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Pakistan – The soldiers’ dangerous itch

There are fears that the army is thinking of moving against the civilian government. That would be a disaster

IN MOST countries the sight of 50,000 devout Sufis riding into the capital in brightly coloured buses and lorries would not raise the spectre of military intervention. But so convoluted are Pakistan’s politics that the march led by Tahir ul Qadri is read by many as an indication that the army is planning another intervention in government (see article). If that happens, it will be a catastrophe for the country.

Mr Qadri, a cleric who served briefly as a politician under the latest military dictator, has recently returned from Canada and says he wants a “revolution” against the civilian government. He has emerged from nowhere, yet organised a march which arrived in Islamabad on January 14th—no mean feat, since marches are usually banned in the city—and which was broadcast non-stop on television. Pakistan’s many conspiracy theorists, encouraged by the country’s many conspiracies, suspect that he may be the army’s latest favourite to replace the politicians with whom the soldiers have lost patience.

Mr Qadri’s rise is not the only reason Pakistanis have to worry about the soldiers. On January 15th the Supreme Court suddenly ordered the arrest of the prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, over a long-running bribery scandal. The court, along with the army, has long been hostile to the government. There is talk in Pakistan of a “Bangladesh option”, a reference to a quiet coup in that country, engineered by the army in January 2007 and legitimised by the judiciary, leading to a two-year suspension of democracy in favour of unelected technocrats.

If the army were to try to get rid of the civilian government, now would be the time, for two reasons. An election is due this year, and a new administration with a decent mandate would be harder to bin than the tarnished Pakistan Peoples Party government of President Asif Ali Zardari. And this year, too, the chief of army staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, is due to step down. His term in office has already been extended; but he may wish to defer his retirement a little longer.

A recent Pew survey found that Pakistanis are the least enthusiastic about democracy among six Muslim countries polled. That is hardly surprising. After nearly five years of civilian rule, the country is in a desperate state. Terrorist bombings are horribly frequent. The latest, in Balochistan, killed 86 people (see article). The country’s politicians are venal, self-interested and chaotic. Its growth is feeble, its debt unsustainable and its tax revenues have collapsed.

Yet rather than being a solution to Pakistan’s problems, the army is a large part of the reason for them. Its frequent interventions contribute to corruption: politicians reckon they need to make money quickly. Its dominance distorts spending priorities: the government spends around ten times as much on defence as on education. And it undermines the country’s security: the threat of war with India provides a justification for army rule, which is why Pakistanis fear the recent flare-up on the border with India in which five soldiers died.

This could be its big chance

Pakistan could be on the verge of a breakthrough. If the election happens and if it is won by a coalition led by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, then it will be the first time that an elected leader has served a full term and handed power to a successor. Such a peaceful transition would be a milestone in Pakistan’s journey towards democracy. It might even help the country get a decent government. It is to be hoped that Pakistan’s soldiers are not thinking of derailing the process. America, which in the past has shown a regrettable ambivalence towards military rule in the country, must make it clear that if they do they will get no support from Pakistan’s friends.

Courtesy: The Economist
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21569733-there-are-fears-army-thinking-moving-against-civilian-government-would

Baloch leader Hyrbyair Marri strongly condemns the attack on innocent Pashtun labourers.

Baloch leader, Hyrbyair Marri said the brutal killing of Pashtun laborer at a time when the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntarily Disappearances is investigating Pakistan’s crimes against humanity is a clear indication that the state forces want to divert the attention of UN team from their crimes in Balochistan.

Courtesy: TwitLonger

Pakistan’s rush for more bombs – why?

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Excerpts;

….. In the military’s mind, the Americans are now a threat, equal to or larger than India. They are also considered more of an adversary than even the TTP jihadists who have killed thousands of Pakistani troops and civilians. While the Salala incident was allowed to inflame public opinion, the gory video-taped executions of Pakistani soldiers by the TTP were played down. A further indication is that the LeT/JuD is back in favor (with a mammoth anti-US and anti-India rally scheduled in Karachi next month). Pakistani animosity rises as it sees America tightly embracing India, and standing in the way of a Pakistan-friendly government in Kabul. Once again “strategic defiance” is gaining ground, albeit not through the regional compact suggested by General Mirza Aslam Beg in the early 1990s.

