A War Within the Ranks?

An inter-agency battle appears to be playing out on the pages of some propaganda web sites. Following the briefing by Maj General Mehmood Ghayur that put to rest several drone myths and conspiracy theories, a call for his head has been issued on a website by Moin Ansari who was exposed as part of Cafe Pyala’s report on propaganda websites last year.

The General’s strange statement that “The number of innocent people being killed is relatively low.” should be condemned at the highest levels and he should be taken to task. Just labeling it as a “personal assessment’ is not good enough. Foreign Minister Qureshi had to give up his job for confronting allies and friends. Major General Mehmood should be stripped of his stars and put in jail for “approving” the attack on civilians in Pakistan, for tolerating the violation of Pakistani sovereignty–and justifying illegal murders.

As evidence that the General is incorrect, the author refers to the data of New American Foundation. But when I looked at their website, it turned out that the data actually supports Gen Mehmood’s statements.

Drones Deaths 2004 to 2010

But more telling, perhaps, is the way that the author strikes out at the ISI and even Gen Pasha by name.

The ISI has to own up to its incompetence in not following folks who were hurriedly handed out Pakistanis visas by the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. Why were the 500 or so “spies” not followed properly. How could they romp around Pakistan without the ISIs eagle eye on them? What stopped the ISI from doing a follow-up and in depth background check on these individuals. Why did the ISI have a epiphany moment when “Raymond Davis” actually committed murder. Why was he not targeted for intense surveillance for months. Does the ISI not know about the safe houses in Lahore. Ordinary citizens know where these thugs live. Why did the ISI allow them to run amok. There has been a shake-up at the ISI, where inefficiency has been sidelined. The knife neds to go deeper and eliminate incompetence.

Why has the ISI not submitted deep and profound background checks on all the Xe types that are present in Pakistan?

If General Pasha and General Kayani cannot answer these questions, the Senate and National Assembly should hold closed door and pubic hearings on these issues. If General Pasha is still allowing the drones to commit murder on Pakistani soil, then General Pasha should not get an extension.

An article in Daily Times reveals a network of think tanks are responsible for much of the conspiracy theory propaganda being circulated on the internet. Actually, this is not the first time these propaganda networks have been exposed. Last year Cafe Pyala found the same thing, including the web site that features these latest calls for sacking the military brass.

What is interesting is how these propaganda rings appear to be driven by retired military and intelligence officers from the Zia and Musharraf eras who consistently promoted pro-jihadi ideologies and failed military adventures that resulted in the present sad state of security. Now that Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha are left to clean up the mess that they created, they seem to have turned on their beloved institutions. Ideology before country, I guess, which is ironic for a bunch of goons that consistently declare themselves as ‘patriots’ and ‘nationalists’.

You have to wonder, though, if this isn’t just a public face of a larger war being waged within the ranks. The Zia-style ideologues for jihad versus the Kayani-style pragmatists for national security. It’s long been rumoured that such a battle is being waged, but the military keeps much closer ranks than politicians who are quick to insult each other openly.

Let me tell you this: If Gen Kayani and Gen Pasha have boiled the blood of the hyper-nationalist pseudo-patriots, they must be doing something right.

AHR: A Deadly Silence

Agha Haider RazaWhen Salmaan Taseer was assassinated eight weeks ago, I quoted Max Weber in my article: “If the power of violence shifts from the state to the people, we also see a shift from a state to anarchy”.  Weber’s paradigm of anarchy is becoming more evident in Pakistan as time progresses.  The brutal murder of Shahbaz Bhatti in Islamabad has solidified the notion that the PPP led government is ignoring extremism.  This perturbed ideology is challenging the writ of the State and if not handled with the delicacy and precision required, we will surely dissolve into a state of oblivion.

During the past year, President Zardari has sent over 70 press releases to the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP – GoP’s official wire agency) “condemning” deaths, murder and terrorist actions.  Yet Mr. Zardari seems ignorant of the very extremists who killed Benazir Bhutto, assassinated Salmaan Taseer, murdered Shahbaz Bhatti and thousands of civilians.  Zardari changed his children’s surname so they would carry the name of their maternal grandfather and even went to the extent of renaming his own hometown of Nawabshah to Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto district.  Why invoke Benazir Bhutto if the extremists who murdered her are still wreaking havoc in Pakistan?

I am not undermining the sacrifice Ms. Bhutto gave this country.  But what use is it to Pakistan if Mr. Zardari refuses to acknowledge the very threat of violence that has forced him to name cities after his slain wife?  Where is the speech of a President uniting a fractured country? Where is the public condemnation of murder? Sitting within the Presidency’s bubble and sending 250 words to the APP will surely not break the shackles dragging us towards anarchy.

