Tag Archives: transition

Déjà Coup?

By Tarek Radwan | July 04, 2013

Things in Egypt are moving quickly—too quickly for comfort. Since General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s announcement warning of a forty-eight hour window to solve Egypt’s political problems, government officials and ministers jumped the sinking ship, as Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood found themselves in a struggle for political survival after rocketing to the top of the political food chain only a year earlier. And then the army dropped its hammer. Morsi no longer rules Egypt and the revolution appears to have returned to square one after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

After only four days of mass anti-Morsi protests and counter protests, violent clashes that left eighteen dead and hundreds wounded, and extreme rhetoric and rumors on all sides, the Egyptian military rolled out its armored personnel carriers and troops in an effort to control key state institutions and protest areas. Mohamed ElBaradei, a leader of the National Salvation Front (NSF) and appointed negotiator between the military and Morsi’s political opposition, spoke to a crowd of millions about a rejuvenated revolution, just as the Egyptian presidency released a statement rejecting what they view as a military coup. Secularist and anti-Morsi protesters celebrated well into the night but Islamists decried an attack on their legitimately elected president and their faith. The question remains: Is military intervention a step forwards or a step backward for Egyptian democracy?

The complexity of what the world is witnessing in Egypt cannot be understated. Its international partners cannot ignore what Islamists are lamenting: Morsi is the first freely elected, civilian president in Egypt’s history. Neither can observers disregard that a forcible removal of Morsi from office by the military is the very definition of a “military coup,” regardless of the individual or group that replaces the incumbent. However, the view that a military coup is an inherently obstacle to democratic development needs to be reexamined in light of the massive popular outrage that has poured out into the streets of Tahrir, the Presidential Palace, and across the country.

Many analysts and government officials struggle with an apparent catch 22: support the Egyptian army’s action and risk hypocrisy in light of calls for democratization, or condemn Morsi’s ouster and risk accusations of standing against the will of millions of Egyptian citizens. Is there a middle ground? Why do so many feel the impulse to celebrate a return to military control? The answer lies in the disastrous mismanagement of Egypt’s transition at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi has directly contributed to the most intensely polarized political environment in recent memory. He and the Muslim Brotherhood have practiced exclusionary politics when political consensus proved too difficult, or simply a meaningless pursuit in their calculation. These misguided policies led to a pattern of human rights violations that limited free expression, exacerbated sectarian tensions, and supported government impunity. The political crisis compounded the economic crisis, as the fiscal and budgetary deficits trickled down to the poor and middle class whose need for food and fuel outweighed faith in an Islamist system.

Continue reading Déjà Coup?

PM Sharif’s convoy stopped to let Army chief pass

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan witnessed a historic democratic transition, many in the county have started to believe that the days of military supremacy are over. But not on the roads, at least not yet.

As Nawaz Sharif, along with his family, left for the Presidency to take oath as prime minister for a record third time on Wednesday, he struck reality on the streets of Islamabad.

The question is: who is the real power wielder in Pakistan? The prime minister or the Army chief? Theoretically, the army chief is answerable to a grade-22 civil bureaucrat. Practically, he is mightier than any elected or non-elected individual in the country.

One such demonstration of this reality was witnessed Wednesday soon after Mian Nawaz Sharif’s election as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

After securing more than two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, the premier reached Punjab House to freshen up.

The prime minister was supposed to reach the Presidency before 4:00 pm to take oath from President Asif Ali Zardari.

At the oath-taking ceremony, services chiefs, political leaders, diplomats and senior civil and military officials had been invited.

PML-N sources and eyewitnesses said first to come out of Punjab House was the SUV carrying first lady Kulsoom Nawaz and her daughter Mariam Safdar. Just behind them were the vehicles of Hamza Shahbaz and Hassan Nawaz.

The convoy of the prime minister was standing at close distance from the cars of his family members. As soon as they reached the outer barrier of Punjab House adjacent to Margallah Road, an alter commando blew the whistle with full force ordering the driver to stop the vehicle.

Consequently, the prime minister’s convoy had to stop as well. The pause remained for two to three minutes.

The commando was there to make sure nothing should obstruct the route of the Army chief’s convoy, only allowing vehicles from Punjab House to pass after the entire convoy of the army chief drove away.