This attitudinal shift has created two strong non-India reasons that favour ramping up bomb production.

First, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are seen to be threatened by America. This perception has been reinforced by the large amount of attention given to the issue in the US mainstream press, and by war-gaming exercises in US military institutes. Thus, redundancy is considered desirable — an American attempt to seize or destroy all warheads would have smaller chances of success if Pakistan had more.

But such an attack is improbable. It is difficult to imagine any circumstances — except possibly the most extreme — in which the US would risk going to war against another nuclear state. Even if Pakistan had just a handful of weapons, no outside power could accurately know the coordinates of the mobile units on which they are located. It is said that an extensive network of underground tunnels exists within which they can be freely moved. Additionally, overground ones are moved from place to place periodically in unmarked trucks. Mobile dummies and decoys can hugely compound difficulties. Moreover, even if a nuclear location was exactly known, it would surely be heavily guarded. This implies many casualties when intruding troops are engaged, thus making a secret bin-Laden type operation impossible.

The second – and perhaps more important — reason for the accelerated nuclear development is left unstated: nukes act as insurance against things going too far wrong. Like North Korea, Pakistan knows that, no matter what, international financial donors will feel compelled to keep pumping in funds. Else a collapsing system may be unable to prevent some of its hundred-plus Hiroshima-sized nukes from disappearing into the darkness.

This insurance could become increasingly important as Pakistan moves deeper into political isolation and economic difficulties mount. Even today, load-shedding and fuel shortages routinely shut down industries and transport for long stretches, imports far exceed exports, inflation is at the double-digit level, foreign direct investment is negligible because of concerns over physical security, tax collection remains minimal, and corruption remains unchecked. An African country like Somalia or Congo would have sunk under this weight long ago.

To conclude: throwing a spanner in the works at the CD (Geneva) may well be popular as an act of defiance. Indeed, many in Pakistan — like Hamid Gul and Imran Khan — derive delicious satisfaction from spiting the world in such ways. But this is not wise for a state that perpetually hovers at the edge of bankruptcy, and which derives most of its worker remittances and export earnings from the very countries it delights in mocking.

To read complete article »  The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2012.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/328922/pakistans-rush-for-more-bombs–why/

Israel: High Court Rulings Undermine Human Rights

Recent Decisions Uphold Discrimination, Exploitation of Occupied Territory

(Jerusalem) – Recent decisions by Israel’s high court aim to legitimize clear violations of Israel’s international legal obligations, Human Rights Watch said today. In one decision, the court disregarded international law prohibiting discrimination, and in another, it ignored international law on the use of resources in an occupied territory. Israel should annul a law preventing Israeli citizens from living with their Palestinian spouses and end policies that permit private Israeli companies to strip rocks and other construction materials from quarries in the occupied West Bank for their own economic gain.

“With these rulings, Israel’s highest court has veered seriously off course in serving as a final bastion for upholding human rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “For the system of legal checks against rights abuses to break down like this is one more indication of the unraveling of protections for rights and freedom in Israel.” ….

Read more » Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Rehman Malik likely to face removal

By AZHAR MASOOD, ARAB NEWS

ISLAMABAD: Powerful Interior Minister Rehman Malik is likely to get the boot, well placed sources told the Arab News here Wednesday.

Malik will be eased out of the federal Cabinet after he was alleged to have worked discreetly against Pakistan’s interests.

He has been accused by former Home Minister of Sindh from ruling Pakistan People’s Party, of “working on an agenda that leads to Pakistan’s dismemberment”.

Malik is involved in several graft cases and is out on bail to discharge his duties.

According to the sources, “President Asif Ali Zardari has decided in principle to get rid of Rehman Malik as he has become a political baggage after serious allegations levelled against him by a senior party leader Zulfikar Mirza.”

They were of the view that absence of Interior Minister in the crucial late night meeting chaired by Zardari was a clear indication that he would be relieved of his job. ….

