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Limits to Imran’s magic

By Haider Nizamani

SPEECHES made at the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) rally in Karachi on Dec 25 were a perfect “motley mixture of high-sounding phrases … [and] adherence to the old routine”. It will hardly endear Imran Khan and his party to ordinary Sindhi and Baloch publics.

The issues speakers zeroed in on and the topics they did not touch upon offer an interesting insight into the ethos of the PTI and how out of touch it is with the Sindhi and Baloch political pulse. Both in terms of content and form there was little on offer for Sindhis and the Baloch in the vicinity of Jinnah`s mausoleum.

Start with what Imran Khan had to say about Balochistan. He quite correctly, and I am assuming sincerely, apologised to the Baloch for the wrongs done to them. Who was he apologising as? Was he doing it as a Punjabi? If so, he did not make it obvious. Nawaz Sharif did the same in a meeting with Sardar Ataullah Mengal only a few days back. Instead of echoing what Nawaz Sharif had said to Sardar Mengal, Imran Khan should have paid attention to the veteran Baloch leader`s response in which he considered such apologies hollow and minced no words in conveying to Mr Sharif that the Baloch youth viewed the army as a Punjabi army and not a national one.

Unless politicians from Punjab are willing and capable to rein in the army there is little hope of winning over the hearts and minds of the people of Balochistan. Imran Khan`s answer to Baloch alienation is to bring `development` to the province. Mention `development` to a Baloch and she/he immediately thinks of boots on the ground and men in khaki hunting down Baloch nationalists. `Development` in the Baloch perception means systematic exploitation of Balochistan`s natural resources and a denial of political rights spanning half a century.

Imran Khan quite naively invoked West Germany`s example of helping East Germany in the reunification of the two. He wants to play West Germany to Balochistan, conveniently forgetting that it was the East Germans who brought the Berlin Wall down to be one with their West German brothers.

In the case of Balochistan, the situation is almost the exact opposite where there is an ever-increasing aspiration to get out of Pakistan instead of an urge to be part of it. When it comes to Sindh, the PTI bowled, to use Imran Khan`s favourite cricketing analogy, a wide on Sindhis in both form and content. topi

Let us look at the form first. The team that Imran Khan chose to surround himself with on the stage did not even have a token Sindhi among them. Sindhis have not patented the Sindhi (cap) and it would have done no harm to adorn one when attempting to put up a mega political show in Sindh.

If you are going to punctuate speeches with songs then not having any Sindhi song on the playlist only sends a wrong message. Whether or not you appreciate Shah Abdul Latif`s poetry, it is customary to pay tribute to Latif when politicking in Sindh.

`Tsunami` may be a nice and thunderous word elsewhere but in the coastal areas of Sindh people associate it with misery not merriment. The list of such symbolic follies is too long for a newspaper column.

In terms of content there was little that Sindhis could identify with but a lot that would keep the PTI on the political margins in the province.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi`s speech was, again using cricket analogy, akin to Misbah-ul-Haq`s innings against India in the 2011 World Cup semi-final. Misbah scored only 17 runs during the first 42 balls he faced thus contributing to the cost incurred by Pakistan.

Qureshi did the same for Imran Khan in Karachi as far as PTI`s immediate fortunes in Sindh are concerned. Qureshi chose to play the nuclear nationalism card and accuse President Asif Zardari of being not as strong a nuclear nationalist as an ideal Pakistani president should be. He went on to educate, or rather bore, those attending with concepts such as no-first-use, Cold Start and asymmetric warfare.

The speech sounded more like a pitch to secure the slot of foreign minister in any future government than connecting with the masses in Sindh. Simply put, you don`t talk about that stuff in public rallies in Sindh. It finds little resonance with Sindhis.

Imran Khan was equally off the mark if one purpose of the show was to win the support of Sindhis. His road map was a motley of generalities guided by political naivety that made him look up to England as a model welfare state when he first set foot there as a teenager.

