Pakistani, Afghan envoys say Obama plan not enough

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2009 (AFP) -The Pakistani and Afghan ambassadors here warned Thursday a US anti-terror escalation unveiled by President Barack Obama risked proving insufficient to break the back of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Both envoys called on the United States and its allies to provide more cash and military tools to defeat terrorism on the battlefield and alleviate the poverty and ignorance that sustains extremist ideology.

Pakistani ambassador Husain Haqqani welcomed the new Obama strategy, but contrasted the aid given to nations on the frontline of the war against terror with the multi-billion-dollar bailouts given to US companies in distress.

“The resources that are being committed may look big to some but very frankly, I think that a company on the verge of failure is quite clearly able to get a bigger bailout than a nation that is accused of failure,” he said.

“Why does Afghanistan or Pakistan get less resources allocated to solving a bigger problem … than say for example some failed insurance company or some car company whose real achievement is that they couldn’t make cars that they could sell?”

Obama last month put Pakistan at the center of the fight against Al-Qaeda as part of a new strategy dispatching 4,000 more troops, in addition to an extra 17,000 already committed, and billions of dollars to the Afghan war.

The plan includes a focus on Al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan and boosting civilian efforts to build up both Afghanistan and Pakistan, notably in agriculture and education.

Afghan ambassador Said Jawad, speaking alongside Haqqani at a forum organized by Washington’s Atlantic Council think-tank, also said Obama’s new strategy marked a welcome reorganization of US goals.

But he stressed that Afghanistan needed more help for a major expansion of its security forces, from the 134,000 army troops and 82,000 police personnel foreseen in the Obama plan.

To counter the resurgent Taliban, the Afghan army should number at least 250,000 and the police 150,000, the envoy said.

“Right now you are paying with your blood and treasure in Afghanistan by sending your sons to fight for us,” Jawad said.

“The most sustainable way (to defeat extremism) is to create this capacity in us,” he said, insisting Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government was already tackling the endemic police corruption identified by foreign donors.

Pakistan Needs A Grand National Compromise That Restores Constitutional Rule

Pakistan is a nation in need of healing. The last one year has highlighted the many fissures that have festered below the surface for years. Unity of command, so effective in running a disciplined force like a military unit, has ended up dividing the Pakistani nation.

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.

The response to such widespread mistrust of the government is not dismissive statements by the country’s rulers. A serious effort is now needed to bridge the gap between Pakistan’s state and society.

General (retired) Pervez Musharraf has repeatedly shown that he lacks the ability to heal. He could end the controversy about Bhutto’s death by accepting an international inquiry. But Musharraf thinks like an administrator and insists that since he, as boss, knows there is nothing wrong therefore there is no need for a wider investigation.

At a time when the new army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, is trying to restore harmony between the army and the people it is imperative that the perception of the military favouring or opposing any political faction or leader is completely erased.

The Citizens Group on Electoral Process (CGEP), in its recent report, has termed the pre-poll electoral process in Pakistan highly unfair, giving it a score of 26 on a scale of 100 in respect of overall fairness of the pre-poll environment spanning over 12 months.

Not free

The judiciary is not free to pronounce on the fairness or otherwise of the election. When Musharraf alone is the decider of what the people want, how will the people ever be able to tell him that they no longer want him?

The thoughtful US politician, Senator Joseph Lieberman, understood the problem with the election process in one visit to Pakistan, something Musharraf is unable to do after running the country for eight years.

Lieberman said, “Opposition parties have little trust the polls will be fair… If there are some bases after the elections for concluding that they were not fair and credible, the consequences, I fear here in Pakistan, will be more division and not the unity that the country needs at this critical moment in its history, facing a serious external threat, now increasing, from Al Qaida.”

A politician would know when some of his staff and officials have become a liability for him. But Musharraf insists on retaining intelligence operatives who are widely despised by the opposition and who are only exacerbating hatred against the government. The political role of intelligence services must end immediately. Pakistan is not a company to be managed. It is a nation that must be brought together.

The need of the hour is a “grand national compromise” that brings to an end the vilification and demonization of some politicians, restores the military’s prestige and ends its political role, limits the intelligence agencies to external security functions and results in a government that unites the Pakistani nation against terrorism and disintegration.

Musharraf can become part of the Grand National Compromise, salvage some respect, and voluntarily give up on issues relating to a free and fair election. Or he could remain the major wound that must be dealt with before the healing of Pakistan can begin.

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. This article appeared in The Gulf News.

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.