Continue reading PM Sharif’s convoy stopped to let Army chief pass

Exclusive interview with Noam Chomsky on Pakistan elections

By Ayyaz Mallick |

Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Noam Chomsky, is without doubt the most widely heard and read public intellectual alive today. Although trained in linguistics, he has written on and extensively critiqued a wide range of topics, including US foreign policy, mainstream media discourses and anarchist philosophy. Chomsky’s work in linguistics revolutionised the field and he has been described as the ‘father of modern linguistics‘. Professor Chomsky, along with other luminaries such as Howard Zinn and Dr Eqbal Ahmad, came into prominence during the anti-Vietnam War movement in the 1960s and has since spoken in support of national liberation movements (and against US imperialism) in countries such as Palestine, El Salvador and Nicaragua. In fact, his prolificacy in terms of academic and non-academic writing has earned him a spot among the ten most cited sources of all time (alongside Aristotle, Marx and Plato). Now in his mid-80s, Professor Chomsky shows no signs of slowing down and maintains an active lecturing and interview schedule. Here we caught up with him to get his views on upcoming Pakistani elections, American influence in the region and other issues.

As a country which has spent almost half of its existence under some sort of direct military rule how do you see this first ever impending transition from one democratically-elected government to another?

Noam Chomsky: Well, you know more about the internal situation of Pakistan than I do! I mean I think it’s good to see something like a democratic transition. Of course, there are plenty of qualifications to that but it is a big change from dictatorship. That’s a positive sign. And I think there is some potential for introducing badly needed changes. There are very serious problems to deal with internally and in the country’s international relations. So maybe, now some of them can be confronted.

Coming to election issues, what do you think, sitting afar and as an observer, are the basic issues that need to be handled by whoever is voted into power?

NC: Well, first of all, the internal issues. Pakistan is not a unified country. In large parts of the country, the state is regarded as a Punjabi state, not their (the people’s) state. In fact, I think the last serious effort to deal with this was probably in the 1970s, when during the Bhutto regime some sort of arrangement of federalism was instituted for devolving power so that people feel the government is responding to them and not just some special interests focused on a particular region and class. Now that’s a major problem.

Another problem is the confrontation with India. Pakistan just cannot survive if it continues to do so (continue this confrontation). Pakistan will never be able to match the Indian militarily and the effort to do so is taking an immense toll on the society. It’s also extremely dangerous with all the weapons development. The two countries have already come close to nuclear confrontation twice and this could get worse. So dealing with the relationship with India is extremely important.

And that of course focuses right away on Kashmir. Some kind of settlement in Kashmir is crucial for both countries. It’s also tearing India apart with horrible atrocities in the region which is controlled by Indian armed forces. This is feeding right back into society even in the domain of elementary civil rights. A good American friend of mine who has lived in India for many years, working as a journalist, was recently denied entry to the country because he wrote on Kashmir. This is a reflection of fractures within society. Pakistan, too, has to focus on the Lashkar [Lashkar-i-Taiba] and other similar groups and work towards some sort of sensible compromise on Kashmir.

And of course this goes beyond. There is Pakistan’s relationship with Afghanistan which will also be a very tricky issue in the coming years. Then there is a large part of Pakistan which is being torn apart from American drone attacks. The country is being invaded constantly by a terrorist superpower. Again, this is not a small problem.

Historically, several policy domains, including that of foreign policy towards the US and India, budget allocations etc, have been controlled by the Pakistani military, and the civil-military divide can be said to be the most fundamental fracture in Pakistan’s body politic. Do you see this changing with recent elections, keeping in mind the military’s deep penetration into Pakistan’s political economy?

NC: Yes, the military has a huge role in the economy with big stakes and, as you say, it has constantly intervened to make sure that it keeps its hold on policy making. Well, I hope, and there seem to be some signs, that the military is taking a backseat, not really in the economy, but in some of the policy issues. If that can continue, which perhaps it will, this will be a positive development.

Maybe, something like what has happened recently in Turkey. In Turkey also, for a long time, the military was the decisive force but in the past 10 years they have backed off somewhat and the civilian government has gained more independence and autonomy even to shake up the military command. In fact, it even arrested several high-ranking officers [for interfering in governmental affairs]. Maybe Pakistan can move in a similar direction. Similar problems are arising in Egypt too. The question is whether the military will release its grip which has been extremely strong for the past 60 years. So this is happening all over the region and particularly strikingly in Pakistan.

