Osama Bin Laden fiasco: the buck stops with the military —Dr Mohammad Taqi

– OBL fiasco: the buck stops with the military

The key issue is that the security establishment has shown no signs of course correction so far. From the bluster about a befitting response to a future Abbottabad-style attack to the attempted outing of the CIA’s Islamabad station chief, everything points towards a top brass set in its ways and unwilling to let go of its jihadist proxies.

The events of the last ten days have been as much amusing as they have been distressing. The Pakistani establishment has been running like a chicken with its head cut off. From an initial reaction that mixed denial with a desire to claim some credit for the death of the US’s enemy number one, the response has morphed into a wrangling within the ruling classes as well as posturing and digging in vis-à-vis the US.

While the establishment, and now the political government, has determined that there, ostensibly, is enough blame to go around the whole world and the intelligence agencies therein, the primary finger pointing continues between the military and the political elite. It reminds me of the game called ‘hot potato’ in which the kids pass around the hot potato — usually a ball — to the fast pace of music. The person holding the hot potato when the music stops, is out of the game. Apparently, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been ‘volunteered’ to hold the hot potato of the Osama bin Laden (OBL) fiasco for now.

In a complete about-turn from his statements of less than a month ago, the Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has suddenly discovered the importance of the civilians leading the charge on security issues. Asking the civvies to lead in the national security and foreign policy matters — really? Something is not right with this picture. This never happens unless the top brass is in thick soup. The 1965 Operation Gibraltar, the 1971 Dacca debacle, 1989 Jalalabad misadventure, and the 1999 Kargil disaster: as Yogi Berra would have said, it’s like déjà vu all over again!

In several addresses, including the one last month on the Martyrs’ Day (Yawm-e-Shuhada), General Kayani had made no mention whatsoever of the civilian government. And he was not just talking past them. He had been talking of a bond directly between the people and the army, with the political forces conveniently left out of the equation. Is it not interesting then that the army chief now “believes that the people of Pakistan need to be taken into confidence through their honorable elected representatives”? He has further “requested that strength of democracy must be put into effect to develop a consensus on important security issues, including war on terror. Articulation of a national response through parliament, under the circumstances, is the most effective way to let the world know the historic achievements of Pakistan against al Qaeda and its terror affiliates.” And in the vintage Pakistani Army style, the millstone will be finally put around parliament’s neck, as the general has also requested the “honorable prime minister, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, to kindly consider convening of a joint session of parliament for briefing on security issues as related to Abbottabad incident”.

In February 1989, the security establishment through the then ISI director, General Hamid Gul, gave an in-camera briefing to parliament. The nascent Benazir Bhutto government had been under severe pressure to steer clear of any interference in the foreign policy agenda set out by the establishment. The domestic pressure brought to bear on BB through a hostile provincial government in Punjab was intensified to get her to comply. The closed-doors briefing informed parliament that the ISI was about to unleash the Afghan mujahideen mercenaries on Jalalabad in March 1989 — a battle that ended in the rout of the jihadists. One of BB’s close lieutenants and perhaps her most powerful minister then, told me: “We decided to step aside and let the khakis have their way … to get them off our backs.” Unfortunately for the Pakistan People’s Party, neither could it shake the khakis off its back then, nor would it be able to do it now. And Pakistan continues to reap the whirlwind for the wind that Hamid Gul et al sowed in Afghanistan.

The civilian government is being blamed now for not taking interest in national security matters. The public memory may be short but we have not yet gone into collective amnesia to not remember the ruckus raised by the establishment and its media stooges to successfully block the placement of the ISI under civilian control in 2008. Similarly, the civilian government and Ambassador Hussain Haqqani were much maligned for ‘engineering’ the clauses in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, which called for civilian oversight of the US funding to the military. And lest we forget, the ambassador neither invited nor granted visas to OBL, Ayman al-Zawahri, Mullah Omar, Tahir Yuldeshev, the Haqqani network and thousands of jihadists roaming in Pakistan.

The question however is not just whether the civilian leadership should extend a lifeline to a junta on the ropes for reasons over which the politicians never had any control. The key issue is that the security establishment has shown no signs of course correction so far. From the bluster about a befitting response to a future Abbottabad-style attack to the attempted outing of the CIA’s Islamabad station chief, everything points towards a top brass set in its ways and unwilling to let go of its jihadist proxies. The embarrassment does not appear to be about lying but about getting caught lying. All indications are that the wiggle room left by the world powers is being squandered through misplaced swagger.

