Category Archives: Politics

International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Pakistan’s dysfunctional electoral system has hampered democratic development, political stability and the rule of law; major electoral reforms would bolster a still fragile democratic transition.

via International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System.

Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Asia Report N° 20330 Mar 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Electoral rigging has hampered Pakistan’s democratic development, eroded political stability and contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law. Facing domestic pressure for democracy, successive military governments rigged national, provincial and local polls to ensure regime survival. These elections yielded unrepresentative parliaments that have rubber-stamped extensive constitutional and political reforms to centralise power with the military and to empower its civilian allies. Undemocratic rule has also suppressed other civilian institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for holding elections to the national and four provincial assemblies, and local governments. With the next general election in 2013 – if the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government completes its full five-year term – the ruling party and its parliamentary opposition, as well as the international community, should focus on ensuring a transparent, orderly political transition through free, fair and transparent elections.

General Pervez Musharraf’s eight-year rule gravely eroded the ECP’s already limited independence, impartiality and competence, reducing the institution to providing a façade of legitimacy to military rule. Handpicked chief election commissioners (CECs) oversaw widespread rigging of two local government elections, a presidential referendum, and a general election. Musharraf’s Legal Framework Order, enshrined in the constitution though the seventeenth amendment, massively distorted the political system, tilting the electoral playing field towards the military’s civilian allies, including the Islamist parties.

These constitutional distortions were repealed in April 2010, when parliament unanimously passed the eighteenth amendment to the constitution, undoing Musharraf’s political legacy and introducing new provisions to strengthen parliamentary democracy. The amendment package enhanced the ECP’s independence by making the appointment of its key officials more transparent and subject to parliamentary oversight. The CEC and other ECP members, previously appointed by the president, will now be selected through consultations between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, and subsequently vetted and approved by a joint parliamentary committee comprising, equally, government and opposition members. While encouraging, this is only the first step in a longer process of electoral reform.

To curtail opportunities for the military to manipulate the political process, the ECP must be made independent, impartial and effective. The commission remains poorly managed, inadequately resourced, under-staffed and under-trained. Promotion prospects for ECP personnel are limited, and recruitment policies fail to attract strong candidates; top positions tend to be filled by civil servants from the regular federal bureaucracy, primarily because ECP officials lack the necessary skills. There are no systematic training programs for ECP staff, and the organisation devotes few if any resources to researching and analysing past elections and raising important electoral issues.

Electoral reform on all fronts is urgently needed. Highly inaccurate voters lists are responsible for disenfranchising millions. Polling procedures are often manipulated; accountability mechanisms for candidates and political parties seldom employed; and the electoral code of conduct routinely flouted. Dysfunctional election tribunals, characterised by corruption and prolonged delays, prove incapable of resolving post-election disputes. Such internal weaknesses constrain the ECP from overseeing credible elections and an orderly political transition.

The ECP has taken some steps to address these problems. In May 2010, it produced a strategic five-year plan, with significant international assistance, listing fifteen broad electoral reform goals, divided into 129 detailed objectives with specific timeframes, which range from improvements in voter registration and election dispute management procedures, to the creation of a comprehensive human resource policy. Although there were some, albeit limited, steps towards meeting targets for 2010, more substantive progress is unlikely unless parliament assumes political ownership over the plan, oversees its implementation, and holds the ECP accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

Credible elections, however, require far more than just structural reforms. Many discriminatory laws remain in place, including easily manipulated qualification criteria requiring electoral candidates to be of good Islamic character. Moreover, an interventionist military high command appears bent on shaping the political order to its liking. Although the PPP’s main opposition, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has repeatedly expressed its support for the democratic transition and refusal to unseat the elected government via unconstitutional means, it must match rhetoric with action. In the past, both the PML-N and the PPP have instead chosen to collude with the military at times.

A new population census, originally due in 2008, is scheduled for August-September 2011, presumably followed by a large-scale redistricting exercise. The last redistricting, under Musharraf in 2002 and 2005, ahead of national and local elections respectively, was designed to serve narrow political objectives. Political violence and ethnic conflict could be sparked countrywide by a flawed census, gerrymandering and a rigged election.

The international community, too, particularly the U.S. and EU, should realise that a flawed general election in 2013, if not sooner, would pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s stability. Donors and Western capitals should immediately shift their programs and advocacy to support for a smooth political transition, rather than wait for the election season to begin.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the National and Provincial Governments of Pakistan:

1.  Transform the parliamentary subcommittee on electoral reform to a permanent, full committee.

2.  Increase the independence and improve the functioning of the ECP by:

a)  appointing without delay new members of the ECP, according to the provisions of the eighteenth and nineteenth constitutional amendments;

b)  granting the ECP complete financial autonomy by passing legislation providing for budgetary allocation to the commission, reflecting to the extent possible its determination of needs;

c)  making the ECP’s code of conduct part of the electoral law, and requiring the ECP to revise it for each electoral cycle;

d)  requiring that the ECP’s nominees for election tribunals be approved by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform;

e)  ensuring that all federal and provincial executive authorities assist the ECP, as required by law, particularly in enforcing the code of conduct, including provisions relating to the use of government resources for electoral purposes;

f)  ensuring that all executive officers deputed to electoral duties are subject to ECP supervision, and not of their parent department; and

g)  removing the condition that the CEC and members of the ECP be retired judges, instead opening up the selection process to people of integrity and experience.

3.  Submit the ECP’s five-year strategic plan for review and a vote by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform which should make amendments where necessary; require regular reports by ECP officials on steps taken to achieve the plan’s objectives; and hold ECP officials accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

4.  Ensure that a new population census is carried out in August-September 2011, as scheduled, as well as a credible redistricting exercise ahead of the next local or general election, based on the new census; empower the permanent committee on electoral reform in the National Assembly, and similar committees in the provincial assemblies, to hold public hearings on the ECP’s redistricting exercise, to review and approve the redistricting plan for national and provincial constituencies; and subject final approval to vote in the relevant legislature.

5.  Remove all qualification criteria for electoral candidacy that are based on vague definitions of moral suitability, including adherence to Islamic injunctions.

To the Election Commission of Pakistan:

6.  Prioritise the timely implementation of the Five-Year Strategic Plan (2010-2014).

7.  Enhance accountability of voting processes, election officials and electoral candidates by:

a)  ensuring to the extent possible that all electoral constituencies are roughly equal in population size, and abide by other criteria in the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974;

b)  revising the code of conduct for each electoral cycle;

c)  barring temporary election staff from officiating in their home districts, and taking action against those found guilty of corruption or bias;

d)  instituting an independent mechanism for challenging the appointment of polling officials;

e)  providing election observers unfettered access to polling stations;

f)  rejecting the proposed incorporation of electronic voting machines (EVMs), and instead improving the existing system of paper ballots and manual counts through better training and neutral observation;

g)  simplifying complaints and appeals procedures by reducing the number of administrative personnel tasked with processing petitions, and streamlining all relevant administrative mechanisms; and

h)  introducing robust measures for scrutinising annual statements of assets and liabilities filed by parliamentarians, and prescribing punishments, to be administered by the ECP, for elected officials filing false statements.

8.  Improve the polling process by:

a)  prohibiting candidates from contesting elections in more than one constituency;

b)  implementing complete computerisation of the voter registration process, including photographs of voters as a further guarantee against bogus voting; publishing the final voters list on the ECP’s website; and abiding by the new constitutional requirement for revising the list annually;

c)  preparing a permanent list of polling stations through consultations with all stakeholders, providing their locations on the ECP website and providing written explanations for any changes made by district returning officers; and

d)  expediting the pilot project on computerised electoral rolls and expanding it countrywide.

9.  Improve infrastructure, enhance training and research, and increase human resource capabilities by:

a)  implementing a comprehensive human resource policy, preparing job descriptions for all positions and devising a clearly defined path of career progression for all permanent staff;

b)  recruiting ECP officials in Basic Pay Scale (BPS)-17 through the Federal Public Service Commission, and establishing an Electoral Service of Pakistan along the lines of other occupational groups in the federal civil service;

c)    recruiting qualified people from the non-govern­ment sector as temporary staff for election day duties, rather than strictly from the executive; and determining the terms and conditions for temporary staff recruitment, investigating misconduct and taking disciplinary action against polling officials found guilty of misconduct;

d)  developing specialised courses in electoral administration, taught by professional instructors;

e)  expanding the role of the Federal Election Academy by equipping it with trained staff and improved facilities;

f)  adopting a comprehensive training program with two components: a basic orientation course that familiarises recruits with the history, functions and powers of the ECP, and its conduct of previous elections; and specialised instruction in specific areas of electoral administration, such as the preparation of electoral rolls, delimitation of constituencies and electoral dispute resolution; and

g)  establishing training programs for all temporary staff recruited for electoral duties on the role and functions of the ECP, responsibilities in managing assigned polling stations, and effective response to poll-related violence.

To the International Community:

10.  Support a still fragile democratic transition by prioritising democratisation programming, sending unambiguous signals to the military high command that any interference in the political process will be unacceptable and would result in the suspension of military assistance; and shift the focus of programming and engagement towards ensuring a credible and orderly political transition after the next general election.

11.  Acknowledge that elections are not a purely technical but an intensely political process and adjust programming to engage beyond the bureaucracy with the full spectrum of stakeholders, including parliament and political parties, and secure political ownership at the national and provincial levels over election-related programs.

12.  Support the development of specialised training programs for dedicated instructors in electoral administration.

13.  Provide the ECP with technical support towards timely completion of its five-year strategic plan, with particular focus on:

a)  developing a comprehensive ECP information technology (IT) policy, including modernising the ECP’s IT Directorate, as well as supporting a strong IT infrastructure at the ECP secretariat, provincial election commission offices and field offices;

b)  computerising electoral rolls and building a serviceable electronic voter database;

c)  establishing linkages between all polling stations, and between polling stations and the computerised voter rolls;

d)  building a serviceable electronic database to track electoral complaints; and

e)  providing geographical information systems to digitally map electoral areas and ensure that constituency delimitation takes place along scientific lines.

14.  Insist that the Strategic Plan Management Committee (SPMC) and the Review, Assistance and Facilitation Team (RAFT), be activated and made accountable to donors.

Islamabad/Brussels, 30 March 2011

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Filed under Electoral System, Pakistan, Politics

International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Pakistan’s dysfunctional electoral system has hampered democratic development, political stability and the rule of law; major electoral reforms would bolster a still fragile democratic transition.

via International Crisis Group : Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System.

Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System

Asia Report N° 20330 Mar 2011

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Electoral rigging has hampered Pakistan’s democratic development, eroded political stability and contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law. Facing domestic pressure for democracy, successive military governments rigged national, provincial and local polls to ensure regime survival. These elections yielded unrepresentative parliaments that have rubber-stamped extensive constitutional and political reforms to centralise power with the military and to empower its civilian allies. Undemocratic rule has also suppressed other civilian institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for holding elections to the national and four provincial assemblies, and local governments. With the next general election in 2013 – if the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government completes its full five-year term – the ruling party and its parliamentary opposition, as well as the international community, should focus on ensuring a transparent, orderly political transition through free, fair and transparent elections.

General Pervez Musharraf’s eight-year rule gravely eroded the ECP’s already limited independence, impartiality and competence, reducing the institution to providing a façade of legitimacy to military rule. Handpicked chief election commissioners (CECs) oversaw widespread rigging of two local government elections, a presidential referendum, and a general election. Musharraf’s Legal Framework Order, enshrined in the constitution though the seventeenth amendment, massively distorted the political system, tilting the electoral playing field towards the military’s civilian allies, including the Islamist parties.

