Mixed Legacy for Departing Pakistani Army Chief

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LONDON — When he leaves his post on Friday, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the inscrutable Pakistani Army chief and former spymaster, will end a nearly decade-long chapter as the focus of American fears and frustrations in Pakistan, the reluctant partner in a contentious and often ill-tempered strategic dance.

Suspicious American officials frequently accused him, and the 600,000-member army he led, of double-dealing and bad faith: supporting the Afghan Taliban, allying with militant groups who bombed embassies and bases, and sheltering Osama bin Laden.

Those accusations were made in private, usually, but exploded into the open in late 2011 when Adm. Mike Mullen, the American military chief who sought to befriend General Kayani over golf and dinners, issued an angry tirade to Congress about Pakistani duplicity.

The taciturn General Kayani weathered those accusations with a sang-froid that left both allies and enemies guessing about what, or whom, he knew. But few doubted that he nursed grievances, too — about C.I.A. covert operations, the humiliating raid that killed Bin Laden, and perceived American arrogance and inconstancy.

General Kayani, 61, steps down with those arguments still lingering. And reckoning with his legacy exposes a cold truth at the heart of the turbulent American-Pakistani relationship: that after years of diplomatic effort, and billions of dollars in aid, the countries’ aims and methods remain fundamentally opposed — particularly when it comes to the endgame next door in Afghanistan.

“We have almost no strategic convergences with Pakistan, at any level,” admitted a senior American defense official. “You’ll never change that, and it’s naïve to think we can do it with an appeal to the war on terror.”

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Latent radicals

Nadeem F ParachaBy Nadeem F. Paracha

In his detailed history of 20th century terrorism Blood and Rage, author Michael Burleigh, while writing about left-wing terrorist groups in Germany that sprang up in the late 1960s/early 1970s, suggests that the young, urban middle-class men and women who were part of these groups were suffering from a guilty conscience.

They were the children of parents who had lived in Hitler’s Germany, during his racist, violent regime, as supporters or silent observers. However, when their children entered their late teens and early 20s in the 1960s, they felt an overwhelming sense of guilt and awkwardness after realising how their parents had remained silent as Hitler went about constructing his fascist dystopia based on megalomaniacal delusions about racial superiority and mythical glory.

As a response to this guilt, many children of otherwise docile and orderly middle-class Germans plunged into radical political action, like restless teens consciously indulging in ideas and acts that they knew would offend and disturb their parents.

By the 1960s however, (West) Germany had begun to retreat and rebound from its Nazi past and had become a strong democracy, a robust economy and an ally of its former enemies, the United States and Britain.

So when left-wing German radicals began targeting German politicians, businesses and some US military and business interests, Burleigh is of the view that they were trying to overcome their guilt of being the offspring of parents whom they had suspected of supporting fascism and Nazism.

This is an intriguing theory and an interesting way to look at and understand left-wing terrorism and radicalism that emerged in Germany and Italy in the 1960s/’70s. Both the countries had witnessed fascist dictatorships in the 1930s and 1940s.

This theory can also be applied to the present-day dynamics of activists associated with parties like Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) and its closet ally, the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami (JI).

The activistic ranks of both the parties are studded with urban middle and some lower-middle class young men and women who have recently been at the forefront of whipping up anti-West/anti-US sentiments in the country and are quick to explain everything — from Islamist terrorism to political corruption — as consequences of ‘American imperialism’ and hegemony in the region.

One can safely assume that these activists are the children of parents who sided with those regimes and parties in Pakistan that (during the Cold War) were vehemently anti-left and had taken pro-US stances in America’s Cold War tussle with the former Soviet Union.

Jamaat-i-Islami, (JI’s) links with the US during the Cold War have never been a secret. But till the 1980s when young JI activists were known to actually attack anti-US rallies held by leftist groups, today the children of these activists are perhaps the most enthusiastic anti-US radicals and the most likely to set fire to a US flag.

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