At minimum, the public deserves to know that there has been an undeclared policy of pursuing foreign policy objectives through the jihadist proxies. If the people of Pakistan agree to this adventurism, then at least everyone will be on the same page and brace for whatever consequences it entails. If the PPP and its coalition partners wish to be a party to a jingoistic consensus, more power to them. But such public consensus can never be developed through in-camera briefings and passing on the buck.

While the politicians are rightly accused of dodging accountability, the security establishment has not done any better. In fact, the opposite has been true in many cases. Professor Hassan Abbas records in his book Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism that in Operation Gibraltar, the highly competent General Akhtar Malik was replaced mid-battle with the inept General Yahya Khan, resulting in disaster, but Yahya was never held accountable. But it is better late than never to begin. If OBL indeed moved into his Abbottabad hideout five or six years ago, that implies that General Kayani himself was in charge of the ISI at the time. The buck therefore stops at his desk, not parliament.

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com

Courtesy: Daily Times

Pakistan’s so called fanatics believe that sovereignty is violated when Al-Qaeda or Taliban are attacked, however when Al-Qaeda or Taliban attack innocent people of Pakistan, the sovereignty is not violated!

Parachinaris await next broken promise

Frustrated by lawmakers and politicians’ apathy and enraged by the negligence and indifference of the government and security apparatus, scores of youth and children from Parachinar held a protest march on Monday against the continuing siege of their town and killings of innocent commuters by militants.

Carrying coffins bearing the names of people brutally killed by extremists on their shoulders, the protesters marched from National Press Club to parliament house where the lower house was in session. The most noticeable thing in the rally, held on the 19th consecutive day of their peaceful protest, was the sight of young children wearing white shrouds. According to a press release issued on Monday by the youth of Parachinar, all the protesters were demanding was for the government to clear and open the Thal-Parachinar Road, which has been blocked for the last four years, and the continuing blockage of the road has created a plethora of problems for the people of the area. …

Read more : The Express Tribune

Looks like noose is being tighten around the establishment

US brands Haqqani network commander as terrorist

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington, May 11 (IANS) In a crackdown on terrorists operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US has designated the commander of a Pakistan-based insurgent group as a terrorist and banned Americans from doing business with him.

The State and Treasury departments said Wednesday that they had added Badruddin Haqqani to their list of ‘specially designated global terrorists’, a step that will freeze any assets he may have in US jurisdictions.

Badruddin Haqqani is the senior military commander of the Haqqani group and a son of the group’s founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, who had previously been designated as a terrorist by the US.

The Taliban-affiliated group operates from North Waziristan, a tribal area in Pakistan, and conducts attacks on US troops in Afghanistan, the State Department said.

The step will help stem the flow of financial assistance to a dangerous individual, it said.

The United Nations has also added Badruddin Haqqani to its list of Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, a step that requires all UN member states to implement an assets freeze, a travel ban, and an arms embargo against him.

Badruddin Haqqani took responsibility in November 2008 for the kidnapping of New York Times reporter David Rohde. The reporter escaped in June 2009.

Courtesy: Yahoo News

Let us call a spade a spade by Special Correspondent

Though there was nothing against him in the Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report, Mr Bhutto preferred to keep it firmly under lock and key. Reason: He did not want the report, a comprehensive and devastating indictment of the Pakistan’s armed forces, to come in the way of his grandiose plans to rehabilitate and revive on a grander scale the demoralised and defeated institution. But then, in a matter of five years, he was made to pay with his life for setting up the commission of enquiry.

Next, when Mohammad Khan Junejo set up a commission to enquire into the Ojhri camp scandal, it did not take long for General Ziaul Haq, the then army chief and country’s all-powerful president, to send him home most unceremoniously.

And when, after the Kargil debacle, the talk of subjecting General Musharraf to a court martial started making the rounds in the corridors of power, Musharraf hit back by ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a manner most unbecoming of a soldier.

So, perhaps the present coalition government has advisedly agreed to let the Army conduct its own investigation into the failure of the ISI to track down Osama bin Laden and the violation, for more than an hour, of our air space by US helicopters on May 1-2.  One does not know if this seemingly astute approach of the elected government would in the final analysis save it from meeting the fate of its predecessors who acted otherwise.  And what was Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Kayani trying to achieve by going on a lecture tour of three garrisons on the same day the prime minister was making a supposed policy speech in the NA? Was he trying to upstage the PM? Was he trying to tell the nation that his institution is a separate entity from the govt? Why did he do it when the need of the hour is to speak with one voice? He should have been there in the parliament galleries listening to the PM’s speech (most probably the handiwork of an ISPR copy writer rather than that of a political speech writer) to convey the impression that everyone in the country is on the same page.

