Pervez Musharraf – A Warhorse and a Peacenik

Lord Tennyson’s line, “Home they brought her warrior dead” needs tweaking to suite the likely home-coming of Pakistan’s former ruler Pervez Musharraf. How about: “home they brought their warrior ill?”

Self-exiled in Dubai, the once-powerful army chief-turned-CEO-turned President has ceased to matter as an individual in Pakistan. But he is an exalted member of the institution that actually rules the country. Sentiment is one of forgive-and-forget, now that he is terminally ill and may want to pass his last days at home.

Only some hot heads want him tried for treason. As former premier Yousaf Raza Gillani said, the decision on Musharraf’s return will be taken ‘somewhere else’. No need to elaborate: such pointers are part of Pakistan’s political lore.

If ousted from power, unless jailed, exile on health ground is an intermittent theme in Pakistan. Musharraf has won unsolicited support from former premier Nawaz Sharif whom he had ousted and exiled to Saudi Arabia. Nawaz, now self-exiled in London, has asked that Musharraf’s return be facilitated by the government which his brother, Shehbaz Sharif, heads.

Actually, the brothers, like everyone, well understand the army’s mood. The army wants back its erstwhile chief. In that context, Musharraf remains relevant in Pakistan.

For, the country’s all-powerful force is under unprecedented strain, facing criticism from the very people that it pitch-forked to power through political and electoral engineering. If Nawaz was on warpath in 1993, 1999 and from London in the winter of 2021, the summer of 2022 witnesses Imran Khan’s scorching campaign.

The army says it is ‘neutral’. But Khan uses ‘neutrals’ as a plural pejorative, to keep on his firing line the men in uniform that are supposedly divided over him. He is defying conventional political wisdom that requires him to keep his tongue in check.

Media reports indicate a tussle between the chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Lt Gen. Hameed Faiz, the corps commander whom he forced out of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Worst is the speculation that the influential middle brass backs Imran and want to give him another chance.

It’s a moot point if Musharraf would have allowed such a situation. He launched the Kargil war on India, keeping some of the top brass, also his prime minister, in the dark. He lost, but he was still able to convince them all to rally to oust Nawaz.

For that matter, even Zia ul Haq, who removed Zulfiqar Bhutto was able to keep on the leash his generals through 12 years as the army chief, including a decade as the country’s President. Who knows, Zia would have held the two posts indefinitely, had he not been killed in a mysterious air crash. Bajwa has managed two extensions as the Chief. But caught in the political melee, he has been forced to announce that he is not ready for a third tenure.

ALSO READ: Pakistan Army Can’t Be Confined To Barracks

Times have changed. If direct army rule was relatively easier, although eventually bad for Pakistan, the one with politicians providing a democratic façade is proving to be increasingly problematic, and worse.

The army cannot just walk away – assuming it ever wants to. See the special powers just conferred on the ISI to vet all key civilian appointments. It was always there, informally. A formal government notification, makes it obvious, and embarrassing. A mix of appeasement and passing-the-buck, it is open to civilian criticism.

All this does not happen in India that is the other side of the South Asian coin. But interest has never lagged. Indians viewed Pakistan’s first army takeover by Ayub Khan with alarm. The civil servants threw a protective ring to insulate the political leadership from the military, and keep the latter away and down-graded. This ethos got cemented thanks to the conflicts in 1965 and 1971.

The Indian public interest in Pakistani generals grew from the 1980s onwards when the latter sought to reach out. Zia’s cricket diplomacy caused ripples. He managed to soften perceptions about himself by hosting many an Indian, among them, scribes.

This was despite the fact that Zia, keen to avenge the 1971 debacle, set the Indian Punjab on fire with militancy. His period saw hijacks of Indian aircraft, their release along with the passengers. This left Indians relieved, but seething and red-faced in the eyes of the world.

There was certain envy as Pakistan under Zia reaped the fruits – both money and military – for aiding the West-backed ‘jihad’ against the Russians in Afghanistan.

A Punjabi, Zia was from Jalandhar. But Musharraf, with his Purani Dilli roots, was special. He talked in-your-face to Indians. He surprised them, and the world, by joining George Bush Jr’s “war on terror” in Afghanistan.

If his dealing with Americans was time-serving and full of cunning, that with India was upfront and hostile. Indian aircraft being hijacked to Lahore and then Kandahar had the Musharraf stamp.

No Pakistani leader attempted battling India as did Musharraf. Four months after Nawaz hugged Vajpayee (whom he did not salute) in Lahore, Musharraf staged Kargil. Although he lost, he toppled Nawaz thereafter.

Though Pakistan initially claimed mujahideen were responsible for occupying the Kargil heights, Musharraf subsequently acknowledged in his autobiography In the Line of Fire that regular troops were part of the operation. He also admitted to Pakistan’s use and ‘export’ of militants as “state assets”.

His dealing with India was full of contradictions that remain difficult to fathom fully, objectively. From being the architect of the Kargil War, he was the architect of the closest ever deal India and Pakistan came to making on Jammu and Kashmir.

The December 13, 2001 terror attack on Indian Parliament complex took place under his watch. Just three weeks later, on January 6, 2002, with armed forces positioned eyeball-to-eyeball, he shook hands with a flummoxed Vajpayee, at the eleventh SAARC summit in Kathmandu.

To be sure, he was in charge when preparations for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks were made. India-Pakistan ties were never really the same again. He was politically downhill by then, and his peace initiative with India had unravelled.

Yet, his legacy must include the bold conciliatory moves, especially when he talked to Manmohan Singh, thinking and making “out of the box” proposals.

The proposed agreement was based on a four point formula that included no redrawing of borders, that the people of Jammu and Kashmir on either side of the LoC would be allowed to move freely from one side to the other, an end to hostility and violence and terrorism and military forces on both sides being kept to the minimum, while ensuring self-governance on both sides of the LoC and consultative mechanisms to look at socio-economic issues.

Several local and international factors helped facilitate the secret talks. There was hopeful speculation that Musharraf and Manmohan Singh could share the Peace Nobel.

