Pakistan Must Now Reform or Perish

By Raza Rumi
Originally published at

On the face of it, the Pakistani state with the clear endorsement of political parties and the majority of its citizenry is fighting a battle against militant Islamism. However, it is not as simple a formulation as it appears to be. The state is also cracking under extreme pressure for having lost its capacities and effectiveness a long time ago. The central tenet of state policy and implementation is adhocism that keeps a mammoth, oversized, under-paid and snail-paced elephant going. With Mughal and pre-industrial social structures reflecting in a colonial organisation, the Pakistani state is an unattended patient lying on an Elliotesque table, waiting for a surgery.

The fact that ragtag groups have the audacity to challenge the state and its mighty armed forces speaks a lot for where we stand today. That a relatively small number of bandits can wreak havoc and make us look like pariah country with nervous neighbours is by itself a parable of our times. Add to this the dysfunctional police that simply cannot discharge their functions let alone tackle the suicide missions launched by jihad laboratories. Services – health, education, water and justice – are abysmally delivered to the lucky ones who have access to them. Otherwise, it is pretty much a jungle out there. In a context where insecurity and lack of faith in the state pervades the body politique, the current war can accentuate the pressures on the state, leading to a near-collapse situation: assuming, rather charitably, that it still functions as an arbiter between citizen interest and the legitimate use of violence.

If the military is busy in undertaking a tricky, delicate operation, the political elites and citizen groups must now focus single-mindedly on the long due reforms that have not been initiated, or implemented even when introduced. The reform recipes in the past have emanated from the donors now rechristened as development partners. But their assistance must only be sought when it is absolutely necessary. After all, who does not know, from a lowly minion to the top-dogs of government, what ails the system: it is hardly rocket science. What is lacking is a commitment from state actors. This is where the citizenry must exert pressure for reform. And, one edifying example of reformism can be seen as the judicial policy that has been chalked out after a long struggle by the lawyers, the middle classes in tandem with the political actors.

However, the core of governance reforms for effective service delivery and accountability lies within the domain of the executive. The postcolonial executive has barely attempted to be citizen-responsive and has maintained the ruler-ruled relationship intact. If anything, efforts at social change, be it land reform or the civil service reform of the 1970s, have been undermined, and thwarted by the all-powerful executive. In the process, it has lost the public confidence with a sharp erosion of state’s writ across the country. The Musharraf era, as it naively aimed to impose a set of reforms in the form of devolution of powers, led to further dilution of local state’s capacity to administer and deliver. Currently, we find ourselves in the midst of a film noire – thousands of local governments and their cells, committees incapacitated by lack of resources and required staff, functioning for over a year without clarity. This is also a time-horizon when parts of NWFP, Balochistan and mega city such as Karachi are declared ‘ungovernable’. Perhaps the greatest damage from the Musharraf years was the diminution of the district management cadre that surprisingly works in the neighbouring India among several other Asian countries. The replacement of the old order was partial, and resented by the provinces.

Pakistan was a compact between several diverse units and no centralised system can work. Perhaps that is the first area of reform which was neglected and is now haunting us. By the 1990s, the capture of the state by non-elected sections of the executive was complete, thereby rendering the elected governments weak and incapable of entering the policy domain and providing much-needed public goods. The national security paradigm was so entrenched that one civilian government touted the rise of Taliban as Pakistan’s glorious victory while the other carried out atomic explosions adding to an erroneous sense of security.

In this backdrop, Musharraf’s ascension of power and his reaching out to the west was business as usual. If there is a key lesson from that era then it can be summed up as follows: the civilians and the khakis are equally inept at governance. The reason is that whatever the ‘type’ of government might be, the institutions are weak. They are open to abuse, patrimonies and operate in an unaccountable environment. Secondly, the participation of people in any policy is negligible thus causing little or no ownership of any national initiative. Thirdly, the excessive reliance on foreign expertise, ranging from donors writing policies to actually importing bankers and international civil servants as high office holders, means that home-grown solutions are limited or voiceless.

The recent years of internal challenges have exposed the weaknesses of law enforcement, state-writ, and the inadequacy of the legal and judicial system, and most importantly, the skewed access to opportunities and denial of a large portion of the population of their rightful share in the economic and political process.