In the coming elections, all indications are that a coalition government will be formed. The party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is leading the polls with Imran Khan’s (relatively) newly-emerged party not far behind. Do you think an impending coalition government will be sufficiently equipped to handle the myriad problems facing the country that you have just pointed out, such as civil-military imbalance, drone attacks, extremist violence etc.

NC: Well, we have a record for Nawaz Sharif but not the others. And judging by the record, it’s pretty hard to be optimistic. His [Sharif’s] previous governments were very corrupt and regressive in the policies pursued. But the very fact that there is popular participation can have impact. That’s what leads to change, as it has just recently in North Africa (in Tunisia and Egypt). As far as change goes, significant change does not come from above, it comes through popular activism.

In the past month or so, statements from the US State Department and the American ambassador to Pakistan have indicated quite a few times that they have ‘no favourites’ in the upcoming elections. What is your take on that especially with the impending (formal) US withdrawal from Afghanistan?

NC: That could well be true. I do not think that US government has any particular interest in one or another element of an internal political confrontation. But it does have very definite interests in what it wants Pakistan to be doing. For example, it wants Pakistan to continue to permit aggressive and violent American actions on Pakistani territory. It wants Pakistan to be supportive of US goals in Afghanistan. The US also deeply cares about Pakistan’s relationship with Iran. The US very much wants Pakistan to cut relations with Iran which they [Pakistan] are not doing. They are following a somewhat independent course in this regard, as are India, China and many other countries which are not strictly under the thumb of the US. That will be an important issue because Iran is such a major issue in American foreign policy. And this goes beyond as every year Pakistan has been providing military forces to protect dictatorships in the Gulf from their own populations (e.g. the Saudi Royal Guard and recently in Bahrain). That role has diminished but Pakistan is, and was considered to be, a part of the so-called ‘peripheral system’ which surrounded the Middle East oil dictatorships with non-Arab states such as Turkey, Iran (under the Shah) and Pakistan. Israel was admitted into the club in 1967. One of the main purposes of this was to constrain and limit secular nationalism in the region which was considered a threat to the oil dictatorships.

As you might know, a nationalist insurgency has been going on in Balochistan for almost the past decade. How do you see it affected by the elections, especially as some nationalist parties have decided to take part in polls while others have decried those participating as having sold out to the military establishment?

NC: Balochistan, and to some extent Sindh too, has a general feeling that they are not part of the decision-making process in Pakistan and are ruled by a Punjabi dictatorship. There is a lot of exploitation of the rich resources [in Balochistan] which the locals are not gaining from. As long as this goes on, it is going to keep providing grounds for serious uprisings and insurgencies. This brings us back to the first question which is about developing a constructive from of federalism which will actually ensure participation from the various [smaller] provinces and not just, as they see it, robbing them.

Continue reading Exclusive interview with Noam Chomsky on Pakistan elections

Democracy Military Style

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The army chief, General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, recently invited a team of journalists for a briefing, ostensibly to dispel rumours about the military standing in the way of the next elections. But alongside, he took the opportunity to seriously question the capacity of the politicians to handle affairs of the state, particularly their inability to resettle Swat after the army operation, the Hazara killings in Balochistan and the issue of terrorism in the country. The general also took a dig at the Chief Election Commissioner, Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim for failing to recognise the COAS after a two-hour-long meeting with him. The incident was clearly intended as a comment on the mental capacity of the CEC.

The meeting generated a lot of excitement. Some prominent journalists immediately eulogised the military commander’s sincerity in letting democracy thrive in the country. How serious the general is about democracy, however, remains to be seen. What this dialogue portends for the future of politics and the security of Pakistanis is a moot point.

If it were another country, the meeting would not even have taken place, let alone been reported on. One would like to remind the good general that in decent states, people usually do not remember the face or even the name of the army chief. And more importantly, the army chief calling journalists for a private, ‘chamber orchestra’ kind of meeting is a fairly sinister tool for intervention in politics. This is one of the many methods for derailing the democratic process. It started with General Musharraf, who was extremely fond of talking and would very often invite journalists and academics to “enlighten” them with his perspective on various national issues. General Kayani operates differently. He invites journalists and, reportedly, he sits there strategically dropping pearls of wisdom to set the tone for a debate. He launches an idea and then goes quiet. The moments of silence are filled allegedly by some of the “planted” minions in the meetings who then give interpretations of what they believe are Kayani’s thoughts. He offers no comments; he only runs rings of cigarette smoke around his captive audience.

