If Most Pakistanis Mistrust Their Ruler, How Can He effectively Fight Terror?

The first opinion poll, conducted by Gallup after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, showed that nearly half of the sample suspected government agencies (23 per cent) and government allied politicians (25 per cent) of killing Bhutto.

Seventeen per cent suspected Al Qaida or the Taliban, while 16 per cent suspected external forces — principally the United States (12 per cent) and India (4 per cent).

The poll raised a fundamental question. If so many people mistrust their own government, how can that government be an effective partner to the US in fighting terrorism and winning hearts and minds against Jihadists?

The suspicions of the Pakistanis about their government can’t be good news for those in the Bush administration who still consider Pervez Musharraf their best bet for keeping Pakistan stable.

For their part, Musharraf and his Western backers offer a simplified thumbnail history lesson that paints Pakistan as a tribal and feudal backwater that can only be held together through military rule.

According to this account of Pakistan’s history and politics, as recounted by retired Colonel Ralph Peters of the US military, “From its founding, Pakistan has been plagued by cults of personality, by personal, feudal loyalties that stymied the development of healthy government institutions (provoking coups by a disgusted military)”.

Thus, Bhutto’s loss is not huge for Pakistan from the point of view of those who think only of managing Pakistan — under military rule and with Western support.

But Pakistan is not a company to be managed. It is a nation that must be united and that is where politicians such as Benazir Bhutto came in.

With Bhutto gone, Pakistan’s faultlines are looking more exposed than ever.

Musharraf, who knows little about winning hearts and minds, and sees politics as an inconvenience in his “sound” administrative approach, is only aggravating Pakistan’s divisions.

He just does not have the healing touch that Pakistan needs. For example, he could end the controversy over who killed Bhutto by accepting an international investigation without any limitations.

His refusal is keeping rumours alive and, as a consequence, the gulf between the government and the people is widening.

Pakistan’s problem has not been the paucity of good civilian leaders. Pakistani politicians are flawed, but so are politicians all over the world.

Pakistan’s problem is the complicated relationship between politicians who cannot be wished away, a military that has a strongly politicized component and successive US governments that seem to prefer military-intelligence control for strategic reasons than to allow the normal functioning of a constitutional democracy.

Created in a hurry under difficult circumstances at the end of the British departure from India, Pakistan inherited a larger army than it resources allowed to maintain.

In the eyes of some, conflict with India necessitated the retention of that army.

Britain and the US were lured to support the military because of strategic concerns during the Cold War. Pakistan became a strategic rentier — a country living off international (mainly American) subsidies.

It remains so under Musharraf though with diminishing internal strength.

The transactional relationship between Pakistan’s military and the United States that Musharraf’s rule has accentuated started soon after Pakistan’s independence — primarily at the initiative of the military leadership.

Pakistan’s military served as an ally in America’s fight du jour (the Cold War, the anti-Soviet Jihad in Afghanistan and now the war against terror) in return for large amounts of aid.

Since 1954, the US has given Pakistan about $21 billion in aid, of which $17.7 billion was given under military rule and only $3.4 billion to elected governments.

In the course of all this, Pakistan also developed its capacity (including nuclear weapons) to compete with India.

But the army could not rule unless it had a fig leaf of domestic legitimacy. For that, it turned to Islam and, at one point, radical Islam.

This is where the Bhutto family comes in. Benazir Bhutto’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was the first Pakistani leader to call for an end to military rule.

His slogan “Bread, clothing, shelter” resonated with the unwashed masses. His Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) became the country’s largest political movement.

The military could not keep him out of power, especially after Pakistan’s disastrous defeat in the 1971 war with India.
While Bhutto Sr. got power, he did not have full control.

The army, and its intelligence services, continued to conspire against him. He made his share of mistakes, but then, which politician doesn’t?

In 1977, he was removed from power in a military coup and sent to the gallows. Benazir Bhutto, who had never desired a political career, stepped into his shoes.

