared that his troops are based in Afghanistan and not Pakistan. To make this assertion visibly plausible Pakistan must occupy any of the ungoverned spaces as it did in South Waziristan. The time thus may have come to make a well publicised push into North Waziristan. The impression that this area is not within Pakistani government control has to be reversed. The Americans will have to understand that militant groups in these areas who are cooperating with the Pakistani state will have to be tolerated, with the proviso that they will no longer go across the border to launch attacks. This strategy is fraught with consequences but if carefully handled can navigate a middle path that can yield positive results. It is also time that the so-called terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan is taken out as an excuse for the American failures in Afghanistan. In return, we should also seek zero tolerance for Pakistani militants based in Afghanistan and of course complete normalisation, indeed positive returns for the continuing friendship with the US.

Palestinian statehood and US veto

Alefia T Hussain “Tell President Obama: ENOUGH. It’s time to stand with Israel.” That’s a full page ad appearing in Monday Sept 19’s The New York Times paid for by the Emergency Committee for Israel. It accuses Obama of building “a record that is not pro-Israel”, and suggests five steps towards a promise to be a “staunch and reliable” friend of the Jewish state. At the end is, “Tell them: Enough. It’s time to stand with Israel.” It came as a prelude; a pressure tactic in political parlance, four days ahead of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s bid to seek recognition of a Palestinian state from the United Nations. But hasn’t the Obama administration displayed clear intent to veto the move; so why a full page ad? Why this nervousness? The ad aside, the debate on the Palestinian statehood in the US is heating up. Newspapers are abuzz with the issue since the start of this week. Among international stories, it is already ranked sixth, behind the war in Afghanistan, the overall unrest in the Middle East (mostly Libya and Syria), the European debt crisis, the saga involving the two American hikers held in Iran and the UBS rogue trader. “I would expect the Palestinian statehood issue to generate considerably more coverage this week,” says Mark Jurkowitz, associate director Project for Excellence in Journalism. In New York, the debate is likely to dominate the ongoing 66th United Nations General Assembly session. President Abbas is expected to present a letter requesting full membership for an independent state of Palestine, comprising the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem captured by Israel in 1967, to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday. Ban will pass the letter on to the Security Council. Palestinians are trying to expedite the recognition, and they believe the quickest way is through the Security Council. The Palestinian request will have to be approved by nine of 15 Security Council members. It is most likely to be supported by Security Council members Russia, China and Britain. The US continues to believe in and is pressing the point that the only way to a two-state solution is through negotiations. Contrarily, the experts in media circles in the US view the Palestinian effort as nothing more than symbolic – yet compelling. “...the proposal is fair, and it speaks to the legal-minded, peaceful aspects of the Arab Spring,” writes Steve Coll in The New Yorker. He adds, “Under international law, the Palestinian case is strong but not airtight.” Referring to the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, which requires a state to have a permanent population, a defined territory, government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states, he comments, “Palestine – the West Bank and Gaza, as mapped by the 1967 pre-war border with Israel – possesses the first three. Yet the unresolved divide between Hamas, which rules Gaza and seeks Israel’s overthrow and Palestinian Authority , which holds the West Bank and accepts Israel in principle, casts doubt on a combined Palestine’s ability to act coherently.” So, based on the Convention, the Palestinian Authority does not qualify for recognition as a state, and “concomitantly, it does not qualify for UN membership, which is open only to states,” write David B Rivkin and Lee A Casey in the Sept 21 issue of The Wall Street Journal. They further argue that the UN – General Assembly or Security Council – has no power to create states or to grant all-important formal ‘recognition’ to state aspirants. “The right to recognise statehood is a fundamental attribute of sovereignty and the United Nation is not a sovereign.” Irrespective of the legal case against the Palestinian statehood, the stakes for the Obama administration in this battle are high. With a tough re-election next year, by withholding the US veto, Obama will “jeopardise his support among the American backers of Israel. But by using it, Obama will further weaken US standing in the Middle East, where popular uprising have unleashed anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment that US backed dictators held in check for decades,” comment Lesley Clark, Sheera Frenkel and Jonathan S Landay for the McClatchy Newspapers. A UN vote on the Palestinian statehood may be the only way to save the Jewish state, writes Trudy Rubin for The Philadelphia Inquirer. She thinks, as Israelis know well, “their entire region is in flux in ways that make them very nervous”. The status quo has crumbled in most Arab countries, and it will not last in the West Bank and Gaza. “Many Palestinians (and much of the “street” in Arab states that are undergoing upheaval) have given up on the idea of two states. So have most Israelis. Yet the death of the two-state concept and the peace process that went with it creates existential dangers for the Jewish state.” For the moment there’s anxiety: will the veto take place? Will it land in the General Assembly? But certainly the Palestinian state must come into existence – eventually.

Is this a price worth paying?