Interestingly, he is not the only one who meets with journalists. The ISPR and the ISI have always had their own lines of communication with the media. This is not to trade any secrets, but to create a certain discourse that helps boost the army’s image vis-à-vis the politicians.’

Continue reading Democracy Military Style

Qadri has returned to subvert electoral process: Nawaz

PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif.
PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif.

LAHORE: Referring to Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran chief Tahirul Qadri, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif has said that the “Sheikhul Islam” had come to Pakistan to subvert the electoral process and create anarchy in the country. Talking to media after meeting with the Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) chief, Talal Akbar Bugti, on Thursday, the former prime minister said that the threat to hold a long march by Dr Qadri just ten weeks before the general elections appeared to be a conspiracy to create hurdles in the election process. “The Canadian national (Qadri) wants to derail democracy, which will not be allowed. A few people cannot hold hostage the entire nation,” he said. Nawaz said that the long march would create chaos in the country, which had already been hit by severe challenges.

Continue reading Qadri has returned to subvert electoral process: Nawaz

Ashley Tellis: Pakistan’s Impending Defeat in Afghanistan – Rawalpindi refuses to see the writing on the wall.

Pakistan’s Impending Defeat in Afghanistan

By: Ashley J. Tellis

Pakistan’s Enduring Aim

Ever since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan has had one simple strategic goal on its western frontier: ensuring that Afghanistan remains a stable but subordinate entity deferential to Pakistan’s sensitivities on all matters of national security. Such deference was sought for a host of reasons. Islamabad wanted a guarantee that Kabul would not reignite the dispute over the countries’ common border (the Durand Line) and would not seek to mobilize the region’s Pashtun populations in support of either absorption into Afghanistan or the creation of a new nation. The Pakistani leadership also aimed to ensure that Afghanistan would not enter into close geopolitical affiliations with other, more powerful countries, such as the United States or India, in order to increase Kabul’s autonomy from Islamabad.

Amid the chaos that emerged after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan settled on supporting the Afghan Taliban as its strategic instrument for securing Kabul’s compliance with its objectives. Although the Taliban were not always dependable surrogates on these matters, they appeared better than other Afghan rivals, and hence Islamabad—despite its denials—has stuck by them to this day.

Whatever the intended benefits of this strategy, it has alienated both the broader Afghan populace and the government in Kabul, which now views Pakistan as a habitually hostile neighbor. It has also undermined the U.S.-led international stabilization effort in Afghanistan, as well as hopes for a peaceful security transition—not to mention infuriating Washington, which now views Pakistan as a perfidious partner. And it has provoked heightened regional rivalry involving Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Iran, India, the Central Asian republics, and Russia, all of whom are determined to prevent a Pakistani-supported Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Worst of all, Islamabad’s strategy promises to fundamentally undermine Pakistani security. Every one of the three possible outcomes of the Afghan security transition leaves Pakistan in a terrible place.

Destined for Failure

Read more » http://m.ceip.org/publications/?fa=48633

Forces Surround Parliament in Egypt, Escalating Tensions

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

CAIRO — Egypt’s military rulers formally dissolved Parliament Friday, state media reported, and security forces were stationed around the building on orders to bar anyone, including lawmakers, from entering the chambers without official notice.

The developments, reported on the Web site of the official newspaper Al Ahram, further escalated tensions over court rulings on Thursday that invalidated modern Egypt’s first democratically elected legislature. Coming on the eve of a presidential runoff this weekend, they thrust the nation’s troubled transition to democracy since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak last year into grave doubt.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that dominates the Parliament, disputed the court’s ruling and its authority to dissolve the legislature. Saad el Katatni, the Brotherhood-picked Parliament speaker, accused the military-led government on Friday of orchestrating the ruling. ….

