|Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan|
Pakistan needs to reform its military and intelligence services in order to rid itself of terrorist activity.
Brahma Chellaney Last Modified: 04 May 2011 11:00
Category Archives: Religion and Politics
Dead man and the sea
We asked world famous occult medium, Mr. Abdul Qadir Awami Badami, to connect and communicate with Osama bin Laden’s soul, to ask him what really happened on the night he was shot dead in Abbottabad …
Mr. Osama, can you hear me? Mr. Osama?
Bubble … bubble … bubble
I think I have made contact with the departed soul. Mr. Osama, can you hear me?
Yes, where am I? Is this heaven?
No, sir, you are at the bottom of the sea.
Sea? Hmmm … yes, it does seem that way. Am I dead?
Well, yes. Kind of.
Hmm … how did I die?
I was hoping you could tell me that.
All I remember is that it was night and I was waiting for the Kakul guys to get my dinner, and then I heard these ’copters and thought maybe the Kakul guys were throwing me a surprise party or something and I got very excited, and …
The Kakul guys used to give you dinner?
Well, yes. Biryani on Mondays and Tuesdays, chicken chowmein on Wednesdays, steak on Thursdays, mixed veggies on Saturdays and Sundays …
And on Fridays?
On Fridays I used to call them over for dinner. One of my wives makes a darn good Yemeni stew.
I see. So they knew you were hiding there?
Of course, they did! They’re my wives!
I mean the Kakul guys.
Oh. Well, according to their intelligence reports, I was some rich Arab camel breeder and exporter.
Really? They didn’t bother to cross-check?
Let’s just say, I was not on their radar.
Must be the same radar that failed to pick the American ’copters …
I tell you, my men have better radars, hehehe … bubble, bubble..
By the way, you said that I was in hiding?
Weren’t you in hiding?
Not at all!
Then why did the Americans take 10 years to find you?
Those fools don’t know much about caves.
But you weren’t hiding in a cave, sir.
My friend, let me tell you, all of Pakistan is one big cave!
Then did the Pakistanis really know you were in the country all along?
My friend, they wouldn’t have been Pakistanis had they not known. Hehe … bubble, bubble.
So you are saying they knew?
Well I was … excuse me, I think I have a fish stuck in my ear. *Plop!* Ah, a red snapper! So, what were you saying? By the way, what is your name, brother?
Abdul Qadir Awami Badami
That is a strange name. Are you by any chance a Hindu?
Hmm … I guess I will have to kill you anyway.
But you are dead.
Oh, right, of course. Then I guess I will kill some fish instead.
Are you a seafood fan?
No, I just like killing infidels.
Yes, you have a problem with that, you idol worshipper!
How can fish be infidel?
Look at them! Swimming in the sea, all naked!
But they are fish!
And stark naked! Shameless.
Whatever, tell us about your stay in Pakistan…
It reminded me of home.
No, Afghanistan, but with better cars and escalators.
But you’re a Saudi.
I’m a Muslim first. The best there was. And if you disagree I will get you killed. You are a Christian Crusader anyway.
Any difference between human beings and Muslims?
Of course there is. That is why we only kill human beings.
But you and your al Qaeda and Taliban friends have killed thousands of Pakistani Muslims.
They were all bad Muslims.
How can you say that?
I don’t say. I blow!
No, you say, while others blow...
Those who blow have true faith.
Even the small children and infants who have died in these attacks?
So people who blow themselves up in mosques, shrines and markets are the only true Muslims?
It is much more complicated than that. A very complex concept.
You see, only those Muslims who blow themselves up in mosques, shrines and markets are the only true Muslims.
But that’s what I said.
I see … you Hindu!
Why did you say that?
Because you worship idols.
But to some, you are an idol too.
I am an ideal.
A pretty violent one though.
But I’m not forcing my beliefs on you.
That is because you are a chicken!
So I should impose them on you?
Yes. Come on, I invite you to convert to my faith. Where is your suicide jacket?
I deal in suicide jackets, not wear them, fool.
I know so many Muslims who are nothing like you.
They are not Muslims!
Then who are they?
Human beings! Ugh!
But I thought a good Muslim also meant being a good human being.
Well, as I … excuse me, I think I see a shark approaching.
Why don’t you move from there?
No worries. You know that red snapper that got stuck in my ear?
Well, I trained it to become a suicide bomber. It just exploded over the shark’s head!
But the shark did not attack you!
But it could have.
You’re sounding like George W. Bush. He, too, was into pre-emptive strikes, remember?
Ah, good ol’ Bushy. He was good for my business. But this Obama guy turned out to be different.
Different, how? In policy and in strategy?
No, in colour. He is black.
A human being, nevertheless.
That is the problem. The whole world should be Muslim, instead.
Yes, just like Bush wanted the whole world to become American.
Ah, good ol’ Bushy. Those were the days. Right, I guess I’ll kill you now.
But you’re dead. Buried deep in the sea.
They buried me here?
Yes, the Americans buried you in the sea.
Wow! Has Obama converted to Islam?
What do you mean? You were a Salafi, right?
Yes. I am amazed. How did he know we didn’t believe in marked graves?
But some of your fans around the world are criticising him for not giving you a decent Muslim burial.
So you are happy that they buried you in the sea?
Of course! Otherwise bad Muslims would have made a shrine at my grave. We blow up shrines, you know.
Yes I do. But this is amazing. You are actually happy at what Obama did?
Yes, but minus the shooting-me-in-the-head part, of course.
So you do remember that you were shot in the head?
Well, I really do have this bad headache and … well, I’ll be dammed! There’s a hole in my head! The buggers did shoot me!
Yes, who else? The Pakistanis?
So Pakistanis weren’t at all involved in your assassination?
Well, their only contribution to this was that on that fateful, tragic night they delayed my dinner. Buggers. Had to be shot on an empty stomach.
But the Taliban are blaming them and saying that now their top target is Pakistan.
Really? What was our top target before my death? Guatemala?
You tell me.
Hmmm … better warn Mullah Omar.
Why, is he hiding in Pakistan too?
Follow the dinner trail, follow the dinner trail …
So the Pakistanis did know you were there, right?
Pakistanis don’t know where they themselves are, forget about knowing where I was. What is the Pakistani media saying?
Some of their TV anchors seem shocked and sad.
Yes, one of them once worked as a cook for me and another used to give me great massages.
Can you name them?
No. Don’t want to give them undue importance. Let the ISI do that.
The ISI gives them importance?
Sort of. They give the ISI great massages too.
Can you be more specific?
Yes, I can. I. Want. To. Behead. You. You. Hindu. How is that for being specific, you cunning Jew?
Chicken! Come on fight me, you Buddhist coward!
I am disconnecting from you now. May God deal with you in whatever way he thinks you are to be dealt with.
Darn. I almost forgot. You are right. Now I will have to meet the maker. Do you think he likes seafood?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Will revolution spread to Pakistan? The country is ripe for revolt, though it would mean ousting the army
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.
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
- Declan Walsh in Lahore and Ewen MacAskill in Washington
- guardian.co.uk, Sunday 20 February 2011 19.38 GMT
- Article history
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.”
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!
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.