INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

June 22, 2015

METRO TO INSTABILITY

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:58 am

metro

The recent photo of the Prime Minister with the military on the right and civilians on left says it all. At the highest level, the civil-military establishment stands divided. Political will to back counterterrorism is lacking.

This is Pakistan’s unending phase of armed conflict against violence sans consensus; avoidable but inevitable; dangerous but deliberate. Confronting this menace are the armed forces (include civil armed forces) taking orders directly from military and civilian law enforcement agencies operating under a political control. Clearly, the two are divergent with different motivations. The people of Pakistan are at the receiving end.

As the rift widens and cracks deepen, futility of a twenty point National Action Plan as substitute for a Comprehensive National Counter Terrorism Policy is evident. The irrelevancy reflects that military and civilian establishment began on different coordinates from the go. Now, they have turned their backs to each other gazing in different directions. The political stratagems have moved beyond the edge while the military looks reluctantly towards the abyss. Both PMLN and PPP know that in international matrix, a military intervention could lead to irreversible destabilisation. Because the military is a reluctant coup maker, they are emboldened to stretch the military to a breaking point. By a strange notion, this will usher civilian supremacy. In the past Bhutto tried it at the cost of the country and his life. The present men are no Bhutto and ignore lessons of history.

Perhaps the military high command is also reflecting on the simplicity of its military plan and the change of commands in its structure. It has bitten more than it could chew. All military plans have limited objectives paving way for other instruments of policy to take effect and ensure victory. In prolonged counter terrorism, limiting incremental objectives assume more importance. The totalitarian notion that the spirit of Zarb e Azb would spread to rest of the country was a simplification. Entrenched political elites never bought the military idea and are hell-bent on undoing battle field success.

I had repeatedly warned that in the absence of a coherent policy, the entire exercise would be counterproductive. As a least measure, government and military should have deliberated in and gone for a pause to resettled IDPs. Concurrently they should have built national consensus for the next phase. But the motivations of each side were different. Military did not want to lose momentum especially when militants from FATA had melted into Karachi, South Punjab and Balochistan. PMLN and PPP were reluctant because it threatened to unsettle their priorities. This divergence provided a haven for hostile agencies.

A unified objective in Pakistan’s war against terrorism does not exist. I remained critical about the absence of a policy with political ownership. PPP and MQM feel irked about the singular focus on Karachi while no action is being taken against militant outfits in Punjab. Yet they are comfortable with the limbo. KPK adjoining FATA has to contend with millions of displaced people. KPK alleges it is not getting the required support from the centre. The process of resettlement of IDPS back to Waziristan has not begun due to absence of funding for resettlement, infrastructure development and compensations. A small group of foreign funded separatists operating in underdeveloped Balochistan has been augmented by concentration of hard-core militants from FATA making the settled Pashtun areas unstable. Proliferation of hostile intelligence agencies add a lethal amalgam, the government seems unwilling to handle. Had the government taken its responsibility to frame a policy to synergise the nation, events would have been different. In Islamabad, the immediate priority was the consolidation of rigged elections and winning strategy for 2018.

The military successes of Zarb e Azb in North Waziristan have run into multiple road blocks in settled areas. The cooperation by the people of Waziristan to voluntarily displace is leading to disillusion and despair. Due to lack of federal support and inability of the civilian administration to take over the cleared areas, this frustration could soon become a source of instability. From a high intensity and swift military operation Zarb e Azb extensions are synonymous to knee jerk actions in Karachi. The state and the media have made no efforts to delink the two. A perception is being framed that large scale military formations will soon come steaming into Karachi. This perception shifts the entire onus on the military and COAS thereby widening the civil-military gulf. Confronting terrorism and militancy in urban areas has entirely different characteristics. Large scale use of force is impossible, identification of targets that swim like fish in water difficult and civil military coordination crucial.  The reality that these operations are civilian led and use of military use is selective and precise is eclipsed.

Recent events highlight this disconnect. Zulfiqar Mirza makes a mockery of law by moving with large contingents of armed guards. Hooded squads of Sindh anti-terrorism police called Zardari Force beat journalists outside the courts. Following a boiling hot provincial apex committee meeting in Karachi, Sindh police swiftly arrested culprits of Safoora massacre purportedly belonging to a militant outfit morphing into Da’esh. To confuse matters and deepen the mystery, Rangers followed arrest of four MQM hitmen for alleged complicity in Safoora shooting. It is a very dangerous development if religious, sectarian and ethnic criminals have forged common grounds for survival.

This means that while the battle is being won on one front, the larger war has run into a barrier. The situation suits and complements hostile intelligence agencies and corrupt political elites. As long as their interests are secure, Pakistan can wait. Who cares?

On a conclusive note, the military is battle fatigued for twelve years. It is in intense combat for over a year. Combat battalions are being rotated for a third time. Military hardware is undergoing wear and tear. Replenishments are far and few. In a few months General Raheel Sharif will be into the retirement year. Then rumours to drive a wedge will be rife with names of his successor. This is the waiting game of political crocodiles.

Evidence of deliberate rigging in Punjab and Sindh the two main obstacles to counter terrorism is mounting. Implications of the verdict of Judicial Commission could swing either way. Meanwhile an incoherent WOT with spates of violence and misery would continue.

