Pakistan Army Must Recognize PPP’s Contribution to Pakistan’s Security

By Tanvir Ahmad Khan

In our stage of nation-building, real political parties, as distinct from those that are cobbled together overnight to legitimize a coup d’etat, need mass mobilization. This need is the source of the din of democracy which has traditionally jarred the military mind addicted to decorum and order

It is a testing time for Pakistan in which a deep existential anxiety within the country is matched by widespread speculation abroad about its future. There are some sympathetic voices in the big wide world that still testify to the resilience of the people of Pakistan and their uncanny ability to bounce back from crises. But many more see it hurtling towards self-destruction like Yugoslavia and even suggest that the powers to be are not particularly averse to the implied fragmentation of this sixty-year-old state.

In such a stressed environment, it is never helpful to brush the dangers under the carpet. They are better brought into the open so that the nation has a correct measure of them. It was, therefore, fit and proper that this newspaper discussed the question of the historical strains between the PPP and the military as warranted by the extraordinary assertion made by President Musharraf in a Newsweek interview that late Benazir Bhutto was “unpopular, very unpopular” with the Pakistani military. There are several implications of this precipitate judgement that may negatively influence attitudes in the difficult days ahead and shape events. We will do well to arrive at a cool and dispassionate understanding of these implications now rather than later.

It can be argued that this unfortunate observation was made in an interview (since published in full by this paper) that did little good to President Musharraf’s image here or abroad and that the best course in the larger national interest would be to forget about it. Indeed, the interview reveals more than anything else the wear and tear that the president has undergone during the trying circumstances of the last ten months. What else would explain his unconvincing narration of qualities that make him a more effective fighter in the war on terror than the slain leader of the PPP, the strange references to Hillary Clinton and the claim that his power comes not from the constitution but from an undefined ‘influence over everyone, over the political leaders, over the coalition’?

Before one turns to the history of PPP-military relations, there is the important question if the military should have such final opinions on political parties and personalities as implied by President Musharraf. After all it is expected to work under the oversight of elected representatives of the people both under the national constitution and the custom of democratic states .If there was such a strong taboo against the leader of the PPP, why did he go and seek her cooperation in building a new coalition to fight religious militancy better? Is the military being misrepresented in the Newsweek interview or was the entire exercise of national reconciliation a sham that Benazir Bhutto fell for and for which she paid with her life, a precious life taken presumably by a fanatic outraged by her resolve to fight his demonic creed? A similar bias of the men in uniform can be cited as the reason for putting Nawaz Sharif down and for the ritual ridicule heaped on some other politicians who have a considerable following amongst the people.

At a time when a widening cleavage between the people and the armed forces threatens the very foundations of the state — a national security state for six decades — a public articulation of the impermissible prejudices of the military does not augur well for the hopes of a democratic revival in the country. One would have thought that the president would be aware of the gradual but sure evolution of more harmonious civil-military relations in his favourite country, Turkey. As a result of that evolution, politicians who were once jeered at as the unacceptable children of Erbakan are today leading a government acclaimed all over the world for coming to grips with some of the most difficult national issues including that of joining the European Union. Why does the president want to prevent a similar evolution in Pakistan?

Historically, there has been an important reason for the general distrust of political forces in our armed forces. In our stage of nation-building, real political parties, as distinct from those that are cobbled together overnight to legitimize a coup d’etat, need mass mobilization. This need is the source of the din of democracy which has traditionally jarred the military mind addicted to decorum and order. The fear of the mob running away with decision-making has been a major theme of European politics too since the Jacobin terror in the wake of the French Revolution. But surely we have left that stage far behind. I will, on the strength of opportunities for a free intellectual interaction with the officer class in the elegant training institutions of the armed forces, like to bear witness that the military has pondered deeply and sincerely on the national issues, be they of security or national integration or economy, and developed a corporate thinking by no means different from that of the rest of the nation.

All over the world one hears of a civil-military dichotomy that would make Pakistan sink. And yet there exists a strong base for a future consensus. The military has a natural dynamic that makes it aspire to the title of a national army loved and not feared by the people. Professor Michel Chossudovsky’s article “The destabilization of Pakistan” referred to in the perceptive editorial run by this paper the other day has a very dark prognosis of Balkanization for Pakistan because it believes that powerful international forces are at work to destroy the unity of the people and the army in Pakistan. This may be unduly alarmist but would it not be better to let the new army command take fresh stock of the situation and repair such damage as has been done in the past. After all, some of the greatest gains made by the armed forces in building a credible defense potential were made under PPP governments.