But then, strangely enough, while the chief seemingly tried to distance himself from the government, he sought the help of parliament – help to save the institution from the wrath of the people at large who, no matter what spin one gave to the May 1-2 incidents, have been persuaded by the media that Osama was living untraced right under the nose of our security agencies and that US helicopters violated our airspace undetected and unchallenged. …

Read more : Wichaar

Pakistan is entering another dark stage of history

Another dark period – by Dr Manzur Ejaz

Jamaat-i-Islami is holding rallies to condemn Osama’s death in the name of Pakistan’s sovereignty as if al Qaeda and the Taliban are not violating it.

Before Osama Bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad, Islamabad’s political orientation had shifted further to the right on every level. In retrospect, it is becoming clearer that the newfound unity between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) had been forged with the military’s tacit support. No wonder that Prime Minister Gilani’s responses after the Abbottabad debacle were totally in sync with the military’s public face, Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR). By now all the primitive forces of Pakistan have forged an opportunistic unity barring any enlightened solution to the country’s internal and external problems.

After the Jamiat-i-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had left the government of their own will or on someone’s prompting, the PPP was in a very precarious position. It had no solution other than bowing to the military and seeking its help. PML-Q, not a political party as such, but an ensemble of electable Pakistani aristocrats always finding it abhorrent to sit on the opposition benches, were keen to come back to the ruling group. PML-Q had served in the military-managed government of General Musharraf and got on board once they received signals from the right quarters.

Pakistan’s military had hardly any choice but to support the PPP government after exacting the maximum concessions from it. It has been reported by many insiders that the military hates to see a federal government run by Mian Nawaz Sharif and his party PML-N. The military is fearful of his independent approach and his strong belief in civilian supremacy over the armed forces. His firing of two army chiefs during his last stint as prime minster was more than the military could swallow. The military is said to believe that though the PPP government is inept and corrupt, it still listens to them and dares not challenge its will, while Mian Nawaz Sharif is going to do what he likes and may try to exert control over the ‘untouchable’ mighty institution.

A few months back the military was seemingly trying to corner the PPP and replace it with some other combination of political groupings including MQM. Mian Nawaz Sharif was being encouraged to play a role to destabilise the PPP government but, apparently, he did not oblige. Somehow, he seems to be wedded to the concept of not throwing out the democratically elected government when there is direct or indirect danger of military intervention. Since he did not take the military’s bait, the military had no choice but to work with the PPP.

A weakened PPP government due to lack of governance, incompetence and perceived corruption, had changed its patron from the US to the military. After the PPP-PML-Q alliance was put in place, Prime Minister Gilani has been issuing strong pro-military/ISI statements, owning up to all the mess that Pakistan is accused of creating.

PM Gilani’s reported suggestion to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karazai to tilt away from the US and embrace China was also in accordance with the military’s cat and mouse play with the Americans. His out-of-place statement that the military’s intelligence agencies are following the civilian government was also an attempt at mollycoddling the GHQ. His statements after the US operation in Abbottabad followed the same pattern. In essence, the military has recreated a Musharraf-like civilian set-up, which will allow it to do whatever it likes in dealings with the US, Afghanistan, India, China and other key external partners. It also gives them a free hand to play duplicitous policy games if they like to.

Presently, the PPP is trying to outdo Imran Khan, religious parties and all other anti-US political formations in standing behind the military. Jamaat-i-Islami is holding rallies to condemn Osama’s death in the name of Pakistan’s sovereignty as if al Qaeda and the Taliban are not violating it. Some religious leaders are blaming the Yahood-o-Hunood (Jews and Hindus) for hatching a conspiracy against the Pakistan military as if Osama bin Laden had been planted by them in Abbottabad. Other random groups are even holding rallies in support of the military. This is happening at a time when the civilians, specifically the governing party, should have been asking some tough questions from the military. Instead, the political groups are competing with each other to win the trophy for being the ‘Best Military Apologist’.

Whether Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad with or without the military’s knowledge is a question haunting Pakistan. The world is asking if it should be considered a case of incompetence or mischief on the part of Pakistan. The PPP and all other apologists can woo the military in pursuit of their own agendas but they can neither satisfy the world (not just the US) nor force the military establishment to initiate a corrective mechanism so that, in future, Osama bin Ladens are kept away from Pakistan. In fact, the political environment has been so ‘militarised’ that the Abbottabad operation has turned out to be a blessing for the military. Now the military has proved that it is beyond scrutiny and will be more encouraged to do whatever it wishes. This simply means that the Pakistani state is going to deteriorate further with no self-correcting mechanism in sight.

The conditions in Pakistan were already bad but with the PPP-PML-Q alliance combined with pro-military noises indicate that Pakistan is entering another dark stage of history.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

Courtesy: Wichaar