Pakistan fighting Taliban for its own sake: Haqqani

LITTLE ROCK: US military action in Pakistan against Taliban fighters will destabilise a nation that now wants to fight the war ‘for our own sake,’ the nation’s ambassador to the US said on Wednesday.

Husani Haqqani warned against combat troops coming across the border from Afghanistan to seek out insurgent fighters fleeing into Pakistan. He said the country’s military, as well as its intelligence service, could seek those fighters out on their own.

‘Instead of foreign troops coming into Pakistan and thereby creating a new problem of resistance to foreigners, Pakistan will deal with all possible targets that are related to international terrorism,’ Haqqani said.

Husani Haqqani warned against combat troops coming across the border from Afghanistan to seek out insurgent fighters fleeing into Pakistan. He said the country’s military, as well as its intelligence service, could seek those fighters out on their own.

‘Instead of foreign troops coming into Pakistan and thereby creating a new problem of resistance to foreigners, Pakistan will deal with all possible targets that are related to international terrorism,’ Haqqani said.

He made the comments during a speech on Wednesday at the University of Arkansas’ Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock.

Haqqani pointed to recent fighting in the Swat Valley, where the Pakistani army waged a three-month offensive against the Taliban. Some 2 million people fled the region.

Although hundreds of thousands have returned in the past two weeks as the military operation winds down, sporadic fighting continues.

Those who fled chose to escape the possibility of becoming ‘human shields’ for the Taliban fighters, Haqqani said.

That fighting, as well as the return of civilian rule to the country, shows Pakistan can target extremists on its own.

‘We have now decided we will fight this war for our sake,’ he said.

After the speech, Haqqani declined to answer a question on whether Pakistan would allow US drone aircraft to fly across its borders looking for Taliban fighters. Though many analysts suspect the two countries have a secret deal allowing the drone-fired missiles, Pakistan formally protests the assaults, saying they violate its sovereignty and stir anger among tribes in affected areas.

Haqqani also said the ascension of President Asif Ali Zardari meant better cooperation by Pakistani intelligence services with the US Previously, US officials have complained that some in the intelligence services had sympathies for the Taliban fighters.

‘The ground realities have changed incredibly since the restoration of democracy last year,’ Haqqani said.

The ambassador praised an Obama administration promise of $1.5 billion in civilian aid a year, saying American investment would help young men make ‘boxer shorts for Wal-Mart rather than improvised explosive devices for the Taliban.’ He also said military leaders wouldn’t interfere with the country’s civilian government, long a problem since the country’s creation in 1947.

‘This time, Pakistan intends to complete the transformation to democracy,’ Haqqani said.

‘Our military as an institution has also decided … instead of coup d’etat, they will allow the democratic process to move forward.’

Journalism with integrity, please!

It isn’t a crime to be useless, but perhaps it ought to be.

I speak of journalism, the noble and dignified world whose task it is to organize and impart news and commentary to the masses. Journalists are required to not only think critically but be aware of various perspectives. With situations all across the globe changing by the minute, the necessity of those traits has increased tenfold.

Political journalists and op-ed writers in particular have a duty to the public they have chosen to serve.  It is imperative, absolutely vital, that the Pakistani political media let go of the institutional biases and slanted views that have come to define it as ineffective in the eyes of expatriates. We all agree the media of Pakistan has unprecedented power—it has played a huge role in the public’s change from apathy to anger regarding the extremist psyche. Admirably, it continues to cover the events unfolding in SWAT and the NWFP with a humble, patriotic tone.

Be that as it may, the fact remains newspapers and television networks are awash in bias, and too large a portion of primetime is dedicated to “hollow” stories. With many of the viewpoints out there, one has to wonder, “Is this person seriously advocating such a simplified perspective?”

With every career there is a responsibility. Journalism is an exalted profession because it seeks to serve the public; its responsibility should always be to better society and improve upon the general quality of life. How can Pakistanis begin to analyze and think judiciously of their own accord if they are surrounded by a media saturated with smear campaigns?

