Fauji Foundation Destabalizing Balochistan?

The controversial policy of recruiting retired military soldiers and officials to support the security forces of Bahrain against pro-democracy protestors threatens to undermine the credibility of complaints about foreign interference within our own borders. But this may not be the only affect. After reading a news report from last Friday, I think it is worth examining whether this practise is also destabilizing Balochistan.

The news report referred to appeared in last Friday’s edition of The News. Amir Mir wrote that hiring of Pakistani fighters for Bahrain angers Iran. The government of Iran is unhappy with this because, though it is no bastion of democracy itself, Iran has sees the crackdown on pro-democracy protestors in Bahrain as a sectarian fight.

But what is being clearly seen as Sunni and Shia rivalries, Iran is annoyed with the recruitment of mainly Sunni Muslims for the Bahraini security forces because it blames them for crushing a mainly Shia uprising against the rule of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Tehran believes that all these recruitments were being made at the behest of Saudi Arabia. For long, Riyadh has been one of the two foreign hands — the other being the US — rocking the cradle of Pakistani politics, brokering truce among warring leaders, providing asylum to those being exiled and generously lavishing funds on a state strapped for cash. But the explosion of democratic upsurge is gradually bringing about a role reversal — it is Pakistan’s assistance the Arab royal families have now sought to quell rebellion in West Asia, rekindling memories of 1969 when the personnel of the Pakistani Air Force flew the Saudi fighter planes to ward off an invasion from South Yemen.

Viewing the situation with this historical perspective, the Iranians may see Pakistani involvement in Bahrain as sectarian aggression. The involvement of Fauji Foundation, even though it is nominally a private enterprise, makes the policy like an official position of the military.

The Fauji Security Services (Pvt) Limited, which is run by the Fauji Foundation, a subsidiary of the Pakistan Army, is currently recruiting on war footing basis thousands of retired military personnel from the Pakistan Army, Navy and the Air Force who will be getting jobs in the Gulf region, especially in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. But sources in the Fauji Foundation say over 90 per cent of the fresh recruitments, which started in the backdrop of the recent political upheaval in the Arab world, are being sent to Bahrain to perform services in the Bahrain National Guard (BNG), and that too at exorbitant salaries. Thousands of ex-servicemen of the Pakistani origin are already serving in Bahrain and the fresh recruitments are aimed at boosting up the strength of the BNG to deal with the country’s majority Shia population, which is calling for replacement of the Sunni monarchy. Bahrain’s ruling elite is Sunni, although about 70% of the population is Shia.

While it’s popular to blame the US and India for supporting Baloch separatists, the nation that actually stands to gain the most from the trouble is Iran which shares a border with Balochistan. In retaliation for Pakistani participation in putting down the pro-democracy shia in Bahrain, Iran could be funneling support and resources to Baloch separatists. Iran could also see the possibility of an independent Balochistan as a bulwark against sectarian militant groups in Pakistan. Amir Mir saw the same possibility.

In other words, as things stand, Islamabad, wittingly or unwittingly, has become the frontline state for protecting the supremacy of Sunni Islam which would not be taken lightly by Iran that has the ability to create problems in Balochistan province, neighbouring Iran.

We should be examining the policy of allowing Fauji to recruit security personnel to help the Bahrain ruling family because such a practice goes against our own stated protests against foreign interference in our own politics. How can we complain about hundreds of Raymond Davises when we are sending our own Raymond Davises to Bahrain?

But more immediately, we need to carefully consider whether such actions are doing worse than undermining our own credibility and are actually fueling instability in the country by promoting sectarianism and hurting our relationship with our neighbors.

We Don’t Need To Import Other People’s Crazies

Robert Anderson is a professor at an American Community College, and was in the US Air Force 44 years ago. He claims that, while he was in Vietnam, he was ‘loaned’ to the CIA for covert work. He also says quite explicitly that he was “was not an official of the CIA”. Nevermind that small detail, his story is presented as if he were the head of CIA himself. Also, nevermind the fact that the only proof that Mr Robert Anderson was a covert agent of CIA in Vietnam was his own word.

I learned about Mr Robert Anderson from an interview published by Dr Awab’s blog. I read the interview and found myself laughing out loud. It was so silly I could not believe my eyes. It seemed to be published with no critical thinking perhaps because Dr Awab liked what he had to say. So what if he is a liar? Can you prove that he what he is saying isn’t true? Too many people seem to be willing to set aside all of their critical thinking and accept anything anyone tells us as long as it is what we want to hear.

What is funny is that Dr Awab also presents this interview  which was conducted by the blog Talkhaaba which has accused Pakistani bloggers of being “seized by the Ahmedis/athiests” and having the goal “to throw each and every true Muslim out of this state of Pakistan”. The blog even accuses Dr Awab specificially by name! This same blog has been a promoter of anti-American conspiracy theories for years now. So what should we expect from such a source?