Having recently travelled through southern Punjab, it was highly disturbing to see the number of madrassahs being constructed.  These institutions are being set-up every 20 kilometers along Multan Road through Sadiqabad.  The graduating batch is more fodder for the “extremist Frankenstein monster” Benazir Bhutto spoke of two decades ago.

It is arguably difficult to tame the monster.  However, a thoughtful analysis of threats and opportunities is required in order to break free from extremism.  The Islam being preached at such institutions needs to be modified and reexamined.  This concept of invoking fear into the hearts of “infidels” and “blasphemers” through violence is not an Islam that was practiced by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) nor advocated by his followers.

Islam can survive without violence, as it has for 1400 years.  It is truly mesmerizing where a religion that was not spread by the sword is now synonymous with suicide bomb and cold-blooded murder.

Those who are inspired by carnage and terrorism through religion need to be shown that Islam at the core does not follow such principles nor evokes such behavior.  Education is one method of response, but that is a long-term goal.  Pakistan requires a proactive responsibility from the government, opposition parties and civil society in order to marginalize the thought-process of extremist elements threatening our social fabric.

The government needs to take a lead role in countering religious violence.  First and foremost the writ of the state is being challenged as civilians are utilizing the power of violence.  Despite all odds, Mumtaz Qadri (a self-proclaimed assassin) needs to be dealt with according to the law.  If religious parties, the government and political parties constantly rally for Raymond Davis to be dealt in accordance to the laws in Pakistan, I don’t see why we should be discriminating.  Providing military training for mujahid’s in covert operations needs to cease.  Investments for NGOs providing roti, kapra aur makaan (food, clothing and shelter) should be increased exponentially, while the public-private sector partnership needs to assist the government in dealing with the monster of terrorism.  The Zia-ul-Haq era of textbooks containing religious violence should to be revoked.

Islamic History is absent from books utilized in schools across the country.  From the very basic public schools in rural Pakistan to elite institutions like Aitchison College, 1200 years of Islam is absent.  Islamiyat is taught from the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to the death of Imam Hussain (AS).  Pakistan Studies picks up from the reign of the Mughal Emperor Babar to the inception of Pakistan in 1947.  The Umayyads, Abbasids, Ottoman Empire, Safavid dynasty are crucial to Muslim history but is overlooked.  These dynasties brought about a social cultural change through religion and would be an important aspect to countering religious violence in Pakistan.

There are some who may argue that if the government is absent, the people of Pakistan need to voice their opinions.  While this may be true, I still feel that an elected, representative democratic government is required to take the lead on such a sensitive issue.  Harping on the Shaheeds of a party will not rid us of the Frankenstein monster that has taken the life of thousands across Pakistan.  Pakistan’s very identity and survival is at stake.  Actions truly speak louder than empty rhetoric.

In his inaugural speech Pakistan’s founder stated, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan.  You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State”.  It is only fair we live up to his expectations; it’s the least we as a nation can do to the very man who gave us Pakistan.  If the government refuses to provide this safety net to those who practice other religions, we most definitely are sliding towards anarchy.

The author Agha Haider Raza posted this piece on his blog 4 March 2011.

Shireen Mazari’s Latest Column: India, Anti-Americanism, and an Ideology of the Past

Shireen MazariShireen Mazari’s latest column, published in Express Tribune, reads like she’s not even trying anymore. A mix of unintended irony, conspiracy theories, and outdated ideology leftover from the Zia years, it is a perfect example of where we were in the past, and why it’s time to move on.

Shireen starts off by pointing out the irony in American concerns about whether Davis can receive a fair trial when some here had similar concerns about the fairness of the trial of Aafia Siddiqui. She asks “are we to try murderers based on how the US views these trials and condemn the credibility of our judiciary proactively?”

This may seem like a fair point at first, but note that Shireen Mazari fails to notice the irony in her own suggestion that Davis can receive a fair trial only moments after she declares him a ‘murderer’ who ‘did kill in cold blood!’ The court is not set to formally charge Mr Davis until March 3, yet Shireen Mazari has him already guilty in her own mind. And even if we are to accept that Aafia Siddiqui did not receive a fair trial in the US, is Shireen Mazari suggesting that we should throw injustice after injustice? Or are we supposed to believe that a court could find Mr Davis ‘not guilty’ and Shireen Mazari would gladly accept such an outcome?

