In his attempts to return to Pakistan without handcuffs, Gen (R) Pervez Musharraf has been looking at Imran Khan as a possible partner. The Nation reported earlier this month that the former dictator told an audience at LUMS that “APML could stand by PTI if Imran Khan would take up the challenge of doing away with the crises facing the country and strengthening Pakistan”. Geo reported that talks between Imran Khan and Gen (r) Musharraf are being brokered by American Arjumand Hashmi.
Imran Khan has been a little more coy about any possible grand alliance, possibly because his memory is not quite as short as Mushy’s. It was only a few years ago that Imran Khan announced a countrywide ‘Musharraf Hatao’ campaign. At the press conference, Imran Khan said Musharraf should be put to death.
Imran said Musharraf had accepted responsibility for killing 83 innocent citizens in Bajaur. “Though Saddam did not confess to any killings, he has been awarded the death sentence. The same should be done with General Musharraf, who has publicly admitted the government’s involvement in the Bajaur airstrike,” he said.
This raises an interesting question. If PTI-APML alliance somehow managed to form a government, would Imran Khan carry out his plan to execute Pervez Musharraf?
Chief of Tehreek-i-Insaf Imran Khan has announced ‘Save Pakistan; Topple the Government’ movement at the end of a two day peaceful sit-in at Native Jetty in Karachi that kept the Nato supply of oil and other goods suspended for two days.
When then army chief Pervez Musharraf, who is now president of the APML, toppled the PML-N government on October 12, 1999, he had led the country towards prosperity and stability, said his party’s spokesperson, while presiding over a party meeting at the Punjab Secretariat.
Hinting at the possibilities of newly-born APML’s support for Imran Khan’s PTI, he said that APML could stand by PTI if Imran Khan would take up the challenge of doing away with the crises facing the country and strengthening Pakistan.
کندھم جنس باہم جنس پرواز کبوتر با کبوتر باز با باز
While politicians, diplomats and business leaders are negotiating trade deals that would grant open access to American markets, a lucrative new industry of writing books about Pakistan for Western audiences is starting to take hold. Two of these recent books were the subject of reviews this week, and provide an interesting starting point for a discussion of Pakistan ideology both for what each book said…or didn’t say…about the subject.
The overall emphasis of the book is to highlight how Pakistan’s exclusive ‘ideological’ identity as opposed to a multi-ethnic nation-state cognisant of its past inhibits the formulation of a realistic foreign policy. This is a view, which many in Pakistan would empathise with especially the political parties. The book also documents the nuances and shades of policy options articulated by various political and religious groups.
This book suggests that the establishment’s attempt to use Islam as a “substitute for nationalism” has resulted in not only external wars such as Kargil, but internal wars to define who qualifies as “Muslim enough” to be Pakistani. In his review, Raza Rumi mentions the 1949 Objectives Resolution, but we can easily connect the dots between this and the way Yahya Khan characterised Bengalis as crypto-Hindus, 1974 law declaring Ahmedis as non-Muslims and present day attacks by anti-Shia groups like SSP and LeJ.
A similar observation was made by Ayesha Siddiqa in her review of a new book edited by Maleha Lodhi, ‘Pakistan: Beyond the “Crisis State”‘. According to Siddiqa, “The basic thesis of the volume is that there are many things which are not right about the country but that in itself does not qualify it as a failed or failing state”. This is true, of course, and it is important to recognise the progress that Pakistan is making as well as the challenges that remain. But Ms Siddiqa in her review worries that Lodhi’s volume serves as something of an unproductive whitewash, and in ignoring underlying issues surrounding ideology, Lodhi’s book fails to address the critical issue of ideology.