Actually calling this an “interview” is a stretch of the imagination. What sort of interviewer asks a question like this:

Given the capability of Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan, some defense analysts assert that terrorist attacks in Pakistan can’t be carried out by Taliban; instead these are planned and perpetrated by CIA? In the light of your experience in Laos, can you endorse and substantiate this assertion?

Of course, Mr Robert Anderson answers that “It is possible but I don’t know any details”. Nevermind that this man admits he was never a CIA official and has never stepped one foot in Pakistan and admits that he doesn’t know any details. IT’S GOOD ENOUGH! An American who was in the military and claims to have been secretly loaned to the CIA almost half a century ago says it is possible!

Mr Robert Anderson also points people to another American named John Perkins. Mr Perkins wrote a famous book with the title, ‘Confessions of an Economic Hit Man’. A friend loaned me a battered copy several years ago and told me that if I read this book I would learn the truth. I did read it, and it had a big effect on me. How could it not? An exciting story about secret plots to create chaos, control weak government, and take over the world through economic sabotage! Exciting stuff!

But once you set aside the drama and look at what Mr Perkins actually claims, there’s not much there. And what is there doesn’t make any sense. Don’t take my word for it, either. Sebastian Mallaby who is an expert in global economics termed Mr Perkins “a frothing conspiracy theorist, a vainglorious peddler of nonsense” and thoroughly debunked his ‘confessions’ back in 2006.

Also, this isn’t the only book that John Perkins has written. He has also written a book called ‘Shape Shifting’ that examines “the actual transformation of a human being into another living creature”. That’s right, this man who was supposedly a top secret agent of the US wrote a book about humans transforming themselves into plants and animals. Really.

This is what makes me so mad that my head hurts. Dr Awab and a lot of other people who buy the non sense being peddled by these conspiracy nuts are TOO SMART FOR THIS. But time after time I see people ignoring their basic common sense and believing any lunatic who says something that they want to hear – NO PROOFS REQUIRED!

I’m not asking you to believe one way or the other about America or Raymond Davis or drones or anything else. I’m just asking you to THINK FOR YOURSELF. Just because someone is an American, it doesn’t mean they are an authority on anything. People in American build careers from cheap conspiracy theories just like people do here. For every Zaid Hamid or Ahmed Quraishi, the Americans have their own guy just like him. We have plenty of our own crazies, we don’t need to import other people’s, too.

Pakistan’s Image Problem

An important article in Dawn has been, unfortunately, overshadowed by the Raymond Davis drama of the last two days. Perhaps the article was only slightly premature in that regard. Actually, now should be the perfect time to examine closely the author’s observations about Pakistan’s image problem.

The predictable establishment reaction to these results might be a defensive one — questioning the validity of the methodology and results and the diversity of the countries selected to be surveyed, pointing to the rising tide of Islamophobia in the West and the ‘bias’ of the western media which shapes it. Or it may be a foolishly patriotic one by claiming we don’t care what the world thinks of us and simply ignoring the results as irrelevant.

Both of these reactions would be self-defeating, because obviously it does matter to a country living on international handouts (or any country tied into a global economic system) what the world thinks of it. And let’s not forget that Pakistan has pretences of being a leading geo-strategic player.

But there is another response to these dismaying results that may be as problematic and which one fears will be promoted by those out to make a quick buck and those with little vision or imagination. And that is the PR blitz. You can almost sense that public relations agencies will be licking their chops at potential contracts and whispering into the ears of bureaucrats and politicians that the way out of this perceptual negativity is to counter it with positive images of the country.

This is the marketing mindset that believes that what is wrong with Pakistan is basically bad press and the corrective to it is promoting the ‘soft image’ of the country, the sufic roots of our heritage, the brilliant natural beauty or what have you.

Here’s a reality check for our potential spin doctors: marketing is an adjunct to a product, not the other way round. And the product we have on our hands currently is this: a lack of bearings, a fondness for rhetoric over logical analysis, cultural paranoia, an absence of a coherent vision for the future, a prioritisation of elite interests over what is better for the country as a whole, crumbling state institutions, bureaucratic inertia, a stunning lack of capacity to implement any plans that are actually made, a violent assault on the state that daily demoralises its citizens, an economy in hock and a stubborn unwillingness to reverse failing courses of action such as a jihadist foreign policy.

Adeel said on Wednesday that the Raymond Davis case is closed, it is time to focus our attention on the tasks at hand: Addressing the education crisis, building on the recent economic good news to improve further growth and opportunity, strengthening the democratic process and uniting to secure the country against the menace of militancy.

