In India at least half a dozen chief justices in the past have been accused of corrupt practices or conduct unbecoming a judge of high stature. However, none has ever been dragged to the dock. But matters are very different in Pakistan where the chief justice and the Supreme Court are battling for their credibility and independence because of the misdemeanours of the son of the chief justice. There is bitter discord in state and society. The fear is that if the political fallout isn’t quickly contained, the military might be tempted to step into the fray.
Riaz Malik has presented credible evidence of footing the bills of Arsalan Chaudhry, the son of the CJP, for more than Rs 34 crore in the last three years for favours promised but not fulfilled in cases of property disputes relating to Mr Malik’s business empire pending before his father in the SC. He claims he was blackmailed by Arsalan Chaudhry to cough up or face hard times in the court before his father. Arsalan says he was entrapped in order to influence his father. In the event, Arsalan took favours from Mr Malik but his father didn’t return the compliment, which raises the question of who was blackmailing whom and who gained and who lost from this unholy transaction.
The army was constitutionally mandated to be an arm of the Pakistan state with elected civilians in control of the executive. But it has seized the commanding heights and subordinated the other organs of the state to its own unaccountable purposes.
In recent times, however, something even more sinister has been happening. This is the creeping growth of the ISI from a small arms-length intelligence directorate or department of the military (Inter Services Intelligence Directorate) in the initial decades of independent Pakistan to an omnipotent and invisible “deep state within the state” that now controls both military strategy and civilian policy.
General Pervez Musharraf’s unprecedented appointment of General Ashfaq Kayani, a former DG-ISI, as COAS was the first step in this direction. The second was General Kayani’s own decision to routinely rotate senior and serving ISI officers to positions of command and control in the army and vice-versa, coupled with his insistence on handpicking the DGISI and extending his service. Together, these decisions reflect a harsh new reality. The ISI has walked into GHQ and seized command and control of the armed forces.
This is a deeply troubling development because it violates the established norm-policy of all militaries in democratic societies – intelligence services must consciously be kept at arms length from GHQ because “field commanders must not get contaminated” or tainted by cloak and dagger operations in grey zones. That is why COAS Gen Zia ul Haq kicked Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman, DGISI, upstairs to CJOSC rather than give him troops to command. That is why COAS Gen Asif Nawaz sidelined DGISI Gen Asad Durrani as IG Training and Evaluation. That is why COAS Gen Waheed Kakar prematurely retired Gen Durrani from service for playing politics in GHQ and then recommended Gen Jehangir Karamat as his successor rather than his close confidante and former DGISI Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi. Indeed, that is why the CIA, RAW, MI6, KGB, MOSSAD etc remain under full civilian operations and control even though soldiers may be seconded to them or head them occasionally.
The ISI’s meteoric rise in the 1980s is well documented. It became the official conduit for tens of billions of dollars of arms and slush funds from the US and Saudi Arabia to the Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Three serving generals of the time were billed as “the richest and most powerful generals in the world” by Time magazine in 1986. Two of them, Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman and Gen Hameed Gul were in turn DGs-ISI while the third, General Fazle Haq, was the Peshawar gatekeeper to Afghanistan.
Three Prime Ministers have fallen victim to the ISI. PM Junejo ran afoul of DGs ISI Gen Hameed Gul and Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman over the Ojhri Camp disaster. Benazir Bhutto was undermined by DGs ISI Gen Gul and General Asad Durrani. And Nawaz Sharif by DG ISI Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi and COAS Gen Waheed Kakar. Indeed, Mr Sharif might have survived in 1999 if Gen Musharraf had not earlier cunningly moved Gen Mohammad Aziz from the ISI to GHQ as CGS because it was the latter who nudged Corps Commander Pindi Gen Mahmood Ahmed to execute the coup in the absence of Gen Musharraf.
The ISI’s creeping coup – ISI officers returning to command positions in the army – against GHQ is fraught with problems. It has eroded the credibility and capacity of both the current DG ISI and COAS within the military and civil society. The ISI’s spectacular failures (BB’s assassination, Mumbai, Raymond Davis case, missing persons, Memogate, Mehrangate, Abbotabad, Saleem Shehzad, Get-Zardari, etc) can all be laid at GHQ’s door just as the ISI’s anti-terrorist policy failures are responsible for the loss of over 3000 soldiers to the Pakistan Taliban and the terrorist attacks on GHQ and Mehran Navy Base. The fact that both the COAS and DG ISI have taken extensions in service has also undermined their credibility far and wide.