Brian Cloughley In the course of research for a paper on US-Pakistan relations I came across a speech given by President Obama in March this year, titled ‘A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan’. It was interesting and quite informative, if misguided and engagingly ingenuous, but the fascinating sentence that leapt from the page to my astonished eyes was the declaration that “The United States of America did not choose to fight a war in Afghanistan.” It’s a bit like being told “Hitler didn’t cause World War Two”, or reading a newspaper headline such as “Republican Politician Tells Truth” or “Gaza is Earthly Paradise.” But the Obama assertion was even further removed from reality. Nobody grabbed America’s collective nose and ordered it to send special forces to go to Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region on October 7, 2001, along with a few dozen British colleagues and a now-rich bunch of raggy baggy Afghan warlords who took millions of CIA dollars in enormous shrink-wrapped bundles and then sat down on their money and did nothing. The prime mover in that farce (for such it was, alas, in spite of instances of exceptionally courageous conduct by US and British soldiers; I have had a first-hand description of the operation, but alas can’t recount it because of the UK’s Official Secrets Act), was the White House. The pathetic Blair of Britain followed in his usual fashion, desperate to have bonding photographs taken alongside the grinning Bush. It was most certainly the United States of America that chose to invade Afghanistan. And it was the United States that manipulated the United Nations Security Council into a resolution that seemed to give justification for its unwinnable war. Two researchers in the British House of Commons have produced a paper titled ‘The Legal Basis for the Invasion of Afghanistan’. These analysts are not bleeding-heart liberals; they are intelligent, independent assessors of fact. And they wrote: “The military campaign in Afghanistan was not specifically mandated by the UN -there was no specific Security Council Resolution authorising the invasion – but was widely (although not universally) perceived to be a legitimate form of self-defence under the UN Charter.” The whole thing was a con-job. And dozens of nations were summoned to give it a slimy veneer of quasi-legitimacy. They were all duped – or chose to be manoeuvred – into committing blood, young lives and treasure to the preposterously named “Operation Enduring Freedom.” While writing this piece I went to the website icasualties and saw that yet more young foreign soldiers had been killed. Boys of 19 and 20 are dying in Afghanistan for...for what? There are no names of Afghan soldiers, of course, because they don’t matter to the West – any more than the deaths of Pakistani soldiers matter to Western politicians and generals who demand that “Pakistan must do more to combat terrorism.” What they mean is that even more soldiers of the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps should sacrifice their lives in order to make it easier for the West to claim that things are improving in its Afghan debacle. Had there been no invasion of Afghanistan by foreign troops, Pakistan would not be in the dreadful situation in which it now finds itself. The fanatics came over the border and found sanctuary amid the lawless but culturally hospitable tribes, which at that very time were being encouraged, with signs of modest success, to join mainstream Pakistan. But the displaced militants began energetic campaigns of propaganda and hatred, and then wreaked havoc by brainwashing home-grown barbarians to develop their own brand of evil mayhem. Pakistan had no suicide bombings until 1995 when an Egyptian citizen tried to drive a bomb-truck into his embassy in Islamabad. There were no other attacks until 2005, when there were two, by sectarian religious fanatics. But then the foreigners’ war in Afghanistan really got going, and in 2007 there were over 50 suicide attacks in Pakistan, most of which directly targeted military forces. Since then it’s been a hideous growth industry. Last year 50 bombings killed over 1100 people, and so far this year the score is 500 dead innocents. Thank you, Operation Enduring Freedom. And thank you, too, America, for the deaths of over 3,000 soldiers of the army and Frontier Corps, because none of them would have been killed were it not for your war in Afghanistan. Kabul’s fraudulently elected government and its supporting foreign forces whine about Pakistan being unable to control movement of militants to and from Afghanistan, and certainly it is impossible to do this – as the US well knows but won’t admit. Across its own fenced and heavily patrolled border with Mexico, which costs an annual six billion dollars to maintain and has over 20,000 border agents, pass hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants every year. Ignoring its own backyard cross-border shambles, the US demands that Pakistan commit its soldiers to invade North Waziristan to fight militants who – undoubtedly – cross the border to Afghanistan to fight there. This operation – or, rather, long series of operations, because it would take years – would require some 60,000 soldiers, of whom a thousand would be killed in a two-year campaign. There would be at least 3,000 Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps soldiers wounded, with hundreds of them maimed for life. There would be thousands of widows, orphans and grieving parents and families. The aim of the US and its dwindling number of international supporters in Afghanistan is not further stability in Pakistan – because a North Waziristan military operation would mightily increase the numbers of suicide and other attacks throughout the country. Their objective is to make it easier for them to claim that their war is going well, as part of President Obama’s ‘New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ Does Pakistan think this is a price worth paying? Currently the US is threatening to invade Pakistan rather than endorse ongoing negotiations with militants in Fata. The intention was made clear when defence secretary Panetta, referring to Pakistan’s supposed support of militant operations in Afghanistan, declared that “We’re not going to allow these types of attacks to go on.” I’ve got news for Panetta. If he imagines the Pakistan Army will be a pushover like the Iraqis, he should think again. If US forces attempt an invasion of North Waziristan they will meet reaction not only from militants but from an army which will not accept flagrant violation of national sovereignty. I know the Pakistan Army, and I state flatly that man-for-man it will hammer any opponent, no matter if the skies are horizon-filled with US bombers. Does America think this is a price worth paying?

