INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

July 26, 2013

CONFLICT OF ETHNIC VULNERABILITY

Though I have refrained writing on the subject for long, recent activity on the status of Durand Line, Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) sanctuaries in Afghanistan, nationalist card being played by Hamid Karzai and the melting pot that is Khyber Paktunkhwa (KPK) warrants, that the nation must be appraised of the vulnerabilities and challenges therein. Having failed to nibble into Pakistan’s integrity through the Baloch separatists, strategists have now turned their eyes on the North Western areas of Pakistan. To support their hypotheses, they have revisited 500 years history of the area; linked it to the pre dominantly Pashtun resistance on both sides of Durand line, internal instability and the aspirations of the people of KPK for a meaningful change through MMA, ANP and now Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI). The bottom line is that they want PEACE.

As mentioned in Voila! Federation of 30 July 2013, “The biggest responsibility and burden to give hope and doorstep delivery to the people lies on the shoulders of PTI supported by the Federal Government. Imran Khan has no choice but to become a proactive leader of the people and the singular rallying point for nationalism”. It remains to be seen if the PTI government in KPK realises the urgency of its mission and how the federal government of PMLN supports it in this endeavour. KPK is surrounded from three sides by the lawless tribal areas and cannot be considered as a governing unit in isolation. The federal and provincial governments have no option but to formulate a policy in concert with the defence and intelligence establishment to ward off this sub nationalist card being played by state/non-state actors and some educated classes of KPK in re-evaluating the logic of the NWFP referendum versus Bacha Khan’s concept of Pathanistan.

Absence of an inviolable international border along AFPAK lends credence to this threat. The essay in no way challenges the patriotism of the majority of Pathans living in KPK and FATA. Rather it seeks to expose the nefarious designs of a few, supported by actors who wish to even out with Pakistan. Some believe that such an event could trigger a domino effect and in due course disintegrate Pakistan. For the past 16 years, both as an analyst and military planner, I have been terming this as the Romantic Notion of a Greater Pathanistan to the chagrin of many who having played their destructive cards agree. I concur with Helal Pasha that, “The current Pak-Afghan relations are perpetuation of historical clashes that surfaced from the battles that Raja Ranjit Singh’s armies fought in 1837. The roots of the dispute emerged in 1837, rather than 1947”. According to Yasser Latif Hamdani, a modern historian that 1947 was a new beginning of the Great Game with Ghandi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan) and Jamiat-e-Ulema-Hind at one end and Qaid E Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the other tugging the rope to claim NWFP and tribal areas. The Afghan Government had laid claim to FATA and NWFP since 1944.

In April 1947, Giles Squire of the British Legation in Kabul gave some credence to the Afghan claim by suggesting that the tribesmen in the area could be given an independent status. Later, J B Kripalani of the Congress Party asked Lord Mountbatten that an option for independence should also be incorporated as part of the referendum for the people of NWFP. He was supported by Gandhi. As the commotion grew, Sir Olaf Caroe reported that, “I am unaware of reactions … to this Afghan incursion into Frontier Affairs… there is reason to conclude that this move was to some extent inspired by Frontier Congress leaders with certain Afghan elements and considered when Abdul Ghaffar Khan visited Kabul for Qashan (USSR) last summer… fact that Gandhi is wedded to Pathanistan idea will make it difficult at present juncture to approach this issue objectively”. According to Hamdani, “If Olaf Caroe’s telegram is to be taken on face value; it was the beginning of the new great game in Afghanistan, by none other than the Abdul Ghaffar Bacha Khan himself”. Who was he playing for?

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto a keen student of history, nearly succeeded in getting the Durand Line recognised but was toppled and executed by a military dictator who did not share his nationalist passion. Like successive Afghan regimes, this is the fire that Hamid Karzai’s team ably supported by the Indian Great Game, states/non-state actors, and elements in Pakistan are trying to reignite. There is no doubt that propensity of Pakistan to use proxies has been destructive and returns to haunt. According to Khalid Aziz, Pakistan for a long time has pursued a hermit policy that sometimes benefits and sometimes hurts others. Benazir Bhutto’s quest to bring an end to it in 1996 resulted in her ouster and overdose of the same pill. Pakistan’s obsession with this single focal policy is oblivious to realities of internal and international stability.

