Tag Archives: Berman

L’affaire Mansoor Ijaz

By Najam Sethi

Excerpt;

In article in a British paper last month by Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman with political connections in Washington, has taken a toll of the civilian government of President Asif Zardari in Islamabad. The irony is that it was written to strengthen Mr Zardari against encroachments by General Ashfaq Kayani. ….

…. The military has been gunning for Hussain Haqqani for over a decade. He ran afoul of General Musharraf in 2002 for his critical newspaper columns in Urdu and English. So he decamped to the US where he wrote his seminal book on the unholy historical nexus between the Mosque and Military in Pakistan. After he was appointed Ambassador to Washington in 2008, the military embarked upon a campaign to defame him. He was accused of acting against the “national interest” by manipulating the insertion of “pro-democracy” clauses in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation that committed $7.5 billion to Pakistan over five years as a “strategic ally.” He was blasted for enabling CIA operatives to get visas despite the fact that authorization for over 90 per cent duly came from the Pakistan Foreign Office/ISI or the Prime Minister’s secretariat. He was criticized for pledging an impartial and public investigation into how OBL came to be lodged in Abbottabad when the military was insisting there would be no more than an internal secret inquiry at best. And he was painted as an “American agent” for recommending a pragmatic and responsible Af-Pak and US-Pak foreign policy.

The writing on the wall was clear when Imran Khan thundered against Mr Haqqani in Lahore last month and Shah Mahmood Qureshi demanded an inquiry against him for “conspiring against the state”. Both are inclined to do the military’s bidding.

The core questions remain. Was the military complicit or incompetent in “L’affaire OBL”? What was the nature of its disagreement with, and threat to, the Zardari government following “Operation Geronimo”? How was Mansoor Ijaz manipulated by various Pakistani protagonists? A third series of questions has risen for the umpteenth time. Is the constitution subservient to the military? Is an elected government answerable to the “state”? Should an unaccountable military or elected civilians define the “national interest”?

The fate of Asif Zardari’s PPP and also that of Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN, the two mainstream parties that majorly represent the Pakistani voter, hinges on answers to these questions.

Read more » The Friday Times

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

Then spoke Aafia

By Aziz Akhmad

I sat among the audience in the courtroom of federal judge Richard Berman, in Lower Manhattan, watching the sentencing proceedings of Aafia Siddiqui, on September 23.

Before Aafia Siddiqui spoke, her lawyer made what sounded, at least to me, a compassionate plea for a minimum sentence. She argued that Aafia Siddiqui was not mentally stable, or words to that effect, because of the impossible circumstances she had been through. That she needed professional care and compassion rather than a long term in prison. The lawyer concluded her plea by asking for a sentence not more than 12 years.

All this time, Afia Sidddiqui sat quietly, clad in a beige niqab, only her eyes visible. At times she would place her head on the table in front of her, as if not interested in what her lawyer was saying, or would stretch back into the chair clasping her head in both hands, as if exasperated. Soon after her lawyer finished, she stood up and asked the judge if she could say something. The judge said yes.

Then Aafia spoke. It was as if a dam had been breached; the words came gushing out of her mouth like a torrent. She spoke in a sharp voice and flawless English. Every once in a while she would pause and ask the audience, like a teacher in a classroom: “Do you understand what I am saying?” At one point the judge had to say, yes, we all understand you very clearly. Sometimes during the course of her speech she would break into a short, agitated laughter. Once, she even made a humorous comment about her trial referring to the court as Manhattan Institute of Theatrics, a pun on MIT, her alma mater.

She declared at the outset that she was not tortured or mistreated in jail (in Texas). She said if you hear people saying otherwise don’t believe them. She then quoted a verse from the Quran to the effect that when you hear something, verify it before you believe it. She said she was not mentally unbalanced, as her defence lawyers had tried to make out and that she did not trust them.

Several times she said she loved America and had no hostility against Americans or anyone. She also thanked the soldiers who, she said, did not harm or mistreated her daughter in captivity (in Afghanistan?).

Continue reading Then spoke Aafia