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

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

May 23, 2015

The Bull, Bear and the Dragon. CHALLENGES TO CPEC

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ChinaWhile travelling in Europe, I utilize the widespread rail structure that affords an opportunity to traverse the beautiful countryside once battle field of two world wars and unending conflicts within Europe. Post-Cold War, East and West, Allies and Axis have put bad memories behind to lay an infrastructure of communication networks through land air and water channels for a bigger Eurozone. In this northern front, the only unstable spot is Crimea Where Russian interests have clashed. While NATO expands eastwards a mini Cold War on Russian underbelly continues.  Its tentacles spread to Iran, Syria and Afghanistan to what I call the Triangle of Instability.

But the Southern Front dominated by Muslim countries comprising kingdoms and dictatorships is a stark contrast. North Africa & Middle East and parts of West, Central and South Asia reflect poor governance, proliferation of contending Islamic ideologies and social conflict ridden in primordialism. Central Asia and Western China (closer to Karachi than Yellow Sea in China) despite huge potential remain land locked. Iran’s isolation and instability in Afghanistan Have acted as barriers. Western interests want China confined to the APEC Arcand not open new highways they will have difficulty controlling.

The entire region is manipulated through military imperialism whereby USA, West and Russia extend their influence through provision of a security blanket to their allies. The lessons of 1973 oil embargo are rooted deep in memory. This policy of geostrategic dominance of the predominantly Muslim world is actually the Long War implying a new name of the old containment.Western interests warrant that despite large hydro carbon potential and incalculable resources, the region must remains pliant and dependent or else it runs the risk of a hole in the containment ring built arduously over seven decades. The game is played within a matrix of vulnerability and indispensability within the mindset of Muslim rulers that ensures isolation of the people from their governments keeping instability alive and dependence going. As an intended dividend, it precludes the overland accessibility of CARS to sea lanes that lie on Pakistan’s coastlines.

Thriving on both sides of the divide, India has quietly worked on its Chabahar Initiative to provide Europe and Central Asia an alternative, if and when Iran gets out of isolation.  It can then skirt into Afghanistan as leverage against Pakistan and China. Due to economic leverage, Pakistan notwithstanding, it can engage China to extend the route through multiple entry points on Pakistan’s border. In contrast Pak-Iran pipeline hangs in limbo due to US pressure and leverage of oil cartels.

Within this interplay of power politics, Pakistan is desperate for independent spaces with a displayed capability of ineptness. These spaces are far and few. Given the knee jerk arguments for CPEC, it is clear that the homework lacks detail and is overwhelmed with ambition. At the same time Pakistan has to tread the path with extreme caution and political maturity to demonstrate the socio-economic advantages to the region and avoid making it a strategic faux pas. Pakistan’s first priority should be to put its own house in order and become self-dependent. Having remained tied to the US for over six decades it is daunting. A go alone policy will invite more problems. Effects are visible.

The history of Pakistan’s rulers at compliance and willingness to ignore homegrown potential to please allies and corporate cartels is a poor reflection of national resilience that cannot be rebooted with a jerk. Given bad governance, how would it exclusively undertake the onerous task of building and controlling a corridor infrastructure for China? The question does not imply an opposition to the concept but begs the brass tacks and politics of completing this project.

China aims to reach out to a shared world. Logically, to make it happen must also be a shared responsibility. Theoretically, the entire Indian Ocean Rim and Middle East will benefit from this project. Oil,gas, raw materials and finished goods will move upstream complemented by downstream flow of value added goods to international markets. If Pakistan stands to benefit beyond the trickle down, following questions need an answer.

1.     In this world of transnationalism and globalization have other countries of the region been co opted to share some layers of this cake? Unless these layers are co opted, the project will remain vulnerable to domestic instability, international interference and compromises under compellence.

2.     Or has Pakistan made arrangements with international manufacturers at building its own capacity at value addition. It seems the government has hastily lumped every Chinese project into CPEC. No bids have been invited from international bidders to set up industrial parks and cities astride the corridor and its feeders. The roadmap of how Pakistanis will benefit from this project is vague.

3.     If Middle Eastern oil stands to benefit from this project, why are Arabs quietly opposing this project and fanning dissent in Balochistan?Why is Karachi becoming more violent? Has Pakistan taken major oil suppliers like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Iraq and Iran into confidence; orhas China persuaded prospective suppliers to become part of the project?

4.     Some studies also call CPEC an energy corridor for flow of Iranian oil and gas to China and production of over 10,400 megawatts of energy to the national grid of Pakistan. Will Pakistan’s closet ally Saudi Arabia and major donor like USA approve this?

The transit relegates development of Pakistan’s huge oil and gas resources and exploitation of lignite coal in Thar. If these two resources are developed, Pakistan’s own capability in oil, gas and refinement of lignite would suffice for its domestic needs and energy starved western China. Other than burnt out imported coal fired plants, what are the plans to develop indigenous resources. Following Questions need an answer.

1.     Why is Pakistan willing to act as a mere conduit and not a major stakeholder in the energy sector?

2.     Why is the project being made unnecessarily Punjab Centric. Are these Punjabi or Indian interests?

3.     Why is the ratio of Hydro Power in 10,000 megawatts solow?

4.     What is the economic and environmental impact of coal fired power plants?

5.     In order to speed work, why the subject of Lignite as a hydrocarbon is not being shifted from a provincial to a federal subject?

6.     Why the government of Sindh is wasting precious time in awarding contracts for lignite refineries to technically capable companies.And what is the entire drama over gasification about?

7.     In due course, if oil and gas fields of Balochistan will become major suppliers, why a route from Kohlu to KPK is being relegated.

In addition, influence of international cartels cannot be ignored. Super tankers from Middle East will become redundant. Traffic in Straits of Malacca will reduce. Chinese vessels instead of skirting through ASEAN will get an alternate and shorter route to offload containers for transit by land. The entire logistics of Pacific and Indian Oceans will change. Will USA permit this Great escape from the APEC ARC?