These constitutional distortions were repealed in April 2010, when parliament unanimously passed the eighteenth amendment to the constitution, undoing Musharraf’s political legacy and introducing new provisions to strengthen parliamentary democracy. The amendment package enhanced the ECP’s independence by making the appointment of its key officials more transparent and subject to parliamentary oversight. The CEC and other ECP members, previously appointed by the president, will now be selected through consultations between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, and subsequently vetted and approved by a joint parliamentary committee comprising, equally, government and opposition members. While encouraging, this is only the first step in a longer process of electoral reform.

To curtail opportunities for the military to manipulate the political process, the ECP must be made independent, impartial and effective. The commission remains poorly managed, inadequately resourced, under-staffed and under-trained. Promotion prospects for ECP personnel are limited, and recruitment policies fail to attract strong candidates; top positions tend to be filled by civil servants from the regular federal bureaucracy, primarily because ECP officials lack the necessary skills. There are no systematic training programs for ECP staff, and the organisation devotes few if any resources to researching and analysing past elections and raising important electoral issues.

Electoral reform on all fronts is urgently needed. Highly inaccurate voters lists are responsible for disenfranchising millions. Polling procedures are often manipulated; accountability mechanisms for candidates and political parties seldom employed; and the electoral code of conduct routinely flouted. Dysfunctional election tribunals, characterised by corruption and prolonged delays, prove incapable of resolving post-election disputes. Such internal weaknesses constrain the ECP from overseeing credible elections and an orderly political transition.

The ECP has taken some steps to address these problems. In May 2010, it produced a strategic five-year plan, with significant international assistance, listing fifteen broad electoral reform goals, divided into 129 detailed objectives with specific timeframes, which range from improvements in voter registration and election dispute management procedures, to the creation of a comprehensive human resource policy. Although there were some, albeit limited, steps towards meeting targets for 2010, more substantive progress is unlikely unless parliament assumes political ownership over the plan, oversees its implementation, and holds the ECP accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

Credible elections, however, require far more than just structural reforms. Many discriminatory laws remain in place, including easily manipulated qualification criteria requiring electoral candidates to be of good Islamic character. Moreover, an interventionist military high command appears bent on shaping the political order to its liking. Although the PPP’s main opposition, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has repeatedly expressed its support for the democratic transition and refusal to unseat the elected government via unconstitutional means, it must match rhetoric with action. In the past, both the PML-N and the PPP have instead chosen to collude with the military at times.

A new population census, originally due in 2008, is scheduled for August-September 2011, presumably followed by a large-scale redistricting exercise. The last redistricting, under Musharraf in 2002 and 2005, ahead of national and local elections respectively, was designed to serve narrow political objectives. Political violence and ethnic conflict could be sparked countrywide by a flawed census, gerrymandering and a rigged election.

The international community, too, particularly the U.S. and EU, should realise that a flawed general election in 2013, if not sooner, would pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s stability. Donors and Western capitals should immediately shift their programs and advocacy to support for a smooth political transition, rather than wait for the election season to begin.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To the National and Provincial Governments of Pakistan:

1.  Transform the parliamentary subcommittee on electoral reform to a permanent, full committee.

2.  Increase the independence and improve the functioning of the ECP by:

a)  appointing without delay new members of the ECP, according to the provisions of the eighteenth and nineteenth constitutional amendments;

b)  granting the ECP complete financial autonomy by passing legislation providing for budgetary allocation to the commission, reflecting to the extent possible its determination of needs;

c)  making the ECP’s code of conduct part of the electoral law, and requiring the ECP to revise it for each electoral cycle;

d)  requiring that the ECP’s nominees for election tribunals be approved by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform;

e)  ensuring that all federal and provincial executive authorities assist the ECP, as required by law, particularly in enforcing the code of conduct, including provisions relating to the use of government resources for electoral purposes;

f)  ensuring that all executive officers deputed to electoral duties are subject to ECP supervision, and not of their parent department; and

g)  removing the condition that the CEC and members of the ECP be retired judges, instead opening up the selection process to people of integrity and experience.

3.  Submit the ECP’s five-year strategic plan for review and a vote by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform which should make amendments where necessary; require regular reports by ECP officials on steps taken to achieve the plan’s objectives; and hold ECP officials accountable for unsatisfactory progress.

4.  Ensure that a new population census is carried out in August-September 2011, as scheduled, as well as a credible redistricting exercise ahead of the next local or general election, based on the new census; empower the permanent committee on electoral reform in the National Assembly, and similar committees in the provincial assemblies, to hold public hearings on the ECP’s redistricting exercise, to review and approve the redistricting plan for national and provincial constituencies; and subject final approval to vote in the relevant legislature.

5.  Remove all qualification criteria for electoral candidacy that are based on vague definitions of moral suitability, including adherence to Islamic injunctions.

To the Election Commission of Pakistan:

6.  Prioritise the timely implementation of the Five-Year Strategic Plan (2010-2014).

7.  Enhance accountability of voting processes, election officials and electoral candidates by:

a)  ensuring to the extent possible that all electoral constituencies are roughly equal in population size, and abide by other criteria in the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974;

b)  revising the code of conduct for each electoral cycle;

c)  barring temporary election staff from officiating in their home districts, and taking action against those found guilty of corruption or bias;

d)  instituting an independent mechanism for challenging the appointment of polling officials;

e)  providing election observers unfettered access to polling stations;

f)  rejecting the proposed incorporation of electronic voting machines (EVMs), and instead improving the existing system of paper ballots and manual counts through better training and neutral observation;

g)  simplifying complaints and appeals procedures by reducing the number of administrative personnel tasked with processing petitions, and streamlining all relevant administrative mechanisms; and

h)  introducing robust measures for scrutinising annual statements of assets and liabilities filed by parliamentarians, and prescribing punishments, to be administered by the ECP, for elected officials filing false statements.

8.  Improve the polling process by:

a)  prohibiting candidates from contesting elections in more than one constituency;

b)  implementing complete computerisation of the voter registration process, including photographs of voters as a further guarantee against bogus voting; publishing the final voters list on the ECP’s website; and abiding by the new constitutional requirement for revising the list annually;

c)  preparing a permanent list of polling stations through consultations with all stakeholders, providing their locations on the ECP website and providing written explanations for any changes made by district returning officers; and

d)  expediting the pilot project on computerised electoral rolls and expanding it countrywide.

9.  Improve infrastructure, enhance training and research, and increase human resource capabilities by:

a)  implementing a comprehensive human resource policy, preparing job descriptions for all positions and devising a clearly defined path of career progression for all permanent staff;

b)  recruiting ECP officials in Basic Pay Scale (BPS)-17 through the Federal Public Service Commission, and establishing an Electoral Service of Pakistan along the lines of other occupational groups in the federal civil service;

c)    recruiting qualified people from the non-govern­ment sector as temporary staff for election day duties, rather than strictly from the executive; and determining the terms and conditions for temporary staff recruitment, investigating misconduct and taking disciplinary action against polling officials found guilty of misconduct;

d)  developing specialised courses in electoral administration, taught by professional instructors;

e)  expanding the role of the Federal Election Academy by equipping it with trained staff and improved facilities;

f)  adopting a comprehensive training program with two components: a basic orientation course that familiarises recruits with the history, functions and powers of the ECP, and its conduct of previous elections; and specialised instruction in specific areas of electoral administration, such as the preparation of electoral rolls, delimitation of constituencies and electoral dispute resolution; and

g)  establishing training programs for all temporary staff recruited for electoral duties on the role and functions of the ECP, responsibilities in managing assigned polling stations, and effective response to poll-related violence.

To the International Community:

10.  Support a still fragile democratic transition by prioritising democratisation programming, sending unambiguous signals to the military high command that any interference in the political process will be unacceptable and would result in the suspension of military assistance; and shift the focus of programming and engagement towards ensuring a credible and orderly political transition after the next general election.

11.  Acknowledge that elections are not a purely technical but an intensely political process and adjust programming to engage beyond the bureaucracy with the full spectrum of stakeholders, including parliament and political parties, and secure political ownership at the national and provincial levels over election-related programs.

12.  Support the development of specialised training programs for dedicated instructors in electoral administration.

13.  Provide the ECP with technical support towards timely completion of its five-year strategic plan, with particular focus on:

a)  developing a comprehensive ECP information technology (IT) policy, including modernising the ECP’s IT Directorate, as well as supporting a strong IT infrastructure at the ECP secretariat, provincial election commission offices and field offices;

b)  computerising electoral rolls and building a serviceable electronic voter database;

c)  establishing linkages between all polling stations, and between polling stations and the computerised voter rolls;

d)  building a serviceable electronic database to track electoral complaints; and

e)  providing geographical information systems to digitally map electoral areas and ensure that constituency delimitation takes place along scientific lines.

14.  Insist that the Strategic Plan Management Committee (SPMC) and the Review, Assistance and Facilitation Team (RAFT), be activated and made accountable to donors.

Islamabad/Brussels, 30 March 2011

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Filed under Electoral System, Pakistan, Politics, Religion and Politics, Women

Another death, another day

Another death, another day.

Another death, another day

Another death, another day

The Federal Minister for Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was killed today in an attack on his vehicle in Islamabad.

Two gunmen fired on Bhatti’s vehicle in I-8/3 area of the capital. He was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

No surprises here. Another voice bold enough to speak out against the madness that has gripped the country has been silenced.

Bhatti, a Pakistani Christian, had been an outspoken critic of the misuse of the controversial Blasphemy Law and according to his colleagues he was facing death threats from those who just wanted him to shut up.

After former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s assassination at the hands of a uniformed extremist more than a month ago, Bhatti has become the second high profile victim of the violent fanaticism being demonstrated by those who want the Blasphemy Law to stay put, without any amendments whatsoever.

Why shouldn’t these madmen continue the way they have been so far – slaughtering innocent men in the name of faith, taking out highly-charged rallies condoning the murders and using mosques to announce their list of those who (according to them) are wajibul qatal.

Why shouldn’t they, indeed. Because who are they afraid of? Not the state, not the government, not the law. All three have simply capitulated in front of the psychosis that is ever so often being presented to us through TV talk shows, mosques and cyber space as the ‘true faith.’

Forget the state, the government and the law. One never knows where they stand on anything anyway. The government is weak and is more interested in its own Machiavellian survival, blackmailed into further submission and paranoia by an anarchic, double-talking group of allies and an opposition still stuck in limbo between Riyadh and Raiwind!

And the state? Well, what can be expected from a state that has a history of both creating and hosting exactly the kind of faith-driven lunacy each and every Pakistani is now engulfed in?

For years a convoluted narrative has been circulated by the state, the clergy, schools and now the electronic media: i.e. Pakistan was created in the name of Islam (read, a theocratic state). Thus, only Muslims (mainly orthodox Sunnis) have the right to rule, run and benefit from this country. ‘Minority’ religions and ‘heretical Islamic sects’, who are citizens of Pakistan are not to be trusted. They need to be isolated constitutionally, socially and culturally.

What else? Yes, parliamentary democracy too cannot be trusted. It unleashes ethnic forces, ‘corruption’ and undermines the role of the military and that of Islam in the state’s make-up. It threatens the ‘unity’ of the country; a unity based on a homogeneous understanding of Islam (mainly concocted by the state and its right-wing allies). Most of our political, economic and social ills are due to the diabolical conspiracies hatched by our many enemies.

Now the same state is struggling to control the glorified monsters that it created. These monsters have no fear of their creator. The state is hapless and stunned; only good to play silly games with its subjects. The Pakistani state is not grounded in reality. In fact it is not grounded at all. It is a fantasy that has now started to rot and look redundant. It is a 63-year-old daydream about being pious, just and strong. And yet it has been anything but.

No one trusts the Pakistani state anymore – ironically not even those who want to make Pakistan look and sound macho, ghiaratmand and devout.

