The Economist asks Pakistan’s khaki umpire to stop meddling

In a piece titled ‘Foul Play’ the leading global magazine, The Economist asked Pakistan’s generals to stop meddling in Pakistan’s politics. Using the cricket analogy the magazine referred to the generals as the ‘khaki umpire’ who have “long pulled the strings of Pakistani politics.”
According to The Economist: “Whether in the 1970s in the era of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, or in the 1990s during Mr Sharif’s earlier terms, the army’s “jeep-wallahs” first endorsed and promoted pliant civilian leaders, then squeezed them when they grew too independent, and in the end got rid of them.”
However, what “sets this election apart from previous ones” is “brazen meddling” and “greater outcry over the army’s match-fixing. Prominent journalists and some of the country’s largest media groups say they have been threatened and coerced into promoting the PTI and muting coverage of its rivals. At a press conference on July 16th Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission, an NGO, declared that there were ample grounds to question the legitimacy of the elections, warning of “blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate the outcome”.”
The Economist ends by addressing the Deep State: “As for the jeep-wallahs, they must see that they are harming the country they claim to defend. In the 70 years since partition, Pakistan has been torn by war, terrorism, coups, instability and religious extremism. It has lagged ever further behind India economically and on other fronts.”

‘Pakistan Establishment Paranoia: When even Books Threaten Security of Nuclear State’

If there is one thing that scares any authoritarian establishment it is the power of an idea: an idea can light the imagination of a people like nothing else and a taciturn, brittle, unimaginative institution does not know how to deal with it. So, it does what it can do: ban the idea.


Pakistan’s establishment paranoia about ideas is so strong that it extends to anything that is written – whether an opinion piece in a newspaper or a book. So, newspapers can be banned or not allowed to be distributed, news channels can be censored, and books can simply disappear from the shelves.

The recent hullaballoo about books and their authors has gone to crazy heights.

In 2006, when former ISI chief Lt Gen Mahmood Ahmed published a book ‘The Myth of 1965 victory’ GHQ had all 22, 000 copies of the book bought “fearing that its contents could malign its image.”

According to a news report “The book titled The Myth of 1965 Victory, which was published by the Oxford University Press, was found to be “too sensitive” by none other than the Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf. The sources said that General Mahmood Ahmed had submitted the manuscript of his book to the GHQ as per the rules in vogue. However, after going through the contents, the GHQ referred the manuscript to General Musharraf who noted on the file that Mahmood should review some sensitive parts of the book as well as the title especially use of the word myth in relation to the 1965 war. As General Mahmood was subsequently suggested some major deletions by the GHQ, he refused to oblige, saying that it was already in the printing stage. Under these circumstances, the sources said, the GHQ directed the Army Book Club to immediately buy all the 22,000 copies worth millions of rupees directly from the publishers to stop it from being marketed. When some leading distribution houses contacted the Oxford University Press, they were informed that the book has already been sold out. Even otherwise, the sources said, there was a binding on the publishers under a revised contract not to provide it for general distribution.”

Something similar happened to Amb Husain Haqqani’s books. FIRs were registered against former Amb Haqqani “or delivering hate speeches and writing books and articles against the armed forces and the ‘sovereignty of Pakistan’.” In response Haqqani stated “A constant hyper-patriotic media circus at home will not change the impact of my ideas all over the world. Books that are used as texts in universities around the world should be read and understood at home too instead of being made the subject of frivolous police proceedings.”

And now two new books are once again being described as anti-Pakistan- the book ‘Spy chronicles’ co-authored by former ISI chief Asad Durrani and former RAW chief AS Dulat and Nasim Zehra’s book on Kargil.

As per a tweet by DG ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the former ISI chief Durrani has been “called in GHQ on 28th May 18. Will be asked to explain his position on views attributed to him in book ‘Spy Chronicles’. Attribution taken as violation of Military Code of Conduct applicable on all serving and retired military personnel.”

In her recently published book titled ‘From Kargil to the coup’ veteran journalist Nasim Zehra provides an in-depth analysis of Kargil. Instead of welcoming a book of this nature the reaction to within Pakistan’s establishment is why has such a book been published now? The book must be part of a foreign conspiracy to hurt Pakistan. A retired ISI brigadier’s statement on social media sums up the view “Kargil is 20 years old. Close chapter. What motives behind this controversial book? Why now? Who is/are sponsors?”

‘A Pakistani View of Pakistan’s Decline’

In a country where a certain set of institutions frame not only the narrative but what you hear in the news and ban or censor any news or newspaper or media house who does not fall in line, it is refreshing to read a piece that is brutally honest. In his latest piece for Dawn, columnist F. S. Aijazuddin undertakes a detailed examination of where Pakistan stands on the eve of the 2018 elections. He ominously predicts: “What will the Pakistan of 2023 be? Voters have been told to expect a ‘new Pakistan’. They should be prepared for the disappointment, similar to the one Francis Younghusband felt during his travels to Lahaul in the 1880s: “So I asked again how far Dadh was and the man said two miles. So I asked whether I could see the village, so he said yes, and showed me a village behind. Voters beware. Your ‘new’ Pakistan is behind you.”