Both China and Pakistan need to co opt other stake holders in the project. A go alone policy is treading impossibilities. Pakistani politicians forever vulnerable to self-interests will most likely succumb. Thinking only up to 2018 elections is amateurish. The project warrants at least two decades of stability. Pakistan’s policy makers, sans foreign and defence ministers will have to look into the minutest details and find the right solutions.

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

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com       

http://nation.com.pk/columns/23-May-2015/challenges-to-cpec

May 18, 2015

FRICTION AND TERRORISM

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:37 am

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For an umpteenth time, Pakistan’s civil and military leadership huddled together in knee jerk reaction to an incident of terrorism in Karachi. The apex committee reasserted its resolve to fight back. But there was a glaring difference; The Prime Minister looked blank. The Interior Minister supposed to lead the way and provide political impetus was missing. At the lowest point General Raheel Sharif presided the provincial meeting attended by the under siege Sindh Governor and ineffective Chief Minister. Orders of suspending and removing officials were cancelled. ISPR followed with suggestive tweets exposing the incompetence of civil administration. Short of a Governor’s Rule or a limited Martial Law, this is all the military could do within the constitutional constraints.

The message this series of events convey is shameful. Counter terrorism operations in urban areas lack political support. Law enforcement agencies and armed forces cannot operate in absence of political direction and support. This dysfunction and disconnect place the people at the mercy of terrorists who swim like fish in water and strike at soft targets of choosing in a city long robbed of its cosmopolitan spirit.

Sargent Blake a US Vietnam veteran once commented, “Any plan that works to perfection must be relentlessly investigated”. In a simpleton’s logic he was accurate. All plans need reappraisal and reinforcement due to unforeseen impediments. In words of Clausewitz, danger, physical exertion, intelligence, and unforeseen coalesce into a medium that impedes activity and accumulates to produce friction. Friction is more profound in a social conflict like counter terrorism conducted in a societal context. In Pakistan, due to bad governance, proliferation of opposing ideologies and lack of political will, this friction is a super-retardant.

Friction was once thought to be a purely military problem. With technology and involvement of people it became part of the political domain. In Pakistan, as canvas of military operations shifts from conventional to counter terrorism, the absence of a political direction reverses military successes. Consequently, the people at the mercy of terrorists are disconnected from the fighting arms due to inherent limbo in the political dispensation that connects the two. Political rhetoric creates more schisms and permanent wounds. Conflicting narratives with self-serving objectives proliferate and implosion speeds up.

Why Pakistan’s political establishment is becoming a retard with an infertile mind is a billion dollar question with uncertain answers. An unsaid diatribe in simple moralistic and legalistic terms of absolute good and absolute evil between the rulers, opposition and armed forces refracts the intensity and objectiveness of counter terrorism operations. Below the surface lie misguided notions of power, a carte blanche for unchecked abuse of power with regressive internal and external support.  This friction is the moth eating the body as also making it vulnerable to terrorism.

Does the political establishment lack the ability of statecraft? Surely when delusions dictate objectives and rulers act as puppets to ambitions and strings, this is bound to happen. Statecraft is an exacting human activity full of distinctive moral dilemmas to discern objectively, avoid a wish list and take affirmative decisions within concrete realities. All great statesmen in history had the ability not to postpone, procrastinate, and waiver when faced by friction. Sir Winston Churchill’s leadership in WW II provided the resilience and moral surge in Battle of Britain. Mahathir Muhammad of Malaysia and Lee Kuan Lu of Singapore provided the moral edge to ride out the crises of Malaysian insurgency.

There are no doubts that Pakistan’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies are fighting the biggest counter terrorism operations in world history. The multi directional threats make this conflict nastier and challenging.  Yet these operations are deprived of political support. Expediencies, delusionary benefits and out of context notions of civilian supremacy run counter to the objectives. The operations will remain futile in a vacuum where terrorism shall grow.

Pakistan lacks a comprehensive policy towards counter terrorism. Given that Zarb e Azb could not be delayed, the reality is that it still lacks political sanctification. The military is starved of funding while displaced Pakistanis have become squatters. The promised funds to NACTA are withheld. In urban areas, the civilian administrations continue to drag feet. Local administrations are politicized. Karachi, the world’s third biggest city lacks basic governance. Due to diversity of violence it is a hot spot that could fast become a supernova. Doors to Balochistan will open and expanses west of Quetta-Karachi will become a mess.

The support or lack of it thereof, came in the form of a twenty point National Action Plan that flows from nowhere to nowhere. This checklist is not a comprehensive policy paper to execute the world’s biggest counter terrorism operation. Compare NAP for its nothingness to the US Homeland Security Policy for its detail. Blank spaces provide for indecision. Whatever sanction exists is being denuded through political inactivity and higher courts. Sentences of military courts are stayed by the Supreme Court. The interior minister shies away from important events. In the absence of a mechanism that creates synergy, the military has to repeatedly intervene to recreate the short lived balance, while the nation waits for the next tragedy.  It is tragic that a country fighting terrorism has no full time foreign and defence minister. The most important ministry of interior is captive to tantrums of a self-admiring narcissus.

So while Rome burns, the rulers play the flute. This flute is the CPEC blown out of proportion. It may make a case for reelections in 2018 but its fruits are illusionary. A corridor for transit of foreign goods is no development. To reap the harvest Pakistan must prepare to transit its own finished goods to China and Central Asia. The federal and provincial governments are displaying criminal neglect and complicity with international cartels in failing to exploit integral resources. Peshawar-Lahore-Faisalabad motorway is a case study where no industrial infrastructure development took place in fifteen years. Statecraft warrants subtle means of achieving geo strategic objectives.