Therefore, a consensus around reform is absolutely essential. This is the least a bourgeois democracy can do: undertake incremental reform. In today’s Pakistan, the process of reinventing government and governmentality needs to be accelerated. First, the 1973 compact between the provinces and the centre is outdated. A new dialogue especially with the smaller provinces is necessary. A start could be made by what a recent report by Selig Harrison suggests with respect to the implementation of the 1973 constitution, negotiations with the Baloch, and alleviation of the economic hegemony of the centre. The federation must not appear to be what its detractors call it: a Punjabi state with ethnic minorities.

The second imperative relates to provision of financial resources for the implementation of the national judicial policy complemented by strengthened administrative justice that makes public institutions accountable. Otherwise we will have thugs posing as messiahs and propagate a jaundiced version of Islam as an alternative to rule-based governance. Third, civil service reform at all levels should be carried out. The system should offer better incentives and also put into place internal accountability measures that are driven by the political executive. The national commission on governance reforms has made plenty of recommendations in the past, only if they were to be read. The layers of duplicative functions, structures and institutions within government(s) need to be simplified.

Fourth, the local government question ought to be settled as soon as possible. The pendulum need not swing to pre-2001 situation. But a system that is owned by the provinces is the only way out. To encourage the provinces to share powers with the local governments, centre-to-province devolution is necessary. The state is too remote, and now literally cordoned off for the citizen. It has to reach out. The concurrent list should be abolished as promised by main political parties in their manifestos.

Finally, reforms around distribution of resources – land, water and other entitlements – are as vital as other court-centric notions of justice. It has been too long that powerful lobbies have blocked all attempts for social change. Citizen pressure on political parties will be essential since the current electoral systems are built around patronage and reproduction of power at the local and national levels.

Without these vital reforms, public trust in state cannot be restored. And, citizen-confidence will erode further if the s
tate fails to deliver. Protecting the Pakistani state some argue is a pointless agenda. But in the given domestic climate, this should be a key priority for Pakistanis not to mention for the region around us. If the state fails, we all know who will benefit and fill in the power-vacuum. Given our previous record, reform may be a distant dream. We are faced with stark choices in these desperate times. Survival, as the laws of evolution tells us, is the preserve of the fittest.

Pakistan Must Think Outside the Box of Ziaist Parameters

By Aniq Zafar

Click here to read the entire article.

US President Barack Obama during an interview last week with a Pakistani news channel said he believed the Pakistani state was strong enough to win the military offensive against the extremists. This may have a soothing effect on some of the Pakistani commentators who tried to read too much into his comments days before the visit of President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, to the US some weeks back.

These commentators had then tried to show as if his comments would result into total collapse of the government in Islamabad within days and perhaps state of Pakistan will implode. The resolve that the government of Pakistan and the state institutions, particularly Pakistan’s Armed Forces, have shown in taking on militants in Swat, Bajaur and South Waziristan in the last couple of months indeed has shown that the state of Pakistan is functioning and can meet the challenges. This has only been possible because the nation stood behind the government and the armed forces. Equally important was the fact that we got into handling the situation instead of concentrating on finding the conspiracies.

President Obama said that the people and the Pakistani government fully recognised the kind of violence they had been seeing could not be the answer for their long-term prosperity. The Pakistani government was accountable to the people of Pakistan. “I think the Pakistani government and the people of Pakistan recognise that when you have extremists who are assassinating moderate clerics like Dr Naeemi, when you have explosions that are killing innocent women and children, that can’t be the path for development and prosperity for Pakistan.” This indeed also reflects what the people of Pakistan now feel about the militants who for long hid themselves as Taliban and some people had started looking at them as if they were the messiahs.

For long there has been an effort to blame the world for what is wrong with us in particular and with the Muslim world in general. Our political leadership, intellectual elite and the media feed into established notions and only further strengthen those instead of looking at things from a different and wider perspective. We had been told time and again that only way we could handle militants was to engage them into a dialogue and if the military forces of Pakistan went ahead and fought them it will be falling into a trap of international conspiracy. Of course such outlandish ideas have been proven wrong and Pakistan’s military has successfully cleared most parts of Swat, and South Waziristan is next.

In a general environment where conspiracy theorists that exploit religious sentiment to project their particular world view, any informed debate becomes a difficult task. Take for example the conspiracy mindset that some world powers are trying to take out our nuclear weapons. But no one has a clear answer to the question, why would the whole world be turning upside down to take out our nuclear weapons? The nuclear ratcheting that we indulge into may give some nightmares to some analysts in the world but states much stronger than us in military terms and geographically located at distances that are out of reach of our missiles should not be bothered about our nuclear weapons. Yes, if non-state actors become too strong in a nuclear-capable state, not only the rest of the world, we ourselves should also be worried.