Going fascist

So now I wonder, who applauded the killing of a ‘blasphemer’ this time.

Bhatti was shot not only because he was vocal about the controversies that surround and emerge from a man-made law that is considered divine, he was also shot because he was from a minority religion in this country.

By the way, men like Taseer too are a minority: an orthodox Sunni Muslim but secular and liberal. Think about it.

The state and its religious allies have for long collaborated to continue sidelining and alienating the non-Muslim and non-Sunni minorities, so much so that there are actually state-approved history text books out there which to allude them as enemies.

It seems as though Pakistan’s survival can only be justified by the number of enemies we can concoct. As if there is no honour in being a country that does not have or cannot make any enemies. The whole ‘jihad’ industry that we have constructed, the fatwah factories and an army of twisted apologists, their performance and credibility is measured by the number of ‘enemies’ they can either kill or pinpoint.

The bad news is that such beliefs are symptomatic of a society that has started to respond enthusiastically to the major symptoms of fascist thought.

Symptoms such as a xenophobic exhibition of nationalism, a disdain for the recognition of human rights, identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause, supremacy of the military, obsession with national security, the intertwining of religion and government, disdain for intellectuals and the arts, and an obsession with crime and punishment.

We do not debate. We only react and then huddle up behind our flimsy and lopsided historical and national narratives about ‘Pakistaniat’. We manifest our destiny as conquering Muslims, cursing the world for our ills, looking out for ‘infidels’ and ‘heretics’ among us, or for scapegoats in the shape of media-constructed punching bags.

We are going nowhere. We are only busy constructing walls around ourselves. Societies that do this have lost their will to keep up with and positively compete with the world at large. It begins to isolate itself, cut-off from the outside world and only allowing itself to be compared to its own mediocrities.

So then, the whole world is against us, right? But I am convinced once we have shut ourselves up from this cruel, scheming world, we will then turn on each another (actually, we already have).

The goras have to go, then the religious minorities, the Shias, the liberals, the Sindhis and the Baloch and the Pukhtuns, the Deobandies and the Wahabis, the Barelvies will then begin cleansing ‘bad Muslims’ from among themselves. Qadris vs. the Chishtis vs. the Naqshbandis, and so on and so forth.

Such madness can only vanish when it eats itself. Unfortunately, by then very few will be left to celebrate its end.

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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what is the truth about Muslim Brotherhood? by Bruce Riedel

What’s the truth about the Muslim Brotherhood?

By Bruce Riedel

Updated 2/16/2011 3:30:38 PM |

The revolution in Egypt is a tsunami in Islamic politics. The toppling of Hosni Mubarak will raise expectations and fears from Morocco to Indonesia. At the center of many of these hopes and concerns is the role of Egypt’s oldest and best organized political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Ikhwan, which is certain to play an important role in how Egypt evolves after Mubarak. Is it a radical revolutionary party inherently opposed to American interests, or is it a reformed Islamist party ready to play by democratic rules and work with America? Will Egypt become another Iran or a Turkey?

he short answer is Egypt will be its own model and the Brotherhood will play a unique role in creating that model. Founded in 1928 as an Islamic fundamentalist party dedicated to fighting the British occupation of Egypt, the Brotherhood spread across the Arab world and beyond. Today it has branches in many other Muslim countries, especially in the Palestinian territoriesand Jordan. At first it engaged in terror and assassination, even raising an army to fight Israel in the 1948 war. Its ideologues in the 1950s and 1960s wrote extreme anti-American polemics and called for violent revolutions.

Suppressed by Mubarak and his predecessors, Gamal Nasser and Anwar Sadat, the Brotherhood abandoned violence in the 1970s and ’80s and committed itself to peaceful political change in Egypt. It organized clinics, schools and bookstores for the poor and participated in the rigged elections Mubarak tolerated. It committed itself to dialogue and change, not violence and one-party rule or rule by a clerical supreme leader.

A critical role in revolution

The Brotherhood was slow to join the demonstrations in Tahrir Square and the rest of Egypt last month, but once it did commit to the movement to oust Mubarak, its role was critical. The Brotherhood provided organization, and its turnout of demonstrators gave the originally very secular opposition a broader base in Egyptian society. But it has also tried hard to be a team player. It has promised to work with other secular parties and has already promised it will not run its own candidate for president when elections are held to replace Mubarak.

The Ikhwan’s fiercest critic is al-Qaeda, and especially its Egyptian leader Ayman el-Zawahri, who was once a member of the Brotherhood but broke with it decades ago. Al-Qaeda hates the Brotherhood because it represents everything al-Qaeda is not — a mass-based movement with a political program that rejects violence. The triumph of the Egyptian revolution is a dramatic setback for al-Qaeda because it shows that change can come in the Arab world through politics instead of jihadist violence. Twitter, not terror, worked. Zawahri, usually quick to comment on every event in the world, has been silent about the toppling of Mubarak. That is in part a testimony to the drones flying over his lair in Pakistan, but it is also a function of al-Qaeda’s rage at being left behind by its rival, the Brotherhood, in the future of Egypt.

his isn’t to say that the Ikhwan is surely free from extremists within its ranks. Indeed, as the new Egypt evolves, Islamists might try to steer the Brotherhood back toward its violent roots. Even so, this group cannot be ignored, and engaging the Ikhwan will help us find out whether dangerous elements are hiding behind the screen.

If the transition in Egypt leads to a national unity government or a broad-based coalition of parties backed by the army, the Brotherhood will probably play a role. If there are genuinely free and fair elections, it could secure a sizable bloc of the vote, although probably not a majority. It could be a player at the table of Egyptian decision-making like never before.

Its agenda will focus on Islamist concerns, such as ensuring a central role for Islamic law in the judicial process and an Islamist educational system. But there are significant constraints on what the Brotherhood can do in Egypt. The Coptic Christian community will press for its rights. The tourism industry, Egypt’s most vital source of foreign exchange, will not want to drive away Westerners with laws that scare foreign visitors to the pyramids and the Sinai beaches. Brotherhood leaders have said that they don’t want an Iranian-style extremist regime in Egypt. Now we should test their sincerity by engaging them.

What about Israel?

Nor do they say they want to return to war with Israel. Egyptians remember the severe costs of their four wars with Israel. They don’t like the 1979 peace treaty, and many find it deeply humiliating, but they know the treaty is essential to keeping Egypt at peace and its economy succeeding.

The issue that is most likely to cause friction between the Ikhwan and America, and indeed between Egypt and America, is the Hamas state in Gaza. The Brotherhood and most Egyptian politicians oppose the siege of Gaza and Egypt’s role in trying to strangle the Hamas movement. For the overwhelming majority of Egyptians, in and outside the Ikhwan, this is a humanitarian issue. Isolating 1 million Gazans is simply wrong and should end whether or not Hamas eschews violence and recognizes Israel.

It would be wise for Washington and Jerusalem now to start rethinking their policy toward Gaza and to re-energize rapidly the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Egypt and the Brotherhood are going to be more difficult and complicated players in Arab-Israeli politics than Mubarak. Get ready for a new day.

Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East policy at theBrookings Institution and the author of Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and the Future of the Global Jihad.

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How Obama Lost Karzai – By Ahmed Rashid | Foreign Policy

How Obama Lost Karzai – By Ahmed Rashid | Foreign Policy.

How Obama Lost Karzai

The road out of Afghanistan runs through two presidents who just don’t get along.

BY AHMED RASHID | MARCH/APRIL 2011

View a slide show of Hamid Karzai’s tumultuous nine years as president of Afghanistan.

A few weeks before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an exiled Afghan leader I had known for nearly 20 years paid a visit to my home in Lahore. His name was Hamid Karzai, and his problem, he told me, was that he was rapidly losing faith in the West’s concern for his country.

Karzai was the scion of a prominent Pashtun family in southern Afghanistan, one with a deep-rooted enmity for the Taliban regime. The Taliban, which had ruled the country since 1996, had gunned down Karzai’s father in front of a mosque in the Pakistani city of Quetta two years earlier. Now the younger Karzai was clandestinely sending money and weapons across the Afghan border for an eventual uprising against the ruling regime. But he had just been served notice by Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) that his visa had been revoked — the Taliban, with its close links to the Pakistani intelligence agency, had urged the ISI to get rid of him. Karzai was making the rounds of Western embassies in Islamabad to ask whether anyone would support him if he went inside the country and raised the standard of rebellion. But nobody offered to help. Several ambassadors refused to see him.

By the time U.S. bombers pounded the last remnants of the Taliban out of Kabul just a few months later, everything had changed. Karzai had gone from pariah to president and, in the eyes of the U.S. government, from combatant in an obscure regional conflict to vital strategic partner. Yet when I met with Karzai not long ago at the presidential palace in Kabul for a lengthy conversation, one of many in the decade since our pre-9/11 meeting in Lahore, it was remarkable how much his relationship with the United States seemed to have come full circle.


Take a look at Hamid Karzai’s tumultuous nine years as president of Afghanistan.

Once again, Karzai now appears mistrusting of the West’s long-term commitment to his country. He considers the Americans to be hopelessly fickle, represented by multiple military and civilian envoys who carry contradictory messages, work at cross-purposes, and wage their Washington turf battles in his drawing room, at his expense, while operating on short fuses and even shorter timetables. “In the time an American wants Karzai to act, the president is still cooling his cup of tea,” one of his advisors complained to me.

Over the course of the last decade, the few U.S. officials whom Karzai trusted have one by one moved on, leaving the Afghan president alone with his conspiracy theories. Of late, he is convinced that the Americans want to get rid of him, even as he stubbornly refuses to reckon with the aspects of his rule that might make them wish to do so: his own administrative failures, growing corruption in the top ranks of his government and family, the rigged presidential election that won him a second term, and above all his failure to articulate a vision for the future of his country. Last fall he reportedly told top U.S. officials that of the three “main enemies” he faced — the United States, the international community, and the Taliban — he would side first with the Taliban.

Ironically, 2010 was supposed to be a new “year one” for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, when the Americans, after years of neglecting the country in favor of Iraq, finally invested the resources necessary to defeat the Taliban and rebuild the country. Instead, things got worse. Last year saw the highest death toll of U.S.-led coalition forces since the beginning of the war, increasing civilian casualties, and the spread of the Taliban insurgency, once contained in south and east Afghanistan, into the north and west as well.

At the heart of the failure, both a cause and consequence of it, is the tattered U.S. relationship with Karzai, an alliance that has cost the United States more than $330 billion and nearly 1,400 soldiers’ lives, but is now at the lowest ebb of its nearly decade-long history. U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration plainly do not trust the Afghan leader, or even much like him. Apparently convinced that cleaning up the Afghan government is more important to the country’s stability than Karzai himself, U.S. authorities have mounted increasingly confrontational anti-corruption investigations of his inner circle.

From the Afghan president’s perspective, Washington treats him with a mixture of insult and confusion. During Obama’s December visit to U.S. troops at Bagram air base outside Kabul, bad weather prevented him from flying by helicopter to the nearby capital. Rather than wait for the weather to clear — a matter of hours perhaps — Obama left without seeing Karzai. It was a snub that Afghans will not forget. A few days later, Vice President Joe Biden said that U.S. forces would be out of Afghanistan by 2014 come hell or high water — and then told Karzai in mid-January that U.S. forces would stay beyond the deadline.

Both Karzai and Obama seem to be in a dangerous state of denial about the degree to which they need each other, instead making divergent plans for how to wind down the war that can’t be accomplished without the other’s help. Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, thinks he can fight his way out of the present conundrum by inflicting mortal blows on the Taliban; Karzai wants to negotiate a peace agreement with them, even relying on the assistance of his old enemy Pakistan if need be. But the road out of the conflict runs through a close U.S.-Karzai relationship, whether either of them likes it or not, and today that relationship is imperiled to a degree that it never has been before.