The writer is a former foreign secretary

U.S. Congressman Calls for “Fundamental Reappraisal” of US Aid to Pakistan

Gary Ackerman, chairman of the congressional subcommittee that held a hearing on Pakistan on Wednesday, has called for a “fundamental reappraisal of US assistance to Pakistan.”

Ackerman said, “The United States is at a crossroads with Pakistan. It is clear that despite the deaths of many, many Pakistani soldiers and police, the fight against terrorism has not gone the way we would have hoped. It is equally clear that Pakistan is no closer to genuine democracy and arguably a good bit further away. It’s time to change course and build a new and different relationship with Pakistan.”

In his opening remarks, Ackerman who heads the House subcommittee of the Middle East and South Asia, said, “We have for too long provided the military with the bulk of our assistance and neglected assistance aimed at building and strengthening democratic institutions. I am not suggesting that we cut all military assistance, it is clear that we need to help Pakistan acquire the capabilities, by the way, that Pakistani officials tell me they need. But when I see them using their national funds to purchase F-16s of anti-submarine surveillance planes, I can’t help but wonder whether they don’t have an enemy other than terrorism in mind. The United States needs to be clear that our first, second and third priorities will focus on counter-insurgency equipment and training, whether we are using FMF or authorizing commercial sales, that provides the Pakistanis with the counter-terrorism capabilities.”

The Assassination of My Wife Has Left Us With a National Duty; She Fought Terror and Dictatorship For Pakistan’s People

Last week the world was shocked, and my life was shattered, by the murder of my beloved wife, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. Benazir was willing to lay down her life for what she believed in—for the future of a democratic, moderate, progressive Pakistan. She stood up to dictators and fanatics, those who would distort and defy our constitution and those who would defame the Muslim holy book by violence and terrorism. My pain and the pain of our children is unimaginable. But I feel even worse for a world that will have to move forward without this extraordinary bridge between cultures, religions and traditions.

I married Benazir in 1987 but spent less than five years living with her in the prime minister’s house over her two terms in office, which were interrupted by military interventions. I spent more than 11 years in Pakistani jails, imprisoned without a conviction on charges that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Pervez Musharraf (who brought and pursued the charges) have now publicly acknowledged were politically motivated.

Even before Benazir was first elected prime minister, in 1988, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies began working to discredit her, targeting me and several of her friends. I was called “Mr. Ten Percent” by their hired guns in public relations, and the names of her friends abroad were besmirched with ridiculous charges that they headed the nonexistent “Indo-Zionist” lobby.

This campaign of character assassination was possibly the first institutional application of the politics of personal destruction. Benazir was the target, and her husband and friends were the instruments. The purpose was to weaken the case for a democratic government. It is perhaps easier to block the path of democracy by discrediting democratic politicians.

During the years of my wife’s governments, she was constrained by a hostile establishment; an interventionist military leadership; a treacherous intelligence network; a fragile coalition government; and a presidential sword of Damocles, constantly threatening to dismiss Parliament. Despite all of this, she was able to introduce free media, make Pakistan one of the 10 most important emerging capital markets in the world, build over 46,000 schools and bring electricity to many villages in our large country. She changed the lives of women in Pakistan and drew attention to the cause of women’s rights in the Islamic world. It was a record that she was rightly proud of.

Her murder does not end her vision and must not be allowed to empower her assassins. Those responsible – within and outside of government – must be held accountable. I call on the United Nations to commence a thorough investigation of the circumstances, facts and cover-up of my wife’s murder, modeled on the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. And I call on the friends of democracy in the West, in particular the United States and Britain, to endorse the call for such an independent investigation. An investigation conducted by the government of Pakistan will have no credibility, in my country or anywhere else. One does not put the fox in charge of the henhouse.