His solutions to complex socioeconomic and political issues are sought in simple steps like computerising the land records because a computer does not accept bribe or aspiration to provide free legal advice to 80 per cent of the population.

And no such talk is complete without customary tribute to Lee Kuan Yew`s ways of `developing` the tiny island of Singapore. These propositions resonate with the urban middle classes of Punjab and possibly Karachi but have little to do with various segments of the Sindhi population.

For Imran Khan the only hurdle in the way of exploiting coal deposits in the desert Sindh may be the law and order situation in Karachi but for Sindhis the issue is more complex and requires provinces having a greater say and decision-making powers when it comes to natural resources.

Imran Khan and his party have an attractive platform for the urban middle classes of Punjab but his slogans have little appeal where the Baloch and Sindhi political path is concerned, at least for now.

The writer is a Canada-based author. hnizamani@hotmail.com

Courtesy » DAWN.COM

http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/27/limits-to-imrans-magic.html

Watch – Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Ghaznavi) is talking about Nuclear issue (First Strike) – [Meaning] Hum dushmn (India) per bum maar ke raheinge

The language of the speech of former Foreign Minister and the vice chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Ghaznavi) is in urdu (Hindi). SMQ has proved himself a conservative and extremist fundo, who is desperate to reach to power at any cost. His personal grievances with Zardari for not giving him Foreign Ministry reached to a level where he is prompting highly poisoned arguments on nuclear issue, and promoting anti-India sentiments.

Courtesy: Duniya Tv News

via » Siasat.pk » YouTube

The dream of a new start in Pakistan

By Omar Ali

The rise of Imran Khan and memogate have enthused those who dream of a “reformed” democracy under the guiding hand of the army.

A few days ago, I was planning to write about Imran Khan. Pakistan’s most successful cricket captain and philanthropist had been trying to add “successful politician” to his resume since 1996, but after many years in the political wilderness he finally seemed to make a breakthrough with his large public meeting in Lahore. Pakistan’s educated youth, in particular, appeared to be very excited about a politician for the first time in their young lives. But they were not alone; even the ageing British Marxist, Tariq Ali, threw caution to the winds and announced that Mr. Khan’s gathering was a sign that the “Arab Spring” had finally made it to Pakistan and was even larger than the huge rallies of Benazir Bhutto and her father in days gone by. Comrade Tariq seemed to have forgotten that the Arab Spring had come to Pakistan many decades before it belatedly reached the Arab world and never mind the size of the rally, which bore no comparison to Benazir’s historic 1986 rally. But, Tariq Ali’s flights of fancy notwithstanding, the rally was clearly large and the arrival of Mr. Khan as a politician with crowd support was a major event.

But then President Asif Ali Zardari called his U.S. ambassador Hussain Haqqani to return to Pakistan to explain his role in “memogate,” the still mysterious affair in which he apparently gave international fixer Mansoor Ijaz a memo that was passed on to Admiral Mullen. It is not yet clear who was behind the memo and what he hoped to accomplish; did the Zardari regime really fear a coup at a time when the army was on the back-foot and faced real public humiliation in Pakistan in May 2011? And if it did, why pick this circuitous route to look for American help? And how would a regime that is unable to control the army and fears a coup be able to turn around and completely defang the same army with U.S. help a few days later? Is there more to the story? We don’t know, and may never know, but the story is not over yet.

Both stories may even be related; there are suggestions that Mr. Khan’s sudden rise is not just spontaneous combustion but involves some help from “the agencies.” Circumstantial evidence in favour of this suspicion includes the obvious sympathy he is receiving from pro-military websites and the fact that his extremely “liberal” and reasonable interview with Karan Thapar has not ignited any firestorm of protest in the “Paknationalist” community — a community generally quick to jump on anyone who talks of improved relations with India or admits that we do have militants and that they do need to be eliminated. Memogate is even more obviously a story about the civilian-military divide in Pakistan and it is no secret that it is the army that is asking for his removal. Is this then the proverbial perfect storm that will sweep away the current civilian dispensation and replace it with that old favourite of the army and the middle class: a “caretaker government” that will rid us of “corrupt politicians” and “unpatriotic elements” and make Pakistan the China of South Asia?