Starting with the “dying parliament” Aijazuddin states: “It is dependent upon last-minute whiffs of oxygen, desperately resuscitating itself by passing insidious resolutions unanimously in a near-empty house. The most recent one will remain on our conscience for longer than it will stay on the statute books — the attempt to obliterate at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, the name of Dr Abdus Salam, our first Nobel laureate.”

Turning to Pakistan’s “toothless foreign policy” the columnist asserts: “After 70 years of cohabitation with the United States, we have decided that even a belated too little is more than enough. We have chosen to confront our long-term benefactor the US, this time over one of its Islamabad-based officials — Col Joseph Hall, defence and air attaché.”

On the economic front, Aijazuddin notes that “Our annual budget has been passed without a debate, without a glance. It has become yesterday’s rubbish, relegated to the grubby hands of those who buy waste by weight.”

Aijazuddin further points out that “The public is used to seeing lawyers punch each other in courtrooms. The paper-screen reputation of the judiciary has been perforated as now judges criticise each other. Over the years, many of the principles of British jurisprudence and legal canons were adopted by us. The only one left was to reincarnate another Judge Jeffries.”

He ends his column with these words about the 2018 elections: “Will the next National Assembly fulfil the expectations of 104,267,581 registered voters? Will it even matter? Or will it be no better than the committee of Richard Harkness’s definition: “a group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary”.”

Has Pakistan’s Establishment Lost it?

The Pakistani establishment seems to have gone berserk. At a time when the country is facing both domestic and international crises, the establishment is squandering its energy chasing journalists, bloggers, social activists, and others within the country instead of trying to united the nation.
Pakistan’s problems are severe. Opposition parties are once again threatening a country-wide strike, democratic institutions are under threat, and there is widespread social unrest. Terror attacks inside Afghanistan are on the rise, the United States continues to mount pressure on Pakistan to act against terrorist groups, and Pakistan’s relations with India are worse than ever. But still the establishment appears to be more interested in clamping down on dissent than in seeking solutions to real problems.
The latest exercise in futility is the lodging of FIRs against former Ambassador and well-known author, Husain Haqqani. Forget that international law prevents bringing Haqqani back to Pakistan to face fabricated charges of ‘treason’ or ‘waging war against the army.’ Ignore that most of the world finds allegations of treason in 2018, based on Haqqani’s books published in 2005 and 2013 patently absurd. Is Husain Haqqani really so much of a threat that Pakistan’s ‘miltablishment’ should prioritize threatening him with new legal proceedings over the country’s other problems?
On Sunday January 20, three FIRs were lodged against Haqqani in Kohat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at Cantonment and Bilitang police stations by Momin, Muhammad Asghar and Shamsul Haq. The complainants, all previously unknown individuals,  alleged that Haqqani’s words and writings had caused irreparable loss to the
country and defamed it.
Haqqani’s response to this was “How weak must the Pakistan army be, if an individual’s articles and books amount to waging war against it.” He said he planned to treat the registering of criminal cases against him as “just a media gimmick” as “No one in the rest of the world will treat them as legitimate either.” The former ambassador pointed out that the Supreme Court never decided the so-called ‘Memogate’ after considerable media noise.
“Pakistan has serious problems and those who do not like my research and solutions should publish theirs,” he pointed out. “A constant hyper-patriotic media circus at home will not change the impact of my ideas all over the world.”
In an editorial The Daily Times noted the absurdity of the charges against Husain Haqqani.
“As a matter of fact, Haqqani’s views, no matter how strongly expressed, do not fall under the category of hate speech. Criticism of the armed forces is often met with severe allegations and this is evident from the way space for dissenters is fast shrinking in this country. Regardless of one’s agreement or disagreement with Haqqani, it must be said clearly and loudly that there is nothing wrong, legally and constitutionally, with critical remarks about the armed forces. The latter is an institution of the state, and just like any other its performance has to be assessed with a critical eye. That is the only way to ensure that it continues to serve its constitutional duties effectively.”
Here is the rest of the editorial:
“Last Sunday, former Ambassador Husain Haqqani was nominated in FIRs in three different police stations of Kohat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The charges brought against him included ‘hate speech’ and writing books and articles against the armed forces and the ‘sovereignty of Pakistan’. Earlier, the former envoy had been a target of a malicious campaign on electronic and social media, where he was accused of portraying Pakistan in an unfavourable light. That the US State Department does not hold a very high opinion of our authorities is fairly obvious given that it has been seeking indiscriminate action against extremists and we have yet to write off certain networks, lashkars and jaishs. By pointing out these facts, and by expressing his opinions on the matter, Husain Haqqani is in fact doing Pakistan a favour, since the extremist outfits that remain the bone of contention in the matter are no well-wishers of the country and its people. One may disagree with what Haqqani writes but he is well within his rights to express his views and to recollect his memories from the days when he was serving the country. Many retired diplomats have written about their experiences, often to the dismay of successive Pakistani governments. FIRs over such frivolous charges and non-issues should not be entertained by the authorities concerned. There are plenty of real issues needing their attention.”

Murder Most Foul: Pakistan’s Establishment and the Benazir Bhutto Assassination

Gen. MusharrafWith charges against former dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, formally filed in an Islamabad court, the assassination of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is once again the center of attention. While few doubt that Musharraf failed to provide sufficient security to the popular leader, her assassination was not just Musharraf’s doing. In a forthcoming book United Nations investigator Heraldo Munoz has pointed out that there is much more that needs both investigation and prosecution.

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