Read more → ARAB NEWS

via → Siasat.pk

The biggest hurdle to the better future of Pakistan

Survival of the self-centered

By Badar Alam

Excerpt:

…. In another indication that the army continues to overstep institutional boundaries, the press release has invoked popular endorsement for the army. The question is why it needs such an endorsement if it is carrying out its official functions of maintaining national defence and internal security as it should. Is it hankering after direct public support because it does not operate under a constitutional arrangement in which a people’s will is solicited and channeled into the policies of the government through democratically elected institutions? Effectively the army has become a supra-constitutional organisation that bypasses, and sometimes also subverts, the writ of the people in their very name.

If the army is a government department, with its rights and responsibilities laid down under the constitution mandated by the people of Pakistan, does it then perform as a government department? No, it is not. Postal services, for example, do not set ideological goals for them and they do not seek direct public support in discharging their duties; they just deliver letters as they are supposed to do under the legal, institutional and constitutional provisions that govern their functioning.

The army, indeed, needs to do what it is supposed to do under the law and the constitution – and that excludes a lot of what it is doing now. First and foremost, it needs to start observing its institutional limits and stop talking and acting beyond its constitutional mandate. If it cannot do that, and it seems it does not want to, no amount of loud declarations about its pious intentions and even louder condemnations of the ‘divisive designs’ of its alleged detractors will improve its image and performance.

To read complete article: DAWN.COM

US-Pakistan relations and bin Laden’s demise

Bin Laden’s capture has not told us anything new about the dysfunctional US-Pakistan relationship.

by Robert Grenier

The past three weeks have not been easy for a self-professed – one might say “confessed” – friend of Pakistan, at least not for one who makes his address in Washington, DC.

No sooner had President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden in a covert raid by US commandos on a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, home of the Pakistan Military Academy, than a monumental media firestorm was set loose, making rational dialogue concerning the situation next to impossible. All manner of ill-informed stories shot up like high-order detonations, quickly accompanied by dubious “expert commentary”, much of which was highly misleading.

Just to cite one of the more unfortunate examples, initial, breathless accounts of the bin Laden compound described it as a huge mansion, heavily fortified with 18-foot (5.5m) walls – some eight times bigger than anything surrounding it – thus conveying the mental picture of a cross between the Taj Mahal and the US gold vault at Fort Knox. Pakistani officials, it was alleged, “had” to have known that this was an extraordinary location. Not to have investigated it was the equivalent of willful ignorance, it was said, if not a clear indication of outright official collusion with bin Laden and his hosts. ….

Read more: Aljazeera

via Wichaar

Pakistan and the US: beyond the tailspin – Dr Mohammad Taqi

Excerpt:

The military events surrounding Senator Kerry’s Pak-Afghan visits suggest that the US is not about to blink first. The question remains whether the Pakistani establishment will pull back from the brink

So, he surrendered to parliament. Or did he? The Pakistani government’s minister for information would have one believe that he did. But General Ahmed Shuja Pasha may actually be recalling Julius Caesar’s words: veni, vidi, vici! The only difference is that when Caesar claimed ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’, he was reporting to the Roman Senate about his swift military victory over Pharnaces II of Pontus. However, for all practical purposes, General Pasha and the security establishment’s triumph is on the domestic front. For now, they seem to have vanquished parliament quite successfully. Like Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses, the PPP, PML-Q and the MQM threw themselves into the military’s arms with a fervent “…and yes I said yes I will Yes”. The PML-N’s chiding notwithstanding, Generals Pasha and Ashfaq Kayani had their cake and got to eat it too.

The well-choreographed Pasha tamasha in parliament and the events preceding and after it has left the Pakistani parliament weaker than ever before. Many of us never had any illusions about the security establishment’s tall tale that the civilians should take charge of foreign and security affairs. But anyone who still had a doubt about the ones calling the shots need not look any further than the US Senator John Kerry’s very first stop on his visit to Pakistan this week. Despite his recent tame requests for the prime minister to convene parliament to discuss the Osama bin Laden fiasco, General Kayani did not find anything wrong with Senator Kerry seeing him before meeting the civilian leadership. A simple change in the visiting senator’s itinerary could have been requested — and very likely accepted by the guest — but it was not. Well, so much for the military’s newfound love for parliament’s supremacy. But one must give credit where it is due. A bakery-running enterprise may not be a fighting force but it could be pretty deft at politics.  ….