That brief period was, and remains, the only time India and Pakistan were at relative peace, when infiltration along LoC almost ceased and Bollywood films filled up Pakistan’s cinema theatres and help resurrect its fledgling film industry.

After terror attack at Pulwama, Musharraf said on February 23, 2019: “If we attack with one nuke, India may finish us with 20”. Was it, then, a late realisation of the futility of permanent enmity with India? We will never know.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

Pakistan, The Hand of The Establishment

Imran Khan’s misadventures in office and his attempts to cling to power have come against the reality of numbers as he tried to use every method in the book to outwit the establishment. Although he hasn’t given up, the levers of power have moved on from his grasp. The Supreme Court and High Court had to intervene to bring a rolling rail back 

Imran Khan, chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, came to power in 2018 promising delightful dreams of prosperity, fair deal, national prestige, honour of Pakistani passport in the world, houses for poor, jobs for youth, lawmaking, best governance, no corruption, accountability of the corrupt politicians and officers, no protocol, quality education, no loan from IMF, return of all loans, respect of the state institutions etc. However during his tenure he proved an utter failure to metalize all these promises and hopes.

March 2022 proved catastrophic to Prime Minister Imran Khan when he was ousted from power through no-confidence move presented by the opposition parties including PPP, Muslim League (N), ANP, PTM and other members in the national assembly. This was the time when Imran Khan decided to go for political shenanigans in and outside the assemblies.

Imran Khan, quoting an ambassador’s cable from the US, declared the no-confidence move as an American conspiracy because Imran Khan had refused the USA to give airbases likely to be utilized for surveillance of Afghanistan.

On this stand, he organized his ministers, Speakers and social media to blame and embarrass the military establishment of Pakistan with the aim to cripple the confidence of the establishment, election commission and courts.

He warned the ‘establishment’ that he would be more dangerous (Khatare nak) if ousted. His own assembly members had deserted therefore he tried to threaten these members, the Courts, Election Commission and anyone else with Constitutional prerogatives as he interpreted it. Imran Khan is not a Constitutional legal luminary. Therefore, things went problematic and a constitutional crisis emerged.

ALSO READ: Naya Pakistan, Old Script

At his alleged insistence, the Speaker did not allow the no-confidence move within due days as ordered in the Constitution of Pakistan. This was a violation. Being custodian of the constitution the Supreme Court of Pakistan handled the disorderly situation and ordered to act upon its orders. The Speaker once again used tactics to delay the assembly proceedings. However at midnight, the Islamabad High Court and Supreme Court opened and a prison van started moving along the Constitution Avenue.

This was entirely unexpected by the Prime Minster who had already requested the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to interfere as he was ready to resign if the opposition consented to hold fresh elections. This option was declined by the opposition allies, the PDM. The Prime Minster had to leave the PM house with dejected heart and he moved to his home silently.

The Assembly passed no-confidence move against Imran Khan but the PTI (Imran Khan’s party) decided to create hurdles in the way of the new government. The political misadventure continued and as the Speaker resigned, the Deputy Speaker tried to sabotage further processes. He finally accepted the resignations of the PTI members and then resigned himself.

The legal process to confirm the resignations was not adopted so it is still pending and proved another political misadventure. Mian Shahbaz Sharif was elected new Prime Minster. However President Arif Alvi considered the new government imported, traitors and funded by USA and decided to refuse to administer the oath. Consequently the Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan took oath of the Prime Minister and his cabinet members. The new government was in place.

The Punjab Assembly was the next locus of the political games and intrigues. Ch. Pervaiz Elahi, the Speaker, first promised to side with the opposition but on the insistence of his son Moonas Elahi he chose to be the PTI candidate of Chief Minster against Mian Hamza Shahbaz. However the Speaker embarrassed the Deputy Speaker by issuing different statements and even issues orders though being CM candidate his powers were frozen.

Again, the Lahore High Court had to interfere. Yet again PTI and Muslim League (Q) tried to obstruct the process. They physically attacked the Deputy Speaker, Dost Mazari, to sabotage the voting process. After the skirmishes, the Police and the Assembly officials ensured voting for the CM office while PTI and Muslim League (Q) sensing clear defeat walked out of the assembly.

Mian Hamza Shahbaz won the CM office. Repeating the national farce again, the PTI Governor Umar Chattha refused to take oath from the newly elected CM and started correspondence with different offices including of the President.

The Muslim League(N) again had to knock at the High Court and Justice Ameer Ali Bhatti asked Dr. Arif Alvi to depute anyone else to ensure oath of the CM Punjab. This oath taking issue is still pending and the politicians are more concerned with their party line than the constitution and the state.

The current political situation of Pakistan has exposed the inability and incapability of the politicians to permit smooth running of processes. They are unable to cope with this sort of political crisis. Woefully, this ensures that Pakistan will have to suffer more in the coming years because of the leadership crisis. This further confirms that the political parties only can only function in office if the establishment supports them in the day-to-day affairs.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s political parties generally condemn the establishment’s role when they are in opposition but expect full support and behind the scene maneuverings when they are in the government. Imran khan was very happy when he was enjoying this support but as the establishment withdrew its political role, the government collapsed and Imran Khan started staging mass protest.

Imran Khan believes that use of religion and cursing the military Chief, USA, Courts and election commission would force them to rethink and give him support again. The foreign funding case, Tosha Khana scandal and his signatures on some other documents relating to medicine, flour, sugar subsidy etc. however could be very dangerous for his political career. Therefore, he has adopted the going-public policy to seek the establishment’s favour in the current and coming political happenings but it is likely to be another political misadventure bearing no positive results.

On the other hand, it is expected that the PTI will get something from the institutions because past history reveals that nuisance value does work and the leaders kicked out of the corridors of power are granted relief through deals reached with the levers of real power in Pakistan. Therefore, we can conclude that Imran Khan will survive in the political arena but he has damaged his party and relations with most countries due to his ill thought out statements, speeches and actions. As the song goes, ‘another one bites the dust’. In Pakistan as in most countries, the sunrise and sunset of a politician depends on those who hold real power behind the office.