There is no doubt that nuclear and strategic weapons are now our mainstay against India but ironically the challenge we face today in the shape of militants is least pushed about our strategic weapons.

Obama did well to assure the Pakistani nation that his country had no desire to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons or to send US troops inside the country. He said he was confident that the Pakistani government had safeguarded its nukes to prevent the militants from capturing them. Obviously, we in Pakistan never had a doubt that our strategic assets like nuclear and missile programmes are under tight control but again it is carelessness of some of the overzealous amongst our self-proclaimed heroes (some retired generals and scientists) that the world sometimes looks at us with suspicions.

It is very easy to feed conspiracy theories to the Muslim population of the world as a large part of it has been kept ignorant and under-educated by the ruling oligarchs. These oligarchs have used the names of religion, culture and history to keep people unaware of what is happening in the world and how fast that is happening.

The knowledge deficit of the Muslim world can be gauged by some simple facts. Take for example the fact that the number of books translated into Arabic from other languages in the last one hundred years is less than the foreign language titles translated into Spanish in one year. Or the new titles produced in Arabic are only somewhere close to the new titles produced in Finnish. There are more than 350 million Arabs and only four million Finnish speaking humans roaming on the face of the earth. Urdu, the language of more than 300 million Muslims of South Asia, also does not fare any better when it comes to becoming the language of knowledge. This deficit ultimately translates into psyche of the nations that revel in playing victim instead of focusing their energies on changing for the better. Until and unless serious effort is made at reducing this knowledge deficit we cannot understand the world and will always be at odds with diversity of the world.

President Obama also carried forward the message he delivered in his speech in Cairo only two weeks back where he had stressed that he was looking for a world where there’s mutual understanding, mutual tolerance; where the United States were seen as somebody who stood with people in their daily aspirations; for an education for their children; for good jobs; for economic development. All seems a good promise if it actually comes about.

It is true that there are many US policies that may not make sense. There are reasons that the world suspects some of the moves that the US makes in the international arena. If President Obama is promising change then we must also open up and think out of the box and ponder hard on how to make Muslim societies more pluralistic in nature and more receptive to modern ideas.

Key US aide hails Pakistan’s war

According to the BBC report:

Gen Jones – who is on a tour of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India – said that Washington and Islamabad face a common battle against extremists.

“Terrorism is not simply the enemy of America,” he said. “It is a direct and urgent threat to the Pakistani people,” he said in a statement after meetings.

He described the Pakistani government’s push against militants a “tremendous confidence-builder for the future”.

“That translates into popular support in the United States for what the government is trying to do, what the army is trying to do, and it obviously helps us in our overall fight,” he said in a TV interview.

“It’s a very, very important moment right now, it’s a strategic moment, and the relationship is definitely (moving) in the right direction.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Myth Busters

Myth Busters


The Pakistani media controlled by fundos has been spreading conspiracy theories and is trying to salvage the extremist ideology and regressive thoughts when this ideology’s very foundations are shaking. It has woven a world around a series of myths and is sticking to it, to embrace an ideology that is losing and is outdated. Worst still, in the emotions and euphoria and the pretention of know-all, the educated urban class buys these myths without introspecting. How the media moulds the thought process of educated classes across the world, and more so in Pakistan, is an ideal manifestation of the fact that three worst illusions are; a) I know for I read it in the newspaper, b) I know for I heard it on the TV, and c) I know for I read it in a book.

With this extensive control of the news media by the fundos, it is imperative that their myths and claims be tested for their reasoning. So here is a counterpoint to six most popular myths, the fundo media lives by.

1. Mehsood and Taliban are US agents

This is funny stuff. No seriously. All these years, these Hamir Mirs and Ansar Abbasis and Irfan Siddiquis have been portraying Mehsood, Fazal Ullah and Taliban as the fighters against the Satan, US. These journalists claimed to have inroads into the Taliban network and were trying to convince us why Taliban are the great saviors we should fall behind. Then post-Swat flogging video, the public opinion started shifting. No matter how you like to twist the debate, the reality is that people of Pakistan, almost unanimously, gave a big shut-up call to the Mullah-described “Islamic Law”.

With Taliban myth being shattered in public view and Taliban’s ambitions about power and a bloody takeover of Pakistani society and government becoming clear, came the new twist – a new fairy tale. The saviors of Islam had been planted by Americans to take control of Pakistani nukes and disintegrate Pakistan.