From the above, it can be concluded that neither a permanent Durand Line, nor removing the spectre of a greater Pathanistan is in the interest of international actors as long as Pakistan continues to disrupt their interests in favour of its own. But there is a silver lining.

As mentioned in Firewalls to Peace of 13 July 2013 and The Doha Initiative of 22 June 2013, stability of Pakistan’s North Western regions is linked to the progress of negotiations in Afghanistan and Afghan Taliban. In case they agree to a power sharing formula and elections in 2014, a degree of stability in Afghanistan will isolate the TTP forcing them to negotiate amicable terms of surrender. If not, there is likelihood that the two would merge in the real term of AFPAK and take Pakistan to the next level of instability and anarchy. Hamid Karzai supported by Indians holds the TTP and Swat Terrorists up his sleeve to exploit this.

Given such a volatile post USA withdrawal scenario and an internally divisive political dispensation, the wisdom of rigging elections 2013 becomes all too apparent.  It is foolhardy to expect and ensure the failure of PTI in KPK as its permanent death.  Imran Khan and PTI will fight its battle to the end. If he loses, Pakistan also loses. It is wise and statesmanlike of Imran Khan to ask the Chief of Army Staff to brief him and the Prime Minister on top secret diplomacy briefs and counter terrorism policies before they together formulate a realistic and productive counter terrorism policy. He realises the security challenges to Pakistan and will refuse to become part of a pliant regime that risks walking the 1970-71 edge once again.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

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July 20, 2013

VOILA! FEDERATION

Succesive Pakistani Regimes from Pre Partition to date have a propensity to abandon its people like rubbish. Prof Ghulam Azam of JI to Pakistani Biharis & Bengalis, to people of FATA, KPK, Balochistan and Karachi, the story goes on and on. In contrast we imported over 30 million Afghans, Islamic Militants and people of every description to satisfy the imperial needs of the West. Time is running short. 

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 As young cadets at Pakistan Military Academy we learnt that ‘History is a record of omissions and commissions for the posterity to take lessons from’. Our history lecturer Major Farid with tears running down his eyes made many passionate statements for Pakistanis who sacrificed everything for the creation of Pakistan and rot in India and Bangladesh. ‘A nation that abandons its citizens shall deplete its nationalism and ultimately be hounded by forces of secession’. Then he would go on to say that all Biharis and pro Pakistan Bengalis must be repatriated to West Pakistan. He insisted that this symbolism was crucial to avert a crisis of federation in the future. ‘Just like a shepherd who never abandons his sheep, a nation must never abandon its citizens’. Pakistan has repeatedly done this.

This was 1972 and we were the first group of gentlemen cadets who had volunteered to join the army after the tragedy of 1971. We had that temperate will, the vigour of emotions and that sentiment to avenge. Pakistan had been cut to half, 93,000 prisoners were in Indian jails and pro Pakistani groups in Bangla Desh being hounded and massacred each day. Efforts into their repatriation remained lukewarm and were finally abandoned after a high court ruling in Pakistan stating ‘Love, affection, and relation are not grounds for granting citizenship’. The reconstruction of a Pakistan of our dreams faded away and was replaced by one bidding for others. A generation of our cadre is now nearly lost.

If this not, what makes a loyal citizen, and what made the Idea of Pakistan and the Two Nation Theory attractive? Pakistan has not only repeatedly abandoned its citizens, but also displays an endemic lack of moral courage and ownership of its founding convictions. It has repeatedly failed to speak up for rights under laws of Pakistan till creation of Bangladesh at international and bilateral forums.  The conviction of Professor Ghulam Azam, the Amir of Jamaat e Islami (Bangla Desh) East Pakistan, a staunch supporter of the federation and reunification reminds us of the expedient nature of Pakistan’s politics, propensity to abandon its flock and accept incompetence led failures as fait accompli.