Weekly Update: Khan Loses Match; BJP Stunt On Chandiargh; India Tells UK To Move On

Khan The Pathan Brought Down: The great Khan Pathan, Imran Khan, has also been shafted back to earth and his assumption of invincibility punctured by the real power of Pakistan, the Army. Khan was toying with outsmarting the Army. When on the verge of being removed from office, dismissing the C in C of the Pakistan Army seems to be the favourite last desperate preoccupation of many Prime Ministers of Pakistan. But they soon realise their office is a clerical extension of the Army and not the throne of power. They get into a habitual error of thinking that because they got the mandate through votes, they must be more popular and powerful than the Army. The Pakistan Army, like armies elsewhere, does not have a single vote nor does it seek any. It has the tanks and the finance, both of which tend to be more powerful in any political set up.

Now why our westernised anti-west star, the great Imran, international cricketer and once sought after by every socialite lady in the west, thought he could become pro Kremlin and at the same time recruit the democratic mandate in his favour is a mystery. Democracy wallahs are supposed to side with USA and authoritarian leaders on the side of China and Russia. In Pakistan, it is a bit topsy turvy. The Army that hasn’t a single vote, is pro USA, while the democratic elected leader is pro authoritarian Russia.

Pakistan’s perennial problems has been a failure to institute a constitutional structure that reflects the real structure and distribution of power in the country. But it was forced by the United Kingdom to adopt a democratic constitution. The UK calls itself as mother of democracy.

Contrary to popular myth, the UK is really a monarchy and power exercised by some powerful business interests. The System is all in the name of the Monarchy. The Queen has a Government to do the running around and manage the country. The Government is elected. But the leader that pleases Mr Murdoch and a few other British Barons, usually gets the seat of power. The one they don’t like, tends to get hammered in the media, owned by powerful barons.  Even though elected, the Government rules and acts on behalf of the Monarch, not the people. In effect, the Monarch asks the people to elect among themselves a leader and a party to manage her country. Brilliant. Its rule by the Barons, for the Monarch, with the people.

Pakistan on the other hand was bullied by this Monarchical -Baronial UK to adopt a democratic system to be consistent with the requirements of that other non-democratic institution, the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth insists that all member countries be democratic as Britain supposedly is. But it has a permanent non-elected leader, the Queen. And no one has asked when will Britain become a truly democratic State, except for the Sikhs. Once in Britain when the Government patronisingly lectured the Sikhs to become modern and adopt elections in their Gurdwaras, the Sikh leaders told the Government that when the head of State in UK is elected, then they will also pay more attention to Government sermons. The Government backed off.

So we have perpetual issues in Pakistan. Power is with the Army. The Army has set up a democratic front to shut the Brits and Americans up. Meanwhile Pakistani people think they are democratically holding power to account. It serves everyone. When things go wrong, the Army blames the elected leadership and people get a chance to elect another leader who can’t sort the mess either. UK and USA are happy that the country is listed as ‘democratic’ and can tick the boxes. A bit like medieval crusades, when the converted could do anything such as rapes, pillages etc, as long as they called themselves Christian. But if they weren’t Christian, they were called the devil incarnate, child eaters, witches and any grotesque character adjective that the pious Vatican could think of for non-Christians. In modern times, the UK-USA alliance does the same for countries who are not ‘democratic’. India therefore is saved from this name calling.

Time changes but nothing changes. Let’s hope one day Pakistan will have the ability to set up a constitutional structure that reflects the levers and distribution of power as it really is. In the meantime Mr Khan has been bowled out. We hope he has enough money to go into exile in Dubai.

Chandigarh For BJP?

Well, who would have thought that one day the nationalist Hindu party, BJP would be screaming for Chandigarh to be recognised as capital of Punjab? ‘Qudrat’ (Nature) indeed is ironical.

During the militant days of Akali run Anandpur Sahib Resolution campaigns in the late 1970s and then Khalistan campaigns of 1980s, one of the key demands was that Chandigarh should solely be the capital of Punjab. The Punjabi Hindus opposed it.

Ever since the family run Akali Dal Badal came to power, the issue of Chandigarh seemed to have evaporated just as the rest of Anandpur Sahib resolution did. Now that Akali Dal can only be seen with the Hubble Space telescope from outer space, as otherwise it is no where to be seen in the levers of power, the BJP decided it was going to raise the issue of Chandigarh. Obviously it is to start a headache for Aam Admi party in Punjab, but the irony is too much not to be commented on. Fact is that in reality all BJP Punjab has to do is ask its Daddy BJP in Lok Sabha to hand over Chandigarh to Punjab. But where is the fun if it does that?

Britain Told To Look Around

The Indian Foreign Minister is not as much of a rottweiler as the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov is, but S Jaishankar certainly gave the British Foreign Minister an earful. In reality Jaishankar is not aggressive at all in dealing with other leaders. He is the epitome of a diplomat. Lavrov, on the other hand can get annoyed and throw put downs with ease.

When the British Foreign Minister, Liz Truss, went over to India to give a colonial dressing down to Jaishankar reminding him that India is part of the democratic block and further told him to get in line and oppose Russia, the mild mannered Jaishankar did a Lavrov.

He told her that times had moved on and the world is in a period of multipolar power blocks. India will make its own decisions and not be dictated to by the Brits. Liz Truss, who likes posing as Ms Rambo in tanks, quickly belted up, took the next flight home and sat mopping in her toy tank in the back garden, firing soap bubble shots at the Indian Foreign Minister. That has not been reported or verified yet, but not one beyond possibility. Liz Truss always has the look of a Captain Britain with raised eyebrows.

Naya Pakistan, Old Script, Chronic Crisis

The record of Pakistan’s top judiciary may have been more chequered than in many other countries. However, even though it validated the martial law imposed in the past after the military seized power, citing the “doctrine of necessity”, it has also righted many wrongs of the civil and military governments. Now, it has a task on hand.