Pakistan’s fundamental problem is that the state defines citizenship on the basis of a citizen’s putative relationship with religion and the central establishment. This leaves out millions of non-Muslims or members of minority ethnic communities from a sense of representation. Those that choose to protest their rights like the East Pakistanis or Baluch are then brutally butchered in the name of national security. This volume chooses to focus on religion related violence. This category of violence cannot be stopped because the problem of the religiosity of the state becomes compounded with another issue of a powerful military bureaucracy, an institution which tends to use all measures including religion and violence to gain its military-strategic objectives. According to Zahid Hussain, some of the militant groups were connected with the military due to the role they played in the possible resolution of the Kashmir issue or in helping GHQ Rawalpindi deal with India.
Could it be that the bizarre handling of questions military, ideology and national identity were by design? After all, Maleeha Lodhi was appointed Ambassador to the USA following Gen Musharraf’s 1999 coup, and was awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz by Gen Musharraf in 2002. According to Siddiqa, “Maleeha Lodhi’s edited volume is one of the few books that Pakistan military’s Inter-Services Public Relations’ head Maj. General Athar Abbas recommends to his visitors”.
Have you read any of these books? If so, what are your thoughts? Are there other new books on Pakistan that you like? Please share in the comments!
Following Zulfiqar Mirza’s unhinged ranting, another certain dust up in Islamabad gained little notice. Even though it gained mostly yawns from the anchors, it may actually have greater implications than is realised.
President Zardari recently appointed Akhtar Buland Rana as Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) on advice of PM Gilani. After the appointment was reporter, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry wrote a letter to the president expressing reservations about the appointment. The Chief Justice’s reservations were based on ISI reports he received.
The CJP raised several objections against Rana in his letter citing seven charges against him.
The letter alleged that Rana obtained a Canadian nationality without seeking prior permission from the government and travels abroad on three Pakistani passports and two national identification cards. It included that Rana attempted sexual assault on a subordinate woman during service and also pointed out that he did not qualify for his promotion to grade-22.
The Supreme Court Registrar on Saturday said the chief justice wrote the letter to the president after the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) sent their reports on Rana’s credentials.
The court believed that the non-serious attitude of the government wasn’t a positive step towards the recovery of missing persons, adding that if spy agencies weren’t involved in their disappearances, they should submit a written statement in the court.
This is also the same Chief Justice that less than five years ago submitted an Affidavit claiming that MI, ISI and IB were interfering with the Supreme Court and Chief Justice himself after Musharraf took them away from their proper duties of defending the nation and dragged them into domestic politics. Now the same Chief Justice believes spy agencies should be meddling in domestic politics? But this raises an even more important question which is why the ISI is meddling in domestic politics in the first place. Sadly, this is not a new issue, but one that continues to prevent progress.
In 2002, the ISI did it again, manipulating elections and making a mockery of the public’s wishes. This was admitted by Maj Gen Ehtesham Zamir who headed the agency’s political wing at the time.
The main wheeler and dealer of the ISI during the 2002 elections, the then Maj-Gen Ehtesham Zamir, now retired, has come out of the closet and admitted his guilt of manipulating the 2002 elections, and has directly blamed Gen Musharraf for ordering so.
Talking to The News, the head of the ISI’s political cell in 2002, admitted manipulating the last elections at the behest of President Musharraf and termed the defeat of the King’s party, the PML-Q, this time “a reaction of the unnatural dispensation (installed in 2002).”
In 2008, the newly elected PPP government closed the political wing of the ISI in hopes that the people could take back control of their own government without interference from spy agencies.
Abida Hussain, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s party (PPP) and former ambassador to the US, said: “The ISI should only focus on the ‘war on terror’ rather than undertaking a periodic dirty tricks campaign to reward or punish politicians who either toed their agenda or fell out of line. Why should an intelligence agency which was established to watch for threats from foreign sources become so acutely involved in our domestic politics?”
Three years later and this same question is just as valid. With the threat of extremists trying to infiltrate the military, rogue ex-ISI agents running their own operations outside the control of the official agencies, and rising violence threatening the citizens, why is the ISI still spending its time meddling in domestic politics?