Throughout Afghan history, an ever present concern for political and physical survival has been an extremely important part of Afghan rulers’ psyches. No recent ruler has died peacefully in his bed. U.S. diplomats of an earlier generation understood the implications of this: that building trust required more than just money and guns. In a prescient 1972 report, filed months before the last Afghan king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, was deposed in a coup, U.S. Ambassador Robert Neumann wrote, “For the King and leadership group, survival is the first objective with all other goals considered secondary. The result is an excessively cautious governing style which invariably seeks to balance off external and internal forces perceived as threatening the regime’s power.” The same could be said of Karzai today. Handling a wary president preoccupied with keeping his own head requires a personal touch — something that Obama, for all his renewed commitment to the fight, sorely lacks.

WHEN THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENED a meeting of Afghan factions to choose Afghanistan’s post-Taliban president in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001, there was really only one man in contention. Everyone knew that the new interim head of state had to be a Pashtun; the Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and had ruled the country for 250 years. There were only two Pashtun leaders who had returned from Pakistan to take on the Taliban after 9/11, and one of them, Abdul Haq, had been captured and executed by the embattled regime two months earlier. That left Hamid Karzai.

By that time, Karzai had come to trust and depend on the Americans. When he and his band of Pashtun warriors were surrounded by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan a few days after his return to the country, the CIA had rescued him and fully backed his uprising. U.S. diplomats lobbied the world for his appointment as president, to no objections. From his first day in office, Karzai depended for security on the warlords of the Northern Alliance, who commanded vast CIA-funded militias. He had an empty treasury and no security force of his own. Appearing with President George W. Bush in the White House’s Rose Garden in January 2002, Karzai declared, “Afghanistan is a good partner. It will stay a good partner.”

But reality sank in quickly. Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and other Western leaders pledged never to abandon Afghanistan again, but their commitments of money and manpower never matched their rhetoric. Sufficient funds to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and economy did not arrive, and the U.S. and NATO military commands refused to deploy troops outside Kabul after the initial invasion, instead funding — over Karzai’s objections — the warlords who ruled over the country’s hinterlands like medieval barons. With an impending invasion of Iraq to plan, all the Bush team really wanted on the Afghan front was peace and quiet.

The shift of U.S. resources and international attention from Afghanistan led to a growing bitterness toward the West in Karzai’s inner circle, a disenchantment that eventually reached the president himself. I met Karzai every few months during this period, and with each meeting his complaints grew louder: The United States, he believed, was failing to answer his demands for help in building electricity infrastructure and roads and rehabilitating some 3 million returning refugees. He repeatedly pointed out Pakistan’s clandestine continuing support of the Taliban, especially after the Taliban re-emerged as a guerrilla insurgency in 2003.

Through it all, however, Karzai remained intensely loyal to Bush, who, even if he failed to deliver, made an effort to maintain close personal ties with the Afghan leader. Karzai was also close to two international interlocutors — Lakhdar Brahimi, head of the U.N. Kabul mission, and European Union emissary Francesc Vendrell — and was even willing to take tough criticism from them.

Karzai was only rarely so at ease in his dealings with the U.S. officials Bush dispatched to Kabul. The first Bush-era ambassador, the astute and intellectual troubleshooter Robert Finn, tried to lay down a proper state-to-state relationship with the Afghans. But Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were already preoccupied with Iraq; Finn could secure little of the money, aid, or U.S. troops that Karzai badly wanted.

Karzai got on famously with Finn’s successor, Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-American who was a great charmer and schmoozer and, on account of his unique double portfolio — he was both ambassador and Bush’s special representative in Afghanistan — enjoyed direct access to the U.S. president. Khalilzad also had the benefit of timing. He was tasked with producing U.S. achievements in the run-up to Bush’s 2004 reelection bid and Karzai’s own presidential election the same year. Karzai’s interests and Bush’s were once again briefly aligned: Both needed Afghanistan to look like a success story.

Khalilzad had fought and won the argument in the White House that Afghanistan needed more resources, and he arrived with the first serious development money allocated since the war and a driving thirst to get things done. Karzai was flattered by the attention “Zal” paid to him; Khalilzad was also the first U.S. official to side with Karzai and publicly criticize Pakistan’s role in harboring the Taliban, winning further Afghan admiration — as well as the enmity of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

But when Khalilzad moved on in 2005 to take over the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, he left behind few lasting achievements. U.S. funding and attention evaporated again as election-year exigencies faded and the war in Iraq took a turn for the worse. The Americans became obsessed with “quick impact projects,” which were largely aimed at satisfying local tribal power brokers and did little to kick-start Afghanistan’s economy or rebuild its infrastructure. Funding for the Afghan security forces remained grossly inadequate: From 2002 to 2009, $20 billion was spent financing them, less than is projected to be spent in 2010 and 2011 alone.

Khalilzad was followed by Ronald Neumann, an experienced diplomat whose father Robert had been the prescient ambassador to Kabul in the 1970s. But Neumann arrived at the worst possible time, as Iraq was swallowing up the bulk of U.S. resources and the U.S. Congress had begun to demand better results and more accountability from Afghanistan. Karzai found himself deluged with visiting members of Congress, all giving him different advice and orders. At the time, though he was still far from hostile to the United States, he grumbled to me that entertaining delegation after delegation was making his life miserable.

By the final years of Bush’s presidency, U.S. dealings with Karzai had become a tangle of mixed messages. William Wood, Bush’s ambassador in Kabul from 2007 to 2009, arrived in Afghanistan fresh from fighting the drug cartels in Colombia as the U.S. ambassador there and was under pressure to repeat the performance in Afghanistan, where opium production was booming. Wood demanded that Karzai order aerial spraying of the poppy crop in the country’s turbulent south. Karzai, fearing a farmers revolt, refused and began to mistrust Wood. The ambassador was also undermined by Bush, who spoke regularly with Karzai via videoconference and refused to push the Afghan president on drugs or other embassy priorities, such as corruption. These conflicting signals from Washington set the stage for Karzai’s dealings with Bush’s successor, a relationship that would grow more dysfunctional even as the Taliban insurgency spread and the Afghan people’s frustration with the United States grew.

FOR DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Afghanistan was the good war: a foreign-policy cause that allowed presidential hopefuls to establish their national security bona fides while keeping themselves clear of the debacle in Iraq. Among them was Sen. Barack Obama. “I believe this has to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism,” Obama said in a July appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I think one of the biggest mistakes we’ve made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq.”

I met with Obama just before he took the oath of office, shortly after he had received briefings from the Bush administration and suddenly realized that the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan was far worse than he had been led to believe. Key decisions on more troops, money, and other issues had been held back throughout 2008 as Bush decided to pass them on to his successor. Obama wasn’t taking the reins of a good war — he was inheriting a foreign-policy quagmire.

Obama arrived in office with a laundry list of issues he wanted Karzai to address: nepotism and corruption in the Afghan government, lack of good governance, and the country’s proliferating drug trade. But none of Obama’s top White House advisors had any recent experience with Afghanistan or knew any of the players there well. Karzai felt deeply insecure as he now knew nobody in Washington, and nobody was making the effort to get to know him. Even as Obama committed far more resources to Afghanistan in his first two years in office than Bush did over eight years in two terms, the Afghan leader grew convinced that the new U.S. president was out to get him. He began to fear for his political survival.

Friction between Karzai and Obama’s team first came to a head during Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election. In the lead-up to the August vote, Karzai was convinced by his advisors that Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy, was trying to get rid of him by encouraging other candidates, such as Northern Alliance leader Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, to stand against him. The presidential palace buzzed with rumors that the CIA and Britain’s MI6 had lined up massive resources to unseat Karzai.

In fact, Holbrooke was leading the charge in Washington to convince the administration and Congress to commit more resources to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but his good intentions did not seem to convince Karzai. When the election results were disputed amid claims of vote-rigging, Holbrooke intervened to try to salvage the results, asking Karzai to stand for a second round of polling. But the move seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of Karzai’s aides about Holbrooke. It was left to Sen. John Kerry, rather than a member of Obama’s own team, to smooth over the relations. Even today, Karzai still refuses to accept that the election was flawed, and he still thinks that the Americans were trying to unseat him. Months later, Karzai’s senior aides told me repeatedly that they still believed the United States wanted Karzai to lose.

The botched election — which cost some $150 million and two U.N. officials their careers — and Karzai’s worsening paranoia became a catalyst for the Obama administration’s internal debates over its Afghanistan policy, which was subjected to a detailed review in the fall of 2009. Civilian officials, most notably Biden and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, were unnerved by Karzai’s mercurial behavior and a resurgent Taliban. They fought for scaling back the U.S. investment in a conflict that no longer seemed to have much prospect for success.

Karzai was “not an adequate strategic partner,” Eikenberry wrote in a Nov. 6, 2009, cable to Washington later leaked to the New York Times, adding that the president and his advisors “assume we covet their territory for a never-ending ‘war on terror’ and for military bases to use against surrounding powers.” Karzai and his aides, in turn, were furious that they were never asked to be full partners in Washington’s policy review. Once again, they thought, the Americans were making decisions about Afghanistan without consulting the Afghans. When Obama declared in December 2009 that U.S. troops would start pulling out of Afghanistan by July 2011, Karzai — who had not been consulted in the matter before the speech — was shocked.

On the other side of the debate from Eikenberry was counterinsurgency guru Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who reportedly wanted to double down on the war with a surge of as many as 50,000 troops. Karzai’s aides told me they trusted McChrystal; the general seemed to truly understand the Afghan leader, deferring to him in decision-making and treating Afghan criticism of U.S. military tactics with respect and thoughtfulness rather than rejecting it out of hand.

When I met with McChrystal in Islamabad in early 2010, I was taken aback by his understanding of the Afghan environment. That this austere former special-operations commander understood how to demonstrate his respect for Afghan dignity and sense of sovereignty while still largely getting his own way was a revelation. Early on, McChrystal persuaded Karzai to travel around the country with him in an effort to enhance both U.S. and Afghan government prestige. The enduring picture of McChrystal in Afghan eyes is of the most powerful U.S. military officer in the country humbly sitting cross-legged on a carpet at Karzai’s feet while Karzai addressed tribal elders. When McChrystal was forced to resign in June over his comments about top U.S. civilian officials in a Rolling Stone article, Karzai begged the White House not to sack him.

But it is Eikenberry who remains in office, though he has never quite recovered from the leak of his cable; it has damaged not only his own standing in Kabul, but also that of the State Department. More than a year later, some of Karzai’s aides still can quote verbatim from the memo.

Friction between Karzai and Obama’s team first came to a head during Afghanistan’s 2009 presidential election. In the lead-up to the August vote, Karzai was convinced by his advisors that Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special envoy, was trying to get rid of him by encouraging other candidates, such as Northern Alliance leader Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, to stand against him. The presidential palace buzzed with rumors that the CIA and Britain’s MI6 had lined up massive resources to unseat Karzai.

In fact, Holbrooke was leading the charge in Washington to convince the administration and Congress to commit more resources to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but his good intentions did not seem to convince Karzai. When the election results were disputed amid claims of vote-rigging, Holbrooke intervened to try to salvage the results, asking Karzai to stand for a second round of polling. But the move seemed to confirm the worst suspicions of Karzai’s aides about Holbrooke. It was left to Sen. John Kerry, rather than a member of Obama’s own team, to smooth over the relations. Even today, Karzai still refuses to accept that the election was flawed, and he still thinks that the Americans were trying to unseat him. Months later, Karzai’s senior aides told me repeatedly that they still believed the United States wanted Karzai to lose.