Read more » The New York Times

Options matrix before Gen. Kayani for the appointment of Spy chief – Aabpara auditions

Aabpara auditions

By Wajahat S Khan

It’s appointment time at the Fortress on 7th Avenue. Pakistan’s premier intelligence arm, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, is transitioning through a change of the guard. After an unprecedented two extensions at the helm of the ISI, infantryman (or as he prefers it, Piffer) Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha is getting ready for golfing. Or is he?

The deadline for the switchover is March 18th, the day Pasha says goodbye to his Aabpara staff of at least six sub-directorates (‘Analysis’, ‘Counter’, ‘Internal’, ‘Media’, ‘Special’ & ‘Technical’) and goes packing. Assuming he will either not be offered an extension (which has to officially come from the office of the prime ninister), nor accept an extension if it is offered (which may be likely as it will make him look good and the PM/government seem thankful and happy), the DG-I (preferred again, for only civilians call him DG-ISI) will be replaced by a man who will have to be battle-ready without the luxury of any ‘settling in’ period. ….

Read more » The Friday Times

Death wish of the Pakistani political class – By Ayaz Amir

Did our founding fathers have any idea of the kind of country they were creating? A country where conspiracies would never cease and stability would never come. Sixty-four years, going on sixty-five, and not one peaceful transition from one democratic government to another. Quite a record and we seem determined it should remain like this forever.

Continue reading Death wish of the Pakistani political class – By Ayaz Amir

China’s ‘Cake Theory’

‘Cake Theory’ Has Chinese Eating Up Political Debate

by Louisa Lim

What goes on inside China’s leadership is usually played out behind the closed oxblood doors of the compound where the top leaders live. This year, though, a political debate has sprung out in the open — and it has leaders and constituents considering how to move forward politically.

This ideological debate comes as China gears up for a once-in-a-decade political transition. The country’s future top leaders seem almost certain, with Xi Jinping in line for president and Li Keqiang on track for premier. Horse-trading is under way for other leadership positions, however, sparking a debate that could define China’s future.

The Chongqing Model: Equal Slices

In recent months, the streets of the city of Chongqing have been ringing with song. These are not spontaneous outbreaks; they’re government-mandated sessions, requiring employees to “sing the red,” patriotic songs praising China.

This is a leftist vision of China’s future, with powerful echoes of its Maoist past.

It’s the brainchild of Bo Xilai, Chongqing’s party secretary and the son of a revolutionary elder, Bo Yibo, one of the “eight immortals” of Communist China. Bo Xilai has taken a three-pronged approach by “smashing the black,” or attacking corruption and organized crime, with what some say is a disregard for the rule of law. His approach also includes putting in place measures to help those left behind by China’s economic boom.

“The government intervenes to correct the shortcomings of the market economy,” says Yang Fan, a conservative-leaning scholar at China University of Political Science and Law and co-author of a book about the Chongqing model.

“There are projects to improve people’s livelihood by letting migrant workers come to the city, by building them cheap rental places and allowing them to sell their land to come to the city,” he says.

This is where it comes to what’s been dubbed “cake theory.” If the cake is China’s economy, the Chongqing model concentrates on dividing the cake more equally.

The Market-Driven Guangdong Model

The competing vision, based in the province of Guangdong, focuses on making the cake bigger first, not dividing it. In economic terms, the Guangdong model is a more market-driven approach, pushing forward development ahead of addressing inequality.

“The Guangdong model aims to solve the concerns of the middle class,” says Qiu Feng, a liberal academic from the Unirule Institute of Economics. “It’s about building society and rule of law. It wants to give the middle class institutionalized channels to take part in the political process. Its basic thought is co-opting the middle class.”

He says the “Happy Guangdong” approach is aimed not at those left behind, but at those who have profited from the economic boom.

Guangdong’s party secretary, Wang Yang, has criticized the Chongqing model, saying people need to study and review Communist Party history, “rather than just singing of its brilliance.” In political terms, he’s throwing down the gauntlet at his rival, Bo Xilai.

Finding A Way Forward

Both these politicians are fighting for a place — and influence — inside the holiest of holies: the Politburo Standing Committee. This comes against a background of criticism of the current leadership from a surprising quarter.

“The bureaucracy is corrupt. Power has been marketized. Governance has been industrialized,” says Zhang Musheng, a consummate insider. “Local governments are becoming riddled with gangsters.”

Zhang’s father was secretary to China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. This makes him what’s known as a “princeling.” He’s attended a number of meetings held by children of former leaders, where criticism of the current leadership has been aired.