Perhaps this is what she means when she says we should not ‘condemn the credibility of our judiciary proactively’: That she can only rate the credibility of the court once she knows that it agrees with her own opinion. It is certainly worth asking if a fair trial is possible before an injustice takes place rather than afterwards. If we are going to demand impartial justice for our own countrymen, should we not be willing to demand impartial justice for others?

And this is not the only example of Shireen’s confusion on the issues. For that perhaps we should consider her repeating the conspiracy theory that Davis has links to attacks on the security establishment. This assertion is ridiculous as it contradicts what the security establishment itself is saying.

Consider how CIA and ISI officials described the relationship of these agencies to a real journalist, Mr Declan Walsh of The Guardian

“They need to come clean, tell us who they are and what they are doing. They need to stop doing things behind our back,” he said. There are “two or three score” covert US operatives roaming Pakistan, “if not more”, he said.

CIA spokesman George Little said that agency ties to the ISI “have been strong over the years, and when there are issues to sort out, we work through them. That’s the sign of a healthy partnership”.

The ISI official agreed that future co-operation was vital. “They need us; we need them,” he said. “But we need to move forward in the right direction, based on equality and respect.”

The intelligence agencies are merely asking that the CIA cooperate more openly with them. So why is Mazari trying to create some suspicion between the two by suggesting that Davis was involved in conspiracies to attack Pakistan’s security?

To answer that question we may look to the conclusion of her piece which lays clear the out-of-date ideology that obsesses Shireen Mazari and the rest of the Ghairat Brigade – India. Yes, only a senior official of the Ghairat Brigade could analyse a situation in which a US Embassy employee shoots two armed men at Mozang Chowk and somehow find a link to India.

One issue has become evident: the US agenda for Pakistan has growing question marks to it. The appointment of Marc Grossman as Holbrooke’s successor is a case in point. A known critic of the ICC, as vice-chairman of the Cohen Group, he has been closely associated with furthering US-India relations, including in the aerospace and defence fields. The Cohen Group was in the forefront of lobbying for the US-India nuclear deal. Earlier, as undersecretary of state for political affairs, Grossman was the main architect of the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership between the United States and India” initiative. An active Indophile will now be dealing with Pakistan on behalf of the US. This really says it all about US intent in Pakistan.

This is an old and discredited way of thinking. China signed trade deals worth billions with India, and nobody pretends that this means China has nefarious intentions towards Pakistan. Actually, nations like the US and China don’t view their relations with us and India as a zero-sum game in which they can only be friends with one or the other. They want good relations with both, and they prefer that our two nations are also in good relations.

Of course we need a better and more balanced relationship with the US. But the correct approach to this is not explained by Shireen Mazari, but by Shafqat Mahmood’s column for The News.

Pakistan and the US are interlinked in myriad of ways. It is not just the Kerry-Lugar aid money that we desperately need or the American acquiescence to IMF or other international donors aid packages. Our defence and security needs also dictate a continuing relationship with the United States.

We do not have to be subservient to it, and I do not think we have been. There are many issues on which the US has been pushing us for a long time but, we have not given in. In particular, we have stoutly resisted the American demand for an attack on North Waziristan or its interference with our nuclear programme.

Having said that, there is also no need to get into an adversarial relationship with it. It is true that the Americans should not let the Davis case impact the entire relationship. But this argument cuts both ways. We also should not let it affect our relationship with the United States.

But worst is the way that Shireen Mazari tries to smear the name of the American diplomat Marc Grossman by accusing him of being “an active Indophile” because he had a job at an American firm that performed business consulting in India. In a glaring act of omission that has become typical for Shireen Mazari, she did not mention that Marc Grossman served at the US Embassy in Islamabad from 1976-1983. She did not note that he served as US Ambassador to Turkey from 1989-1992. She did not note that in 1999 Mr Grossman helped direct US participation in NATO’s military campaign in Kosovo that saved the lives of countless Muslims. All of this information is readily available – I learned it from his Wikipedia page. But such facts are not of interest to Shireen Mazari. With such a history, why does Shireen Mazari not term him ‘an active Islamophile’?

Shireen Mazari represents an ideology leftover from the Zia years. It is an outdated way of thinking about national security that places India as the ultimate threat, even while religious militants are attacking within our own borders. It uses anti-Americanism as an excuse for internal problems and provides a scapegoat for political pied pipers who promise that we will live in paradise if we can only get rid of the ‘foreign hand’.

The truth is, it is Zia leftovers like Shireen Mazari – not the Americans – that are holding us back. They want to keep us tied down to a Cold War mentality because they know that in the 21st century, their ideology is as irrelevant as their phony ‘think tanks’.

Are Our Expectations Realistic?