The botched election — which cost some $150 million and two U.N. officials their careers — and Karzai’s worsening paranoia became a catalyst for the Obama administration’s internal debates over its Afghanistan policy, which was subjected to a detailed review in the fall of 2009. Civilian officials, most notably Biden and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, were unnerved by Karzai’s mercurial behavior and a resurgent Taliban. They fought for scaling back the U.S. investment in a conflict that no longer seemed to have much prospect for success.

Karzai was “not an adequate strategic partner,” Eikenberry wrote in a Nov. 6, 2009, cable to Washington later leaked to the New York Times, adding that the president and his advisors “assume we covet their territory for a never-ending ‘war on terror’ and for military bases to use against surrounding powers.” Karzai and his aides, in turn, were furious that they were never asked to be full partners in Washington’s policy review. Once again, they thought, the Americans were making decisions about Afghanistan without consulting the Afghans. When Obama declared in December 2009 that U.S. troops would start pulling out of Afghanistan by July 2011, Karzai — who had not been consulted in the matter before the speech — was shocked.

On the other side of the debate from Eikenberry was counterinsurgency guru Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, who reportedly wanted to double down on the war with a surge of as many as 50,000 troops. Karzai’s aides told me they trusted McChrystal; the general seemed to truly understand the Afghan leader, deferring to him in decision-making and treating Afghan criticism of U.S. military tactics with respect and thoughtfulness rather than rejecting it out of hand.

When I met with McChrystal in Islamabad in early 2010, I was taken aback by his understanding of the Afghan environment. That this austere former special-operations commander understood how to demonstrate his respect for Afghan dignity and sense of sovereignty while still largely getting his own way was a revelation. Early on, McChrystal persuaded Karzai to travel around the country with him in an effort to enhance both U.S. and Afghan government prestige. The enduring picture of McChrystal in Afghan eyes is of the most powerful U.S. military officer in the country humbly sitting cross-legged on a carpet at Karzai’s feet while Karzai addressed tribal elders. When McChrystal was forced to resign in June over his comments about top U.S. civilian officials in a Rolling Stone article, Karzai begged the White House not to sack him.

But it is Eikenberry who remains in office, though he has never quite recovered from the leak of his cable; it has damaged not only his own standing in Kabul, but also that of the State Department. More than a year later, some of Karzai’s aides still can quote verbatim from the memo.

To Karzai, the message of indifference at best — and outright hostility at worst — continued from the White House. Not only did the ambassador remain, but even after the Obama administration decided to dispatch a major surge of 30,000 U.S. troops to the war in late 2009, top U.S. officials made statements or visited Kabul without bothering to inform Karzai in advance. In March 2010, when national security advisor James L. Jones complained to reporters that Karzai had not done enough to improve governance “since day one” of his second term, Karzai blew a fuse, and Obama had to warn his subordinates to treat the Afghan president with respect. Last July, one of Karzai’s closest advisors, Mohammed Zia Salehi, was arrested by a U.S.-led Afghan anti-corruption force on charges of corruption. Karzai, determined to spite the Americans, freed him.

Bob Woodward’s unflattering portrait of the White House’s internal deliberations over Afghanistan in Obama’s Wars, released last fall, further damaged the already shaky foundation between Karzai and Obama. For Karzai, it was unprecedentedly naive of a sitting U.S. president to allow his cabinet’s intimate deliberations to be made public (not to mention the book’s claim that the CIA believed Karzai to be “manic-depressive”). By October 2010, relations were so fraught that Karzai stormed out of a meeting with Eikenberry and Petraeus over contracts with private security firms, which Karzai had abruptly announced he was canceling, again telling his shocked interlocutors that he’d be better off joining the Taliban.

When I met with Karzai in November, I asked him why he had turned against the West. He vigorously objected to the premise of my question and challenged me to recall any time in the nearly three decades we had known each other that he had ever been anti-Western. Still, he made it clear that he no longer trusted the United States, its representatives, or their advice. Petraeus’s brusque, aggressive approach to the war has made Karzai nervous and angry. (The president’s aides have fueled his mistrust, feeding him rumors that Petraeus is in a hurry because he aspires to the U.S. presidency and is simply using Afghanistan as a steppingstone, rumors Petraeus has repeatedly denied.) Karzai has come to believe that NATO’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism strategies are both failing. And he is now threatening to turn to Iran and Pakistan for help in mediating with the Taliban — whose repositioning as a patriotic nationalist force he seems to take seriously — as long as the United States refuses to do so.

The fault is not the Obama administration’s alone, of course. Karzai has been belligerent, stubborn, and mercurial, at times refusing to accept logical arguments. Several European ambassadors with whom I spoke in Kabul argue that both sides deserve a share of the blame — Karzai for sparking crisis after crisis, and the United States for letting him down again and again, allowing the situation to deteriorate as far as it has and not listening to Karzai when he has legitimate complaints, such as the excessive civilian casualties, the high-handedness of contractors, and the failure to rein in Pakistan’s support for the Taliban.

But the root of this dysfunction is simpler than all that: It is the non-relationship between Obama and Karzai. The U.S. president has been striking in his refusal — or inability — to get on with Karzai, never working to create the personal rapport the Afghan president enjoyed with his predecessor. It is Obama, not Bush, who has committed massive resources to Afghanistan while trying to improve the tattered U.S. reputation in the Muslim world. But Karzai still considers the Bush era a golden age for his presidency, a time when Karzai could pick up the phone any time and talk to the American leader.

Despite what the Obama administration may think about the acute failings of the man, getting rid of Karzai is not an option. Afghanistan is not Vietnam circa 1972; Karzai is a twice-elected president, one whose victories were endorsed by Washington and the international community. Kabul’s educated urban elite and many among Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun ethnic groups may remain critical of the Karzai government, but it is still popular in large parts of the country, enjoying an approval rating of more than 70 percent in mid-2010, according to an Asia Foundation survey. Karzai’s critique of U.S. military tactics and his attempts to talk to the Taliban resonate with many Afghans, in part because they reflect the facts on the ground.

In December, the Red Cross warned that security in the country was at its lowest point since the overthrow of the Taliban, with record numbers of civilians killed or displaced by fighting. Insurgent attacks jumped 66 percent from 2009 to 2010, according to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office in Kabul, and Taliban shadow governors now operate in all but one of the country’s 34 provinces. Last year 711 coalition troops were killed, the highest total in the nine-year war, and there was a 20 percent increase in civilian casualties, mainly at Taliban hands.

As such grim statistics suggest, many of the Obama administration’s criticisms are justified. Karzai has never put forth a coherent vision for his country. He has allowed corruption to eat away at the gains made by development agencies, elevated his own family, and miserably failed to build a government capable of delivering services and justice to the Afghan people. Eager to absolve himself of these failings — of which he is perfectly well aware — he now believes that if he could bring the war to an end with a peace agreement with the Taliban, then Afghans and the international community would forgive his past sins.

Absolution may be long in coming. In my conversations with Karzai and his aides about “reconciliation,” or even just talking to the Taliban, it has been painfully obvious that the Afghan leader has no clear vision or plan. How would real negotiations, rather than the talks about talks that have occurred so far, take place? What would be on the table, what red lines would both sides lay down, and how and where would the discussions proceed? In my interviews with former Taliban, it seems they have a better idea of the agenda than the Afghan government does.

It is too late, however, for the Obama administration to bring Karzai back into the fold with more promises of troops and aid. What is needed is genuine common ground: a shared political strategy to end the war. Both sides already agree on the need to win over Taliban foot soldiers and have put forward a common plan and money to do it. But there is still no agreement on trying to engage top Taliban leaders.

Of course, talks may not be a panacea. The Taliban may already be too fragmented and divided, too ideologically driven, or too controlled by other regional powers to come together around a peace deal. But what is important for Karzai, desperate to end a war that has raged off and on for the last 30 years, is to try.

So far, the Americans don’t agree. But talking to the Taliban is perhaps the only option now that can put them back on the same track as Karzai — and that is the only road that leads out of this conflict. Besides, if there is one thing that Obama and Karzai still share, it is the knowledge that the alternatives to that scenario are too horrible to contemplate.

 

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Will revolution spread to Pakistan? The country is ripe for revolt, though it would mean ousting the army

  • Declan Walsh
  • Police use batons to disperse protesters at Karachi airport in Pakistan. Photograph: Shakil Adil/AP

    As Hosni Mubarak reluctantly retired last Friday night, another revolt was reaching its climax in Pakistan. For four days the workers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national carrier, had been on strike. Some 25,000 passengers were stranded, including me.

    I was stuck in Quetta, a tense, paranoid city near the Afghan border where the security forces are engaged in a ruthless cat-and-mouse game with nationalist rebels; it is also a supposed refuge for the one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar. As the skies emptied of planes, guests from my hotel fled Quetta by car, crossing the sprawling deserts, or chancing the rickety 22-hour train ride to Karachi. I stayed put.

    On TV the picture flipped from ecstatic crowds surging through Tahrir Square in Cairo, to Pakistani riot police baton-charging PIA workers at Karachi airport. The strike was over planned reforms. PIA is a bloated, sick elephant. It has 400 employees per aircraft – about three times the norm – and last year it asked the government to pay $1.7bn (£1.06bn) in debt. But the unions objected to plans to rationalise the workforce, and demanded that managing director Aijaz Haroon resign. And so on Friday night, under immense pressure, he went, resigning at the same time as Mubarak fell in Egypt.

    As the screen filled with ecstatic revolutionaries surging through Tahrir Square, a note of envy sounded among Pakistanis on Twitter. Could the glorious revolution spread to their country? “I wish, wish, wish Pakistan could be next,” wrote the author Fatima Bhutto.

    Pakistan certainly seems ripe for revolt. It is perpetually on a knife edge – extremists plot and explode bombs, senior politicians are assassinated, society seethes with discontent. A slim upper crust floats in a bubble of wealth and privilege – the local version of Hello! offers coverage of upper-class toddler parties – while the poor grind along under soaring food inflation and 12-hour power cuts. Regional tensions threaten to pull the country asunder. In Quetta, residents were shivering in their homes because the rebels had blown up the gas pipelines four times over the previous week.

    “We’re in a bad way,” one mournful lawyer told me before I left, glancing over his shoulder to see if intelligence officials were evesdropping.

    Some analysts compare the mood to Iran in 1979, when a restive middle-class upended the American-backed Shah and opened the door to theocratic Islamic rule. Yet on the ground in Pakistan, the whiff of revolution is faint. For a start, the country is too fractured. Take Karachi, a sprawling megalopolis of 16 million people, about the size of Cairo. Control of the city is divided between a patchwork of political, sectarian and criminal gangs. All are heavily armed. Protests against Pervez Musharraf in the city four years ago pitted rival groups against each other, triggering a bloodbath.

    The bigger problem, perhaps, is that there is no dictator to overthrow. Pakistanis already have democracy, elections and a vigorous press. But among the educated classes, few want to engage with the political system, considering it dirty and corrupt. And so they focus their frustration on their president, Asif Ali Zardari, a fantastically unpopular figure. Locked into his fortified Islamabad palace, Zardari is portrayed by a hostile media as aloof and corrupt, a schemer and a shyster. Many people are prepared to believe the most lurid stories about him, including that he plotted the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007. Zardari-hating has become a virtual fetish among the chattering classes.

    Some of this is warranted – his government disastrously bungled the recent blasphemy furore, and is struggling to deal with the case of Raymond Davis, an American official who shot two people dead on a Lahore street. Corruption is certainly rife, although many of the wilder stories are almost certainly exaggerated. But the hard truth is that power in Pakistan resides inside the gleaming halls of the army headquarters, where liveried generals hold the keys to the country’s nuclear weapons – more than 100, according to one recent count – and control policy with India, Afghanistan and America.

    And so a true revolution in Pakistan would see the army being ousted from power– except that would be tricky, because it isn’t officially in charge.