What appeared to be a coordinated smear campaign targeting Najam Sethi last week continues, today with Ahmed Quraishi using a clip from Mubashir Luqman’s show of 26th September and continuing to fan the flames. But rather than discredit Najam Sethi, Ahmed Quraishi’s latest move does more to discredit the smear campaign itself. ….
Two months after Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was assassinated by his own bodyguard for criticizing the country’s blasphemy law, the only Christian member of the Pakistani cabinet, Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was killed for doing his job—advocating protection of the country’s two million Christians.
Taseer’s assassination prompted a debate: Was the blasphemy law, introduced by Gen. Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s in his bid to “Islamize” Pakistan, being exploited for mundane interests? Was it leading to witch hunts? Bhatti’s death should prompt Pakistanis to ask themselves an equally disquieting question: Does Pakistan have a future as …
– The cold-blooded torture and murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad by “invisible agencies” roused the journalists of Pakistan to unite and demand an independent and credible commission of inquiry to unearth the facts and punish the perpetrators. A media “dharna” outside parliament in Islamabad was aimed at securing an independent supreme court judge to head the inquiry instead of Justice Agha Rafiq, the chief justice of the Federal Shariat Court, nominated by President Asif Zardari.
Two questions arose. First, why did the media unite in such an unprecedented manner in this case when it didn’t do so in the case of the sixteen journalists so far killed this year in Pakistan? What was so particularly frightening or significant about this murder that compelled the media to stand up and be counted? Second, why did President Zardari originally pick a “Zardari-loyalist” to head this commission? Was this aimed at shielding any slip up or criminality on the part of the PPP government? And if it wasn’t, who was President Zardari trying to shield and why?
The answers are straight forward enough. Saleem Shehzad had recorded his problems with the ISI and left a testament indicting it if he was harmed. He was writing a book exposing the inroads into the armed forces and ISI made by retired or serving officers sympathetic to Al Qaeda’s violent ideology. Such exposure was deemed irrevocably embarrassing to the national security establishment. It explained the lack of preparedness on the part of the military to defend and protect itself — as evidenced in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Abbottabad in recent times. It also confirmed the fears of the international community about the security of the nukes, triggering scenarios of pre-emptive action against them in the event of their seizure by rogues allied to Al Qaeda. When Saleem Shehzad went ahead and published his book, he had to be silenced.
That, at least, is the media’s perception of what happened to him and why. Thus the media banded together to demand accountability so that the same fate did not befall any other journalist. If this perception was wrong, an independent commission of inquiry should have been able to establish the innocence of the ISI and redeem its credibility. If it was right, the ISI had to be chastened and cleansed of such elements. What is wrong with this way of thinking? Indeed, when an attempt is made to hide the facts behind a stooge commission, such suspicions and perceptions take deep roots and protests are inclined to become more widespread and violent. If President Zardari hadn’t finally heeded the journalists’ threat and appointed Justice Saqib Nisar to head the commission instead of Mr Agha Rafiq, the media was all geared up to announce a blackout of all government news and military press statements and advice.
Much the same sort of trouble for the government and military may be forecast for another commission of inquiry pledged by parliament to uncover the truth behind the Abbottabad debacle. In this case, too, the military seems to have leaned on the weak PPP government to desist from seriously inquiring into the mishap because it would deeply embarrass the “national security establishment” and conceivably jeopardise its “strategic relationship” with its Pentagon counterpart in the United States.
In both instances, however, there is one critical factor that threatens to derail the unholy nexus between a weak government and an arrogant military that are clutching at each other for protection. That is the opposition lead by Nawaz Sharif. The PMLN stood solidly with the fearful media in the first instance and will back the outraged public in the second. No less significantly, the sympathies of the newly independent judiciary are with the media, opposition and public. This is an inherently unstable and precarious situation. Where do we go from here?