Though foreign intervention is real, blowing it beyond proportions is leading to a mindset of denial that camouflages the internal accomplices. Counterterror operations are an expression of political directives. Their grammar may be punctuated with military precision but the logic remains political. It is high time the political parties in Pakistan take the ownership of this conflict and fight it the manner it warrants. Else dreams of EPEC, Metro and reelection will dwindle into the insignificance of a pipedream. 

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

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com       

May 10, 2015

PAKISTAN’S PROVERBIAL LIVING HELL

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:40 am

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Sartre’s drama ‘Huis Clos’ featured three conspiring/tormenting sinners, apparently dead and gone to hell. To their surprise hell is not a land of fire, brimstone, and devils, but an oddly furnished living room where they are subjected to eternal torment by each other. The only possible path to salvation is through struggle against their special tormentors. And that means there is truly no exit; they are stuck “for ever, and ever, and ever. The Council on Foreign Relations in NO EXIT FROM PAKISTAN relates this satire to US Pakistan relations but evades description of the many daemons ‘Neither Friend nor Foe’ relationship has fostered to add to complexities.

Though proverbial, it is possible for a hare to hunt with hounds. Politically, the term applies to power sharing amongst nations. The stronger get the lion’s share while the weaker end with crumbs. When smaller nations over reach or break the cordon they realise their futility in the game of hounds and wolves. Yet they howl and growl like French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit or Living Hell.

According to Hans Joachim Morgenthau “The statesman must think in terms of the national interest, conceived as power among other powers”. This power is an exclusive cake. You only get what is permitted and not what is desired. When small countries think they have canines, Alpha leaders growl them to submission. In this living hell, coercion and compellence are employed by stronger allies and enemies across the entire spectrum of policy. They ensure that any challenge collapses like a house of cards from external and internal attrition.

For most part of its history, Pakistan being the hare has toiled in the shadows to preserve and promote its interests. Yet Pakistan has achieved neither at a cost to its territorial integrity (East Pakistan, Sir Creek, parts of Kashmir, Siachin and Kargil) and sovereignty. It is now faces additional challenges raised by its fragmenting internal dynamics. India the arch rival has chosen the indirect approach. In a lethal mix, the gravest threat arises from the interplay of external with internal dynamics.

Pakistan’s economic vulnerabilities and dependence on allies of convenience curtail its economic potential. Simultaneously compellence forces it to sacrifice national goals and remain tied. The internal dynamics with international leverage keeps the pyre smouldering through terrorism, militancy, sectarianism and separatist movements. Unfortunately this interplay extends beyond hounds and wolves to more hares with canines promoting violence in name of religion and sectarianism. The turf is wide open for intelligence agencies of all countries.

Karachi, the port city of Pakistan is a metropolis where these dynamics are intertwined in gridlock of terrorism, violence, extortion, sectarianism and separatism.  This city, once the only port of undivided India and West Asia is reduced to nothingness in the past 60 years. Shipping lanes have since shifted to more stable and developed ports in Bombay and Persian Gulf. All international actors know that the potential juggernaut of Pakistan can eclipse the entire Arabian Sea rim. Leaving Karachi and other potential ports of Pakistan underdeveloped ensures security and development of competitors. The failure to exploit resources for potential and develop logistics keeps Pakistan dependent.

Such is the awe created by prospective development of Karachi, Port Qasim, Ormara, Gwadar and Suntser that Iran in cooperation with India developed Bandar Abbas and Chabahar to link it by roads and railway to Europe and Central Asia. Even countries like Oman and UAE stand to lose if Pakistan’s coastline becomes a beeline of international ports. Aforesaid, it needs no rocket science to link the instability and violence in Karachi and Balochistan. Each country of the region is supporting its own proxies for its objectives. Pakistan must remain a beggar.

But resilient Pakistanis keep trying. It is a big carcass acting dead poised to rise from its slumber with the right leadership at its helm. Pakistan has outlived 50 years predicted by Schuman. It has also outlived the ugly instability thesis of Rand Corporation or Council on Foreign Relation’s ‘Pakistan’s Road to Disintegration’ and now strives to contest Rand’s recent thesis on ‘Unfolding the Future of the Long War’.

The long War is all about maintaining and growing US Influence in the Muslim world. According to Rand, it is the confluence of three problems related to the ideologies espoused by key adversaries in the conflict, those related to the use of terrorism, and those related to governance. In order to shrink the swamp, Rand had theorised eight trajectories out of which Pakistan figures in the two most dangerous i.e. a Muslim nation going bad and sectarianism.

This sectarianism grows from ideologies and is not merely Shia-Sunni conflict. It is also the surge of Salafi-jihadist ideologies in Pakistan linked to terrorism.  The financial and moral support comes from Pakistan’s major allies in Middle East and Iran. According to this report, Pakistan faces the most hazards and could become the most dangerous country if taken over by a Jihadist regime. The recommendations of this study make a conflicting mix for Pakistan.

Ally with Sunni Middle Eastern countries and run the risk of one, Salafi Jihadism, two Iranian supported militancy, three separatist movements in Balochistan and finally a violent Karachi. Reject and starve. Surge of jihadist control in Pakistan justifies US pretext of disarming Pakistan of nukes as also the separation of Balochistan that cuts Pakistan to size and takes away its nukes. Both East and West have eyed Balochistan for a very long time and the obvious line drawn now runs from Quetta to Karachi. The plan is clear but complicated. Destroy Pakistan through attrition and rid it of its fangs. Chinese aided development challenges these scenarios.