Among its epoch-making actions will be the manner in which the Supreme Court took suo moto notice of the dismissal of the no confidence motion against the Imran Khan Government in the now-dissolved National Assembly on April 3.

Going by reports, within minutes of these developments, Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, had the Supreme Court opened on a Sunday. He constituted a three-judge bench and directed that all orders and actions initiated by the Prime Minister and President regarding the dissolution of the National Assembly will be subject to the court’s order.

They include National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s order, followed by President Arif Alvi’s ‘approval’ of the Prime Minister’s ‘advice’ to dissolve the legislature. The entire process is now open to legal and constitutional scrutiny.

The court took note of the Opposition complaint and a petition of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and gave notice to the government officials concerned.

The apex court had earlier returned to the government a presidential reference on the powers of an elected lawmaker to vote against his/her party. Although it did not say so, it was a clear misreading of the relevant provision by the government meant to brow-beat dissident lawmakers.

To deal with this full-blown constitutional crisis, the apex court has constituted a full bench. While it is too early to comprehend the legal and constitutional complexities, with this turn of events, a veritable debate has been opened that would impact, for now and for the foreseeable future, Pakistan’s polity.

There will be no government worth the name. Its actions, aimed at winning the next election, whenever it takes place, will place various state institutions under pressure to act in a partisan manner and only add to the political turmoil.

At the centre of it is a renowned cricketer of yore who entered politics to remove corruption and give the country “Naya Pakistan.” The man who promised to “play till the last ball,” tried to run away with the ball when the parliamentary match was not going his way. His hubris has done in, not just him, but also the country.

There are many reasons Khan cannot return to power. For one, he has annoyed and embarrassed the all-powerful army, his mentor and benefactor that put him up as a proxy. He has named the top brass which, having tired of him, sought to caution him, but failed.

It has brought no credit to Pakistan’s only organised institution, called ‘Establishment’ by Khan and anyone who wants to use an honorific, leaving it vague, yet obvious. The army, by its silent neutrality, has indicated its regret at having installed him in the first place as its proxy – Ladla in the local lexicon that means a favourite.

ALSO READ: Imran – Between Hardliners And A Hard Place

This crisis is as much a lesson for this elephant in the room, but to no avail. Pakistan seems destined to be ruled, remote-controlled by the men in khaki who use pliable politicians in colourful headgears. Together, they must stay on the right side of the conservatives and the clergy and appease the “state assets” among the militants.

So, to use a well-known phrase, Army and Allah are sought to be kept “on the same page.” But what about the third ‘A’?

By repeatedly alleging “foreign conspiracy” behind the no-confidence move against his government, and naming the United States, even the State Department official who allegedly conveyed a ‘threat’, Khan has deliberately kicked up a diplomatic row. He has played to the anti-American gallery, hoping to win votes in a future election. He has talked of being thwarted from pursuing an ‘independent’ foreign policy. In popular imagination, jingoism against the US, India and Israel, and ultra-nationalism tantamount to independent foreign policy.

The hard fact is that Pakistan’s feeble political elite, remote-controlled by the military, has pursued nuclear programme and more, but has failed to evolve political stability, set up institutional watchdogs and create a self-sustaining economic base to be able to run an independent foreign policy.

Annoying the US, Khan plans to fight another day, but that has not happened in Pakistan. Recall Benazir Bhutto’s failed attempts to get close to Washington. Neither the US, nor the Pakistan Army that retains tremendous goodwill among the US decision-makers – and benefits immensely – may want to touch him.

Whatever the Supreme Court’s verdict, elections are inevitable. But those that are ranged against Imran Khan today must await another Laadla. The next premier will be in a similar position as Khan found himself in, part of it his own making: high inflation, low prospects for sudden economic turnaround, and a complicated international political economy. The “iron brother” cannot be of much help in this.

That prime minister, and those that come in foreseeable future, will have to contend with the realities of an overpopulated, under-educated, poorly-led and a citizenry easily misled in the name of faith. All political parties need to learn that spouting speeches that begin with promises and end with petulance cannot suffice.

What is in it for India? Almost nothing till Pakistan’s elections are over. Much will depend upon the next prime minister and the elbow-room he/she enjoys with the army.

Nobody can afford to get friendly with India. Forget a civilian, even Musharraf’s downfall began with his controlling cross-border movement and resumption of trade, including films, with India.

The core foreign policy issues including India, Kashmir and Afghanistan, shall remain in the military’s domain. All Pakistani PMs have blown hot and cold with India, and this is destined to continue. A semblance of bilateral trade and cooling down of daily tensions would suffice.

But this suits India, too. Under Modi, it has decided to pursue a tit-for-tat policy. Although conscious that the army actually rules in Pakistan, India, like the western democracies, finds it convenient to respect the democratic fig-leaf and is averse to even open a dialogue with the Pakistani military brass.

On the hand, there are unlikely to be any candle-light vigils on the India-Pakistan border. India’s Left-Liberal sentiment of ‘strengthening’ Pakistan’s democracy itself needs viewing by candle light. It has retreated before an aggressive right-wing dominance where every Indian Muslim is a “Mian Musharraf”. This, too, is likely to continue – so for the time being forget “Aman Ki Asha.”

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

Pak Security Policy Charts A Laudable Course

Pakistan after 75-years of its existence has released its first ever National Security Policy (NSP), which it claims will ensure human security for the ordinary Pakistani masses.

A critical review of the recently released National Security Policy (NSP) of Pakistan by its National Security Advisor, Yusuf Moeed, reveals that it’s a document which contradicts itself through its various promises and their delivery mechanism. Further it also reveals that how the military-political combine in Pakistan has controlled so far and plans in the future too, how to control the distribution of resources in the country, consolidate its power over every aspect of the governance, every state organ and the civil society.

The unclassified part of the NSP spread over a 62-page document loftily talks about the parameters of the national security framework, enunciates its implementation strategy, outlines policy guidelines for bolstering national unity and securing the country’s economic future, besides ensuring its defence, territorial integrity, and internal security, guiding principles for foreign policy in the changing world and linking all this to the human security.