I have no way of knowing if the time is nigh, but the dream of a new start is not a figment of my imagination. The military and its favourite intellectuals (and large sections of the middle class) seem to be in a permanent state of anticipation of the day when the military will sweep away this sorry scheme of things and then we will have order and progress. If pressed about the nature of the system that will replace the current system, the naïve foot soldiers may think of the late lamented (and mostly imaginary) caliphate if they are on the Islamist side of the fence; or of “reformed” and real democracy, the kind that does not elect Altaf Hussains and Asif Zardaris, if they are on the smaller westernised liberal side of the fence. But the army’s own house intellectuals are more likely to point to China. That the history of China and the ruling communist party has no resemblance to GHQ’s own history of inept and retrograde interference in Pakistani politics is something that is never brought up; apparently this time, the GHQ will start where the Chinese are today, having conveniently skipped an intervening century of mass movements, civil wars and revolutions, not to speak of 4000 years of civilisation and culture.

Of course, the system as it exists is unnatural. Either the army has to be brought to heel under an elected civilian regime or civilians have to be pushed aside for a more efficient form of military rule (even if it is in the garb of a civilian “caretaker regime”). The current “neither fish nor fowl” system will have to evolve in one direction or the other, or crises like memogate will continue to erupt. Since most people think the army has the upper hand, the second outcome appears more likely to them. It could be that Mr. Khan offers them the chance to have their cake and eat it too; he is genuinely popular and if his party wins the elections and comes to power, the army may have the regime it wants in a more legitimate manner. But this middle-class dream outcome also seems unlikely. It is hard to see how the PTI can win a majority in a genuine election. And with no plan beyond simplistic patriotic slogans, any such regime will soon face the same problems as the one it replaces.

That brings us to the second prediction: the current atmosphere of crisis will continue unabated no matter what arrangements are made by the army. The really critical problem in Pakistan is not “corrupt politicians.” In that respect, we are little different from India, Indonesia or many other countries not thought to be in terminal existential crisis. The real problem is that an overpopulated third world postcolonial state has not yet settled even the most fundamental issues about the nature of the state and its institutions. The “hard” version of the two-nation theory and its associated Islamism have helped to create a constituency for millenarian Islamist fantasies. And 20 years of training militants for “asymmetric warfare” against India has created an armed force and a safe haven for that force. These two streams have mingled to the point where the state faces civil war against its own creations. It is also a war for which the deep state lacks an adequate narrative, having spent decades nurturing a virulent anti-Indian and Islamist ideology that glorifies the very people they are now forced to fight. But fight them it must because its own interests lie with globalised capitalism, not militants. They may imagine they can again direct the war outwards to Afghanistan and Kashmir, but the militants have other ideas, and will not go quietly into the night. Even if they did, the legitimacy of the 1973 constitution and its institutions within the elite remains low and so the crisis of governance would continue.

So, after this doom and gloom, a faint “positive” prediction: There are better than even chances that eventually the deep state will be compelled to claw its way past all these problems to defeat the militants, make peace with India and establish a straightforward near-secular democratic system to run the country. All of that may look less than the paradise many Pakistanis are waiting for, but it’s what the world has to offer at this point in history and it is unlikely that the intellectual resources of GHQ will somehow produce an alternative that the rest of the world has not yet found. It will not be pretty, but it will be done.

Or they will fail, with unpredictable dire consequences for their own people and the region. Either way, India would do well to help positive trends and resist negative ones without losing sight of the big picture. I think Manmohan Singh realises that, I hope others do too.