The struggle against military domination of Pakistan’s politics continued.

One third of Pakistan’s 160 million people live below poverty and another one-third are considered vulnerable to poverty.

These people loved Bhutto — both father and daughter — because they symbolized their hope of inclusion in the State of Pakistan instead of being marginalized from it.

The views of Musharraf’s supporters have been shaped by a small clique of international diplomats, parachute journalists and elite Pakistanis.

These people have always liked Pakistan’s generals better than politicians.

Third World dictators have often benefited from “playing” people in the US by painting their own societies as inherently dangerous and themselves as the only people who can save a particular country for the United States.

But now concerns about Musharraf being able to continue his difficult juggling act are making even his supporters somewhat jittery.

Contrary to the view of some in the US, Pakistan’s Islamist problem is a creation of its intelligence service, the ISI.

Like India, Pakistan could also have developed a moderate, democratic state if politicized generals (such as Musharraf) had not wanted to sideline politicians and rally the nation under their command.

The political generals’ refusal to submit to civilian control has resulted in a policy paradigm in which the US is the source of military hardware, India is the eternal enemy and Islam is the national unifier and ideological motivator.

Coup makers’ excuse

Opposite Pakistan’s politicized generals (distinct from professional soldiers who want to defend the country as well as its constitution) are the country’s politicians, often feudal or from the business community.

They would run the country a bit like the US was run in the 19th century or Italy for many years after the Second World War — through compromises among competing factions.

There is corruption under both but in case of the civilians, corruption is invoked as an excuse by coup-makers to thwart the constitutional order.

Politicians are never flawless. To many Pakistanis, and people everywhere, the alleged flaws of popular leaders are just the cost of the business of politics and democracy.

That realization appears to have dawned on most officers of the Pakistan military.

The new Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, is responding to the national mood by calling for the military’s withdrawal from politics.

The only remaining question is: at what point does the military withdraw support from Musharraf, who, after all, is now only a widely discredited, faltering politician and not the army chief.

The Bush administration would most likely continue supporting Musharraf a little longer but if, as seems likely, Musharraf’s domestic credibility hits such new lows that he cannot sustain himself in power, Washington’s withdrawal of backing would also follow.

Of course, Musharraf has an honorable way out but he seems disinclined to take it.

He could agree to a transparent international investigation of the Bhutto murder, remove his cronies from top positions as intelligence chiefs and ensure that the February 18 election is totally above board.

Then he could negotiate with Pakistan’s elected leadership and save Pakistan prolonged crisis.

The two leading political figures in post-Bhutto Pakistan — PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif — have both shown remarkable maturity in their words and deeds since Bhutto’s tragic assassination.

If only Musharraf could also rise to the occasion.

Husain Haqqani is Director of Boston University’s Centre for International Relations and Co-Chair of the Hudson Institute’s Project on Islam and Democracy. He is the author of the Carnegie Endowment book Pakistan Between Mosque and Military. He served as an adviser to Benazir Bhutto.

The Grief Over Benazir Bhutto’s Loss is Felt All Over the World

I have been scouring the Internet, looking for a poem that Benazir wrote on her 50th birthday. I did not find it, but I found much else, posted by people who never met her, never saw her and yet they felt devastated by her death

Few people have been mourned with as much feeling across the world as Benazir Bhutto. Poems have been written about her from Indonesia to Spain and across the seas, in America and Latin America. The savage act that cut short her incandescent life at a moment when she stood at the threshold of a new era, when she would have made up for the failings of the past, has moved many to tears. She had this strange quality about her. Long after you had left her company, you kept feeling a certain glow that was hard to explain. She made you feel good. She was a woman of immense good humor and she never wished anyone ill, which makes death at the hands of an assassin indescribably tragic.

I have been scouring the Internet, looking for a poem that she wrote on her 50th birthday. I did not find it, but I found much else, posted by people who never met her, never saw her and yet they felt devastated by her death. That was her magic.