It is not without reason that General Raheel Sharif on a visit to Balochistan gave a warning to intelligence agencies of all countries to get their hands off Pakistan. This was preceded by murder of workers near Turbat and violent engagements with law enforcement agencies.  Uzair Baloch of Layari Gang vanished from Middle East to his likely sanctuary in Iran. The countries that mattered understood Rahil’s threat.

The reaction was swift. Sabeen Ahmad who made the error of hosting Mama Qadeer was shot dead and a political party controlled from London erupted with anti-Pakistan army rhetoric. Brahumdagh Khan Bugti awoke from his comfortable villa in Europe to roar against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The entire geopolitics of containment and denying Eurasia access to shortest land routes to sea became the sore in the eye. To please other masters, the government of Pakistan wants to keep CPEC ambiguous. This also facilitates its ulterior designs.

Unfortunately it is not only MQM but also some other mainstream political parties that have joined the hounds and wolves. At one hand they yearn for Chinese economic prospects and at the other indulge in activities that counter weigh it. MQM, PPPP and sectarian parties share a common ground against operations in Karachi. The sudden rise of Zulfiqar Mirza or visits of Saudi clerics are not without reason. Whenever India and Iran wish to threaten Pakistan, they raise the Chabahar flag.

Within Pakistan, there are many willing to create holes in a purportedly sinking ship with the argument of civil supremacy over the armed forces. Unless they develop the governance paradigm indicated by RAND, this supremacy is an illusion. All political parties of Pakistan pursue this objective despite complete ignorance of statecraft while Rand warns that any military coup will disintegrate Pakistan. Cognisant, what does the army do?

General Raheel Sharif is meandering and wading through shark and alligator infested waters with scorpions riding his back. Time seems running out for him.

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

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://nation.com.pk/columns/09-May-2015/pakistan-s-living-hell

May 5, 2015

THE KILLING OF THOUGHT

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:10 am

Sabeen-Mahmud

My first encounter with Sabeen Mahmud was in her café at Defence Housing Authority Karachi. It was 2006 and my friend Roland D’Souza a civil rights activist known for his work with Shehri, a movement that works against illegal urban development insisted we visit her library cum café. A group of young musicians was there revealing their talents. Later, these talented youngsters became famous on Coke Studio. The entry into this urban café was heartening that brought back nostalgia and unknown fears. Sabeen was ushering winds of change in a Pakistani society deprived of intellectualism and performing arts.

It was reminiscent to my young days at Pakistan Tea House and YMCA Restaurant Lahore. Poets, writers, thinkers and progressives used to gather over a cup of tea and share ideas. Their ideas were mostly leftist and nipped in bud long ago by military dictators. The void was filled by the rightists. Though the venue and name remains, the PTH is no more. The spirit of enlightenment faded away. Through the 60s-80s, intellectual discourse in Lahore died forever. What remains is an insignificant self-promoting group missing from the streets. It also reminded me of the cafes in Paris where intellectual discourses led to enlightenment, renaissance and guillotine. Yet enlightenment and renaissance led to the explosion of knowledge, industrial revolution and advent of democracy. It was heartening to see Sabeen Mahmud reclaiming this intellectual space. For her, hope was not forlorn and she was leading the way in company of ordinary people with matchless temperate will.

Moving in Karachi in fear of TT pistols, such resurgence was a pleasant surprise. It was heartening that despite a multi-dimensional conflict, there were people working towards peace, liberation of thought, human rights, performing arts, book reading and evolution of a plural society. Knowing the bigotry and high handedness that engulfs our society, I had made a parting comment, ‘how long will Sabeen survive?’ My fear emanated from my father’s tragedy whose head was beaten to pulp for opposing Martial Law and who died in 1960. Despite being branded anti state, his children grew up to serve Pakistan with distinction. To me the argument of a patriot and traitor is always hollow. I knew the dangers Sabeen was flying into.

Her trial after her tragic death in some segments of media is disheartening.  Sabeen Mahmud on no counts was unpatriotic. She was a staunch Pakistani who believed in liberation of thought and discourse towards a peaceful society, a space ceded by the state to intolerance. Her vision was to transform Pakistan from a state imposed bigotry to a discourse towards an egalitarian society. Anyone without a gun was welcome at her floor that resonated with literature, poetry, discourses, debates and music. On the sides were neatly arranged books in shelves and reading tables. She was a pacifist.

Sabeen was no misguided liberal either. She was working towards revival of a culture that belonged to our society. Perhaps her educational years in Lahore, visits to YMCA and research had endeared her to the idea of a café exclusively for evolution of thought and performing arts. She was playing her role towards reviving a dream long abandoned. Her beat was familiar and dangers imminent. She was cognisant that dissent had moved beyond censorship to lead in copper. With her decision fatale, she has become la femme extraordinaire. Who killed her and for what motives are theories that would spin in whirlpools. But for sure, her motivation and dedication indicated she was not one funded by foreign NGOs, secessionist movements, anti-state elements and foreign agencies. Her most likely assassins are ones she challenged on a purely Pakistani turf.

Sabeen is not alone in this struggle. There were many before her put to axe of misguided notions.

Separation of East Pakistan was a foregone conclusion in 1906. Though Bengalis remained at the forefront of Pakistan movement, the core leadership of the Punjab centred League deprived them of equitable leadership. League’s main leadership neither grasped nor followed this basic premise of partition of Bengal in 1905 till it got a Punjab centric twist in 1030. Similarly, the Lahore Resolution of 1940 was moved by Abdul Kasem Fazlul Huq (Sher e Bengal), the chief minister of undivided Bengal. Yet after partition, the Sher e Bengal was dismissed from public office by the Governor-General of Pakistan on charges of inciting secession. In politics Pakistani style, heroes of yester too often become traitors of today.