Pakistan is at a crucial point in its history, its geo-political role is expanding and the country has much to achieve and accomplish in the coming years—for its own sake, for the region’s sake and for the sake of ending extremism. It is crucial for media’s key players to set an example for the industry by writing objectively—starting from a tableu rosa and assess the circumstances the country faces, and write with a progressive mentality.

Pakistan will soar to new heights, inshallah. Enough of the petty works submitted in newspapers and news segments; they will halt advancement and keep the public in the dark. That is not journalism by any stretch of the imagination.

Islamabad Cracking Down On Militant Assets

Islamabad appears to be continuing to ramp up efforts to fight militants threatening Pakistan, including those militant assets that were formerly used by the ISI.  Syed Saleem Shahzad writes in Asia Times that the government is not only turning away from militants, it is purging them.

Asia Times Online has learned that a nascent crackdown on militants in Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, will turn into a major operation and the remnants of all defunct jihadi organizations, no matter how peacefully they operate inside Pakistan, will be dismantled. A showcase of this exercise tookplace Monday in Anti-Terrorist Court II in Rawalpindi, the garrison city twinned with the capital Islamabad.

In front of a mass media presence, yesterday’s hero of the Pakistani military establishment, former Pakistani member of parliament Shah Abdul Aziz, appeared with a shaven head like any ordinary criminal and was ordered on judicial remand to be detained in Adyala Jail Rawalpindi in connection with the abduction and murder by the Taliban of a Polish engineer, Piotr Stanczak, in September 2008. He was beheaded by militants in February after talks with the government for the release of captured Taliban members failed.

Although Aziz was ordered to be jailed, Asia Times Online contacts say that he was bundled off to an intelligence safe house for further interrogation.

“This is the same Shah Abdul Aziz who delivered [Pakistan Taliban leader] Baitullah Mehsud’s letter written to the chief of army staff Ashfaq Parvez Kiani a few months ago as part of his job to get peace between the army and the militants,” retired squadron leader Khalid Khawaja told Asia Times Online. Khawaja is a former ISI official and now a human-rights activist for “disappeared” victims of the “war on terror”.

These reports come on the heels of Pakistan’s arrest and detainment of Sufi Muhammad, an Islamist cleric who brokered a failed peace deal with the Taliban in the Swat Valley, to determine whether or not he was aiding and abetting the Talibani militants.

Investigators may also be trying to pressure the aging cleric for information on the location of Swat Taliban commanders, including his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah, the chief militant in the valley.

Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the chief minister of North West Frontier Province, said the government hopes to bring formal charges against Muhammad soon.

“We don’t even need any further evidence against him,” Hoti told reporters in the main northwest city of Peshawar. “What he himself said publicly, that everybody knows. What he had said against constitution, the judiciary, the institutions. The contacts he has had with militants. The way he misled government. The way he facilitated militants. We will formally charge him on these things.”

Muhammad will remain in jail for 30 days as authorities probe the allegations. “This action has been taken to avoid any public disorder,” said government official Sahibzada Mohammad Anis.


This is Our Time

Ever since the US got heavily involved in Afghanistan during the Soviet Invasion, we always seem to blame the United States for our misery.  Over the past 30 years, governments have come and gone, while politicians have been assassinated.  Pakistanis have always seemed eager to jump the gun and point fingers at the United States for any hardship faced within our boundaries.  But I ask you, are we incapable as a nation of 175 million, to stand up on our own two feet? We are quick in forming conclusions and finding a target to place our misery upon, but can we not take the blame for our misgivings?

We are only too happy as a nation to criticize the United States.  Agreed, much of the problems we are facing today have risen out of the failed foreign policy that US has administered in the past, but where do we draw the line? Was it the United States that supported the rise of the mujahideen once the Soviet left Afghanistan? Did the United States fund the madrassah’s during the 1990’s in order to breed jihadists to fight in Kashmir? Did the United States support the pre-emptive strike in Kargil?