    The real danger, however, may lie in the dark clouds gathering over the economy. Ccompanies such as PIA are sucking the Treasury dry; last week’s strike demonstrated scant political will to get them into shape. On the revenue side, the rich refuse to pay tax – the tax-to-GDP ratio is a disastrously low 9% and many politicians pay just a few hundred pounds tax per year. To plug this hole, the government has resorted to printing money at an alarming pace. Few doubt it is unsustainable. Over tea in his office, a senior western diplomat told me the economy was his “number one priority”.

    Economists say the bubble could burst in a matter of months – rocketing inflation, a crashing currency, capital flight. If that happens, trouble could stir on the streets, notwithstanding Pakistanis’ amazing tolerance for adversity. But it’s unlikely to have the same clean lines as the Egyptian revolt. And its consequences could be just as unpredictable.

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American who sparked diplomatic crisis over Lahore shooting was CIA spy • Raymond Davis employed by CIA ‘beyond shadow of doubt’ • Former soldier charged with murder over deaths of two men • Davis accused of shooting one man twice in the back as he fled

The American who shot dead two men in Lahore, triggering a diplomatic crisis between Pakistan and the US, is a CIA agent who was on assignment at the time.

Raymond Davis has been the subject of widespread speculation since he opened fire with a semi-automatic Glock pistol on the two men who had pulled up in front of his car at a red light on 25 January.

Pakistani authorities charged him with murder, but the Obama administration has insisted he is an “administrative and technical official” attached to its Lahore consulate and has diplomatic immunity.

Based on interviews in the US and Pakistan, the Guardian can confirm that the 36-year-old former special forces soldier is employed by the CIA. “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt,” said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. The revelation may complicate American efforts to free Davis, who insists he was acting in self-defence against a pair of suspected robbers, who were both carrying guns.

Pakistani prosecutors accuse the spy of excessive force, saying he fired 10 shots and got out of his car to shoot one man twice in the back as he fled. The man’s body was found 30 feet from his motorbike.

“It went way beyond what we define as self-defence. It was not commensurate with the threat,” a senior police official involved in the case told the Guardian.

The Pakistani government is aware of Davis’s CIA status yet has kept quiet in the face of immense American pressure to free him under the Vienna convention. Last week President Barack Obama described Davis as “our diplomat” and dispatched his chief diplomatic troubleshooter, Senator John Kerry, to Islamabad. Kerry returned home empty-handed.

Many Pakistanis are outraged at the idea of an armed American rampaging through their second-largest city. Analysts have warned of Egyptian-style protests if Davis is released. The government, fearful of a backlash, says it needs until 14 March to decide whether Davis enjoys immunity.

A third man was crushed by an American vehicle as it rushed to Davis’s aid. Pakistani officials believe its occupants were CIA because they came from the house where Davis lived and were armed.

The US refused Pakistani demands to interrogate the two men and on Sunday a senior Pakistani intelligence official said they had left the country. “They have flown the coop, they are already in America,” he said.

ABC News reported that the men had the same diplomatic visas as Davis. It is not unusual for US intelligence officers, like their counterparts round the world, to carry diplomatic passports.

The US has accused Pakistan of illegally detaining him and riding roughshod over international treaties. Angry politicians have proposed slashing Islamabad’s $1.5bn (£900m) annual aid.

But Washington’s case is hobbled by its resounding silence on Davis’s role. He served in the US special forces for 10 years before leaving in 2003 to become a security contractor. A senior Pakistani official said he believed Davis had worked with Xe, the firm formerly known as Blackwater.

Pakistani suspicions about Davis’s role were stoked by the equipment police confiscated from his car: an unlicensed pistol, a long-range radio, a GPS device, an infrared torch and a camera with pictures of buildings around Lahore.

“This is not the work of a diplomat. He was doing espionage and surveillance activities,” said the Punjab law minister, Rana Sanaullah, adding he had “confirmation” that Davis was a CIA employee.

A number of US media outlets learned about Davis’s CIA role but have kept it under wraps at the request of the Obama administration. A Colorado television station, 9NEWS, made a connection after speaking to Davis’s wife. She referred its inquiries to a number in Washington which turned out to be the CIA. The station removed the CIA reference from its website at the request of the US government.

Some reports, quoting Pakistani intelligence officials, have suggested that the men Davis killed, Faizan Haider, 21, and Muhammad Faheem, 19, were agents of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency (ISI) and had orders to shadow Davis because he crossed a “red line”.

A senior police official confirmed US claims that the men were petty thieves – investigators found stolen mobiles, foreign currency and weapons on them – but did not rule out an intelligence link.

A senior ISI official denied the dead men worked for the spy agency but admitted the CIA relationship had been damaged. “We are a sovereign country and if they want to work with us, they need to develop a trusting relationship on the basis of equality. Being arrogant and demanding is not the way to do it,” he said.

Tensions between the spy agencies have been growing. The CIA Islamabad station chief was forced to leave in December after being named in a civil lawsuit. The ISI was angered when its chief, General Shuja Pasha, was named in a New York lawsuit related to the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Although the two spy services co-operate in the CIA’s drone campaign along the Afghan border, there has not been a drone strike since 23 January – the longest lull since June 2009. Experts are unsure whether both events are linked.

Davis awaits his fate in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore. Pakistani officials say they have taken exceptional measures to ensure his safety, including ringing the prison with paramilitary Punjab Rangers. The law minister, Sanaullah, said Davis was in a “high security zone” and was receiving food from visitors from the US consulate.

Sanaullah said 140 foreigners were in the facility, many on drug charges. Press reports have speculated that the authorities worry the US could try to spring Davis in a “Hollywood-style sting”. “All measures for his security have been taken,” said the ISI official. “He’s as safe as can be.”

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A history of anti-Americanism in Pakistan

A history of anti-Americanism in Pakistan.

A history of anti-Americanism in Pakistan

A history of anti-Americanism in Pakistan

In 2009 the monthly Herald published the results of an elaborate survey that it undertook to determine the extent of anti-Americanism in Pakistan. The findings suggest nothing that we do not already know.

Though anti-Americanism during the Cold War (1949-89) was mostly the ideological vocation of pro-Soviet leftists, today (some twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union), one can safely suggest that America is experiencing its most detested hour.

It hasn’t been hated across the board with so much fervour as it is today, mainly thanks to the bungling of the arrogant Bush administration and its utter deficiency in the art and skill of empathetic and prudent diplomacy.

However, the anti-Americanism virus — at least in most Muslim countries — today is such that the critique that comes with it is largely rhetorical and at times, rather obsessive-compulsive.

Take for example the ‘debate’ that took place on Pakistan’s electronic media over the Kerry-Lugar Bill in which it was quite clear that certain politicians, TV talk show hosts and their audiences among the country’s ever growing chattering classes, who were quick to attack the Bill, had not even read the document!

Their single cue in this respect was the Pakistan Army’s concerns about certain conditions mentioned in the aid bill, and off they went on a rampage.

This may also suggest that the nature of anti-Americanism one often comes across TV news channels in this country, is primarily the animated vocation of two interlinked entities: i.e., electorally weak religious and conservative parties and certain former military men who felt alienated after the American dollars for the anti-Soviet Afghan insurgency dried up.

Couple these with a string of highly-paid TV anchors and televangelists who are ever willing to sacrifice objectivity to grab the ratings-boost that rabid anti-American rhetoric promises and you get burning, blinding hot air all around.

From a perceived friend to an imagined foe

Let’s try to trace the history and evolution of anti-Americanism in Pakistan. According to a research paper written by Dr Talukder Muniruzaman in 1971 on the politics of young Pakistanis, a majority of Pakistanis viewed America positively and admiringly in the 1950s.

The paper also suggests that right up until Pakistan’s 1965 war with India, most Pakistanis saw America as a friend, especially in the context of the Soviet Union’s close ties with India.

According to another lengthy paper (published by Chicago University in 1983) on the ideological orientation of Pakistan’s university students (by Kiren Aziz and Peter McDonough), anti-Americanism among most Pakistanis remained somewhat low even during the celebrated movement (in 1967-68) against the Ayub Khan dictatorshiop – in spite of the fact that the movement was largely led by leftist students, activists and politicians.

Some leading leftist activists of the movement also suggest that there were precious little incidents in which an American flag was torched.  The following is what Badar Hanif, a radical member of the left-wing National Students Federation (NSF)  in the late 1960s,  wrote in a recent email to me: ‘We were focused. We not only wanted to topple the US-backed Ayub dictatorship, but the whole capitalist system.’

When I wrote back asking him whether the US was a target as well, Badar replied: “Some of us were pro-Soviet and some pro-China Marxists. Yes we were against the US, but more due to the fact that soon after Ayub’s fall, the US and the Pakistan military began aiding and backing Islamic parties like Jamat-i-Islami (JI). The JI offered themselves to them to work as a bulwark against the rising leftist tide in educational institutions and the streets.”

The Kiren Aziz and Peter McDonough paper suggests that anti-Americanism in the 1970s was ripe among many Arab countries due to the United States’ single-minded support for Israel, which finally made its way into Pakistani society during the Z.A. Bhutto regime (1972-77). Especially so when Bhutto started to expand his ‘Islamic Socialism’ doctrine at the international level by striking firm relations with various radical Muslim states and Arab countries.

However, the build-up to this was the otherwise sympathetic Richard Nixon’s administration’s failure to militarily help its sub-continental ally during the 1971 war with India.

Seyyed Vali Nasr in his excellent book, ‘Vanguards of the Islamic Revolution’ writes that the religious parties (especially JI)  began attributing the Pakistan Army’s defeat in 1971 to the ‘decadence and debauchery of men like General Yahya Khan’ and due to ‘Pakistanis’ failure to become good Muslims.’ However before that, a large number of Pakistanis began blaming the US because it had ‘failed to help Pakistan in the war.’

In his book ‘Political Dynamics of Sindh 1947-1977’ Tanvir Ahmed Tahir suggests that the post-1971 anti-Americanism in Pakistan was more an occupation of progressive and leftist groups. This is confirmed in Hassan Abbas’ book, ‘Pakistan’s drift into extremism: Allah, the Army and America’s War on Terror’.

This brings us back to the suggestion that I would rather treat as a question: Were the religious parties really being escorted by the US against the perceived threat of a take-over of pro-Soviet forces in Pakistani politics?

Progressive student leaders, activists and politicians of the era would answer in the affirmative. Many of them explain this happening as a consequence of Pakistan religious parties’ strong links with oil-rich Arab monarchies, especially the Saudi Arabia, a country that was a close ally of the US.

Anjum Athar who was associated with the Liberal Students Federation (LSF) at the University of Karachi in 1974-75 once shared with me an interesting observation. He said: “In those days (the ’70s) being socially and politically conservative did not necessarily mean being anti-West. Even the most militant Islamic student groups in the 1970s who wanted the imposition of Shariah were never seen badmouthing the US.”

Athar then added, “The reason behind this was that parties like the JI and IJT and other religious groups were more threatened by the rise of communism, a threat they shared with the US and Saudi Arabia – the two countries that became their main financiers and backers. That is why anti-Americanism was more rampant among Pakistani leftists as compared to the religious parties.”

This trend continued much into the 1980s as well.

In spite of this, America remained Pakistan’s leading aid donor. According to Lubna Rafique’s 1994 paper, ‘Benazir & British Press,’ it was only in the last year of Z.A. Bhutto’s regime (1977), that he started to allude to moving out of the ‘American camp,’ calling the US a ‘white elephant.’ He also went on to accuse the Jimmy Carter administration for financing the religious parties’ agitation against him in 1977.