Continue reading The dream of a new start in Pakistan

What if we win – 2

– by Omar Ali

Pakistan’s predicament continues to draw comment from all over the world; in the Western (and Westoxicated Eastern) Left, the narrative remains straightforward(to such a degree that one is tempted to share an essay by Trotsky that Tariq Ali may have missed): US imperialism is to blame. In this story, US imperialism “used” poor helpless clueless Pakistan for its own evil ends, then “abandoned” them (it’s very bad when the imperialists go into a third world country, it’s also very bad when they leave) and they have now returned to finish off the job.  I have written in the past about my disagreements with this Eurocentric and softly racist narrative and have little to add to it. In any case, no one in authority in either the imperialist powers or Pakistan is paying too much attention to the Guardian or the further reaches of the Left. But even among those who matter (for better and for worse), there seems to be no agreement about what is going on and what comes next. Everyone has their theories, ranging from “lets attack Pakistan” to “let’s throw more money at them” and everything in between. I don’t know what comes next eith

er, but I have been thinking for a few days about an outcome that many in the Pakistani pro-military webring think is around the corner: What if we win?

The fact that the US/NATO are in trouble in Afghanistan is no longer news. The fact that Pakistan is about to “win” may not be as obvious to many outsiders (or even to many Pakistanis).  but “strategic victory” in Afghanistan is now taken for granted by the Paknationalists. And one should take them seriously, since their theories are not only a product of GHQ, they are also the basis GHQ’s own decision making. The circle goes like this: psyops operators create the theory in the morning. It’s taken up by the paknationalist media through the day and is on GEO TV by nightfall. The generals hear it on the evening news and excitedly call up their friends: did you see what everyone is saying!

– What does it mean for Pakistan to “win” in Afghanistan?

Most of my Pakistani friends think it’s a zero-sum game: what is bad for the US is good for Pakistan. Though some analysts have attempted warn that it may not be a glorious victory, but this kind of “negative thinking” is not the dominant mode in Pakistan. Even Pakistanis who expect some trouble are generally happy with the thought that the Americans will be escaping from the Kabul embassy hanging on to rope ladders. I disagree, and I disagree because I think that this defeat will not be fatal for the US, but it is very likely to be terrible for Pakistan. The US, while chastened and shocked (as after Vietnam?) will not be seriously wounded by defeat in Afghanistan; What happens to the economy at home will be far more critical than what happens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, neither of which have a big role in the economy, and the role they do have is entirely negative. The US will be better off getting out of Afghanistan. Pakistan will not escape that lightly.

First some clarifications: I am not talking about loss of US aid or the loss of vast sums of money that the US pays Pakistani contractors for supplying and sustaining their mission in Afghanistan. First of all, the US and NATO will need Pakistani help to get out safely and may pay more in defeat than they ever did in “victory”. And even when the taps are eventually turned off, the stoppage of US aid is not necessarily fatal. It’s a 200 billion dollar economy and while the poor may suffer some more as the upper classes squeeze them harder to make up for lost dollars, life is likely to go on. Severe sanctions are a more serious issue, but it’s possible that China can prevent those.  There will, of course, be the inevitable military coup (most likely a “hidden” one, in which a civilian caretaker regime is installed by the army) and that will itself lead to a temporary improvement in administration in the core region; In short, all will not be doom and gloom if the Western tap does get turned off, especially if the turning off is gradual and if China can be convinced to help the upper classes out a little more. The real problems will lie elsewhere.

First of all, this “victory” will not lead to instant peace in Afghanistan.  Even the paknationalists think Afghanistan will erupt in open civil war. Naturally, that’s a war they expect “their side” to win, but keep in mind that the Taliban, with full Pakistani support and little overt intervention on the other side, still could not conquer all of Afghanistan prior to 2001. After 10 years of western support, and with Iran, India and Russia already working on future scenarios, it is hard to see how the Taliban could easily roll back into Northern or Western Afghanistan. The civil war in Afghanistan will not be brief or decisive, and it will suck Pakistan into all kinds of trouble. Even in the best case scenario, it will be very tough. In the worst case scenario, Pakistan may collapse before the last American takes off from the embassy roof. The risks in case of “victory” are enormous.