The rise of MQM from its ethnic roots did not help either. Proliferation of weapons and violence in Karachi dampened any motivation that some elements in Pakistan had for accepting these stateless people. They rot in the slums of Bangladesh hoisting Pakistan’s flag every year on 14 August, while groups in Pakistan take down and desecrate the national flag each day.

This is a paradox. All India Muslim League established for the rights of Muslim minorities in Hindu dominated areas ultimately accepted a partition plan on the basis of Muslim majority areas. In the eagerness to carve a new Muslim State (states), the future of these deprived people was ignored. As the future of the British colony changed to dominions, these hapless were abandoned to a dangerous migration resulting in the worst genocide of its time. 1971 and events thereafter affirm the perpetual disconnect between the state and people. Post 1971, Pakistan became home to diverse strains of militancy in the name of Islamic Jihad fuelled by western money and Arab Oil. As these vicious leftovers and their converts eat into the state, Pakistan’s own are abandoned to exploitative forces.

Pakistan’s North Western Regions renamed Khyber Paktunkhwa and FATA are the worst affected by militancy. Soviet occupation of Afghanistan opened doors to religiously led militancy that transcended international borders. In order to secure bases, sanctuaries and supply lines, the writ of the Tribal Maliks and political agents was gradually surrendered to militant groups, mullahs and intelligence agencies. Post 9/11, when an opportunity to eliminate these groups arose, there remained no supporting system. Rather, policies hidden in top secret dossiers resulted in the proliferation of violence in entire KPK and Pakistan.

Pakistanis from FATA and many parts of KPK have become refugees in their own country. When Pakistani establishment talks of a pervious Durand Line, President Obama’s AFPAK sounds an ironic synonym.  Over 30 years of violence in the region, influx of Afghan refugees and creation of Pakistani refugees has widened psychological scars in a region historically exposed to crosscurrents of invasions. I dread if recent events become a continuation of Pashtun folklore. Feeling betrayed and deprived, educated classes have already started re-evaluating the logic of the NWFP referendum versus Bacha Khan’s concept of Pathanistan.  As mentioned in my articles of the past, these are ripe grounds for a romantic notion of Pashtunistan to breed.

As political parties begin the evaluation of the counter terrorism policy, it is mandatory they pay due attention to these scars to renew nation building. The biggest responsibility and burden to give hope and doorstep delivery to the people lies on the shoulders of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf supported by the Federal Government. Imran Khan has no choice but to become a proactive leader of the people and the singular rallying point for nationalism. Internal reforms within PTI are crucial to its credibility, positive impetus and integrity of the state. The Federal Government has no option but to enforce complimentary policies in FATA as a single cohesive and integrated issue of good governance and reforms. Any disconnect implies a serious crises of federation.

Balochistan crisis cannot be resolved by Punjab centric thinking. It joined Pakistan for reasons different to Pakistan Movement. The Federal and Provincial governments have to revisit these instruments of accession and address the promises made with the people of FATA, Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Swat, Chitral and Balochistan. Neutralisation of Tribal Maliks of FATA fresh in our minds, side-lining Baloch Sardars from provincial and national politics will be a non-condonable blunder. Socio-economic conditions in this potentially rich but economically deprived region have not reached a crescendo for urbanised devolution. It needs a hybrid of tribal culture and modernity more so because of long distances, wide expanses, under development, non-sustainable housing units and institutionalised corruption.

Karachi in the past forty years has become a melting pot of cultures, violence, crime, militancy and opportunities. Amazingly, it also accommodates a sizable population of legalised and illegal Bengalis in contrast to Pakistanis living in ghettos of Bangladesh. Every street and ghetto reflects the diversity of Pakistan; good and bad. Karachi needs a counter terrorism, counter violence and Law & Order plan of its own supported by affirmative political action.