Pakistanis are quick to point out the negativities of the United States.  We point to the support of Israel, the coup in Iran, the quick exit once the Soviets were defeated, the sanctions of 1998, along with many other shortcomings.  What we fail to understand is how naïve as a nation we have become.  Making this comparison reminds me of the phrase “people in glass houses should not throw stones”.  We are guilty of many issues but yet fail to acknowledge them.

We fail to abide by the basic principles our Quaid set out for us, yet we petulantly criticize the government for not having Mr. Jinnah’s portrait on a particular wall in the presidency.  In his speech on August 11th 1947, the Quaid stated “You will no doubt agree with me that the first duty of a government is to maintain law and order, so that the life, property and religious beliefs of its subjects are fully protected by the State.  [Also], I want to make it quite clear that I shall never tolerate any kind of jobbery, nepotism or any influence directly of indirectly brought to bear upon me”.

I ask you as a reader, do you believe that after 62 years of independence, have we achieved this vision of our great leader? Have we followed his words of “you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan.  You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”.

The double standards we have in our daily lives are one of the primary reasons as to why we have struggled.  We do not have the authority of righteousness.  That lies solely with the Supreme Being.  We however do have the authority of being right.  Once we as a nation cross over this threshold, we get stuck in a whirlpool.  Therefore, I believe our politics should be directed by religion but not dictated.

In order to start our progression upwards, we need to stop our constant comparison with India.  They are a population of a billion people and have a different trajectory in comparison to ours.  If you want to challenge them, do so against their economy.  Challenge India in its textile industry.  Challenge India in its agriculture sector.  Challenge India on its silicon valley.  Military skirmishes are methods of the past, if we must; we need to confront them via economics and not on the battlefield.

Another favorite pastime we Pakistanis enjoy is to blame our leaders.  No doubt a strong and dedicated leader can show us the door, but we have to walk through it.  Blaming our leaders is no solution to the problems we face as a nation today.  They may be corrupt, they may have taken state presents, and they may have frozen all dollar accounts or even have passed on to another world.  But unless we don’t change from within ourselves, we will continue down the same path for the next 62 years.  The passion for us to change our own trajectory needs to come from within us, so that we may become a beacon for other nations to follow.

Pakistanis Need the Courage to Question

By: Moazzam Husain

It’s sometimes tempting to think of the power crisis as a simplified model of the national crisis today. A large part of the role behind Japan’s success was played by its corporations. Companies like Mitsubishi, Nissan and Sumitomo excelled by teaching their managers to ask questions.

For example, they would ask why we didn’t meet our sales target last month. To the answer our production was slow, the follow-up question would be why it was slow. We’re short of spare parts; machines kept breaking down, would come the answer. Why were we short of …. And in this way Japan probed its way to the bottom of its problems and very soon became a rich country.

Getting rich by asking questions? Why, sounds absurd? Not to the US Navy which then sported an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude. In 1984 it adopted the technique and — after adding additional content — branded it Total Quality Management. TQM became a buzzword and spread like wildfire to just about every US corporation and onwards to Europe and Asia.

A few days ago, as the lights and air-conditioning suddenly died on me and I put down Dr (Justice) Javid Iqbal’s book, Islam and Pakistan’s Identity, the last words to stick in my mind were: ‘Pakistan is not a failed state; it is in the hands of a ‘failed generation’.’ Iqbal envisioned a homeland for Muslims, Maudoodi, counter-intuitively, resisted on two counts: one, a separate Muslim state would limit Islam which had not fully done its work in India. Two, that the Musalmans of India were not ‘pure’ enough (read not fundamentalist enough) to be deserving of an all-Muslim state. Iqbal retorted that ‘Muslim state and society were always in a process of becoming and never became a finished product.’