Despite their grievances, they came to one conclusion.

“China’s such a complicated society. Right now, it can’t leave the Communist Party. So the Communist Party must reform and improve,” Zhang says. “Although it’s criticized, right now there is no social force which can replace the Communist Party.”

Those are the key questions: how to reform or even if the Communist Party can reach consensus over which model it follows. ….

Read more » NPR

Obama’s Af-Pak strategy: tossing away the COIN – Dr Mohammad Taqi

– The Pakistani planners apparently lauded the UN separation of the Taliban and al Qaeda on the sanctions blacklist. This distinction does not necessarily mean lifting the sanctions; it in fact sets the stage for further sanctions against al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists, especially the India-oriented Punjabi jihadist groups based in Pakistan’s heartland

In his speech on June 22, 2011, Barack Obama outlined the drawdown of the US forces from Afghanistan. He declared his plans to pull out 10,000 troops from Afghanistan at the year’s end and another 23,000 by mid-2012, essentially withdrawing all troops inducted during the 2009 surge. Obama pledged the drawdown at a steady pace until the transition of security to the Afghan authorities by 2014.

The deliberations leading to his decision, including the stance of his various advisors, congressional hearings after the speech and indeed sections of the speech itself hint towards what lies ahead in the Pak-Afghan region, not only in the next two years but also after 2014. When it came to selling Obama’s plan to the congressional leaders, the Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, ‘excused’ himself and was represented by the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen, who conceded before the House Armed Services Committee that he had hoped for a slower pace of withdrawal. Mullen had described the plan as more aggressive and riskier than he was originally prepared to accept.

Similarly, General David Petraeus and the man set to replace him as head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General John Allen, have stated that Obama’s final plan was not one of the options proposed to the president by General Petraeus. Except for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, most officials have placed their dissenting note on record. Nonetheless, the US brass has closed ranks behind Obama and seem to have taken ownership of the task he has assigned them.

From the Pakistani perspective, there are multiple indicators pointing towards things heating up for them in the near future. Most importantly, Obama stated in his speech: “Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war torn region. We will work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keep its commitments. For there should be no doubt that so long as I am president, the US will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us. They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.” While the US military commanders may have differed on the pace of drawdown from Afghanistan, it is this aspect of his plan that they totally concur with.

On June 28, 2011, at the US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, General Allen and Vice Admiral William McRaven — the Obama nominee to head US Special Operations Command — were quite candid, not just about Obama’s overall plan, but the aspects of it that deal directly with Pakistan. In response to Senator Carl Levin’s question about Pakistan’s attitude vis-à-vis the militants, especially the Haqqani network, Admiral McRaven bluntly noted that he did not expect any change in Pakistan’s approach towards these proxies because it was “both a capacity issue for the Pakistanis and…a willingness issue”. More ominously, when asked by Senator Bob Graham: “Do we believe Mullah Omar is there with the knowledge of the ISI and the upper echelons of the army?” McRaven responded, “Sir, I believe the Pakistanis know he is in Pakistan.”

Where does this leave us, or more importantly, lead us? As much as Obama has a visceral dislike for war and, unlike George W Bush, is not trigger-happy, he has made up his mind that he will not be gun shy when it comes to enforcing the key elements of his plan to end the war in Afghanistan, which means tossing away the counterinsurgency (COIN) in Afghanistan, in favour of a counter-terrorism effort along the Durand Line. Buoyed by the results of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, Obama will not reinvent the wheel and intends to apply the same model for both the Haqqani network and the ‘irreconcilable’ Afghan Taliban. The primary US focus will now be on the Pakistan-supported insurgents.

Continue reading Obama’s Af-Pak strategy: tossing away the COIN – Dr Mohammad Taqi

Egyptian Socialist Party: Political perspectives for Egyptian socialism

By the Egyptian Socialist Party

May 11, 2011 — After the Egyptian Revolution broke out on January 25, 2011, and successfully achieved its first goal of ousting the president and continued in its demand of toppling the whole corrupt regime, it was clear there was an urgent need to bring together all those who had the conviction that our country really needed transformation into a socialist society. A transition that would help improve the social and economic conditions of the toiling masses, and reverse the trend of the old regime to subject the country to the dictates of the Imperialist led International Financial Institutions. This meant there was an urgent need to create the Egyptian Socialist Party to bring together all those who had taken part in the revolution on an individual basis so as to unite their efforts, and crystalise their political and social perspective into a coherent strategy that would guide the people in the right direction. ….