Raymond Davis Case Closed: Time To Move On

Raymond DavisWhen Raymond Davis burst onto the headlines in a flash of broken glass and gunfire, the nation became immediately transfixed. Here was the blonde, white American ex-Blackwater CIA operative that the conspiracy theorists of the Ghairat Brigade had been warning us about! The Americans immediately claimed diplomatic immunity, and the response was a predictable gasp from both the left and the right.

There were two popular responses to the question of diplomatic immunity and the fate of Raymond Davis. The jihadi solution was to set aside any pretense of reason, justice, and law and order and simply hang the man in the street as an act of vigilantism.

The second came from the more reasonable-sounding crowd who repeated ad nauseum that everyone should ‘let the courts decide’ and demanded that the Americans respect the ruling of Pakistani justice.

For example, here is the statement of JUI-F.

“The Islamic laws clearly provide that a person, after proving to be guilty, would have to undergo the punishment, Qasas, Diyat etc under Sharia,” said JUI-F’s Secretary General Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri.

He explained that the judicial process is obviously of Pakistan as an accused would have to pass through the process in accordance with the law of the land where he commits a crime…”The only acceptable option is to let the courts decide about the fate of the arrested US national in accordance with the laws,” he responded to a question.

Letting the courts decide was also the stated opinion of COAS Gen Kayani – an opinion termed “total commitment to rule of law in the country” by The Nation.

Reaffirming total commitment to rule of law in the country, the top brass of Pakistan Army Wednesday supported decision of the government that case of US national Raymond Davis was a sub judice matter and let the court handle it.

In fact, The Nation was quite explicit in its own support for the courts to decide. On 6 February they even published an editorial with the headline, ‘Leave it to the courts’.

Is it intolerable for the bipartisan delegation for a Pakistani judge to decide the fate of an American? The need to leave the judiciary to decide is highlighted because the investigator in the case has determined that excessive force was used.

Even JI deputy chief Liaquat Baluch said that the Americans should allow the courts to decide.

“Why is America hell bent on trampling on Pakistani law and its judicial system? We will forcefully protest if he is released without a court order,” Jamaat-e-Islami deputy chief Liaquat Baluch told Reuters.

Now, of course, the court has decided. Justice has been carried out according to our own laws and customs, and not American or Western jurisprudence. Qisas & Diyat Laws were invoked, blood money has been paid, the families have issued a pardon, and the accused has been acquitted by the courts and released.

So, everyone who demanded to let the courts decide based on our own laws and customs is satisfied, right? Of course not. This is Pakistan.

No, instead you have everyone complaining that the court came to the wrong conclusion. If this is the case, why bother with courts at all? If courts are supposed to come to a pre-determined conclusion no matter what, then they are not courts at all but just a sham. Law and order is about process, not outcome. Justice is about means, not ends.

There were some groups that made very clear that they had no interest in real justice – that no matter what, their blood lust must be satisfied. These groups include TTP and JuD.

If Pakistani courts cannot punish Davis then they should hand him over to us,” said Azam Tariq, spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Taliban movement of Pakistan).

“We will give exemplary punishment to the killer Davis.”

The entire Raymond Davis affair was a disaster from start to finish. People are still talking about the effect on national dignity, but that was a no-win situation also. Recognizing his claim of diplomatic immunity would stoke a media firestorm that threatened riots and violence that would humiliate the nation on the world stage. Not honouring our commitments under the Vienna Conventions would make us appear untrustworthy to other world powers. In the end, the court managed to side-step both of these possible disasters in an artful and just decision under our own laws.

As for the Americans, whether or not Raymond Davis was entitled to diplomatic immunity, the incident was humiliating for them. And with this outcome, the Americans had to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty as well as our courts, laws, and customs. Raza Habib Raja makes this excellent observation on Pak Tea House.

Now if indeed the families of the victims have accepted the compensation and Mr. Raymond has been released after compensation has been paid, then frankly it is a win win situation. Although I know some may disagree because they desperately wanted to see Raymond publicly hanged but a thoughtful analysis would reveal that in fact USA has not been able to bully Pakistan and eventually had to resort to proper legal means and had to compensate the families. Of course this fact would not be acknowledged by the media but if the families have accepted the compensation then it is a moral victory of Pakistan while preserving its realpolitik concerns.

The only people who didn’t get their wish were the Taliban who weren’t ever interested in ‘justice’ but only wanted to quench a blood lust. These are the same Taliban who are mercilessly killing our own people, violating our own sovereignty, and trying to replace our own laws and customs with their own. Do we really want to find ourselves infected with their same blood lust?