The NSP peppered with ostensibly altruistic claims, looks like a bunch of hollow words with no apparent practical roadmap for the future. The policy claims to have been a result of consensus with ‘all stakeholders’, but strangely enough, no defence or security expert, economist, social scientist and most all any parliamentarian has not been consulted on the issues handled by the NSP.

NSP has finally been formulated for the first time in 75 years, since the existence of Pakistan but without taking parliament into confidence. The policy formulators in a bid to undermine parliament’s role stated that policy formulation, especially the one pertaining to national security, is a prerogative of the executive branch in the entire democratic world.

Thought that might be the case. But in a parliamentary democracy there is a unwritten understanding that the executive branch will always be answerable to the parliament and that no policy, no law could be made without addressing the concerns of the various stakeholders in the government and above all the people’s will.

It is ensured by not only allowing the parliament to debate and discuss every aspect of the government’s decisions but also by including the gist of those discussions.

Further, one wonders how a new strategy could be formulated without delving into the past’s mistakes or misadventures, as has happened with Pakistan and its neighbours.

Perhaps for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a civil government has admitted that without ensuring economic security, “traditional security”, i.e. defence, is not possible. Though in reality the country’s impoverished economy has collapsed under the burden of the traditional military-security combine. The document seems to have provided only disjointed and abstract thoughts and views and fails to provide a clear connection between traditional security and human security and ways to implement it.

ALSO READ: Pak Army Can’t Be Confined To Barracks

Though human security is mentioned in the title of the document, yet it is mentioned only casually and superficially, and that too in the last chapter of the document.

NSP’s emphasis is undoubtedly on defence. And here too it reflects Pakistan’s obsession with its traditional rival and bemoans the imbalance between the two in the sphere of conventional weapons.

If the Pakistan government really wants to be seen as the one, which is committed to rebuilding the fragile economy of the country, then different contradictions and demands have to be set right first. Then all aspects of traditional security must be subjected to economic imperatives, which could warrant fruitful results for the economy and could flow directly to the masses.

In the current background of  ‘global village’ Pakistan should try for peaceful settlement of its disputes with all neighbours, in concurrence with mutually beneficial trade and investment policies, and building economic synergies to strengthen economic interdependence.

The NSP ignores the fact that all aspects of traditional security are linked to economic imperatives. This further requires resolution of  ‘core issues’ through negotiations – not a reiteration of the earlier strategy, which has not worked.

For ensuring economic security, every country requires to strengthen regional cooperation and economic partnerships, rather than regional conflicts. But, the NSP lists several geostrategic compulsions – which may not help it to consolidate economic potential at a regional scale.

To deliver human security for the country’s masses and ensure a sustainable and participatory development model Pakistan needs to rework the whole paradigm of its governance, only then it could talks about the priorities of human security to raise the quality of life of its masses.

Further, the Imran Khan government, if it has to deliver for the masses then first it will have to demolish the old military combine of the country, which has prospered at the cost of the masses, filling the pockets of its generals and political leaders in the name of pursuing a defensive policy against its neighbour. This goal seems insurmountable given the manner in which the Pakistan’s political and military have supplemented and complemented each other over the years and they are in a position to destroy every move against them, in the future too.

(Asad Mirza is a political commentator based in New Delhi. He writes on issues related to Muslims, education, geopolitics and interfaith)

Imran – Between Hardliners And A Hard Place

It used to be hockey once upon a time, it is now cricket. Winning a cricket match against India, after all the mutual war cries on the battlefield and cricket ground, has been the best thing to happen, in a long time, to Pakistan’s cricketing hero-turned-politician, Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A true Pathan, he may keep his handsome chin up. But he is currently besieged from all sides, and analysts at home and abroad have begun to say that he may not complete his term, now into its third year.

He has goofed his way through his first-ever stint in political power, changing ministers and special assistants to man his government with a record that can better that of Donald Trump. He gained office, albeit through an election, but essentially because the all-powerful army, decided to anoint him after being disillusioned with the two earlier options, the Pakistan Peoples’ party and the Pakistan Muslim League of three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

He has angered his benefactors, first by messing up governance. At this time last year, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) of opposition parties was, for the first time, attacking the armed forces and even mentioning the top brass by name at protest rallies. The movement frittered away this year because of their own competing ambitions and mutual contradictions. The military mainly, but Imran, at least partially, must get credit for this.

But the movement is back, when the military sees him as ‘interfering’ in its working. He has shown preference for Lt. Gen. Faiz Hameed, the Director General, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which is the most powerful wing of the powerful army. Hameed’s visiting Kabul, allegedly at Imran’s behest, and speaking to media, a tea mug in hand, has upset the Chief, Gen. Qaiser Javed Bajwa.

The talk in the Army GHQ, reports say, is that it is one thing to guide the whole strategy and operation that brought the Taliban back to power in Afghanistan, but it is quite another for the ISI chief, albeit a key man in it, to be seen as a peacemaker among the quarrelling Taliban helping them to form their interim government. Also, his alleged role in ensuring key posts in that government for the Haqqani family that runs a dreaded network of fighters that is proscribed by the United Nations, has upset the United States. Seething over the way it was made to evacuate from Afghanistan and looking for scapegoats, the US, holding all the aces at global financial bodies, could get bloody-minded and along with the Taliban, punish Pakistan as well.

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Getting funds from friends has been iffy. Saudi Arabia, which took back two billion it loaned last year, has just agreed to $3billion. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) wants to impose severe preconditions that Islamabad is loath to accept because of their adverse impact on the domestic front, last week sent back Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen without a pact.

Bajwa transferred Hameed out of the ISI, and had an official announcement made. After a huge public debate for three weeks, Imran has surrendered in this turf war with the army. The tussle shows him up as less trust-worthy by the men in khaki, also vulnerable to his political opponents, ready to pounce upon him. The PDM has revived, this time to protest rising prices of essential commodities.