Secondly, the jihadis will want their peace dividend within Pakistan too. Imran Khan and his admirers are waiting for the day when the Americans leave and we can talk to “our people” as brothers, but the brothers are not just fighting for America to leave.
They had an agenda before America arrived in 2001 and they have not given up on it. Neither have their friends in the security services. The jihadi faction of the deep state did not train half a million jihadis just to needle India. Pakistan itself will have to be cleansed of undesirables. The first in line will excite little sympathy; Zardari’s cronies, ANP diehards and Baloch nationalists will be “sorted out” soon after the coup, to cheers from Imran Khan supporters wearng Microsoft T-shirts. Neither will the Ahmedis get much sympathy. But the Salafists will not spare Shias and that will mean problems with Iran and with the remaining Shia population within Pakistan. Next the westernized elite will be asked to join the glorious Islamic revolution. Most will choose to accept and may even think that the jihadis are only looking for public expressions of piety, but they will soon find out that the Jihadis are serious. And that they had no idea what was cooking under the radar in half a million madrasahs and an impoverished, disenfranchised and much abused population of desperately poor people. While the burger-jihadis are working on their Microsoft certification and jerking off to Imran Khan and Shahid Afridi speeches on youtube, the rest of the country has neither water, not electricity nor basic law and order. The revolution will not stop at public piety. Until one day, the red death will reach the innermost sanctum: GHQ itself will be invited to reform. At that point, as defense housing society plots are redistributed, the victory will become very bittersweet indeed.

Does this mean that the ruling elite in Pakistan will in fact bite the bullet and help the US out just to save themselves? After all, the US intervention did provide the elite with a chance to give up their dangerous jihadi policy and switch to some alternative route to capitalism. But in spite of Chinese hints that they may be better off taking this road, the “Indian threat” meme has overwhelmed all other considerations and they do not seem to possess the vocabulary to try anything different. Revising their strategic doctrine may have seemed logical, but that logic has not made it past their mental defenses. This is a genuine mess. The kind where nobody is sure what will happen next.

A joke from the nineties (originally a Khalsa joke, but recycled and put to many uses since then) suddenly seems prescient; Prime minister Nawaz Sharif in those days was portrayed as something of a simpleton, getting by on the advice of his shrewd father (Abba ji). Here is the joke:
Nawaz Sharif: Abba ji, the economy is in terrible shape and nothing is working. What can we do now?
Abba ji: Son, there is only one solution. Start a war with America. They will bomb the country and utterly destroy it. Then they will occupy us and launch a Marshall plan and we will be rebuilt with their money. Look how rich Japan and Germany have become after losing a war to America.
Nawaz Sharif: But Abba ji, what if we win?

But maybe I am underestimating the corrupt but shrewd ruling elite. Maybe they have enough self-awareness to sneak out of this one? Notice that Pakistan is opening up trade with India. We delayed an American victory in Afghanistan for 10 years because we don’t want Indian influence in Afghanistan. We don’t want Indian influence in Afghanistan because the Indians are our eternal enemies. Now the Americans are threatening us, so we are going to make peace with India to relieve pressure on the economy. When we are friends with India, will we still need to deny them “influence” in Afghanistan? Enquiring minds want to know…

These thoughts about the possible shrewdness of the corrupt elite were rudely interrupted by the following post on the paknationalist webring:http://www.pakistankakhudahafiz.com/2011/10/02/2012-a-scientific-look-at-the-importance-of-the-year-2012-in-view-of-the-historic-events/#comment-124549. This is not a conspiracy site in some basement in Louisiana. This is the site closest to the mindset of our esteemed military elite and the “scientist” being quoted is one of Pakistan’s “nuclear heroes”. Hope may be premature.

Courtesy » Brown Pundits