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Pakistan: What next? Fasten seat belts. Ready, set, GO….

Pakistan: What next?

By Omar

Pakistani prime minister warns of coup plot»  http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pakistani-prime-minister-warns-of-coup-plot/2011/12/22/gIQA1vJWBP_story.html

The usual rumors are afoot. Apparently this time the army wants to get rid of Zardari, cut PM Gilani down to size, then install an interim regime and hold elections. Imran Khan is being launched with obvious establishment support, but he is not the only card they hold. Many windows are open on that computer screen. The Mullah-military alliance has been called into service. Why? to raise the price in the next round of bargaining with the US embassy? To get muscle in place for the next elections? to support a real hard coup? who knows. But some brilliant scheme is afoot and we will soon see what it is.

Some analysts are warning that the army is playing with fire here, but the army thinks these people are under control and if truth be told, they are…when and where has Sami ul haq or Hafiz Saeed taken any step that has offended the army? these are the good jihadis and the army does not fear their going out of control. You can complain that such productions eventually raise the “black banners of Khorasan” temperature in the nation and are not conducive to future plans for capitalist utopia, but the army (and for that matter, the US embassy and even the much wiser Chinese embassy) doesnt think like that…they are all “practical people”. I suspect that the “deep thinkers” in GHQ as well as their patron embassies believe that bombs go off because bombs are made and bombers are trained and sent by people who know what they are doing, “culture-vulture” has nothing to do with it. They are far more cynical about these things….what else explains this madness?

Meanwhile, the middle class is primed and ready for another round of army-sponsored “clean government”It almost seems like its fated to happen. Every few years the middle class comes to a fork in the road: do we accept that we are a normal country with normal problems (normal as in “norm”) and they will have to be solved using normal methods that work or dont work in the whole wide world? or do we double down and bet that this time the angels in aabpara will get it right and armies of efficient capitalists animated by the two nation theory and the spirit of jihad will raise the GNP and the black bannerof khorasan and blah blah blah? And every few years, the blessed middle class says YES to aabpara and away we go, for one more crazy ride until all the bullshit runs out and incompetent and corrupt civilian janitors (the others having been hanged) are called in to clean up the shit…..

In the long run, I think the army and its bed fellows will move on to more “normal” statist third world capitalism (http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2011/12/the-historic-task-of-the-pakistani-bourgeoisie.html). But they are not yet ready for such a tame country. Selling nuisance value may be a risky and high stakes game, but its not without its thrills and rewards. Fasten seat belts.
Ready, set, GO….

Courtesy: Brown Pundits

http://www.brownpundits.com/2011/12/22/pakistan-what-next/

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Solve the Pakistan problem by redrawing the map – By M. CHRIS MASON – Globe and Mail

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have reached an all-time low. The Khyber Pass is closed to NATO cargo, U.S. personnel were evicted from Shamsi airbase and Pakistani observers have been recalled from joint co-operation centres.

Much more importantly, senior officials in Washington now know that Pakistan has been playing them false since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and understand that Pakistan was sheltering Osama bin Laden a few hundred yards from its version of West Point. The recent shelling of Afghan troops inside Afghanistan by the Pakistani army, and the NATO counterstrike, cleared in error by Pakistan, has further embarrassed the Pakistani military.

Continue reading Solve the Pakistan problem by redrawing the map – By M. CHRIS MASON – Globe and Mail

Imran Khan is playing in the hands of the military establishment – by Ali Aftab (Beygairat Brigade)

Lead singer of Beygairat Brigade, Ali Aftab, asks some tough questions about Imran Khan and the sinister role of Pakistani establishment behind his PTI. …

Read more » LUBP

Pakistan: The narratives come home to roost

by Omar Ali
Most countries that exist above the banana-republic level of existence have an identifiable (even if always contested and malleable) national narrative that most (though not all) members of the ruling elite share and to which they contribute.  Pakistan is clearly not a banana-republic; it is a populous country with a deep (if not very competent) administration, a very lively political scene, a very large army, the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal and a very significant, even if underdeveloped, economy.  But when it comes to the national narrative, Pakistan is sui-generis.  The “deep state” has promoted a narrative of Muslim separatism, India-hatred and Islamic revival that has gradually grown into such a dangerous concoction that even BFFs China and Saudi Arabia are quietly suggesting that we take another look at things.