Like the opposition parties, Imran has a tough time dealing with the Islamists. Some of them have joined the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP)’s “Long March” from Lahore to Islamabad. In a way, Imran is getting the dose of the same medicine he served his predecessor Nawaz Sharif, laying a siege that lasted several weeks and was called off, again, on a telephone call from the Army GHQs.

The TLP’s demands make scary reading for Imran and his government. Besides release of its chief who has been in and out of jail, it wants the government to expel the French envoy in Islamabad because of France’s action against its radical Muslims. The diplomatic fallout of any such action could impact Pakistan’s relations, with not just France, but the entire Western world that is fearful of rising militancy in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  

As the long marchers broke through security cordons last week, the government did the only thing it has been used to – talk with an organization it has banned, and release hundreds of marchers and their key leaders. It is readying to talk also to its own Taliban of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Although many Muslims across the globe are upset with what they perceive as Islamophobia of the West, only in Pakistan, perhaps, thousands take to the streets on this issue and some even die of police bullets.

To return to the Afghanistan developments, they give Pakistan a distinct geo-political advantage over all other stake holders. But Imran cannot rejoice at this victory that is so far proving to be Pyrrhic. The Islamists at home have become bolder and the TLP march is just one indicator. The Taliban rule has resolved nothing in Pakistan’s relations with Kabul, nor within Afghanistan. This has meant more refugees crossing over the Khyber Pass. Pakistan already hosts half-a-million, some for the last four decades. The socio-economic impact of all this is negative.

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The US wants to retain more than just a foot-hold in the region and is pressuring Islamabad to allow air operations facilities. Imran Khan has vociferously refused it, but may have to yield, angering the Taliban in Kabul who have warned of ‘consequences’. These are difficult choices and Imran Khan is no Churchill or De Gaulle.

Lastly, the India factor. In the last two decades, despite frequent upheavals, successive governments on both sides have brought phases of understanding and relative peace. But Narendra Modi believes in giving-it-back. He did pay a surprise visit to Lahore to attend a wedding in Nawaz Sharif’s family. But he has simply ignored Imran Khan, when not calling him “Mr Niazi”, an allusion to the general who surrendered to the Indian forces in Dhaka 50 years ago. Pakistan under Imran has become part of his party’s electoral arithmetic.

Khan has lost both ways. He wished for Modi’s success in the 2019 Indian elections, and when that happened, he has been attacking Modi and his government of ‘fascism’ and what not. His anti-India pitch has not worked even after Modi Government’s most provocative action against Pakistan, of dissolving the very entity of the disputed State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Facing all these woes, at home, abroad and with India, Imran Khan and his “men in green” deserve winning the cricket match.

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

Pakistan Army Can’t Be Confined To Barracks

Experiments in democracy interrupted by long periods of military-led rule have shaped Pakistan’s life. The difference in this winter of discontent is that for the first time, the military is being challenged. Ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, addressing protest rallies through video links from his London home, has named serving Army Chief, General Javed Bajwa and other top brass.

Voices of some opposition leaders are relatively muted. But when they call incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan a ‘puppet’, there is no hiding who the ‘puppeteer’ is. It is tough going for an institution used to playing the umpire among its proxies, selecting and discarding them by turns. Questioning it are yesterday’s political adversaries with deep ideological differences turned allies today. Worse, they include yesterday’s proxies – called laadla (favourite).

With five ‘jalsas’ (protest rallies) through October-November and three more lined up for December, the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) is gathering momentum.  Its Lahore rally slated for December 13 is Nawaz’s direct challenge to Imran. The battle in the most populous and powerful Punjab could bring both Khan and the army under greater pressure.

The cacophony is caustic. When protestors chant “Go, Niazi, Go” their target is as much Imran who rarely  uses this surname, but also refers to late A A K Niazi, who led the Pakistani forces in erstwhile East Pakistan to surrender to the Indian Army in 1971.  Unsurprisingly, Khan and his ministers accuse their opponents of taking cue from India.

Analysts say the Army has lost some of its image as the nation’s ‘saviour’.  But it has had a record of bouncing back and regaining control. It had done so after losing the erstwhile east-wing and again, after a mass movement brought Pervez Musharraf down.

Maulana Fazlur Rahman is the PDM’s surprise Convenor. Like most Islamists, he has remained on the right side of the military.  Then, the two mainstream parties, PPP and PML(Nawaz), are forever competing.

At the other end of the PDM’s spectrum are ‘nationalist’ leaders and parties of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, targeted as ‘secessionists’ by the military, irrespective of who holds the office in Islamabad.

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These diverse forces have combined thanks to Imran’s handling of the economy that is in dire stress, his failure to hold the prices of essential commodities and the rising Coronavirus pandemic.  Above all, he has been targeting just the entire opposition with a messianic zeal in the name of corruption. This has made various agencies and judiciary partisan and parliament redundant. 

Support from sections of the judiciary and an under-pressure-media has helped him. But like most people in power, Khan has forgotten that all this support is but transitional and the army’s support, transactional – till he delivers or shows the potential to deliver. He has shown neither so far.

The Peshawar and Multan rallies took place despite the government’s warnings of terrorist attack. Imran also sought to put the fear of Covid-19, like the fear of God, but crowds broke police barricades and milled at the venue. The Islamabad High Court this week refused to ban protest rallies saying it had set the standard operational procedures (SOPs) and now it was for the executive to decide.  

A glance at the military’s role in the country’s life that begun with General (later field marshal) Ayub Khan, shows that rule by the generals — Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf –has meant that with bureaucracy in toe, the politician was  demonized — with some justification — in the eyes of the public. They played favourites among the politicians, but at each end, were forced to return the country to elections and civilian rule.

All these generals headed the army and ruled directly or through pliable prime ministers. That script is old, but situation is new. Not formally in charge, the army has an alleged ‘proxy’ in Imran. During the rule by earlier ‘proxies’ of which Nawaz was certainly one, the military was not exposed to attacks like the ones at the four rallies.  It is unrelenting so far and the military has found no answer.