Nevertheless there were problems with Iqbal’s approach, as he too maintained that the religious ideal could not be separated from the social order. Was he implying an Islamic state (or republic)? Because once you’re on that turf aren’t you left with little room for debate about implementing Sharia? Isn’t it setting you up as a target for a fundamentalist onslaught that an unfulfilled promise of an ‘Islamic republic’ brings on?

Unlike his predecessors Zia ul Haq not only gave way to this onslaught, he harnessed it. Then again in the summer of 1998 came another close call. That year, with his intended 15th Amendment, Nawaz Sharif brought Pakistan within inches of becoming a theocratic state. By 1998 weren’t Iqbal, Maudoodi, Zia and Nawaz Sharif all on the same page? True, Jinnah hadn’t wanted an Islamic state; just a state for Muslims but then, doesn’t the basis for Pakistan boil down to Muslims being only able to live with other Muslims?

The lights flickered back on, the AC started to hiss and the reassuring hum of appliances could be heard again. Then they dimmed and finally died again. Is there a power shortage? Apparently not. By some accounts, installed capacity is enough to meet all except peak demand. So why the blackouts? Circular debt … Mangla tripped … Lesco’s transformer at the Kot Lakhpat grid gave way. In the end we may find that there was less a shortage of capacity, and more a shortage of intelligent questions; and an inability to clear a cobweb of stupidity.

So if Dr (Justice) Javid Iqbal’s lament is that Pakistan is in the hands of a failed generation Aitzaz Ahsan, in his book, The Indus Saga, explains why. ‘Pakistanis have spent almost half a century of their existence without asking any questions.’ Indeed bold, courageous and informed questions are anathema in Pakistan. The book raises the question of whether Pakistan is the result of a ‘two-nation theory’ hastily put together and announced in 1940 as the Lahore Resolution, or has there been a historical separatist urge in the territory we know as the Indus Basin.

Recently, Pakistan lost its most distinguished historian. K.K Aziz believed that like governments, a people get the historians they deserve. In a country of 160 million people, only five or six historians actually wrote and published. And soon this ‘failed generation’ gets set to pass the state into the hands of an even more hopeless generation. This one opened its eyes under the dreadful rule of Ziaul Haq; when textbooks were mangled to portray Pakistan as a ‘besieged state’ under threat from a Hindu India, a godless Soviet Union and an anti-Islamic West. The result is now all around us.

Some time back prominent educator Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy had explained: ‘Most students have not learnt how to think; they cannot speak or write any language well, rarely read newspapers and cannot formulate a coherent argument or manage any significant creative expression. This generation of Pakistanis is intellectually handicapped.’

If inquiry and analysis were forbidden for the earlier generation, then the present one may not even have learnt how to construct a question. In such a culture isn’t it natural that obscurantist explanations and fundamentalist dogma will take over, conspiracy theories will flourish?

Against this the Jamaat has kept its fundamentalist narrative evergreen and intact, when it says that it is not religion’s fault the state of Pakistan hasn’t succeeded, it’s the fault of the people who never became ‘pure Muslims’. Within these wheels are the recruitment networks of the various jihadi outfits — in an environment of multiple social anomalies and economic deprivation — and we are facing a very real spectre of a radicalisation of many of the 93 million Pakistanis who are today under the age of 24. Out of curiosity: how many will turn to radicalism to chase the promise of untold pleasures in paradise and how many will actually be seeking to improve their lot in this world?

According to Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch, ‘Pakistan is indeed a failed state. A state that does not have enough self-confidence to take criticism…. A state that feels constrained to legalise bigotry and exclusion, extremism and prejudice, coercion and oppression in order to survive … [Pakistan] is certainly not presiding over a vibrant, successful and self assured society.’ If Ali was to travel to the past and meet Jinnah, with this message from the future, what would Jinnah’s response be to him? Perhaps more importantly, what would Jinnah’s questions be to him? Might one of the questions be ‘when did you people stop asking questions?’