A Pakistani, living in Spain, writes in Urdu — and his words are so simple and eloquent as to be poetry:

“Wherever you look in Spanish newspapers, there is just one headline/Those who look at us, know that we are Pakistanis/They are the ones to whom we were always saying, ‘This is how Pakistan is; that is how Pakistan is.’/ But now, the more we try to show Pakistan in a good light to them, the more we fail/There is just on everyone’s lips today, given what the newspapers carry/But they ask it not/They say nothing/ They only look at us in a strange way/They say nothing and yet they are saying much/What can we say?/How can we explain why what has happened has happened?/ There are bomb blasts every day/Why?/How do we explain it to them?/We no longer have words to speak or things to say/Our only refuge is silence/We must bear what has come to pass/That seems best/People can speak ill of Pakistan and Pakistanis but we say nothing/It’s painful but we have to bear the pain/It isn’t easy to go out/Not easy after the news we’ve heard/Not easy to talk to anyone/Please tell us what to say for we can find no words.”

Someone else, an American, writes, “I really felt that Benazir was a leader that would not only bring peace to my brothers and sisters in Pakistan, but also aid in the war on terror. The war on terror must come to an end, and to do this, we as human beings must care for our peoples and the well-being of their souls. We must stop killing one another, our Creator demands this, the Creator of all beings. I believe she will lead many from this day on, in her passing. She has inspired change! I wrote this as tears fell from my eyes upon the terrible news! May we all live to usher in peace!”

Another person, who signs himself Shaer or poet, writes, “As tears rolled down my face (I believe in peace) and I felt the damage that was done to world peace, I felt saddened to feel the loss in my heart. She was beautiful, and caring of the situations that needed attention. She was brave! May God bless Benazir Bhutto, and may you find peace in this poem.”

The poem reads: “A woman/with three young children/putting her life on the line for a cause/I wonder how a mother could put her life on the line/Again/With three young children/I always thought/a mother’s instinct is stronger than anything/Benazir indicated that her country is a greater cause/Brother, she is in the hands of God/Now let’s pray for her soul/But brother/I grieve for those children.”

One short poem dedicated to her goes: “The children are motherless/Let’s hope that her sacrifice will be an offering/for a better Pakistan/In the eyes of God/blood sacrifice supercedes life itself/Go in peace, Sister.” Someone signing herself as Anna writes: Benazir Bhutto was assassinated today/she expired at 6:16/I have no poetry for you/words have no meaning sometimes/and the poet is gone/absent from all reason/all choked up/with nothing to say.”

A young woman named Mehnaz Malik, whom Benazir befriended, dedicates a poem by David Harkins, written in 1981, to “Bibi”:

“She is gone/You can shed tears that she is gone/Or you can smile because she has lived/You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back/Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left/Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her/Or you can be full of the love that you shared/You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday/Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday/You can remember her and only that she is gone/Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on/You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back/Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

Mehnaz writes, “Her critics say she was a pampered princess, and yet I never saw her rest. Bibi was a workaholic glued to her computer. She was extremely efficient with answering emails, and reading copious amounts of paper. Bibi kept her staff to the minimum, there was no entourage of assistants or professionals, just the bare minimum. I often sent her the odd intern to ease her workload because she was so overstretched. Contrary to what people think, she was not living in a palace with a large staff. Her HQ was always a few computers with various volunteers helping out. At the very centre of activity was Bibi working away, until we would drag her to take that much needed break. More recently, with her lecture circuit, we used to discuss how much we had to travel just to earn a living.”

But I would like to end this in Bibi’s own words, “I don’t fear death. I remember my last meeting with my father when he told me, ‘You know, tonight when I will be killed, my mother and my father will be waiting for me.’ It makes me weepy but I don’t think it can happen unless God wants it to happen because so many people have tried to kill me.”

Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent.

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.”