The official “story of Pakistan” may not appear to be more superficial or contradictory than the propaganda narratives of many other nations, but a unique element is the fact that it is not a superficial distillation of a more nuanced and deeper narrative, it is ONLY superficial ; when you look behind the school textbook level, there is no there there. What you see is what you get. The two-nation theory and the creation of Pakistan in 712 AD by the Arab invader Mohammed Bin Qasim and its completion by the intrepid team of Allama Iqbal and Mohammed Ali Jinnah in the face of British and Hindu connivance is the story in middle school textbooks and it turns out that it is also the story in universities and think tanks (this is not imply that no serious work is done in universities; of course it is, but the story of Pakistan does not seem to have a logical relationship with this serious work).

Continue reading Pakistan: The narratives come home to roost

Siraiki Province: PML-N Falling Into Zardari’s Trap; To Be Limited To Central Punjab

By: Aziz Narejo

In a glaring example of cynical, reactionary and unprincipled politics, Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif the other day demanded that Sindh be divided and Karachi be made a province. His statement justifiably created furore in Sindh and the parliamentary parties including PPP, MQM and ANP as well as other politicians and activists swiftly condemned the unimaginative and unscrupulous statement by the PML-N leader.

The PML-N government and Punjabi nationalists seem to be under considerable pressure as the demand for a separate Siraiki province is gathering momentum in southern Punjab but this was most crooked and uncalled for response that could ever come from anyone with even the slightest political wisdom. PML-N leader was obviously trying to get back with the PPP. It may be noted that PM Gilani has suggested the creation of a new province in southern Punjab and PPP manifesto committee is deliberating to make it a part of the PPP manifesto for next elections.

No Sindhi would have any objections if Shahbaz Sharif, other PML-N leaders and Punjabis as a whole turn into nationalists but all the Punjabis and others should understand that Sindh and PPP are not ONE and the same. They are two separate entities. PML-N can’t and shouldn’t get back with the PPP by hurting Sindh. It must agree or disagree with the Siraiki people’s demand for a separate province with the force of arguments and not by playing tit for tat, conspiratorial and ugly politics.

PML-N should also realize that with this kind of politics they will be completely routed out from Sindh and their aspirations to become a “national” party or to form next government will die for ever.

Do they understand that this is exactly what PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari wants the PML-N to do? Are they willingly falling into the trap set by Zardari ..? Do they realize that with this kind of politics, they will forever become a Central Punjab party? Are there any sane elements in PML-N who would rein in Shahbaz Sharif and the likes of him in their party? Guess not. Good luck to them on their journey to doom.

Courtesy: Indus Herald

Pakistan has been playing us all for suckers

Britain is spending millions bolstering Pakistan, but it is a nation in thrall to radical Islam and is using its instability to blackmail the West

by Christina Lamb

When David Cameron announced £650m in education aid for Pakistan last week, I guess the same thought occurred to many British people as it did to me: why are we doing this?

While we are slashing our social services and making our children pay hefty university fees, why should we be giving all this money to a country that has reduced its education budget to 1.5% of GDP while spending several times as much on defence? A country where only 1.7m of a population of 180m pay tax? A country that is stepping up its production of nuclear weapons so much that its arsenal will soon outnumber Britain’s? A country so corrupt that when its embassy in Washington held an auction to raise money for flood victims, and a phone rang, one Pakistani said loudly: “That’s the president calling for his cut”? A country which has so alienated powerful friends in America that they now want to abandon it?

As someone who has spent almost as much time in Pakistan as in Britain over the past 24 years, I feel particularly conflicted, as I have long argued we should be investing more in education there.

That there is a crisis in Pakistan’s education system is beyond doubt. A report out last month by the Pakistan education taskforce, a non-partisan body, shows that at least 7m children are not in school. Indeed, one-tenth of the world’s children not in school are in Pakistan. The first time I went to Pakistan in 1987 I was astonished to see that while billions of pounds’ worth of weapons from the West were going to Pakistan’s intelligence service to distribute to the Afghan mujaheddin, there was nothing for schools.

The Saudis filled the gap by opening religious schools, some of which became breeding grounds for militants and trained the Taliban. Cameron hopes that investing in secular education will provide Pakistan’s children with an alternative to radicalism and reduce the flow of young men who want to come and bomb the West.

“I would struggle to find a country that it is more in Britain’s interests to see progress and succeed than Pakistan,” he said. “If Pakistan is a success, we will have a good friend to trade with and deal with in the future … If we fail, we will have all the problems of migration and extremism that we don’t want to see.”

As the sixth most populous country, with an arsenal of between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons, as the base of both Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership, and as homeland to a large population in Britain, Pakistan is far more important to our security than Afghanistan. But after spending two weeks travelling in Pakistan last month, I feel the situation has gone far beyond anything that a long-term strategy of building schools and training teachers can hope to restrain.