…. No matter how Pakistan spins it, the tailspin in its relationship with the US and the world at large cannot be reversed by returning the stealth H-60 Blackhawk’s tail. The Pakistani brass is way too familiar with the words “peanuts” when describing a disproportionately minuscule response to tectonic shifts in geopolitics. Osama bin Laden’s lair, less than a mile away from the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, is not a pinprick that the world, let alone the US, would forget so easily. The Pakistani parliament may have been duped with it, but there is every indication that the US Congress and the White House consider the ‘intelligence failure’ excuse an insult to their intelligence.

Senator Kerry’s soft but measured tone indicates that the Pakistani brass still has some time, perhaps through July, to make serious amends but all options, including moving the UN, remain on the table. The senator also seems to have spelt out some of the bare-minimum metrics for any rapprochement. Pakistan’s position vis-à-vis Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura on the one hand and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and its various incarnations on the other, will certainly determine the future relationship between Pakistan and the world at large. But if the senator’s visit to Khost — across from North Waziristan — is any indication, the dismantling of the Haqqani network is at the top of the confidence-building agenda. The military events surrounding Senator Kerry’s Pak-Afghan visits suggest that the US is not about to blink first. The question remains whether the Pakistani establishment will pull back from the brink. Unlike the Pakistani parliament, the UN Security Council may actually be difficult to conquer.

To read complete article: Daily Tiems

Is it not time for Gen Kayani to call it quits and take along with him the DG ISI and the air chief?

Time for heads to roll – By Babar Sattar

Excerpt:

OUR military and intelligence agencies stand indicted for being complicit with terror groups and our best defence seems to be to plead incompetence.

Osama’s refuge in the shadows of the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul and his killing without the knowledge or permission of Pakistani authorities have not only raised piercing questions about the country’s willingness to function as a responsible state but also cast fundamental doubts on the ability of our national security apparatus to protect Pakistan against foreign intervention.

An ISPR release after Thursday’s corps commanders’ conference that broke the security establishment’s silence on the Osama operation is mostly gibberish.

While admitting “shortcomings in developing intelligence” on Osama’s presence in Pakistan, it goes on to blow the ISI’s trumpet for extraordinary achievement all around. The commanders feel betrayed by the CIA for not telling the ISI where Bin Laden was hiding.

The release doesn’t say why the military failed to detect foreign choppers and troops in our territory for an hour and 40 minutes. ….

…. In a functional democracy, these gentlemen would be sacked after such a debacle. Unfortunately, national security related decisions in Pakistan fall within the exclusive domain of the military, which jealously guards its turf. But responsibility must accompany such power. And the responsibility for erosion of our international credibility and increased threat to security personnel and citizens from terror networks nestled within Pakistan rests squarely on the military’s shoulder.

Be it a rise in suicide bombing and terror incidents within Pakistan, an increase in US drone strikes in our territory, the Mumbai attacks or the Osama operation, the threat to Pakistan’s interests for being perceived as a pad for terrorist activity and to its citizens as targets of terror has proliferated under Gen Kayani’s watch. Is it not time for Gen Kayani to call it quits and take along with him the DG ISI and the air chief? Shouldn’t these heads roll to account for failing to do their jobs?

With them in the driving seat it might neither be possible to hold a transparent inquiry into the security breaches that led to the Osama operation and its execution without Pakistan’s knowledge nor engage in a rethink of our perverse national security mindset. Can we shed some baggage and create room for untainted faces and ideas?

The concept of sovereignty assumes control over the territory a state claims. We cannot continue to shirk responsibility for the men, material and money transiting in and out of Pakistan and simultaneously wail at the disregard for our sovereignty. It is time to publicly articulate our legitimate security interests linked to the future of Afghanistan and develop a regional consensus around it, instead of vying for the whole hog.

It is time to completely liquidate the jihadi project and cleanse our state machinery of those who believe in its virtue. And it is time to shun the delusions of grandeur and conspiracy that prevent us from realising our potential as a responsible and industrious nation.

Read more : DAWN

‘Strong likelihood’ Mubarak will step down tonight, CIA director says

CAIRO — President Hosni Mubarak will meet the demands of protesters, military and ruling party officials, the Associated Press reported Thursday, in the strongest indication yet that Egypt’s longtime president may be about to give up power. …

Read more : WICHAAR DESK