The military has no option but to press the strategic “Paradigm Reset” button. The media and judiciary have joined the stake holders’ club. The military must realize that it is no longer capable of “managing” or “manipulating” or “blackmailing” the twice-bitten opposition to do its bidding blindly. The media too has been empowered by a wave of “citizen-journalists” who cannot be repressed. There are 20 million internet users in Pakistan and 4 million Facebook freaks and Tweeters. This organic new species had defied the dictators of the Middle East and smashed their censors. It is destined to do the same in Pakistan.
The situation is fraught with dangers of unmanageable upheaval. The military must adjust its sights accordingly. If, for example, the US were to launch any new unilateral action that outraged the Pakistani media, opposition and public, the military would be caught in the eye of the storm. It won’t be able to resist the public pressure but it also wouldn’t like to be savaged by America. Thus it could be the biggest loser in the game. Forewarned is forearmed.
The terrorist attacks on GHQ last year and the Mehran Naval Base last month were outrageous examples of terrorist efficiency and motivation as opposed to ISI incompetence and military ill-preparedness. The US Navy Seal raid to extract Osama bin Laden from a compound in Abbottabad was deeply humiliating as well. Heads should have rolled. But the military will not even consider an independent commission of inquiry to unearth the facts. No wonder its credibility and sacred-cow status have taken a mighty hit. Within the armed forces, officers are standing up to question and confront their superiors. Outside, an angry public wants to know why we are spending half our tax resources on equipping the military with F-16s and BMWs when it can’t even protect itself, let alone defend the nation. This questioning of Military Incorporated is unprecedented.
More significantly, the civilian opposition is up in arms. It is demanding an informed debate over the military’s national security doctrines – particularly with reference to the obsession with, and fear of, “arch-enemy India” – that have spawned such self-serving budgetary outlays and an arms race at the expense of the social welfare of Pakistanis for six decades. The indignant argument that criticism of the military is “unpatriotic” or serves the interests of the “enemy” doesn’t wash any more. Indeed, the term “establishment”, used hitherto to refer obliquely to the military so as not to offend it, is rapidly going out of fashion. People are not afraid to call a spade a spade.
Ominously, the ISI’s mythology of power is now being deconstructed and exposed as being undeserved. The “agencies” are out of fashion, the ISI is squarely in the spotlight. The premeditated abduction and torture of journalist Saleem Shehzad, which led to his death, has been bravely laid by the media and opposition at the door of the ISI and not some invisible “agency”. The government’s silence – in not establishing a credible commission of inquiry – has also compromised the ISI’s position. This is remarkable, not because of the pathetic response in self-defense elicited from unnamed spokesmen of the ISI but because a conviction has now taken root in the public imagination that the ISI should not be beyond the pale of the law and accountability. The opposition has gone so far in parliament as to demand an oversight of its functions, duties, responsibilities and budgets. This is a far cry from a demand by the media and opposition not so long ago to shield and protect the ISI and its DG from the “conspiratorial” tentacles of the PPP government and its ubiquitous interior minister, Rehman Malik, who sought to bring the ISI’s internal political wing dedicated to political machinations under civilian control.
All this has happened because of two new factors that are not sufficiently imagined or understood by the military and ISI. One is the rise of a fiercely competitive and free media that is rapidly coming of age and will not allow itself to be manipulated wholesale in the “patriotic national interest”, a term that is constantly being re-evaluated in light of changing realities. The other is the revival of a chief justice and supreme court that are acutely aware of the civil burden imposed by their historic and popular enthronement. Neither will countenance any political or military oversight of their own sense of freedom and function. So if the military cannot rely on the troika of army chief, president and prime minister for political leverage of government – because the president and prime minister are one now – it is even more problematic to try and manipulate the media and SC merely on the yardstick of “patriotism” and “national interest”. The military’s woes are compounded by the fact that, for the first time in history, a popular Punjabi “son of the soil” like Nawaz Sharif, whose PML is a veritable creature of the predominantly Punjabi-origin military itself, has turned around and openly challenged its supremacy, arrogance and lack of accountability. The “Punjabi establishment” – meaning the civil-military power combine that has ruled Pakistan since independence — is therefore openly divided. The irony of history is that it is a Sindhi politician (Asif Zardari) who is opportunistically lending his shoulder to the military as it braces for fresh buffetings at home.