Throughout the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in the 1980s, anti-Americanism remained a much polarised affair in Pakistan. Most political-religious parties and their supporters, and the industrial/business classes that supported Zia, were either openly pro-America or ambiguous on the subject.

This was due to the fact that Zia was an ‘Islamist’ military dictator who was backed by the Ronald Regan administration with military hardware and dollars during the US proxy war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and against ‘communism in the region’. Consequently, anti-Americanism became even more rampant among those opposing Zia.

For example, though anti-Americanism among most PPP workers and the student wing grew two-fold after Z.A. Bhutto’s ‘judicial murder’ at the hands of the Zia dictatorship, the party’s new chairman, Benazir Bhutto, advised her party to concentrate on the removal of Zia alone.

In 1986 when she returned to Pakistan from exile and was greeted by a mammoth crowd in Lahore, groups of PPP’s student wing, the PSF, began torching a US flag at the crowded rally. Benazir is said to have stopped them from doing this, pointing out that they would not be able to fight a superpower if they weren’t even able to remove a local dictator.

Though by the late 1980s the intensity of anti-Americanism had grown in Pakistan (compared to the preceding decades), it never became violent. The only violent case in this respect had taken place in 1979 in Islamabad when the US consulate was attacked by a crowd enraged and provoked by a broadcast from Iranian state radio that had blamed the US for engineering that take-over of the Ka’aba that year by a group of militants.

Though the notorious take-over of the Muslims’ sacred place was masterminded by a band of armed Saudi fanatics, Iran’s new revolutionary regime under Ayatollah Khomeini, used its media to claim that the attack was backed by ‘American and Zionist forces.’

According to Yaroslav Trofimov’s telling tale of the attack on Ka’aba vividly captured in his book,‘The siege of Mecca’, confusion about who planned and executed the attack arose when the Saudi regime blacked out the news.

Anti-US agitation in Pakistan only rolled back when it became clear that the siege was the work of a group of armed Saudi fanatics to whom even the kingdom’s puritanical Wahabi regime wasn’t puritanical enough!

The switch

In the 1990s as America largely divorced itself from the region after the end of the Afghan civil war, anti-Americanism in the country actually receded and Pakistanis got busy tackling the bitter pitfalls of the Afghan war in the shape of bloody ethnic and sectarian strife.

However, this also meant the drying up of American patronage and funds for religious groups and parties in the country.

Anti-Americanism returned to the fore (but with far more intensity) after the tragic 9/11 episode in 2001 and not surprisingly, the religious groups now became its main purveyors.

According to veteran defense analyst, Hassan Askari, this post-Cold-War version of anti-Americanism in the country is an emotional response of most Pakistanis to the confusion that set in after 9/11.

Naushad Amrohvi, a member of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (MKP) in 1972, before leaving for Sweden after the Zia coup said: “Anti-Americanism was more popular with leftist youth before the 1980s. It was more of an intellectual pursuit. We were more into negating the US policies by intellectually attacking capitalism and modern imperialism and for this we read and discussed a lot. We read a lot of Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, Mao Zedong, Frantz Fanon, Faiz Ahmed Faiz… we even read a lot of Abul Ala Maududi so we could puncture his theories about an Islamic state and tackle the then pro-US Jamat-i-Islami!”

Amrohvi laments the fact that anti-Americanism in Pakistan today has become an excuse to hide one’s own failures: “We wanted to fight America with ideology and politics, and not suicide bombers and naked hatred,” he added.

Columnist Fasi Zaka in one of his columns suggested that the kind of anti-Americanism found these days (among the middle-classes of the country) is extremely ill-informed. He wrote that a lot of young Pakistanis are basing their understanding of international politics by watching low-budget straight-to-video ‘documentaries’ on Youtube!

These so-called documentaries that Zaka is talking about are squarely based on rehashed conspiracy theories that mix age-old anti-Jewish tirades and paranoid fantasies about Zionists, Free Masons and the Illuminati. Locally, all these are then further mixed with flighty myths about certain Muslim leaders, sages and events recorded only in jihadi literature and flimsy ‘history books.’

Thus, the post-9/11 confusion and emotionalism in Pakistan was largely given vent and an ‘intellectual tilt’ by Islamist apologists of all shapes and sizes – among them being those had once been recipients of US funds and patronage during the Cold War.

Whereas there was a prominent streak of individualism and romantic rebellion associated with the anti-Americanism of Pakistani leftists during the Cold War, nothing of the sort can be said about the widespread anti-Americanism found in Pakistan today.

In fact, the present-day phenomenon in this context has become an obligatory part of populist rhetoric in which American involvement is blamed for everything — from terrorist attacks, to the energy crises, to perhaps even the break of dengue fever!

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

 

 

  1. Grim says:

    Sometime I think NFP is the only one that gets it in Pakistan. For those Pakistanis that are crying about US involvement in their country, it probably has something to do with UBL still chilling out in the tribal areas. Wake up Pakistan!!! Your problems are caused internally. How many Indians have strapped bombs to their chest and taken out innocent people over the past few years? Hmmm… all the suicide bombers killing Pakistanis are Pakistani. As far as US aide is concerned, we certainly have not gotten our monies worth to say the least.

    Grim

  2. talha says:

    as usual paracha sahab has shown how deeply lost he truly is in his own little ‘intellectual’ hole. i hadnt read who the author of the article was but as i was skimming through, i guessed it must be our old friend mr. paracha. Who else can be so blind to the ultimate realities?

  3. H.A says:

    Pakistanis can blame their leaders all they want but pakistanis themselves will have to change first. There seems to be no sense of brotherhood left in the common Pakistani man who wants to work together with his fellow man to make Pakistan a better place to live for himself and his future generations. Only the Mullah’s seem united at this point and do Pakistani’s really want to live under uneducated, hypocritical people?

  4. Nawaz Ansari – USA says:

    Colin

    You seem to remember the money that was given to Pakistan yet you completely seem to negate the fact that Pakistan has been doing all the dirty work for the US for at least past four decades.

    The turf is ours SIR; we are the victims here that certainly deem you the tormentor and the oppressor. We are the defenders here, yet you are the repeat offender. There is NO “anti-Americanism” in Pakistan, your unwanted interference; intrusion, your ultimate hypocrisy and your double standard are the true reasons for your utmost humiliation in Pakistan.

    The best you can do right now is to pack your bags and get out of the region.

    • Yavr says:

      Sir, you have summed it all in one paragraph. where as Mr. Paracha clearly bypassed it, I think he is himsef a victim of low-budget straight-to-video ‘documentaries’ on Youtube!

    • Hashmat says:

      Nawaz you have summarized the actual situation indeed very well & majority of educated Pakistani’s will tend to agree with your assessment. If USA leaves the region & stops interferring in Pakistan’s internal affairs, then this should definately bring an end to most of the ongoing issues in Pakistan.

  5. ravi – usa says:

    Pakistanis are busy being anti-India, anti-USA, anti -Afghanistan, anti-Iran… They should focus being pro-Pakistan first and building Pakistan for a better tomorrow, and everything will fall in place for a brighter and better Pakistan

    • Suhas Kharbanda says:

      The Pakistanis I have met are very pro-Pakistani and very proud of being Pakistani. But I cant understand what exactly they are they proud of ?

  6. Shigri says:

    Nadeem’s this article seems (unusually) to have lack of understanding of the phenomenon despite having a time-lined literature from the past!

    I am a fan of Nadeem though but this looks somewhat ordinary than what we expect of him.

    Cheers!

  7. sal says:

    Yes, you rightly point out some examples why America has been wrongly blamed – but how about some balance?

    What about all the American acts which do deserve contempt. Illegal war in Iraq (not to mention many other aggressive military actions like Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Nicaragua, attempted coup against Hugo Chavez), sponsoring dictators around the world (Musharraf, Mubarak, Saudi, Saddam etc.). Just saw this headline on dawn.com today: “US seeks to avoid UN vote on Israeli settlements”.

    And if you say what does this have to do with Pakistan – maybe nothing, but it has everything to do with the Human race…..we need to stand up to the bullies of the world – no matter who they are….

  8. Zahid Khan says:

    Pakistan lives on US dollars ONLY. The day US decides to unplug this ‘charity’ Pakistan will starve to death in less than 12 months. No other country or IMF or World bank, etc. will help either. ( Not even the BEST friend called China, it had never done it any away). It is that simple. You can keep on debating, but the reality doesent change. Why waste time and energy on this issue when Pakistan just cant stand on its own feet even after 61 years!! Period.

  9. sf says:

    There is a saying. yakee go home, yankee go home and take me with you.
    Pakistan is almost a failed state, I say almost and not a failed state only because of American support and help. Come on Pakistanis, stop living in a dream world, get real, you dont want uneducated mullahs to rule you and get Pkistan backward to the 7th century. I said uneducated but what about those Pakistanis who are educated like Lawyers who glorified a killer. These lawyers will be our future judges and leaders. its a shame, what has become of ebucation in Pakistan. These lawyers probably were educated in maddrassas. Stop complaining and hating.
    Regarding Davis he was being followed by 2 thieves who wanted to either rob or kill him and in self defence he shot them. Not too long ago my cousin shot and killed 2 robbers who were breaking into neighbor’s house. He was rewarded, what an unjust and double standard,

    • ASA says:

      “Regarding Davis he was being followed by 2 thieves who wanted to either rob or kill him and in self defence he shot them”

      Yes shotm them in the back from 5o- feet away.
      Exactly what drug was he taking when he felt thretened by two men running away from him or is murderous paranoia a normal condiion of an American?

  10. KD says:

    If USA declares lottery of Visa to migrate to USA when such demonstration against USA is in process, 90% of all demonstrators would quit their march and line up in front of US embassy!!!

  11. Umer Farooq Baloch says:

    Brother from this article, you have actually made me rethink on the principle stand I had on this particular issue. Thanks

  12. ramfromIndia says:

    Lacks the usual punch and clarity of Nadeem…

  13. bahram says:

    give me one god reason why we should be pro american policy (i dont have anything against american people) and id give u a hundred reasons to hate american foriegn policy. btw , ur proving to more of an pro american then pro paki… *sigh*

    • sahil says:

      if you hate america stop using american google , facebook , planes , coco cola , hollywood movies , mobile , computer.

      i wonder you pakistanis cant live in a single without america , i see if pakistanis will be given choice between america green card and heaven they will cose green card .

      not sure have a survey about that .

      americans have save thousands during pakistan floods with out americans choppers atleast 1000s of pakistanis will be washed away is this not enough

      then ask 100000s of pakistan if they want to leave satan america against islamic pakistan i bet if your sister , or daughther is in america even she would not want to come back to pakistan.

      are these reason not enough you want more , i would be sort of space to give reason why pakistan should be pro pakistan

      • khurram says:

        You make no sense my friend.you are mixing up two entirely different things..I work for an american based company while i live here in pakistan.even american people agree that they are not happy with the way usa govt is doing in other country affairs.

      • AHK says:

        @Sahil: What does using google, facebook, planes have to do with being pro or anti American?

        Talk some sense.

  14. Goga Nalaik says:

    Dear Nadeem

    Thanks for this nice article.
    But this time, it did’nt really quinch my thirst …

    Your Fan

  15. K.RIAZ says:

    What does Yasir mean when he says”We are need a true leader who control all recently circumstance”?

    One can dislike Zardari and so do I,but have yet to see such a brilliant politician.Let the system continue and it will eventually cleanse itself.

  16. Yasir says:

    we are need a true leader who control all recently circumstance

  17. brighton rodeo says:

    Most Pakistanis hate America but love americans and dollars. Abama knows it pretty well.