The next five years for the present government in Pakistan are crucial.  If the diversity within PMLN, PPPP, PTI, MQM and smaller parties combine to become strength, imaginative and forceful steps can be taken to strengthen the federation. If they resort to the traditional, the lack of actions on the issues discussed in this article will lead to serious crises of the federation. Given the circumstances, they have no other option.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/20-Jul-2013/voila-federation

July 13, 2013

AFGHANISTAN: FIREWALLS TO PEACE

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Diplomacy over Afghanistan is like a can of water with too many holes. You plug one and another opens. As the dates of US withdrawal draw near and as President Karzai’s second and last tenure draws to a close, the flux generated by competing interests intensifies. And so it has remained throughout history be it the Imperial Russia, Great Britain, Soviet Union and now USA. According to Helal Pasha, the dynamics of this Great Game date back to 1837. Pakistan became the inheritor to East India Company, the British Raj, and the Punjab of Raja Ranjit Singh in 1947.

In the article ‘The Doha Initiative’, a mention was made of the many firewalls that could disrupt the process for a negotiated US retrograde from Afghanistan. As predicted, the flurry of diplomacy proved a miniscule tip of the proverbial iceberg. Afghan and Pakistani imbroglio loaded with competing and diverse interests, many years of confrontation, mistrust and historic predispositions has begun to surface openly. Within this divergence and brinkmanship are also anchored the interests of the larger actors who wish to retain their leverages through proxies much after all foreign forces have withdrawn from Afghanistan. Hence whatever happens also reflects the ferocity of competition below the water. The Government of Pakistan has an opportunity to thwart all this.

USA and other NATO countries have always maintained some level of contact with the Afghan Taliban as also other groups fighting inside Pakistan. The fact that Doha has been temporarily suspended indicates that many important and critical issues need to be settled between Pakistan, USA and other countries before uninterrupted diplomacy can shape itself into an agreeable document amongst the Afghan factions including President Karzai. The roving, English speaking Afghan emissary Mullah Tayyab Agha had remained in limelight meeting Pakistani, Saudi, Qatari, American and German officials as far back as 2008. Using negative leverage, President Karzai has managed to hedge his interests and those of his backers for the time being. Chatter emanating from the White House indicates that US options may yet not be exhausted. If true, the progress will move through the many ifs and buts at a snail’s pace, something President Obama does not wish. He has to make a realistic compromise somewhere.  

For Hamid Karzai and his backers including Indians, the event was tantamount to pulling the rug from under their feet. With his presidency in twilight, it was expected that he react aggressively to score favourable advantages. He has his supporters in TTP, US establishment, India and even within Pakistan.  For the past many years, his logistic support to TTP, sanctuaries in Afghanistan and holding Maulvi Faqir and Fazalullah in Afghan Jails are cards he will use to his advantage. The fact that TTP struck at Nanga Parbat base camp within days of Doha reminds Pakistanis that they live in a highly permeated and manipulated society. Through the TTP, he surely influences some Afghan Taliban groups who tend to look at negotiations with suspicion. There are already sceptics who hold a non-combative Syed Tayyab Ali Agha Populzai, a kinsman of President Karazai in contempt.  Most, through these proxies, he will attempt to turn the Pakistani unrest into an insurgency to keep alive the notion of a pre-1837 Pakhtunistan.

The TTP on its part is being counselled and advised effectively. The killing of Wali ur Rehman Mehsud by a US drone strike in the backdrop is meaningful. Of late, Wali had proposed a negotiated settlement of issues with the government of Pakistan through his contacts. Later, to garner support amongst Afghan Taliban groups, TTP spokesman Ehsanullah first issued anti Afghan statements and then was sacked for his irresponsible behaviour on the same count. This indicates fault lines within TTP that either side will exploit through deceit, cleverness and betrayal.