The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington — its paymaster to the tune of billions of dollars over the past 10 years — is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan.

Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California who sits on the House foreign affairs committee and has been dealing with Pakistan since working in the Reagan White House, says he now realises “they were playing us for suckers all along”.

“I used to be Pakistan’s best friend on the Hill but I now consider Pakistan to be an unfriendly country to the US,” he said. “Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder and when you tie that with the realisation that they went ahead and used their scarce resources to build nuclear weapons, it is perhaps the most frightening of all the things that have been going on over the last few years.

“We were snookered. For a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan’s military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards and look western they fooled a lot of people.”

Christine Fair, assistant professor at the centre for peace and security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, is equally scathing. “Pakistan’s development strategy is to rent out its strategic scariness and not pay taxes itself,” she said. “We should let them fail.”The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan

Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Gilani, comes from one of Punjab’s largest land-owning families. Watching Cameron sign over the £650m, he said: “I think the root cause of terrorism and extremism is illiteracy. Therefore we are giving a lot of importance to education.”

If that were the case one might expect Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the most elite universities in the country, to be a bastion of liberalism. Yet in the physics department Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics, sits with his head in his hands staring out at a sea of burqas. “People used to imagine there was only a lunatic fringe in Pakistan society of these ultra-religious people,” he said. “Now we’re learning that this is not a fringe but a majority.”

What brought this home to him was the murder earlier this year of Salman Taseer, the half-British governor of Punjab who had called for the pardoning of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the blasphemy law. The woman, Aasia Bibi, had been convicted after a mullah had accused her of impugning Islam when she shouted at two girls who refused to drink water after she had touched it because they said it was unclean.

Taseer had been a key figure in Pakistan’s politics for decades and had suffered prison and torture, yet when he said the Aasia case showed the law needed reforming, he was vilified by the mullahs and the media. In January he was shot 27 times by one of his own guards. His murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, became a hero, showered with rose petals by lawyers when he appeared in public.

After the killing, Hoodbhoy was asked to take part in a televised debate at the Islamabad Press Club in front of students. His fellow panellists were Farid Piracha, spokesman for the country’s biggest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Maulana Sialvi, a supposed moderate mullah from the Barelvi sect. Both began by saying that the governor brought the killing on himself, as “he who blasphemes his prophet shall be killed”. The students clapped.

Hoodbhoy then took the microphone. “Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed I managed to say that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims were Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan. I said I’m not an Islamic scholar but I know there are Muslim countries that don’t think the Koran says blasphemy carries the death sentence, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.

“I didn’t get a single clap. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said you have Salman Taseer’s blood on your hands, he looked at them and exclaimed: how I wish I had done it! He got thunderous applause.”

Afterwards, “I came back and wanted to dig a hole in the ground,” he said. “I can’t figure out why this country has gone so mad. I’ve seen my department change and change and change. There wasn’t one burqa-clad woman in the 1980s but today the non-hijabi, non-burqa student is an exception. As for the male students, they all come in turbans and beards with these fierce looks on their faces.”

Yet, he points out, these students are the super-elite, paying high fees to attend the university: “It’s nothing to do with causes normally associated with radicalism; it’s that the mullah is allowed complete freedom to spread the message of hate and liberals are bunkering down. Those who speak out are gone and the government has abdicated its responsibility and doesn’t even pretend to protect life and property.”

Raza Rumi, a young development worker and artist who blogs regularly, agrees. As we sat in a lively coffee bar in Lahore that could have been in the West until the lights went off in one of the frequent power cuts, he said: “Radicalism in Pakistan isn’t equated with poverty and backwardness — we’re seeing more radicalisation of the urban middle and upper class. I look at my own extended family. When I was growing up, maybe one or two people had a beard. Last time I went to a family wedding I was shell-shocked. All these uncles and aunts who were regular Pakistanis watching cricket and Indian movies now all have beards or are in hijabs.

“I think we’re in an existential crisis. The moderate political parties have taken a back seat and chickened out as they just want to protect their positions. What is Pakistan’s identity? Is it an Islamist identity as defined by Salman Taseer’s murder, ISI [the intelligence service], the jihadists? Is that really what we want to be?”

He does not know how much longer he will write about such things. “I’ve been getting repeated emails that I should leave the country or shut up,” he said.

When I left the cafe I was followed for the rest of the day by a small yellow car.

Courtesy: thesundaytimes.co.uk