The irony is that not only the fundo elements in the media but even the self-perceived liberal elements like Nazeer Naji also propagate the same theory. First and foremost, the Pakistan’s fragile federation was in near collapse during last couple of years of Musharraf rule and had it not been for US’s active efforts to save the federation from collapsing even by arm-twisting some of her Mid-Eastern allies, it could well have collapsed. US, of all the countries, cannot afford to let Pakistan fall for a number of reasons. First and foremost, if Pakistan or parts of it fall into the hands of fundos, it will shake the whole region from Indonesia to Morocco and no super power can afford this jitter. Second, in a region comprising Iran, Russia and China, Pakistan is US’s best bet to have influence in the region. And based on chaos theory, one might be able to create chaos but cannot control the outcome of it. So US cannot even think of destabilizing Pakistan for it will start a chain of unpredictable events no one will have control over. So it is not in US interest to break Pakistan.

As far as Pakistan’s nuclear program goes, even there, it has covert US node for decades. At some point in 90s, US realized that for her relationship with Pakistan, she needs to compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear program. If US and West want to stop someone from getting nukes, they go to the length they did with Iran or North Korea. Pakistan did not come anywhere close to it despite the proven record of nuclear technology smuggling and confession of Dr. A. Q. Khan. US also appreciates Pakistan’s concerns vis-à-vis India and her nuclear program, something manifested by President Clinton’s reaction to Pakistan’s nuclear explosions (you need to read/research and dig deep to form an opinion rather than relying on Talat Husain’s of the world). Pakistan, like India, is a nuclear program which US did not want to have in the first place but since it is there, it is willing to accept it for now and deal with it under some later global non-proliferation agreement. The only US and global concern regarding Pakistan’s nukes is their safety and in ensuring that they do not fall in the hands of Taliban.

So US do not want to break Pakistan. She is not interested in denuclearization for now. On the contrary, it is in US interest to have Pakistan to further its interest in the region of the Great Game. Something where our interests converge for now and something we both should benefit from.

Calling Mehsood and Taliban US planted agents is a deceptive ploy to take the focus away from the real issue. The real issue is that, in recent past, under the fundos in Pakistani establishment and in the name of doctrine of strategic depth, Pakistan created a monstrous fire power which is threatening her own existence and our way of living. This ideology of hate dominates our media and coupled with sensationalism and self-pity is trying to divert our attention from the core issue of combating the menace that we face – the menace of Islamization, theocracy and Jihad-brand Saudi Islam.

2. Benazir turned anti-US and so US killed her

If the first myth is funny, second one is sad. All these Hamid Mir’s and Ansar Abbasis and Irfan Siddiquis were up in arms against Benazir Bhutto when she landed in October. Read their pieces in newspapers or their talk on TV channels in months leading to her death and you will hear them labeling her as a US stooge, a corrupt leader who has landed through a US-brokered deal with a dictator to quench her thirst for power. So much so, that they even tried to justify the attack on her welcome by linking it to her support for Lal Masjid operation (needless to say these perverts always try to justify the terrorist attacks on one pretext or another). But then she was killed and the nation in mourning, sympathizing with Benazir Bhutto’s cause and awakening to her sacrifice for the noble principles and ideology she stood for, made it impossible for these fundos to oppose her. So what did they do? They played if you cannot beat them joined them. Benazir Bhutto, the stooge of West, over night became the rebel against US who has been killed by Americans for she was a roadblock in their interests. Now more than her own party and people, these fundos became the self-proclaimed saviors of her ideology. Hamid Gul (a man nominated by BB herself in the letter mentioning her killers), Ansar Abbasi and Hamid Mir were all out spreading theories of Benazir turning against West and thus being killed. They came up with their private talks with Benazir, in which BB confessed to them secretly of her displeasure of US policies and her intent to stand against US. Her opinions, of which neither her family, nor her political colleagues or political strategists were aware of, were shared by her with the journalists who stood on the other side of the political divide (am I the only one who finds it hard to digest?). More importantly, when Bait Ullah Mehsood was named in her assassination, these fundos were at the forefront of defending that “American Agent” and claiming he respected Benazir. Give me a break!