  18. ahmed says:

    i found nothing new in NFPs narrative ….can;t the so admired columnist be a bit more original.
    Anti americanism is a fad and transient. it goes high when US applies stick and goes low when US supplies carrots…and this is natural for any living nation..so what happens in Pakistan is not unique to Pakistan or Pakistanis,…this phenomenon is prevalent all over the world…and there is no sin in being anti-american. Americanism has become a capitalist doctrine all over the world, i.e control of vast amount of resources/wealth…whether it is Pakistani agriculture landlords, middle-eastern industrialist or Russian oligarchs…that is why when people in Pakistan are fed up with status quo, they start rejecting one zamindar over the industrialist, and vice versa.

  19. anIndian says:

    A very well written article. But is an average Pakistani educated enough to understand it…

  20. Most Pakistanis hate America because they can’t get there.

    • Tariq K Sami says:

      Really do you think that’s what “most Pakistanis” think.
      Sir, people have a life to live and a thousand mundane things to keep them busy.

  21. jfernandez says:

    Do not blame others for your ineffectiveness. You are enjoying more than 60 years of being an independent country and what have you done? Look at other Asian countries which had similar circumstances and where are they now as compared to your country? If there is a will, there is a way!

    • Salman Hasan says:

      I completely agree with jfernandez. As a Pakistani I still believe that no outside powers can change any nation’s destiny. The problem with Pakistan is that we have not yet become a nation. We are four different entities or tribes who only care for their own self-interests. Until these tribes become one nation, indivisible, united and honest, nothing will happen in Pakistan. Powerful bureacrats, landlords, generals, politicians will continue to rob this country by using democracy, Islam and ethnicity. We need moderate, educated, liberal people to rise up and come out on the street like Egyptians did few weeks ago and remind these ruling elite that 170 million plus people cannot take this crap from them anymore and force them to install reforms or they will be thrown out of offices.

    • Tariq K Sami says:

      I think Pakistan has done very well. See you in the World Cup Cricket.

  22. mystic says:

    Americans today admit that they propped up Mubarak’s regime in Egypt for 30 years. Anyone saying that a few weeks ago would be an anecdote in this NFP rant.

  23. Sajid says:

    As always NFP has come up with some interesting views. I would like to have NFP’s views on the following observation:

    While its true that Dollar aid dried up for many religious organization in Pakistan after the US left Afghanistan, we should not forget extensive financial support from SA to madassah-cum-militant-cum-political organizations mainly to confront the challenges posed by Islamic revolution in Iran (also a revolution against US hegemony) and to promote a specific Islamic ideology. It is this financial support from SA that we are experiencing a very sharp divide in this country on the basis of sect.

  24. Pakistanis love US aid, US Green card, US citizenship, US education, US internet, US computer technology, US science and in return they bite the generous US hand that helps them.

    • HS says:

      Pakistan is given the US aid cz US wants to fight against Afghanistan using OUR borders!!! n btw the paki govt needs aid fo their personal use instead of for the whole nation!!..US can stop giving us aid n take their army back fm our borders n after this should stop interfering in other countrys personal n internal issues!

    • Tariq K Sami says:

      Really ! Like Amy Powell would say on Saturday Live.
      I did not understand this US infatuation with Pakistan. Do you?
      Alternately are they stupid or what Mr Robinson. Think about it.

  25. Pokerface says:

    How hypocritical is it that although most Pakistanis supposedly “hate” America with a passion, those very same Pakistanis would do anything to get and American Green card or even a Visa. I believe, that the primary reason for the rise anti-Americanism in Pakistan in recent years is due to closeness between the US & India during the same time frame.

  26. qazi says:

    once mao said America has made all the poor nations its enemy by helping the dictators. in pakistan its inteference is now an open book, how does it is looting it is no secret. take the example of hosni, first it was siding with hosni but later took turn and asked him to accept the people demand and leave the powers. the european media also played biased role at the time of uprising against hosni.

    • Rajiv says:

      Example of Hosni proves that if people have the intelligence to make right choice… even superpower has to support it…

  27. ali says:

    next is pakistan people have to come on streets to show unity and more hate against Us

  28. Nawaz Ansari – USA says:

    A note to Moderator(s)

    As a second generation young Pakistani-American I profoundly disagree with the author and wish to refute him by authoring my thoughts in a civil manner, thus I truly desire to get a fair chance by DAWN.COM to exercise my right to the “freedom of speech”.

  29. Vince says:

    If you hate Americans so much, I would think you’d stop trying to move here.
    Pakistan is a basket case, corruption so pervasive nothing can be accomplished without bribing someone. How does any foreign government deal with the Pakistani Government then? The U.S. donates more to Pakistan than any other country including your great “friends” Saudi Arabia and China. I for one have been writing my congressman and senators demanding that we stop supporting your country and let you solve your own problems. Good luck with the next flood, earthquake or whatever.

    • Mohammed Hassanali says:

      I hope that happens soon. I’ll be the first one to thank the Almighty.

    • Usso says:

      Are You trying tp say tha America is giving fund pakistan without any reaso? can you Answer This Question..How Many American Killed After 9/11? I think its you war We are in….America knows Its pakistan Who can Only Destroy the Tailban/ And Alqaida’s Leadership… And for your infomation…Pakistan Lost more…Pakistani.people. then America in their War Against Afghanistan..and its becuz of america we are getting in worse situation.You won’t understand this becuz its not ur country who is suffering but pakistan. Ask the Men & women who Lost their families…through Suicide Attack…ask a mother who lost his Only son……..i hope you got my point….we are not against America we want america to mind their own business.:)

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The battle over blasphemy – Riz Khan

The battle over blasphemy – Riz Khan.

 

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India, whose love could have killed him

Dawn.com is your source for the latest news about Pakistan, in-depth coverage on national politics and expert opinions.

via India, whose love could have killed him.

India, whose love could have killed him

With fans in Mumbai: Amitabh Bachchan is also visible.

It is an anomalous fact of history that revolutionary poets and icons often if unwittingly usher reaction, which then becomes their patron of sorts. Who would have thought that military usurpers and religious bigots would flaunt Jinnah as their hero, or Gandhi would become the poster boy of zealots that assassinated him.

A similar fate befell Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Pablo Neruda, Bhagat Singh and Hafiz Shirazi too in a way. I once saw strikingly beautiful picture of Che Guevara adorning the work desk of the then CIA station chief in Delhi.

Though credit is seldom given to Neruda, his poetry single-handed fired up South Asia’s Progressive Writers’ Association of which Faiz was a pivot. Neruda stood down as presidential candidate to pave the way for his comrade Salvador Allende to become Chile’s first leftist leader to be elected as head of state. Chile has not recovered from the reaction that came with the CIA-backed military coup.

Bhagat Singh’s revolutionary slogan – Inquilab Zindabad – today leads rallies of blacklegs who broke the workers’ unity in India. It seems ironical that Shirazi survived religious edicts that subverted the sweeping political unity of Iranians to bring in their miraculous revolution. Iran continues to lead the anti-imperialist corner in its own obscurantist way. Credit perhaps goes to Hafiz and other great iconoclasts of that land who evidently continue to mean more to the people than the promise of paradise the mullahs offer.

“And now the national anthem, but you need not rise,” said Frank Sinatra in a live performance in New York as he began to sing My Way. Faiz’s Ham dekhain ge has turned into something of a national anthem too though of people of several countries, not one. The promise of the hereafter in this poem has inspired everyone in India (as it did in Pakistan) from the left to the right of the spectrum. Here is how Arundhati Roy experienced it amid Maoist rebels in the forests of Chhattisgarh. An excerpt from her essay Walking Among the Comrades:

“Comrade Sukhdev asks if he can download the music from my Ipod into his computer. We listen to a recording of Iqbal Bano singing FaizAhmed Faiz’s Ham Dekhain ge (We will Witness the Day) at the famous concert in Lahore at the height of the repression during the Ziaul Haq years. The home minister has been issuing veiled threats to those who ‘erroneously offer intellectual and material support to the Maoists’. Does sharing Iqbal Bano qualify?”

Away from the glare of India’s corporate media, Faiz has enthused the left-liberal campaign to free Dr Binayak Sen, convicted in Chhattisgarh on sedition charges for alleged proximity with Maoists. Now here is an irony. The undivided communist party in India lionized Faiz. Then the party split into many splinters, which weakened and eventually all but erased its cultural bulwarks like IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association). The bitter truth is that Faiz’s splintered partisans are now lunging at each other. I have seen his family members being feted by the Communist Party of India (Marxist, CPI-M and others) in parliamentary left. However, Faiz is perhaps better embraced by the so-called hardliners within the left, who do not see eye to eye not with the CPI-M leaders.

An open letter from Ilina Sen, wife of Binayak, shows Faiz’s continued relevance to the left. Excerpts from the letter:

“Dear Friends,
“…Speaking out against the conviction and incarceration of Dr Binayak Sen has to be seen in that larger context of lending our voice against the gross injustice that we witness as a daily happening in India day after day.
“Today when we demand his release we must also raise our voice against all those who remain hungry, malnourished, and without secure means of livelihood, as well as those who have been dispossessed, killed, tortured, humiliated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily detained and arrested, falsely charged and under surveillance because of their legitimate work in upholding democratic rights and fundamental freedoms…
“I would like to end with a verse of Faiz:
Bol ke lab aazaad hain tere/ bol zabaan ab tak teri hai/ tera sutvaan jism hai tera/ bol ke jaan ab tak teri hai…”

Smug Indian commentators like to contrast the supposedly superior democratic culture of India’s people with the supposed passivity of Pakistan’s people – but it is Pakistan that gave us that immortal moment of democratic culture – where thousands of people sang of revolution courtesy a communist poet, who had drawn upon progressive traditions within Islam to confront the zealot Zia. Iqbal Bano’s – as the people of the subcontinent confront the tyrannies of their governments, of imperialism and of jingoistic hate-mongering — will be the voice that will reflect their unity, their defiance, their confidence that one day, tyranny will be defeated and the people will triumph.

Faiz’s links with India evolved with its politics. Between the ‘50s and ‘70s, Sheila Bhatia, Champa Mangat Rai, Mariam Bilgrami led the women’s flank of the Faiz Ahmed Faiz fan club in India. Fawning men came from the sprawling communist movement, progressive writers’ club, leftists from the Congress party, the Lahore school tie, most notably those perched high up in the Indian bureaucracy. Those who can still remember can be tapped to vividly recount the soirees late into the night when Faiz was loved and lionized in Delhi.

Syed Mohammed Mehdi, pushing 90, recalls one such evening after theatre diva Sheila Bhatia staged the play ‘Dard Ayega Dabe Paon’, based on Faiz’s work. Sheila and her partner Haali Vats, a former underground gunrunner for the communist party, had known Faiz from Lahore and they were his constant hosts in Delhi. Punjabi folk singer, the strikingly beautiful Madanbala Sandhu recited Faiz all night. Sheila danced with the troupe. Faiz sipped and smoked. And then he whispered to Mehdi: “With so much love coursing through my veins and with such doting friends surrounding me, I won’t mind dying tonight.”

Not too long after that, in a manner of speaking, Faiz was all but killed in India anyway, not by a magical night that overwhelmed his finer senses but by the palpable failure of the left movement. Indira Gandhi had inherited a leftward leaning aura from her father. And so her cabinet did reflect that politics. D.P. Dhar and Inder Gujral were among Faiz’s admirers. With Rajiv Gandhi’s advent the battle for the left was all but over.

The last time I heard Faiz in a major public rally was in 1990 when it was led by rightwing upper caste Hindus who were agitating against the affirmative action proposed in the Mandal Commission report. Rajiv Goswami, a Brahmin opposed to the Mandal report, had set himself on fire. There was commotion and police firing. News Track video magazine (parent of Headlines Today and Aaj Tak) was running the story with the chant of Iqbal Bano’s anthem penned by Faiz.

—The writer is Dawn’s Correspondent in Delhi

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