Read more: Links International

Yemen leader Saleh agrees to step down

Yemen leader Saleh agrees to step down under Gulf plan

President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen has agreed to step down under a 30-day transition plan aimed at ending violent unrest over his 32-year rule.

Officials in the capital Sanaa confirmed the government had accepted the plan drawn up by Gulf Arab states.

Mr Saleh will hand power to his vice-president one month after an agreement is signed with the opposition, in return for immunity from prosecution.

At least 120 people have died during two months of protests.

The US has welcomed the announcement; a statement from the White House urged all parties to “swiftly” implement a peaceful transfer of power ….

Read more : BBC

How Democracy Can Work in the Middle East

By Fareed Zakaria

When Frank Wisner, the seasoned U.S. diplomat and envoy of President Obama, met with Hosni Mubarak on Tuesday, Feb. 1, the scene must have been familiar to both men. For 30 years, American diplomats would enter one of the lavish palaces in Heliopolis, the neighborhood in Cairo from which Mubarak ruled Egypt. The Egyptian President would receive the American warmly, and the two would begin to talk about American-Egyptian relations and the fate of Middle East peace. Then the American might gently raise the issue of political reform. The President would tense up and snap back, “If I do what you want, the Islamic fundamentalists will seize power.” The conversation would return to the latest twist in the peace process.

It is quite likely that a version of this exchange took place on that Tuesday. Mubarak would surely have warned Wisner that without him, Egypt would fall prey to the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s Islamist political movement. He has often reminded visitors of the U.S.’s folly in Iran in 1979, when it withdrew support for a staunch ally, the Shah, only to see the regime replaced by a nasty anti-American theocracy. But this time, the U.S. diplomat had a different response to the Egyptian President’s arguments. It was time for the transition to begin. (Watch a TIME video on the revolt in Egypt.)

And that was the message Obama delivered to Mubarak when the two spoke on the phone on Feb. 1. “It was a tough conversation,” said an Administration official. Senior national-security aides gathered around a speakerphone in the Oval Office to listen to the call. Mubarak made it clear how difficult the uprising had been for him personally; Obama pressed the Egyptian leader to refrain from any violent response to the hundreds of thousands in the streets. But a day later, those streets — which had been remarkably peaceful since the demonstrations began — turned violent. In Cairo, Mubarak supporters, some of them wading into crowds on horseback, began battering protesters.

It was a reminder that the precise course that Egypt’s revolution will take over the next few days and weeks cannot be known. The clashes between the groups supporting and opposing the government mark a new phase in the conflict. The regime has many who live off its patronage, and they could fight to keep their power. But the opposition is now energized and empowered. And the world — and the U.S. — has put Mubarak on notice.
Read more: Time

Pakistan: A difficult but necessary transition – Dr Manzur Ejaz

Dr. Manzur Ejaz

WASHINGTON DIARY: A difficult but necessary transition

Courtesy: Wichaar.com

Like the full bench of the Supreme court (SCP) judges, the military has no choice but to accept modernistic, universal views to save the state by eliminating primitive elements. Nevertheless, just like the SCP, obscurantist military officials, especially some retired hawks, are free to make loud noises while the moderates have to work silently

The NRO judgement alludes to contradictions and the torturous transition Pakistan is going through. The basic contradiction is manifested by the very fact that the highest judicial forum in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan had to rely on the historical judgements of the courts of secular states. A few examples have been taken from Islam — Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) concept of equality — and reference to the notion of tauba. However, the court made it clear that these religious notions are taken to be secondary and used to strengthen the judgement, which is based on commonly practiced international law. Why such a contradiction?

The problem is that, whatever the republic of Pakistan is labelled, the country contains a more or less modern populace in relative terms. Furthermore, society has a consensus over the parliamentary type of democracy, in which every voter has an equal weight, requiring specific laws, rules and traditions. The religious parties or modern Islamic scholars cannot address the issue faced by such modern democracies, parliamentary or otherwise.

Continue reading Pakistan: A difficult but necessary transition – Dr Manzur Ejaz