Example of a Mandlebrot factal

As a boy I was naturally curious about everything around me. I was also fascinated with my parents who both read as if the words were their life’s blood. They seemed to know everything. Growing up in my house, I discovered a love of books at an early age. But I found that with the high point of reading a book or learning something knew also came with a low point of realizing that there was more to read, more to learn before I could ever have the answer. I fantasized about being a brilliant man, but for each book I read, that goal seemed to move farther away instead of closer.

If I read a book of poetry, I would become obsessed with deciphering the allusions and finding the influences of the poet. This led to more poets with more allusions that led to more poets. It was an infinite regression of poetry! By the time I was a teenager, I began to despair. I was never going to be able to read enough to learn it all.

It wasn’t until my late 20s that I realized that this was normal. That, true, I will never know it all. But that’s okay. I came to realize that the beauty is not in the knowing, but in the learning. Perhaps I tell you something about fractal geometry. But it’s not that a section of maths that I love as much as it is the process of learning about it. Learning is not an goal, it’s a path.

Two items reminded me of this yesterday. Both were fairly unremarkable in their own right, simply people expressing frustration with the very frustrating situation of society plagued by problems and government that is slow to provide solutions. But the more I thought about these items, the more I started thinking about whether or not our expectations of the government are fair? Are we being realistic about what the government can do, and how quickly it can do it?

The first item I noticed was a comment on a post by Agha Haider Raza that stated,

However, it would be interesting to read any viable recommendations you could make so as to hold the President accountable, or even the PM for their lack of activity “for the people.”

The second was the statement of PML-Q MNA Marvi Memon that government has failed to deliver.

She said people elected their representatives to have their problems solved, and since the legislators had failed to come up to the expectations of the electorate, protests and sit-ins had become order of the day. Decisions taken by parliament, she said, were not being implemented by the executive, as a result of which unrest was going up. She warned that the country could face Egypt-like situation in case the government failed to address people’s problems.

These statements have something in common in that they both communicate a frustration with the government being too slow in solving the problems of society. But I began to wonder if not just this government, but any government would meet our expectations.

One of the fundamental elements of democracy is that it is slow moving. Before some change can take place, different groups have to come to an agreement on the move. And these groups may not see things in the same light. The military has its wants, the business class has its wants, the poor have their own set of needs, and the politicians themselves have certain things that they want. Disagreements between these and other groups are natural, and finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs can be difficult.

Dictatorships are much faster moving, but that speed comes at the cost of the rights of citizens. A fast-moving dictatorship cannot tolerate a free press, popular dissent such as street protests, or even disagreement with his policies. You simply get what he gives you and if you don’t like it then he will be happy to hang you in a stadium as a warning to others who might think of crossing him.

Another issue is that I think that we have been conditioned to expect failure from the government. Why should this be any surprise? I am a young man, and already I have lived through a series of governments (some elected, some imposed) that have let us down at each turn. When we elected this government a few years ago, I found myself filled with optimism. Even though I knew better, I still thought that now that we had elected a democratic government, things would quickly fall into place. There have definitely been some improvements since Musharraf, but I can’t help but feel sometimes like I expected more.

But I also know that progress is slow. It does not come overnight. Winston Churchill said that ‘democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried from time to time’. He could have very well been talking about Pakistan. We have tried military rule under Gen. Yahya Khan that fractured our young nation. We have tried Islamization under Gen. Zia that bred the militant terrorists who bomb our shrines and our markets. Yes there are many problems that we must overcome, and yes it is frustrating how slow change seems to come. But until someone can think of a better form of government, democracy is the best way forward.

When you meet someone who is older and well read, it can become an easy wish to have that same wisdom that they do. But it takes time, patience, and hard work to achieve it. Just because you are granted membership to a library, still you cannot read all the books in one day. There are no short cuts to wisdom, and there are no short cuts to social progress also. We need to set our expectations on short-term goals that are realistically achievable in the pursuit of long-term goals that will take time. Like a Mandlebrot fractal, those small short-term successes will build on themselves and over time we will find ourselves further down the path of democracy.

How the New York Times Keeps Getting Pakistan Wrong

Syed Yahya HussainyThe New York Times is an institution in journalism. Published continuously for over 160 years, the Times has won 104 Pulitzer Prizes – more than any other news organization. In 2009, one of those Pulitzer Prizes went to a team that included Pakistan correspondent Jane Perlez for their coverage of America’s deepening military and political challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan. With this background, how is it that The New York Times keeps getting Pakistan so wrong?