Blacklisting Bengalis coincided with the suppression of progressive activists of Pakistan.  In our formative years, we were overfed with the notion that Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a traitor. Yet objective study of history reveals that he was a progressive patriotic Pakistani who played a key role in Kashmir’s war of independence. So was Manto was a pervert. Pakistan will become an egalitarian society only if it progress from Allama Iqbal to Faiz, Habib Jalib, Munir Niazi and Fraz. Yet each one of these was a sore in the eye of the establishment. Salman Taseer the son of Dr. Taseer who buried Alimuddin Ghazi was murdered in broad daylight because he stood for the legal rights of a woman accused of blasphemy. There are others like Iqbal Masih a young boy who spoke against child labour, Rashid Rehman, Parween Rahman and Shahbaz Bhatti who have been silenced for standing up for human dignity.

In my reckoning, Sabeen was luckier. She survived nine years that correspond to the time she took in broadening her thoughts and progressing to T2F. Her popularity put her into the cross hairs of assassins. Her murder was high profile, made international headlines, resulted in many conspiracy theories and adds to confusion. Detecting her murderers warrants tedious work. Most and least likely motives need to be investigated. Dynamics of internal strife and international cross currents cannot be ignored. Who benefits from this tragedy is a question that begs an answer.

One angle that investigators must probe is the statement by General Raheel Sharif on 16 April. He warned foreign intelligence agencies against trying to destabilise Pakistan by supporting terrorists in Balochistan and wowed to hit back. Perhaps someone decided to retaliate during the historic visit of the Chinese President on the pretext of Unsilencing Balochistan.

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

Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

THE FULTILITY/OBJECTIVITY OF JUDICIAL COMMISSION

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:05 am

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Back Ground

Though most political parties distanced themselves from 126 day Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf sit in outside the policy, they have exposed the immorality of their anti-Imran Khan stance by rushing to the Judicial Commission. Even critics admit that PTI has set a trendsetter for the course of future electoral politics.

IRI surveys preceding elections were reasonably accurate only if follow-up surveys had focussed on unfamiliar patters, skewness in vote distribution and incumbency patterns. Had they, the service to electoral management in Pakistan would have been gold scripted. Even now, it is not late.

There are many question marks on the fairness of elections that need to be addressed by a combined effort of research organisations, witnesses before the judicial commission and the commission itself. This would expose systemic organisational and ethical flaws, wilful or implied complicity, glaring areas of suspicion and beneficiaries. Bits and pieces of evidence may never be enough. Judicial Commission and its Joint Investigation Teams (JIT) will have to go through the tedious process of collection, collation, investigation and concrete evidence. Depending how it is handled, the exercise like a proverbial knife could either be futile, or objective.

Role of Ex Chief Justice of Supreme Court

Officials of the Ministry of Law and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) allege that Chaudary Iftikhar’s role was beyond his powers. Rather than delegate judges as Returning Officers (ROs) he exercised complete control to the extent that a member of ECP was forced to comment on media that ROs were not in his control. His activism to influence Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and NAB, two autonomous organisations that do not fall directly under the Supreme Court must be investigated.

The Attorney General and Chairman NAB exchanged correspondence on this subject with the Prime Minister and President. Systematically, NAB was rendered toothless and irrelevant. NAB furnished details on defaults and transparency were excluded from the verification process. The most relevant pertained to Sharif Brothers.

The former Attorney General and Chairman NAB will have to appear before the Judicial Commission to testify their knowledge of planned rigging. Else they should be summoned by the Judicial Commission to present their evidence. Two very important cases are the letter by the former to the Government regarding changes in ballot papers by Chaudary Iftikhar and a letter by Chairman NAB to the President regarding his functional constraints and planned pre poll rigging. 

Voting Patterns in Relation to Incumbency Suggest Organised Rigging

The second question pertains to Punjab and Sindh where most rigging allegations surfaced. Wherever the voter turnout surpassed 40-60 %, the pattern in surge was similar. In addition, over 40 polling stations all over Pakistan recorded more than 100% turnout.

Unexplainable skewness in voting patterns in National Assembly accounts for over 58 PMLN seats in Punjab and 15 PPPP seats in Sindh. Out of these, 31 seats were won by incumbents with unprecedented surge in votes. Hence incumbents playing an organised role in pre poll rigging cannot be ruled out.

In terms of population, Punjab recorded a turnout of 60% and Sindh 54% accounting for a surge of 8,488,440. This surge compared to votes registered by ECP and NADRA puts a question mark on 11.8 million new votes in 2013. Through mathematical simulations, rigging plans in 73 National Assembly (and corresponding Provincial Assembly) seats in Punjab and Sindh where PMLN and PPPP had the benefit of incumbency float on the surface. Both parties formed respective provincial governments.

This familiar pattern can be verified through thumb impressions and scrutiny of Forms 14-15. Judicial commission will have to give this task to a JIT.

Role of Punjab Government

Because 58 National Assembly seats of unfamiliar pattern including an equivalent of Provincial Assembly seats are from Punjab, the role of Punjab Government in organised rigging needs investigation. Caretaker Chief Minister Punjab held several briefings and meetings for evaluation of surveys and prospects of PMLN.