Village schoolAfter dragging on for far too long, the Raymond Davis case is finally closed. It’s time to focus our attention on more important matters. Like the urgent need to address the education emergency in our country. We can tell our children about how the Americans could not bully us, and how through our own laws we found justice. But we cannot, we must not dwell on this episode. Our children deserve a better future than one obsessed with ghairat and America. We need to stop looking backwards, and start looking to the future of our country. The Raymond Davis case is closed. It’s time to put that same energy that we spent in putting down America into building up Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Black Water

The Raymond Davis case continues to be passed around like a bowl of sour milk that no one wants to end up with. After the Foreign Office neglected its duty to determine the American agent’s diplomatic status and passed the case on to the LHC, the LHC has now determined that it too does not want to be responsible for making the determination and has passed the case on to the trial court. Meanwhile, religious groups continue to use the case to organize protests and conspiracywalas in media are making a picnic out of fears of American agents roaming the country and undermining Pakistan’s democracy. But while the hue and cry against American agents interfering against Pakistan’s sovereignty, hundreds of foreign fighters have been entering another Muslim country to undermine its own democratic movement and nobody seems to be paying attention.

Bahrain protesters attacked with tear gas on 13 Mar 2011

The people of Bahrain, following the example of Tunisia and Egypt, are attempting to rid themselves of a corrupt and brutal regime. The country’s rulers have responded by cracking down on pro-democracy protesters and declaring martial law. But those enforcing the corrupt government’s rule are increasingly foreign agents recruited to stamp down on pro-democracy protestors. But these foreign agents are not from the US – they are from Pakistan.

According to the Ahlul Bayt News Agency, a classified advertisement entitled “Urgent Requirement: Manpower for Bahrain National Guard” was recently placed on the website of a prominent Pakistani human resource firm that has close ties to the Pakistani military.

The advertisement said Bahrain was seeking to hire several categories of ex-military personnel, including anti-riot instructors, Pakistan Military Academy drill instructors, retired infantry majors, and military police.

The advertisement added that a delegation from the Bahrain National Guard would be visiting Pakistan for the purpose of selecting the Pakistani personnel from March 7 to March 14.

It is difficult to confirm the exact number of former Pakistani soldiers who have been recruited in response to the recent ad, but sources claim as many 800 Pakistanis have been hired in the past few weeks.

Human rights activists have long complained about the controversial practice of hiring large numbers of foreigners to serve in the Bahraini security forces to suppress political dissent in the kingdom.

Bahrain’s police, military, and national guard are staffed in large part by non-Bahraini citizens, mostly from Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria.

It is bad enough that the complaints against foreign agents in Pakistan are shown as sheer hypocrisy on the world stage, but there is a much more dangerous element to this story that must be examined. Pakistanis recruited to serve as pro-regime agents in Bahrain are not only undermining democracy in a Muslim state, they are also stoking sectarian tensions.

Earlier this year, Syed Nadir El Edroos asked ‘Will Bahrain’s sectarian divide impact Pakistan?’ In his post for Express Tribune the author makes an important point.

What makes events in Bahrain relevant to Pakistan is the sectarian divide in the country.

The Sunni minority in Bahrain has monopolised power while the Shia majority is systematically marginalised from public influence and control. With Saudi Arabia’s support, the Shia population has been systematically oppressed, as the fear of Iranian influence in Bahrain is considered a strategic liability.

Bahraini security forces recruit from across the region. Pakistanis, particularly from Balochistan along the Makran coast, are favoured recruits.

These Pakistanis are viewed as instruments of state oppression by the protestors. If the Bahraini regime were to fall, Pakistan as a willing supplier, nay ‘facilitator’ of Bahraini recruitment will not be viewed favourably by a new set of leaders.

Pakistan’s involvement in sectarian tensions in Bahrain could result in an even more dire outcome for our own country because it threatens to worsen sectarian tensions not only within our borders, but with our neighbor to the West the Shia state of Iran.

Pakistan itself is no stranger to sectarian violence, which has intensified in recent years. If the Bahraini regime falls as the Saudis and American’s fear, it would be seen as and portrayed by Iran as a victory of her interests. This would push the Saudis to intensify support for organisations that share it’s goals of containing Iran.

Such support for organisations in Pakistan, could lead to sectarian attacks and reprisals.

Though Nadir warns of this outcome in his post, I fear he misses the more important point. The correct strategy to protect Pakistan’s security is not to prop up the corrupt and anti-democratic regime in Bahrain, but to support democracy and the people of Bahrain deciding their own government. We must not take part in the same interventions that we complain of within our own borders.

We must face the fact that we have our own Black Water and that our own agents are propping up corrupt and anti-democratic regimes in Muslim countries. This not only undermines any moral authority we have to complain about foreign agents on our own soil, but in the worst case it threatens to undermine our own security as we experience ‘blow back’ from sectarian violence.