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For Pakistan to change, army must change

– by Ayaz Amir

Decades of misadventure have distorted and even corrupted the Pakistani mind. We do not live in the real world. Our foreign policy notions, our list of assets and threats, have but a remote relation to reality. We must look to first causes. How did we create these bonfires for ourselves? How did we become prisoners of our misconceptions? Liberating the Pakistani mind from the shackles of these self-imposed errors must be the first of our tasks if, with luck, we are to become a normal nation.

The army and its strategic adventures have brought Pakistan to its present pass. The footprints of the terrorism now haunting the country go back to the first Afghan ‘jihad’, the one army-inspired event which pushed Pakistan to the frontiers of insanity. The phoenix won’t rise from its ashes, and there will be no return to sanity, unless the army can bring itself to change its outlook and reinvent some of its mental apparatus.

Civilians have been poor administrators, in no position to escape their share of the blame for the mess the Fortress of Islam is in. But in the driving seat of Pakistan’s steady march to the brink have been our holy guardians. There is little room for quibbling on this point.

Even so, despite the mounting evidence of disorder, the army refuses to change, still obsessed with the threat from the east, still caught up with the quixotic notion of exercising influence in Afghanistan. God in heaven, why should it matter to us if a president of Afghanistan is a Tajik, an Uzbek or a Pathan? Can’t we keep our eyes focused on our own problems? The threat we face lies squarely within but our strategic grandmasters insist on being foreign policy specialists.

If a Stalin were around, although fat chance of that occurring, he would lay his hands first not on militants and assorted terrorists but on the foreign policy experts who infest our television studios.

Is Mossad pulling the strings of terrorism in Karachi? Was the CIA behind the attack on Shia pilgrims in Mastung? Was RAW behind the attempt on the life of the Karachi special investigator, Chaudhry Aslam?

By any reasonable computation we have enough of a nuclear arsenal. By any yardstick of common sense, a commodity often in short supply in the conference rooms of national security, we have as much of a deterrent as we need to counter the real or imagined threat from India. This being the case, we should be directing what energies we have to the threat from within: that posed by militancy marching under the banner of Islam.

As part of this undertaking, we need to advertise for a Hakim Luqman who could cure our general staff and the ISI of their preoccupation with the future of Afghanistan. We have been burnt by Afghanistan. We don’t need any further burning. For the sake of Pakistan’s future we need to distance ourselves from Afghanistan’s problems, dire as they are.

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The killers of Karachi

By Matthew Green

The hitman did not bother to knock. He announced his arrival by firing a volley of shots through Salima Khan’s front door. Bullets ricocheted as she cowered in the kitchen. One of the rounds struck Zainab, her bright-eyed five-year-old, in the arm. A Molotov cocktail shattered and their tiny home began to burn. The family’s crime: belonging to the “wrong” ethnicity.

“They want to kill all the Pashtun,” says Mrs Khan, wiping away tears with her headscarf as she cradles her daughter. “I pray to God there will be peace in Karachi.” The charred body of a rickshaw driver from their Orangi Town neighbourhood was dumped in the street a day after the attack – a grisly portent that the gunmen will return.

A slow-burning war for control of one of the great economic engines of south Asia has burst back into life with a ferocity not seen since the mid-1980s, when Pakistan’s army acted to quell clashes on Karachi’s streets.

The killings are the bloody dividends of a long-running struggle between rival political parties with roots in the ethnic Pashtun and Mohajir communities. This summer, the violence has hit new heights. Shootings and grenade attacks in labyrinthine slums and hillside shanty towns claimed more than 300 lives in July, one of the worst monthly tolls on record. The deaths took the total killed in Karachi this year to more than 800, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation.

New murders occur daily. Asif Ali Zardari, the unpopular president, has proved powerless to pacify the country’s biggest city – the heart of its $160bn economy, the seat of its stock exchange and the home of an important Arabian Sea port.

Rehman Malik, the interior minister, earned widespread ridicule when he played down the significance of the mayhem by suggesting 70 per cent of the murders were committed by angry girlfriends or wives. In fact, the violence is a warning light for long-term prospects for stability in a country whose fate may have grave security implications for the west.

US and European concerns centre on Pakistan’s murky role in Afghanistan, its army’s ambiguous relationship with Islamist militants and the security of its nuclear arsenal. The risks posed by this volatile mix were highlighted in May when US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda founder, who was hiding less than a mile from Pakistan’s military academy. Karachi’s politically instigated killings may seem parochial by comparison but they are a symptom of deeper conflicts that may ultimately play a greater role in shaping Pakistan’s destiny.

Like no other city, Karachi distils the mix of gun politics, ethnic tensions, sectarian strife, state weakness, militancy and organised crime that makes the whole country so fragile. It is these trends that will determine whether Pakistan’s hesitant journey from military rule to a semblance of democracy will deliver greater stability or deeper fragmentation. ….

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