On 26 April 2013 he held a meeting coordinated by Secretary Dr Tauqir Shah, CS Javed Aslam and others to discuss the prospects of PMLN in Punjab elections.  Series of postings were carried out in Punjab. Salaries of lower staff including janitors were delayed and low level employees were coerced them to vote for PMLN. All these details will have to be dug by a JIT.

The printing of illegal ballot papers and provision of Urdu Bazar Staff to ECP was also facilitated by officials of the Punjab Government. There were a series of phone calls, mobile communications and SMS exchanges between the Punjab care takers, ECP and PMLN leaders. Reportedly these exchanges were also snooped by foreign intelligence agencies. The Judicial commission within its powers should ask PTA, PEMRA and Intelligence agencies to provide transcripts of these communications.

With major rigging in Punjab, PMLN won 119/129 seats from Punjab. The early speech by Mian Nawaz Sharif on 13 May cannot be ignored. It prompted a process towards securing an absolute majority and lured 19 independents to join PMLN raising the tally of general seats to 148. This also affected the Senate. Formation of an oligarchy through majority in one particular province is an aspersion on the spirit of federation.

Role of ECP

It is evident that the ex and present Chairmen ECP have not exerted their positions provided by law. ECP ceded too timidly to the interference of the Ex-Chief Justice and ROs. For most of the time, CEC located himself in Karachi rather than Islamabad.

The communication systems provided by UNDP were field tested but failed at a crucial time. Someone ensured that this important aspect of transparency was rendered unserviceable.

Post-Election Review Report General Elections 2013 points to numerous anomalies and bad practices. This report was deliberately made controversial by ECP. It appears no in-house inquiries were carried out.

Through a process of verification total augmented votes in 2013 came to 84,207,524. In hindsight it appears that the entire process of exclusion of unverified 37,186,053 votes was kept opaque. ECP and NADRA need to tell the Judicial Commission how many votes were actually bogus and from what constituencies and how many were included after due verification.

No wonder that two retired officials of ECP are crying foul. One of them was functional during the elections. 

Conclusion

To conclude, witnesses before the Judicial Commission can only point towards irregularities. To expect them to provide conclusive evidence is unrealistic. These witnesses, political parties and civil society must demand formation of Joint Investigation Teams on above findings to determine facts through relentless investigations. Only then would the Judicial Commission meet the ends of its purpose.

GARDEN OF EDEN AND FORBIDDEN FRUIT

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:03 am

Despite the notion of Eurasia being the centre of the world, it is West Asia that has remained the focus of turmoil and instability in ancient and recent history. It has been in focus on strategic, economic, political, cultural, and religious dimensions. The region has remained susceptible to invasions and occupations namely Arabs, North Africans, Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Turks, Germans and Anglo-US forces. During successive and parallel Muslim Caliphates splits reflected a political exploitation of religion. Arab-Persian rivalry, the influence of the Ottomans and remapping by Lawrence of Arabia left lasting fault lines. In the 20th Century, it became the major springboard for containing USSR. Having slighted USSR, it provides the springboard for the next move.

The term Middle East was introduced by the American strategist Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan when British and Russian Empires were eyeing Central Asia in the Great Game. He theorised that besides Suez Canal, it was important to control Persian Gulf to prevent Russians advancing to India. This theory later became Brzezinski’s Integrated Euro Asian Geo-Strategy also called the Southern Front. Total domination meant control over West, South and Central Asia and eastward expansion of NATO. Crimea and Afghanistan are the other two edges of this triangle (The Devil’s Triangle. Nation March 22, 2014).

The recent instability in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen cannot be divorced from this theory. It is the vacuum created by international rivalries that has consistently made Middle East vulnerable to outside interferences. Be assured that if Anglo-US-Saudi interests in the region make a move, Russia, Iran and Turkey will not lag behind. For the past century, the British and Americans have controlled this region through pliant despotic/monarchies and Israel. Socialist Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Libya are a distant memory. Syria is under siege by Saudi, Turkish and western supported rebels most of who have morphed into Al Qaeda and ISIS. The latest thaw in US-Iran relation irks both Saudi Arabia and Israel. Hence Saudi Arabia is prepared to cooperate with Israel over Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and launching of militants in Iraq and Syria. An Arab commentator sums up the complexity commenting:

“Iran is backing Assad. Gulf States are against Assad! Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sissi. But Gulf States are pro Sissi! This means they are against Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is pro Hamas but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood! Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood yet Hamas is against US! Gulf States are pro US. But Turkey is with Gulf States against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sissi! And General Sissi is being backed by the Gulf States. Welcome to Middle East!”

Invariably, Pakistan repeatedly gets sucked into this confusion due to its short strategic memory. In the early 20th Century it was the British Indian Army that provided world class rental troops to the region. After 1947, it has been Pakistan finding its non-productive spaces. Pakistan’s inclusion in Baghdad Pact (CENTO) and its defence cooperation with many countries in the region and USA is a continuation of this policy.

Military cooperation has resulted in a dependence syndrome. Pakistan despite its structural resources is economically dependent on these Muslim monarchies that continue to get richer. Keeping Pakistan tied to this dependence at the cost of exploitation of its astronomical economic potential is an important plank of this destabilising policy. Successive Pakistani governments under strong US and Arab pressure continue to follow this self-destructive policy. As written earlier, Pakistan has a historical propensity to nibble its space in big power rivalry in pursuit of economic short cuts that make the temptation too lucrative to resist.  Seldom do they realise that Pakistan is a pawn in the old game often lost. (The Saudi Shadow: Nation March 01, 2014). The instability created inside Pakistan will far outweigh any economic rewards because whatever Pakistan does will be overshadowed by the Great Game.