But it is also time to look forward. In profound sadness, the torch of leadership in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been passed to a new generation, to our son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. I will work with him and support him and protect him to the extent possible in the trying times ahead. The Bhutto family has given more than anyone can imagine to the service of our nation, and in these difficult days it is critical that the party remain unified and focused. My wife, always prescient and wise, understood that. Knowing that the future was unpredictable, she recommended that the family keep the party together for the sake of Pakistan. This is what we aim to do.

The Musharraf regime has postponed the elections scheduled for Tuesday not because of any logistical problems but because Musharraf and his “King’s Party” know that they were going to be thoroughly rejected at the polls and that the PPP and other pro-democracy parties would win a majority. Democracy in Pakistan can be saved, and extremism and fanaticism contained, only if the elections, when they are held, are free, fair and credible.

To that end, the people of Pakistan must be guaranteed elections that are (1) conducted under a new, neutral caretaker government, free of cronies from Musharraf’s party; (2) supervised by an independent and autonomous election commission formed in consultation with the major political parties; (3) monitored by trained international observers who have unfettered access to all polling stations as well as the right to conduct exit polling to verify results; (4) covered by electronic and print media with the freedoms they had before martial law was imposed on Nov. 3; and (5) arbitrated by an independent judiciary as provided for in the constitution. In addition, all political activists, lawyers and judges being detained must be released.

The enemies of democracy and tolerance who took my wife from me and from the world can and must be exposed and marginalized. Dictatorship and fanaticism have always been rejected by the people of Pakistan. If free and fair elections are held, those forces will be defeated again on Feb. 18. And on that day, the vision and indefatigable spirit of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto will burn brightly, and, in the words of John Kennedy, “the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”

Asif Ali Zardari, a former senator, is co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party with his son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. This article appeared in The Washington Post.

Musharraf’s Claim of Fighting Terrorism Belied by Increase in Suicide Attacks

By Azaz Syed

Pakistan witnessed a ten-fold increase in suicide bombings in 2007 as compared with 2006, an Interior Ministry document made available to The Daily Times revealed.

According to the document, 2007 witnessed 56 suicide attacks, killing 419 law enforcement personnel (LEP) and injuring 217 civilians. This is compared to six such incidents in 2006, in which 46 LEP and 91 civilians lost their lives.

The past year also saw an increase of 100 percent in attacks targeting LEP, as 234 of them lost their lives in a total of 465 attacks across the country. Two hundred and sixty-two civilians were also killed. In comparison, 224 attacks targeted LEP in 2006, resulting in 82 personnel and 159 civilians being killed.

The year 2007 also witnessed over a 100 percent increase in bomb blasts, as 42 LEP and 164 civilians lost their lives in 477 blasts compared to the killings of nine law enforcement personnel and 110 civilians in 2006.

Most casualties: The past year also topped in total causalities, as 2,116 people, including 558 LEP, were killed and 3,962 injured in 1,825 attacks compared to 1,482 attacks in 2006 in which 967 people, including 263 LEP, were killed and 1,895 injured.

Decrease in three areas: The year 2007 saw a decrease in three different categories of terrorism — missile/rocket firing, improvised explosive device explosions and mine explosions. Only 417 incidents of missile/rocket firing occurred in 2007, as compared to 528 incidents in 2006.

This article appeared in Daily Times on January 13, 2008

U.S. Alliance with “The Shah of Pakistan” is Exacerbating Pakistan’s Instability

America’s most vulnerable ally in the war on terror is Pakistan. But our alliance with the nuclear-armed Islamic state may be exacerbating that country’s instability.

For eight years, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf has delayed, deferred and ultimately denied his citizens the right to freely choose their next leader. U.S. policymakers and analysts concede that Musharraf’s autocratic rule is a problem but fear that whoever replaces him may be worse.

Once before in that part of the world, Washington backed a high-profile ruler without regard to his constituents’ wishes: Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Iran. The result was a fiasco for American foreign policy. The Shah’s legacy should caution U.S. policymakers that allying too openly with an unpopular leader could have dangerous repercussions.

From 1953 to 1979, Iranian life under the Shah was dreadfully brutal. Through SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police and intelligence service, political opponents were routinely tortured. Methods included electric shock, nail extraction, insertion of broken glass into the rectum, and “cooking,” which entailed strapping a victim to a bed of wiring that was then heated, cooking the victim alive. The Shah’s repression was systematic and unyielding, but he was also America’s principal strategic ally in the region.