Nawaz accuses the generals of ousting him and engineering the 2018 election through which they ‘selected’ Khan. With his entire family targeted for graft and himself declared an ‘absconder’, he has little to lose. Islamabad is lobbying hard with London to secure Nawaz’s deportation. But the ‘sheriff’ is unlikely to relent.

Nawaz’s apparent aim is to cut off the top few generals from the lower tiers of the army establishment and thus drive a wedge between the military’s leadership and rank and file.

There is dissatisfaction among the top brass at Bajwa’s extension as the Chief that Khan worked out, upsetting the seniority line up. A media expose of graft involving retired general Asim Bajwa is attributed to an insider’s leak. He had to resign recently as Khan’s key Advisor, a ministerial post.  

The PDM has declared a change of government by January next. This is political rhetoric. But then, Pakistan has witnessed many changes triggered by mass movements.

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Post-Multan rally, coming weeks should see more detentions of the opposition leaders and curbs on media.  Alarm bells are ringing over this showdown that neither could decisively win. The Imran government is definitely stirred and on the back-foot, but is not shaken, yet. Professional groups like lawyers and media who had helped bring down Musharraf are keeping distance. The man on the street, used to shenanigans by politicians of all hues, is aware that at some stage, the military could intervene to ‘discipline’ everyone.

Fissures have surfaced within the PDM and within member-parties. Some want to play down the army’s role. While Nawaz and daughter Maryam are blasting the military, his jailed brother Shahbaaz has called for a “national dialogue.”

The situation could change with Punjab becoming as the main battleground. Imran could sacrifice his protégé, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, whom he has lambasted for failing to block the Multan rally.

If Buzdar is incompetent, critics say Imran is more so. But the fact is a government in Pakistan has never gone because it was incompetent – it went because army said enough-is-enough.

Analyst Zahid Hussain notes that the opposition’s anti-establishment drive has sparked a new political discourse across Pakistan. People are asking whether a new social contract is required to rebuild flagging public trust in the state’s institutions.

On the army-civil relationship, Ayesha Siddiqa, a political scientist and author of the book Military Inc tweeted right at the outset, on October 27: “Each party has an interlocutor with the military but for a meaningful change, PDM parties will have to start a dialogue with the army that can ensure a meaningful negotiation of power for the long run.

But short of that, things need to be done, by the political class, not the military. As Siddiqa says: “A social contract will have to be much wider. It will have to extend to smaller provinces but also religious and ethnic minorities. Pakistan has little chance to become secular but a healing hand will have to be extended to minorities or else it will remain exploitable.”

For the foreseeable future, any notion that the army will simply return to the barracks is naïve. At best, or worst — depending upon the reader’s preference — the ‘laadla’ may be changed.

The writer may be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.om

Will China Usurp Twin Sindhi Islands?

By Francesca Marino

Rome [Italy], October 14 (ANI): Days of demonstrations and protests all over Sindh are being held, led by leaders of the major political parties against the umpteenth nail on the coffin of democracy in Pakistan, to claim the right of the citizens of Sindh and to decide for themselves, according to the Constitution of the country and the international conventions.

The Government of Pakistan – Law, and Justice division has in fact established, with the ordinance XI OF 2020: “The Pakistan Island Development Authority”. Stating in the first lines: “Whereas it is expedient to establish an authority for the development and management of the Islands in the internal waters and territorial waters of Pakistan. And whereas the Senate and the National Assembly are not in session and the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action”.

Translation from the bureaucratic language: the ordinance has been emanated without a discussion in the Parliament and, in its 25 pages, it is clearly stated that can not be challenged into Pakistani Courts. Meaning, nobody, starting from the Parliament democratically elected, can challenge the law. To chair the authority will be appointed, as stated by the ordinance, a bureaucrat, a businessman or “a retired officer of the armed forces not below the rank of a lieutenant general” and the authority will be exempted for ten years from paying income taxes.

According to the Pakistan press, the move of the government has been discussed only with the Army and with a couple of businessmen close to it. The ordinance has been emanated, it is clear to everybody, expressly to change the status of the islands located on the coasts of Sindh: in particular to take under the Central government’s control the twin islands of Bhundar (or Bundal) and Dingi. The Army baked Imran Khan’s government is in fact, in a big hurry and without informing the Parliament, trying to ‘develop’ the islands. Pity is that, according to the Pakistani Constitution, the Federal government has no authority to establish projects or mega projects or to build cities on the Sindh’s islands without the approval of the Sindhi government.

Besides this, the government move goes against a number of international conventions, like the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that clearly state the rights to economic, cultural and social sovereignty of indigenous people and their right to be informed and to ask their consent before starting on their land any kind of project. Not only the government of Sindh has not been consulted or made aware of the move, but the projects, according to locals, are covered under a thick blanket of secrecy.

According to sources and to the voices of Sindhi, there’s China behind the move of the government, and China wants to develop the twin islands on the model of Hong Kong. The deal is apparently been finalised during the last meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chines President Xi Jinping, along with another deal regarding the Diamer Basha Dam which is now fully part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project even though the people of Sindh have already expressly denied their consent to the project.

Beijing, maintain locals and activists that fear the islands have already been sold to China, not satisfied with the invasion of Balochistan and the exploitation of its resources and of the rights of the citizens, wants now to explore new opportunities for human rights violations and destruction of the environment in Sindh. The coastal area of the region is in fact one of the largest mangrove areas and the seventh-largest delta of the world. ‘Developing’ the area, it has already happened in Balochistan, means destroy the ecosystem and deprive almost a million fishermen of their livelihood. Destroying mangroves barriers will make the coast vulnerable to tsunamis and cyclones.

Sindhis fear also the demographic change: has been calculated in fact that in Balochistan, already ‘developed’ by the Chinese with the help of the Army against the will of its citizens, will be in a couple of years a minority in their own country. Because of this, and because of the now usual treatment of citizens by the central government, a treatment based on torture, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and so on, not so long ago has been jointly launched by Sindhi and Baloch abroad a proposal to form governments in exile. Sindudesh and Mohajir leaders decided in fact to join hands and Altaf Hussain for the first time demanded complete freedom for Sindh.