Until they ‘bluff our call’

Mehreen Zahra-Malik “I eat US threats for breakfast.” Would it be so far-fetched to imagine a top Pakistani general thinking this as he sat down to breakfast Thursday morning? News had just rolled in that a US Senate committee had voted to make aid to Pakistan conditional on going after the Haqqani network. All week long, across-the-board ultimatums of unilateral action were heard from the highest sanctums of the US administration. The voice of the tiny minority in the US government still willing to sympathise with Pakistan had lowered to a mousey squeak. What was going through General Kayani’s mind in the midst of this? The prime minister, often dangerously flippant, told journalists recently, “Now, it’s time that they [United States] do more.” The quip was ironic. ‘Doing more’ is precisely what the Americans are threatening to do. Unilateral action is, after all, a form of ‘doing more.’ And there is one other thing just as expensive in international relations as threats when they fail: promises when they succeed. This time round, it seems, there’s a promise wrapped up in the threats that Pakistan has since long learnt to shrug off with a scoff. So, will a Pakistan used to American cage-rattling consider this impasse any different from the last one? The old hands – retired generals, former emissaries, jaded journalists – will all tell you the same thing: There’s a huge chasm between total breakdown and positive engagement and Pak-US ties will continue to hover somewhere over this vast murkiness. The Americans want to enlarge the operational and tactical space to pursue their strategic goals in Af-Pak and bullying Pakistan is one way to do it. They used the same approach two months ago and two years ago and in the larger strategic scheme of things they haven’t gotten very far. No need to panic. Are they right? Maybe not. In at least two respects, this stalemate is conspicuously different. One, the good cops and the bad cops are all speaking with one voice. Hilary Clinton, who has come to the rescue whenever others in the administration have sought to haul Pakistan, was severe in her advice to Hina Rabbani Khar this week: Pakistan was fast losing friends in Washington, including herself. Sources extremely close to the meeting say Clinton was particularly frustrated about the concerted Pakistani campaign to downplay the money the US has been giving it. ‘What’s the point if even the carrot means nothing anymore?’ seems to have been the take-home message. That’s one good cop down. The other good cop, Admiral Mike Mullen, who has always been uncomfortable with the State Department’s short-term stupidities and CIA’s bravado, has also joined bad cop Leon Panetta in the tongue-lashing on links between the ISI and the Haqqanis. Then there’s Gen Petraeus, known for deliberately sending his men into hot pursuit of suspected Taliban fighters as part of a broader plan to test the Pakistani reaction before intensifying the US military campaign into Waziristan. Now, everyone is speaking the language of Gen Petraeus and this is what it sounds like: you can make your sovereign decisions, and so will we. Till now, the Americans have been able to bully and pressure Pakistan into helping them meet their immediate purpose. And that’s the second factor that sets this stalemate apart: this time round, the Americans are no longer just interested in an immediate purpose. How many CIA folks are allowed into Pakistan; how many trainers get visas; how many joint aid projects and counterintelligence raids are conducted – who cares about the minutiae? Pakistan has been fatally locked into a static strategic worldview and that is what needs to change. Enough tweaking and tuning. The US wants a fundamental shift now. The Pakistan army argues that a military operation in North Waziristan is a ‘problem of ‘capability.’ The Americans increasingly see it as a ‘problem of will.’ Behind closed doors, and ever more in front of the cameras, this is the argument: if the Pakistanis have the capability to help us catch senior Al Qaeda types, why can’t they rein in the Haqqanis? It’s a fair question. But all this is not to say the Americans will go for an operation in Wazirsitan. On that one, even those most plugged in say we’ll just have to wait and watch. But what we do know is that the options for Pakistan have tremendously shrunk. If we have influence over the Taliban, we should use it to bring them to the table; if we don’t have influence over them, we need to fight them – there is no third option. We can either use our sway to reconcile them or use our power to weaken them. Take them on, or take them to the table. Not convinced we’re capable of making the right choices when we need to? The Lashkar-e-Taiba was long considered one of the most important instruments of Pakistan’s foreign policy in the region. Could anyone have predicted Pakistan would arrest Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi as the foremost mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks? The idea of going after the Haqqanis occupies the same plane of unthinkability at the moment. But for how long? Right now, one can imagine the security establishment whispering into worried American ears: In the worst-case scenario, the very groups you’re most worried about now may be completely beyond our control later; the jihadists out of work after the coalition’s exit from Afghanistan will need something to keep themselves busy... So perhaps we’ll keep calling the United States’ bluff – but only until they bluff our call back.