In her latest article, Many in Pakistan Fear Unrest at Home, Jane Perlez suggests that Pakistan is on the brink of takeover by Islamists, comparing the political climate today to Iran in 1979. But is this really an accurate description of Pakistan, a nation that only recently held massive pro-democracy street demonstrations, overthrew a military dictator, and elected a democratic government that for the first time includes all ethnic groups and major political factions at either the state or federal level? Tunisia and Egypt may be shedding the yoke of autocracy, but Pakistan achieved this years ago.

Since 2008, of course, Pakistan has been hit hard by the global economic downturn, been ravaged by devastating floods of historic proportion, and lost thousands of citizens to attacks by terrorist groups. Despite these challenges, the democratic government has remained resilient, implementing political reforms to strengthen the democratic process and the rule of law. So why is The New York Times comparing 2011 Pakistan to 1979 Iran? It turns out the answer may lie in Ms Perlez’s sources.

Jane Perlez has quoted Mr Farrukh Saleem quite regularly over the past few years, though she introduces with different titles in different articles. In her latest article about the possibility of an Islamist putsch, Farrukh Saleem is “a risk analyst”. Last November, Ms Perlez cited him as “a political analyst” in an article about political violence in Karachi. A month earlier, Mr Saleem was “executive director for the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad”. The one constant in Mr Saleem’s CV is his affiliation with The News, an English-language newspaper that has received international attention for its virulent anti-government propaganda.

In fact, Mr Farrukh Saleem appears in a 2009 article by Jane Perlez praising opposition leader Nawaz Sharif of the PML-N party. Here Saleem is referred to only as a newspaper columnist. Earlier, Farrukh Saleem is quoted by Jane Perlez saying that President Asif Zardari “has an unending desire to control all of Pakistan.”

Later that year, of course, President Zardari transferred power over the nation’s nuclear arsenal to the Prime Minister, and a few months after that signed the 18th Amendment further devolving power that had been consolidated under military dictators. For someone with an unending desire to control all of Pakistan, the president appears to be giving a surprising amount of his power away. Despite this record, Jane Perlez continues to present Farrukh Saleem as an objective “analyst”.

Then there is Ms Perlez’s other go-to source for analysis of Pakistan: Jahangir Tareen. According to Ms Perlez, Mr Tareen is “a reformist politician”. But what claim to the title of “reformist” does Mr Jahangir Tareen actually have? After all, this is the same Jahangir Tareen that served as Minister of Industries and Special Projects under the dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf – a fact certainly known to Jane Perlez as she has been quoting him in her articles as such since at least 2008.

Ms Perlez quotes Jahangir Tareen blaming rich politicians for failing to address the economic needs of the people without mentioning the irony that he is both rich and a politician himself in the opposition party PML-Q. Jane Perlez also fails to mention that Jahangir Tareen’s CV includes such “reformist” tendencies as serving as a cabinet minister during the corrupt Musharraf regime that squandered foreign aid money while incubating jihadi militias. Today, Mr Tareen warns the Times reporter that Islamist forces “will sweep into power”, but Jane Perlez conveniently ignores her sources background and fails to provide her readers important context that might raise questions about his credibility.

Certainly Pakistanis are frustrated with unemployment, inflation, and ongoing attacks by Islamist militant groups. And there do exist residual effects of an institutionalization of Islamism carried out by the regime of 1980s dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq and reinforced by the former boss of Ms Perlez’s friend Jahangir Tareen, Pervez Musharraf. But Pakistan’s democratically elected government has proven resilient, and by-election results since 2008 have not revealed any increased support for Islamist parties.

When the curtain is drawn on the election booth, the people of Pakistan consistently reject Jamaat-i-Islami’s candidates and policies. Jane Perlez’s article may represent the prejudices of her rather compromised (and seemingly few) regular sources, but it does not represent the aspirations of the Pakistani people. Let us not forget that fewer than six months ago, Jane Perlez predicted a military coup in Pakistan. That, too, never came to pass.

Jane Perlez’s fearmongering on Pakistan notwithstanding, the democratic system is maturing and growing stronger – a fact evidenced by the unprecedented cooperation between the opposition parties and the coalition government in defense of political stability. It is true that religious parties organize street protests with thousands of participants. But these are demonstrations of frustration, not political support. If Ms Perlez truly believes that the Pakistani people believe in “the failure of representative democracy”, perhaps she should expand her social circle beyond those who have built careers trying to derail it.

The question for The New York Times is whether or not Jane Perlez is actually providing investigative reporting on Pakistan or simply phoning her few friends for juicy quotes to pad sensationalist articles. Following her reporting over the years, Times readers would come away with two things: a close familiarity of Mr Farrukh Saleem and Mr Jahangir Tareen, and very poor understanding of Pakistan.