The establishment’s narrative has always been that the military is “the only competent institution in Pakistan”. When it comes to defeating enemies o the nation, I have not a single doubt that the military is the best institution. The operations that cleared anti-Pakistan militants from Swat are proof enough. But militaries break things. They destroy them. And every time the khakis have meddled in domestic politics, they’ve broken it.
Regretting his actions in 2002, Maj Gen Zamir told The News that the ISI’s meddling “had pushed the country back instead of taking it forward”. The solution is easy. Let the military agencies do their own work fighting militants and protecting the people. And let the people do their own work of electing and running the government.
Mohammad Waseem, professor at the prestigious LUMS, asks in Dawn today, ‘Is Pakistan Governable?‘ His piece echoes the fear and despair that has sunk into the hearts of many of our brothers and sisters as it seems we are living through a period when bullets are easier to come by than electricity. The good professor is understandably frustrated with the state of the nation, but I’m afraid his frustration is clouding his judgment.
Professor Waseem expresses his frustration by laying the blame for all society’s ills at the feet of the present government, accusing political leaders of being “grossly engaged in the game of survival in office” and unable – or unwilling – to deliver to the people. But is this true?
The PPP government faces an uphill task in terms of addressing issues relating to the inflationary spiral and the much-feared economic meltdown. What is required is the qualitative input of the best available talent in the country in the formulation of policy and the allocation of resources. The ruling set-up very much needs to cultivate its profile as a government by policy not patronage. It needs to develop the potential to swim through contradictory currents of agenda in the war against terror on the one hand and the political and religious sensitivities of the public on the other. While the formal transition from military to civilian rule is complete, the government needs to address substantive issues relating to the bar and the bench and the Seventeenth Amendment.
All governments are tasked with reform. Greece is struggling with debt, India is struggling with corruption, the Americans are struggling with political gridlock, Mexico is struggling with security. Our government was immediately tasked with not one major task of reform, but all of them. Despite these challenges, the government has managed to make some progress.
The most important point, however, remains the fact that high drama projected from media, the coalition has not fallen apart, and opposition parties have chosen to use the political process and not try to upend the chessboard to seize power. Even the so-called ‘war’ between the executive and judiciary was proven to be nothing but a TV drama when Justice Iqbal declared that “all differences will be settled with consensus rather than conflict”.
Obviously, this does not mean that there are no problems still facing the nation. Law and order situation in Karachi must be solved. While the extension of Political Parties Act and amendments to FCR is a good start in FATA, still more must be done to integrate the region’s citizens. And more must be done to address concerns in Balochistan also. Questions about how the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan must be asked and answered honestly, even if the answers are embarrassing. And we need a national dialogue on the prejudice and sectarianism that underlies so many of these issues that tear at the fabric of our nation.
But just as serious problems remain, it’s not quite fair to suggest that our political leaders regardless of party are ignoring the problems of society. What Professor Waseem identified as areas that needed to be addressed by the present government have largely been addressed, even if incrementally. If the present government is bowling yorkers, the professor is moving the wicket.
In another 2008 piece, Professor Waseem noted that the nation’s institutions had suffered “an enormous beating at the hands of the fourth coup-maker in the history of Pakistan”, and warned that “If Musharraf strikes again, he will do so with the support of this unrepresentative and career-oriented elite which is imbued with a supremacist ideology rooted in paternalism”.
Today, he says “Only a strong, authoritative, confident, legitimate and responsible government can deal with the turbulence all around.” It is easy to wish for a more perfect government, but governments are made of people, not angels. The present government was elected by the people, and in less than two years, the people will return to the polls to decide who will take over and carry on. Whether that government is led by the PPP or some other party, it will face the same complicated and difficult problems, and easy answers will remain the elusive smoke of campaign speeches.
Whether the choice of the people meets the hopes of Professor Waseem, I would only remind him of his own words written three years ago: “A move backwards to the age of non-representative rule cannot and should not be allowed ever again.”