But that is just the beginning of a new story. The international establishment – principally the USA and EU – that has nurtured and molly-coddled the Pakistani military for six decades with money and weapons is also at the end of its tether. The “strategic partnership” mantra is dead. Washington, like Islamabad, doesn’t trust Rawalpindi either as long-term partner or ally. It is only a matter of time before the civilians in Pakistan and those in DC or Brussels make common cause for mutual benefit. Indeed, if the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill were to be floated anew with clauses enjoining civilian supremacy over the military, there would not even be conscientious objectors today.
The Pakistan military should see the writing on the wall. It must hunker down and become subservient to civilian rule and persuasion instead of embarking on new misadventures in the region like the proverbial Pied Piper. The road to hell is always paved with self-serving intentions.
Who could have imagined that a serving commander of the Pakistan Army in the Waziristan badlands would have consciously knocked the popular myth that American drone strikes in Fata are part of the problem and not part of the solution of terrorism? But that’s exactly what happened on March 8.
Maj Gen Ghayur Mehmud, GOC 7th Div North Waziristan, did not mince words in his printed brief ‘“Myths and Rumours about US Predator Strikes” handed out to journalists from his command post in the area. He made two main points: (1) A majority of those killed by drone strikes are “hardcore Taliban or Al Qaeda elements, especially foreigners,” while civilian casualties are “few”. (2) But by scaring local populations and compelling displacement through migration, drone attacks create social and political blowbacks for law enforcement agencies. Obviously, the first consequence is good and welcome as part of the national “solution” strategy and the second is problematic and should be minimised because it creates local “problems” of a tactical nature.
Gen Mehmud hasn’t been fired or reprimanded. This means he had the green signal from the GHQ to make his brief. His statement explains the consciously nurtured “duality” of official policy versus popular position on drone strikes and confirms the Wikileaks summary that both secret authorisation and popular criticism go hand in hand in Pakistan where both civilian and military leaders are on the same page.
To be sure, the tactical issues are not insignificant. The Pakistani military would dearly love to own some Predators or at least have a measure of command and control over them, so the demand is worth making publically all the time even though it routinely falls on deaf American ears – for obvious reasons, this devastating technology isn’t available to any state except Israel.
Similarly, the Pakistan military would like to have a critical advance say on the choice of drone targets so that “hardcore Al-Qaeda elements and foreigners” noted by Gen Ghayur are usefully targeted but some Pakistani “assets” among the Quetta Shura of Mullah Omer, Gulbudin Hekmatyar’s Hizbe Islami and Siraj Haqqani’s Taliban network are spared for long-term application in Afghanistan. Disagreement with the Americans over this particular issue compels military spokespersons to blow hot (in public) and cold (in front of the Americans) over all drone strikes.
Sometimes, when it gets uncomfortably hot under the collar, then General Ashfaq Kayani has to weigh in for public consumption – as he did recently when, the day after Raymond Davis was freed (courtesy ISI) amidst howls of protest from the media, a drone strike killed over 40 pro and anti-military tribesmen in a jirga for local conflict resolution in Fata.
Pakistan and America have some strategic interests in common, like eliminating Al-Qaeda from Waziristan. But there are disagreements about who is a “good” Taliban and who is not. This is not strange at all. The answer to this question will determine who will rule or share power in Afghanistan in the next five years and who will not. It will also have a bearing on Afghanistan’s strategic and tactical allies in the neighbourhood in the future – India or Pakistan. Therefore Pakistan’s military, which loves to hate India even as America is itching to embrace India, believes it cannot shrug away any openings or opportunities for leveraging its concerns and interests.
This perspective explains how the Raymond Davis case was handled (exploited) by the ISI and the import of DG-ISI’s recent dash to Washington for a meeting with the CIA chief. The ISI wants greater tactical input/output into CIA operations in Pakistan (to protect its strategic assets at home like the Lashkar-e-Tayba and the Haqqani network) even as it strategically allows the US to operate drones and run special agents freely from two bases in Pakistan where visas and landing rights are not an issue. Who knows how many Americans land or take off from these bases, how many carry weapons and what they do in their bulletproof SUVs when they cruise the length and breadth of Pakistan?
Under the circumstances, the DG-ISI’s “request” in Langley was about reposing “trust” in joint operations rather than any overt threat to deny existing facilities and rights. The US has responded with a drone strike in South Waziristan which is supposed to be strictly out of bounds. This signals its intention to remain focused on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda even as it “considers” Gen Pasha’s request for greater sensitivity to Pakistan’s needs and interests. No more, no less.