3. We face terrorist threat because we decided to side with US in War on Terror

This is simple. It has its roots in psychology of power. When an entity/movement becomes strong enough, it lays its claim to power. We have raised the Jihad Inc. for over three decades. With an estimated 1.2 Million trained militants (larger than Pakistan Army) and huge stakes in drugs, smuggling and arms business, the mafia was to lay claim to absolute power no matter what. 9/11 and US attack on Afghanistan just triggered the events a bit. 9/11 or not, sooner or later, the junior partners in strategic depth doctrine (Jihadis) had to lay claim to the senior partner status realizing their ever growing muscle. This is how power-play works in human societies. And if you need an
y more proof, Talibans behavior post-Swat deal, extending their influence to Buneer, should be enough to highlight their real motive – power and control. It is not about ideology. It is not about Islam. It is a power play and this is how it works in the real world, away from the utopia created by conspiracy theorists.

4. Suicide bombers are produced in retaliation to killings by Drone attacks

Not even once have I been given evidence that the suicide bomber was actually someone related to a person who died in a drone attack. If anyone has ever seen them establishing this link, please illuminate me. First, you have to establish this link which in their rhetoric these fundo journalists never bring. Then, even if it is a reaction to drone attacks, then the suicide bomber should go to Americans to blow himself or attack Pakistan Army or Govt. installations. It makes no sense to blow up markets or hotels in Pakistan. It is a ploy to ensue fear, an age old tactic in power politics. They want to demoralize us to make their takeover easy – but budge we would not.

5. Drone attacks are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty

This one is also funny. The attacks take place in areas a) where Pakistan government has lost her sovereignty and b) which host the elements which are trying to take over the Pakistani state. Last I knew, based on commonsense, if someone is bombing your enemy who has taken over your areas, it is not a violation of your sovereignty. If these Hamir Mirs and Irfan Siddiqui were in the 40s France, they would have been cursing the Allied Forces fighting Nazis to liberate France from German invasion. Isn’t it the most nonsensical argument? Also, we never hear directly from general public of those areas against these attacks. In private talks, some of the tribals have told me that they are happy that US is bombing the people who have taken their towns hostage. I am not saying that those people represent the public opinion there. All I say is that there is more to it then we hear on Geos and Aajs.

6. Israel-Palestine conflict is the biggest reason Muslims hate US

It is a sensitive subject. I believe most humans want a just and free world. On a personal note, I think that Palestinians have been wronged and they must get a fair deal. But blaming hatred among Muslims of US on this sole issue is untrue. In fact, to me it is not even the major cause of the hatred. The hatred stems from a multitude of reasons. First and foremost is the desire of elite in Muslim world to preserve their way of living with which they are comfortable and which ensures their hegemony. They think of modern world ideals of free speech, democracy, human rights, women rights etc to be directly in conflict with their interests and hegemony and since these elite controls the avenues of expressions (i.e. media) in the Muslim World, these avenues spills hate towards America and the West. Second, everyone hates the handsome guy in high school who scores As and dates all the pretty girls. For this reason, everyone is naturally envious and jealous of Americans, including Europe. Third, masses of Muslim world, mostly deprived of their fair share, are skeptical of US for her support for the dictatorship and tyrannies across the Muslim World. CIA staged coups in many Muslim countries (including Iran) and US’s shameless support to tyrannies and monarchies in crushing the popular movements has made masses skeptical of US. They hate the orders that exist in their countries and they see US support as a main cause of those orders survival. Through out the history, US has been reluctant in her support for democratic governments in Muslim World and third world, and has sided with establishments and tyrannies. This is the biggest cause of Anti-US sentiments in the Muslim World. And this is something which Americans need to address, if they want to build bridges with 1.6 billion Muslims of the world rather than a handful Sheikhs and Generals (who by the way will keep playing a double game to resist modernity that comes with US influence).

posted by Ali Malik at 3:04 AM (Courtesy Ali Malik’s Blog)

President Zardari Thanks Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt received a thank you phone call from a world leader yesterday, to thank them for giving back to refugees. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari made called the couple to express his gratitude for their gift of $1 million to people displaced by anti-Taliban military operations in the country’s northwest, reports The Hindu newspaper.

The couple have been jointly running the Jolie-Pitt foundation, which made the gift last week.

Angie has been the goodwill ambassador for the UNHCR since 2001, and announced the $1 million gift on World Refugee Day. She’s said she pledged the aid to displaced Pakistanis because of the relative newness of the crisis in Pakistan.

"I think in the last few weeks, there were about 100,000 displaced a day. There’s over two million now. I think it’s just there has been a giant appeal, a lot of funds have been sent in, a lot of aid has come to the people… But the numbers are so extraordinary and they’re growing," Angelina said after making the donation.