Karzai’s message to Pakistan is clear. ‘Like USA, Pakistan must persuade Afghan Taliban to talk to the Afghan government, or else be ready to pay the price’. The negotiations will go on while each side positions itself to play the maximalist card. Hence whenever the next round of diplomacy begins, many events would have taken place and many new holes perforated in the can, complicating the steps to a calibrated withdrawal.

Concluding the ‘Doha Initiative’, it was also commented that as winter approaches and conflict in Afghanistan hibernates in frigid weather, lawlessness in Balochistan and Karachi could peak to engage Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies on yet another internal front. Many feel that this along with Pakistan’s economic plight could restrict Pakistan’s options on the negotiating table.

With the investigations around the MQM Chief Altaf Hussain rapidly unfolding in London, the events in Karachi could shape for the worse. In case Altaf Hussain is charged by Scotland Yard, he would stand to lose his political grip over his middle class party letting loose factions of violence capable of bring Pakistan’s biggest port city to a standstill. Superimpose the presence of TTP militants, armed political groups and Baloch separatist to formulate an extremely dangerous hypothesis. A stage thereof will arise when the military would have to move lock, stock and barrel against urban militancy. The Ministries of Interior and Defence must start making contingency plans for a worst case scenario against militancy, as also keep exits open for a party that has already lost ground to PTI.

In this backdrop, political parties may not be in a position to immediately bring a negotiated end to militancy inside Pakistan. They need to completely grasp the situation, chronology of events in the correct perspective, be briefed by the military and then move to the next step. Prime Minister’s olive branch overtures to both India and President Karzai appear to be pre mature and in case of Afghanistan, a spanner in the on-going diplomacy. Realising the futility, the Prime Minister took the correct decision to be briefed by ISI and delay the All Parties Conference indefinitely.

The government is well advised that like security, economic viability of the region is also a sellable commodity. China, CARS, India, Iran and Afghanistan could be co-opted into this economic zone. To achieve this, the government will have to take the twin initiative of framing a unanimous National and a Counter Terrorism Policy. The initiative would strengthen Pakistan’s bargaining position on the negotiation table, assist economic revival and ensure national integrity.

 Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

 NOTE: Pashtoonistan is a notion that Afghanistan has always exploited against Pakistan since 1947. Therefore no settlement of the Durand Line

 

July 5, 2013

EGYPT: BALLOT AND BOOT

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The ouster of the first popularly elected Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi is a reminder that rootless democracy cannot survive in countries where praetorianism and patrimonialism override the patience to allow painstaking evolution of a democratic culture through gradations of chaos and anarchy. In countries with a praetorian and patrimonial past, it is ill advised to irritate the coterie that can vomit out coups. Countries in economic turmoil exercise little leverage in being independent and therefore are vulnerable to failure caused by stringed aids and grants, public outcries manipulated by the deep and outside actors. Multiple fronts in a nascent democracy never go unnoticed. Overzealous ambitious aides are most likely to become the Achilles Heels. In such nascent democracies what Caesar said to Mark Antony has good advice:

Let me have men about me that are fat,

Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.

Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.

He thinks too much.…

Such men as he be never at heart’s ease

Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,

And therefore are they very dangerous.

That Morsi survived without a democratic constitution and struggled to frame one is a contrasting study between romantic democrats and men on horseback. The least that Egypt’s power players could now do is to take a crash course on constitutionalism, democracy and pluralism to ensure that the dispensation they return is a step in right direction.

The Al-Sisi coup is masterminded and executed by a general commissioned long after Egypt severed military contacts with Soviet Union and one who was trained in Britain and United Sates of America. This déjà vu by a new generation of Egyptian officers trained by men like General Petraeus and the British Army belie professional grooming sans democratic nurturing. Though some may argue that the leadership thrown up by the coup is a reflection of the old Mubarik Guard, it actually symbolises the reiteration by the Egyptian Armed Forces that space for Islamists in the country’s political system is limited.