The Pakistani generals, the rulers of the country, should think twice before going on with their dictatorship (not so much) in disguise. Baloch and Sindh leaders are calling for unity of the struggle against Islamabad, asking also Pashtun to join them. The usual strategy, labeling protesters as ‘foreign agents’ and ‘traitors’ will not work anymore. If a majority of the citizens in a country are made of traitors and foreign agents, the government, besides the funny declaration made by Imran Khan who states ‘I am democracy’, has a big problem.

(The views expressed are strictly those of the author) (ANI)

Indo-Pak Spat Will Sadly Be Milked For Political Gains

In the recent past, particularly the couple of days when tension was at its height between India and Pakistan, if you read only the media publications of those two countries you could have been a victim of schizophrenia, or of extreme bipolar disorder.

The claims and counter-claims about the airborne dogfights, the targets that were allegedly bombed, and the counter-attacks that followed, were so diametrically opposite each other that, if you were an unbiased observer, they would have left you perplexed.

India claimed that its air force had killed hundreds of terrorists believed to be behind mid-February’s suicide bombing in Kashmir in which scores of Indian security personnel died. Pakistan countered by saying its fighter planes had chased away the Indian aircraft and the only damage done was to woods and trees in a deserted area where there were no terrorist camps.

Then when Pakistan shot down an Indian aircraft and captured the pilot and tension began to escalate, the posturing of both sides changed. Pakistan took the high moral ground with its Prime Minister, Mr Imran Khan, offering to have a dialogue with India and releasing the pilot unconditionally. India, on its part, saw this as a huge victory and a cowering down by Pakistan. Meanwhile, a sort of proxy war seemed to be on in both, the social media as well as mainstream media publications, between the two countries. Nationalistic fervour was (and, perhaps, still is) at a peak, and shrill, hawkish screams abounded.

A war between two nuclear-weapon nations is least desirable, and the de-escalation of tensions after the release of the Indian pilot is welcome. Also, it is unlikely that India has, as it claims, decimated a huge terrorist camp in Pakistan. Yet, the problem remains: Kashmir continues, as it has been since Independence in 1947, to be a matter of serious dispute between the two neighbours; and Pakistan clearly is a haven for terror groups, including the dreaded Jaish-e-Mohammed, which repeatedly and regularly attacks and fans violence in the Kashmir Valley where Indian security forces have long maintained a near-military rule. If the recent face-off leads to a saner discussion between the two countries, particularly on the Kashmir issue, it could be a good beginning.

But does India want such a dialogue right now? As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its allies, head towards national elections, keeping the tension simmering between the two neighbours could actually help them. On 28 February while addressing a gathering of scientists in Delhi, Mr Modi remarked that that a “pilot project”, which was a “practice” just got over, and that the “real project” was yet to happen. It is easy to label Mr Modi’s comments as opportunistic in the context of the coming elections. History across the world shows that incumbent governments often benefit electorally when they demonstrate decisiveness or strength when tensions with an “enemy” state surface.

Yet, it would serve Indians well to remember the genesis of the current face-off: it began when terrorists from across the border launched a suicide attack that killed at least 40 Indian security personnel. That is the crux of the problem. The war against terrorists, who are ostensibly camped in, and perhaps encouraged by, Pakistan has to be a continuous effort that India cannot afford to relent on. But the electoral advantages that Mr Modi and his party might be able to reap from the current skirmish are real. We can expect his election campaign to keep referring to these: the threat of terrorism from Pakistani territory; the pilot (Wing Commander Abhinandan) who is now a hero in India; and a resolve to launch the not-so-cryptic “real project” that Mr Modi mentioned.

There is another disturbing aspect in the current scenario. India’s as well as Pakistan’s media, particularly the mainstream newspapers and TV news channels, have commonly fallen prey to jingoism whenever a conflict with Pakistan arises. You may want to call it healthy nationalism, perhaps. But in today’s scenario where social media plays a huge role in shaping people’s perceptions in both, India and Pakistan, this could have serious consequences. Fake news, doctored videos, and inflammatory comments, are being traded in a free-for-all manner. Many believe that these could heighten the tensions between the two nuclear weapon nations despite the de-escalation that followed the Indian pilot’s release.

The cynical viewpoint is that the ruling regime’s spin doctors could be leveraging all of this to help them in the coming elections. Signs of that, viz. Mr Modi’s and his colleagues’ recent statements, are already visible. Mr Modi came to power with an overwhelming electoral victory in 2014 but on the back of promises that now seem tall. He promised development, progress, and better days for Indians who placed their faith in him, but five years later, at the end of his term, much of those promises remain unfulfilled and the initial euphoria after he came to power turned out to be ephemeral. And, despite their bluster, the BJP and its allies have little to tom-tom about their achievements. In that context, the skirmish with Pakistan could be like a shot in the arm, providing campaigning fodder that could touch the hearts of many Indians.

On the other side too, Prime Minister Khan has been quick to grasp an opportunity to position himself as a mature statesman. His publicly stated willingness for a dialogue with India and the prompt release of the Indian pilot is likely to boost his popularity among his fellow countrymen. Last summer, his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) came to power when it won the largest number of seats in the national assembly but it didn’t manage to get a majority on its own. There were also widespread allegations about rigging by the PTI. Besides, in Pakistan, a hawkish military exerts overwhelming pressure and influence over political regimes and is commonly believed to encourage separatists and terror groups that operate in Kashmir. Yet, Mr Khan too has to resolve to fight the terrorism that breeds in his nation’s territory. A statesman-like image, which he has tried to create for himself recently, wouldn’t hurt.

Hyper-ventilating TV news anchors, and internet and social media trolls in both nations notwithstanding, the crucial need of the hour is not to fan tensions between Pakistan and India but to try and fix ways in which the long-standing dispute over Kashmir and the violent terrorism it has bred can be resolved. For that to happen the leaders of the two nations have to set aside their immediate political interests and agree to move towards non-violent and non-aggressive solutions. Will that happen? Or is it merely wishful thinking?

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