President Dwight Eisenhower gave the Shah millions of dollars in emergency aid for his complicity in Operation Ajax, the U.S.-British coup that overthrew the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, a decisive turning point in Iran’s history. President Lyndon Johnson, who mistakenly praised the Shah for “winning progress without violence and without any bloodshed,” signed-off on a six-year, $600 million military sales credit package for the Shah. And President Richard Nixon offered the autocrat the right to buy any non-nuclear U.S. weapons system without congressional or Pentagon review, a deal later described by Time magazine as “carte blanche” for the Shah.

For Pakistan, unwavering support and an open aid spigot are rewards for Musharraf’s assistance in apprehending terrorists. After the fall of Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001, the United States authorized over $10 billion in aid to Pakistan, allotted in $100 million monthly payments plus an additional $200 million in annual payments. The aid is meant to help the Pakistani military retard insurgent gains in the Pashtun-dominated North-West Frontier Province as well as combat the spread of Taliban fighters in the lawless tribal border regions of Waziristan.

Like America’s overt support for the Shah, assisting Musharraf is risky for several reasons:

First, America’s assistance to a dictator increases the power of that country’s extremists. In Iran, the Shah’s brutality and corruption fed deep-seated resentment among the Iranian citizenry, a resentment that led to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini, the emergence of an Islamist regime and the seizure of the U.S. embassy in 1979. Iranians wanted to end the Shah’s despotism, a despotism they perceived was largely underwritten by American aid. For Pakistanis, a similar anger resonates today.

A poll released this month [ed: Jan 7] by the United States Institute for Peace and the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes found that a majority of Pakistanis favor a more democratic political system. While Pakistani voters are largely unsympathetic to al Qaeda and the Taliban, Islamists in that country exploited anti-American sentiment at the ballot box in 2002. An alliance of six fundamentalist parties called Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA, won 52 of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, becoming the third largest bloc in Pakistan’s parliament.

A second danger in allying overtly with a dictator is that U.S. policies now stand at odds with the wishes of the Pakistani people. Musharraf’s dismissal last March of Pakistani Supreme Court justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry spawned waves of pro-democracy protests throughout the country. Despite the Pakistani public’s pervasive feeling of disenfranchisement, U.S. aid continued to flow, further cementing anti-American attitudes and feeding a unifying fervor of greater political self-determination. The more overtly we aid Musharraf, the more Pakistanis will feel that their political independence is being denied by political pressures from Washington.

The third danger of supporting an unpopular autocrat is that U.S. interests would be jeopardized should Musharraf fall. If the United States continues to work for Musharraf and against his opponents, those opponents likely would give little attention to U.S. interests if they come to power.

One alternative to backing Musharraf is to push Pakistan toward democracy; an option that many believe would address Pakistan’s political problems. But this solution presumes that the United States can micro-manage Pakistan’s internal politics. We cannot. Pakistan’s problems are complicated, deep and systemic in nature. There is also a legitimate fear that pushing democracy onto Pakistan may bring to power a civilian leader who unlike Musharraf may not have the loyalty of the Pakistani army, chief of army staff, and the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence. That loyalty troika is critical for any Pakistani leader to succeed. Even the late Benazir Bhutto was sacked twice as prime minister, in part because she did not have the loyalty of the Pakistani military. Many generals even made it a point not to salute her.

So what is left for U.S. policy toward Pakistan? History provides us with a practical alternative to either supporting Musharraf or trying to identify and back a democratic successor: the British colonial policy of masterly inactivity. Throughout the mid- and late-19th century, the British government in India assumed the role of non-interference in the internal affairs of the Pashtun tribes in what is today the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of modern-day Pakistan. The British assumed this policy because interference only exacerbated conflict and increased anti-British sentiment. American policymakers should assume a similar role by becoming more modest in their ambitions for Pakistan.

Rather than push, prod and encourage Pakistan to do what the United States wants, U.S. policymakers should not interfere in that country’s political affairs. Given that country’s proximity to the war in Afghanistan, the cauldron of conflict in its border region, and the fear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the wrong hands, some continued cooperation with whatever government holds power in Islamabad is important. But that does not mandate that Washington become embroiled in Pakistan’s political dynamics.