Morsi was an upstart in the Egyptian political system. He chose General Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi as his closest aide; one who would facilitate his power consolidation. Al-Sisi supported him in firing four top Egyptian generals. As reward, Al-Sisi rode rapidly through the ranks to become the Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. But this is where it ended. The patrimonial Cassius was live, ambitious, powerful and thinking.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the outcast of Egyptian politics has remained most organised and popular. To become a compromise president, Morsi morphed the movement into a more moderate Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and promised to accommodate all factions of society. Better organised than others, Morsi edged Ahmed Shafik his closest rival by 51.7%. He became President of a country that had neither a constitution nor a legislature to help him take the big democratic leap. He was convinced that the judicial constitutional court was undemocratic and anathema to democratic values.

Morsi’s ideology and attempts at framing a constitution enshrined in Islamic Law created a fault-line between him, the judiciary and the armed forces.  He created an interim hybrid of the Presidential and Parliamentary System to promote constitutionalism by reinstating the dissolved parliament that had a majority of FJP and other Islamist parties. Within months of assuming power and support from Al-Sissi, he fired Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the country’s armed forces, Sami Hafez Anan the Army Chief of Staff and two other high ranking officers. He announced that constitutional amendments framed by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would be annulled. In November 2012 he granted himself unlimited powers to legislate without judicial oversight (considered a leftover of Mubarik era). He declared that legislation of the constituent assembly was protected from judicial oversight. Morsi felt these steps were imperative to protect the democratic revolution.

Within this chaos, a relatively young General Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi rose through the ranks to become the Commander in Chief of the Egyptian armed forces. The progressive, liberal, secular and leftist political parties were apprehensive that Morsi was manoeuvring to place himself as an Islamist autocrat. There was also subdued criticism of Al-Sisi as Mori’s accomplice. Recession provided environments for resentment. Though Morsi withdrew some of his decrees, the opposition walked out of the assembly and brought crowds on the streets. Riding the wave of public sentiments, support of diverse groups and the opposition, the Deep State has taken democracy to the operation theatre for surgical procedures by butchers.

In international politics, Morsi moved cautiously to emerge as an Afro-Arab leader. He seemed willing, calibrated and cautiously poised to take the high moral and democratic pedestal. He showed no haste in the Arab Summit to join the pro-US Arab states in condemnation of Syria, something that irked Saudi Arabia. He used a different perspective at the NAM forum to reiterate his commitment to democracy and condemnation of the oppressive Syrian regime. He reasserted that Egypt was more willing to work with functional and representative Muslim democracies than states that are autocratic. He declared that the Arab Springs belonged to the people, a veiled declaimer to interference by other states in Syria and West Asia. He was the first Egyptian Head of State to visit Iran since 1979, met the supreme spiritual leader and visited an Iranian nuclear facility at Bushehr. In Pakistan, he was treated like a celebrity and conferred a doctorate.

But there was a dark side being flashed out through the media. His candid remarks were often quoted out of context that made him appear anti-secularism, anti-Israel, anti-coptic and a Jihadist. With economic pressure building and no support from IMF, USA and Saudi Arabia he leaned towards the Chinese and their growing influence in Africa. This straw broke the camel’s back.

Like Gul and Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Muslims world over expected Morsi to rise to the challenge and create a model plural Islamic regime as a counterweight to western liberalism and secularism. While Turkey’s protestors have retreated, Morsi’s house was a deck of cards with no foundations to withstand pressures. The wind blew him away, at least for the time being.

Commenting on Morsi, M.K. Bhadrakumar wrote ‘the Arab Spring has borne a strange fruit in Egypt – a pure breed, unlike the hybrids in Tunisia, Libya or Yemen’. In times of genetic engineering, pure breeds do not have a chance. The coup provides FJP the needed martyrdom of those who fell for democratic values. The strengthened party will fight back for a democratic cause with intense vigour.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

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