A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal, a pro-US establishment paper, sums up the American position bluntly. It is titled: The Pakistan Ultimatum: choose whose side it is on. “Maybe the Obama Administration can inform its friends in Islamabad that, when it comes to this particular fight, the U.S. will continue to pursue its enemies wherever they may be, with or without Pakistan’s cooperation… Pakistan can choose to cooperate in that fight and reap the benefits of an American alliance. Or it can oppose the U.S. and reap the consequences, including the loss of military aid, special-ops and drone incursions into their frontier areas, and in particular a more robust U.S. military alliance with India… After 9/11 Pakistan had to choose whose side it was on. It’s time to present Pakistan with the same choice again.
So it’s time for Pakistan’s military leaders to make up their minds and deal with its consequences. They must be upfront with America – because it’s a greatly beneficial “friend” to have and a deadly “enemy” to make – and honest with Pakistanis – because they’re not stupid and can eventually see through duplicity, as they did in the Raymond Davis case.
The military cannot forever hunt with America and run with an anti-American Pakistani public they have helped to create. They cannot instruct the DG-ISPR in Islamabad to convey the impression of tough talking in Langley while asking the GOC 7 Division in Waziristan to give a realistic brief to the media about the critical benefits of drone strikes amidst all the “myths and rumours” of their negativity. This double-dealing confuses the public, annoys a strategic partner, and discredits the military all round when it is exposed.
More significantly, it makes it difficult for Pakistanis to swallow the hard realities and the harder decisions necessary to change them for the sake of the state’s survival and the nation’s growth.
The duality or contradiction in the military’s private and public position vis a vis its relationship with civilians in Pakistan and its relationship with America is a direct consequence of two inter-related factors: First, the military’s threat perception of India’s rising military capability, and second, its fear of losing control over India-centred national security policy to the civilians who are keen to start the process of building permanent peace in the region, thereby diluting the military’s pre-eminent role in Pakistan’s polity.
The military’s scheme of things requires a permanent state of relative hostility towards, and distrust of, India. That is why its national security doctrine is fashioned on the premise that it is India’s military capacity to harm Pakistan rather than its intentions to build a permanent peace that matter.
Of course, this is a perfect and unending rationalisation of its economic and political hold over Pakistan since India’s conventional weaponry is forecast to grow by leaps and bounds on the basis of a robust economy and nationalist unity. But Pakistan’s limping economy is groaning under the burden of the arms race engendered by this philosophy and its civilian polity is fracturing in the grab for diminishing resources. That is why its civilians are increasingly plucking up the courage to stare the army in the face for their political, provincial and economic rights.
The military’s policy of renting itself out to America for its own sake and also complaining about it at the same time for the sake of the Pakistani public is clearly bankrupt. Isn’t it time, therefore, to consider a different paradigm, one in which conflict resolution and peace with India deliver an economic dividend that can be reaped by all in an environment free from destabilising extremism and war in the neighbourhood? In pursuit of an untenable philosophy, what use are dubious non-state “assets” that can become extreme liabilities in an impending national meltdown?
Under the circumstances, General Kayani could do worse than go on the national hookup and defend the truth of the briefing given by his subordinate Maj Gen Ghuyur Mehmud. He will be surprised how quickly a majority of Pakhtuns in particular and Pakistanis in general will back him to the hilt and help change the national paradigm. This is more our war than it is America’s because we live and die here and not far away across two great oceans.
The writer is Jang Group/Geo adviser on political affairs.
Another amazing program by Najam Sethi. Only he can dare to talk about establishment like he is talking in this program about the political assassinations in Pakistan.
In nutshell:- 1. Laiqat Ali Khan was assassinated by civil and military bureaucracy. 2. General Zia ul Haq was killed by top civil-military bureaucracy. In both cases investigations were covered up, derailed and stopped and in both cases blame was passed on to foreign elements but in reality those were local conspiracies. Thank you Najam Sethi Saheb for this daring to talk show against the devil – the Military Mullah Alliance. Undoubtedly Najam Sethi is true, when he says that the security establishment is the main reason of the plight of the people of Pakistan. The language of the program is urdu/ Hindi.