At the heart of this Great Game is a lesser strategy being followed on dotted lines by Sunni Arab monarchies for their own survival? The rivalry goes back centuries. Turkey and Iran are permanently imprinted historical predispositions on the Saudi Wahhabism versus the rest.  The Shia Iranians will never forget 1802 when the first Saud dynasty attacked and destroyed the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala. Their belief is reinforced by the latest Saudi positions in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Yemen. It was a joint Ottoman-Egyptian invasion in 1818 that brought the first Saudi kingdom to an end. Turks will neither forget that North Yemen inherited the Ottoman Empire nor the tragic destruction of the holy sites constructed by Turks in Mecca and Medina destroyed by the house of Saud. These countries will covertly support any group including Houthis that rise against Saudi interests. But at the end of the day it will be Persian-Turk and Saudi rivalries that shall provide space and cause for the Anglo-US Integrated Euro Asian Geo-Strategy. The danger is that it will create a Shia-Sunni divide in the entire Muslim world.

But Pakistan through a mixture of its weak and pliant policies and personal relationships is prepared to ignore history. In addition, the temptation to accept petro dollars is too tempting and overshadows its unstable profile reflected in militant ideologies, lines of funding supported by Saudi Arabia and Arab Kingdoms and prosecution of Shia and other Non-Muslim communities. Pakistan is also willing to ignore that instability in Balochistan is directly linked to economic interests of the Gulf countries including Iran. In international diplomacy, Pakistan is foolhardy to believe that its military and nuclear power will be allowed to independently police the region. Deep down, the PMLN government suffers from a delusion that its inclusion in the Saudi strategic framework will distance USA from its growing entente with Iran.

But what they ignore most is that Pakistan will remain Pawn to King Three. Yemen is the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both’.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

YEMEN: THE HORNETS’ NEST

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:02 am

Yemen

Yemen in the past hundred years has been through repeated turmoil. This includes division of Yemen and a war begun by President Nasser of Egypt. Egyptian historians refer to the Egyptian-Russo intervention from 1962-1970 as their Vietnam. Though, on a timeline it preceded US withdrawal from Vietnam it made an Israeli historian Michael Oren comment that the disastrous Egypt’s military adventure in Yemen could easily be dubbed America’s Yemen in Vietnam. On the opposing front, Saudi Arabia and Jordon with covert and clandestine British support ran into a stalemate. In the global perspective this war was seen as a proxy front of the Cold War. Within Middle East, it was eclipsed by the inherent Arab and tribal politics. Directly or indirectly nearly every West Asian country including Iran was involved. Pakistan supplied weapons to the royalist (anti- Egyptian) group on call of Saudi Arabia. This Egyptian intervention affected its performance in the 1967 War ceding the entire Sinai Peninsula to Israel.

Readers must remember that the division of Yemen was an effect and not a struggle.  The collapse of Ottoman Empire and British imperial policies created new geographies in West Asia. North Yemen came into being when the Ottoman Empire fell, while South Yemen remained a British Colony. South won independence through a liberation struggle. On 22 May 1990 the two Yamens unified to form the Republic of Yemen only to erupt into a civil war in 1994. They were reunited through a military victory led by President Ali Abdullah Saleh who now supports the Houthis (once his foes). In November 2011, under international pressure he was forced to step down, but retained control of his party and loyalist factions of the armed forces. He described his rule of 33 years through a mixture of tribes, insurgencies and terrorism as ‘dancing on flames’. His balancing acts included appeasement of USA and Saudi Arabia, looking the other way towards terrorists and supporting Zaidi Houthis with his military loyalists against a Saudi imposed President Hadi. He aims to get back into contention through his son Ahmed Ali Saleh.  But ominously, he may have over arched in making Houthis stronger than he wished.

Saudi perceptions in the region stem from their core belief of Wahabism. They established their first rule in 1744 under the dynasty’s 18th century founder, Muhammad bin Saud. Islamic Salafi Scholars, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and his descendants played a significant role in strengthening Saudi rule. In 1802, Abdul Aziz attacked the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala, killing thousands, looting and plundering. This invasion left long lasting imprints on Sunni-Shia relations. A joint Ottoman-Egyptian invasion in 1818 brought this kingdom to an end. The Saudis were able to re-establish their hold on Najd with capital at Riyadh. The second phase of this dynasty came to an end when Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Rashid of Hail expelled the last Saudi leader, Abdul-Rahman bin Faisal, in the Battle of Mulayda in 1891. The third Saudi regime was formed after many meanderings between the Arab tribes, Ottomans, British and Americans. Ibn Saud died in 1953, after having cemented an alliance with the United States in 1945. He is still celebrated officially as the founder of modern Saudi Arabia. But to most Muslims in West Asia, the country remains a dictatorship ruling through strong religious decrees and inherent monotheist sentiment.

Over a period of three hundred years, Saudis despite reverses have managed to create space for their ideology exploiting the larger canvas of geopolitics. Possession of huge oil reserves and US support has emboldened them. Saudi Arabia will remain in awe of all Islamic denominations that are not monotheists and not hesitate to ferment trouble in Muslim countries for their religious ideology.

On 20 November 1979, the Holy Sanctuary in Mecca was violently seized by dissidents led by Juhayman al-Otaybi and Abdullah al-Qahtani. The Saudi royal family had the Ulema issue a fatwa permitting the storming of the holy sanctuary. Saudi forces, reportedly aided by French and Pakistani storm troopers flushed out the rebels. In December 1982, Pakistan signed a defence protocol with Saudi Arabia thereby deploying combat brigades and air force for the protection of the Kingdom. These deployments took place in the backdrop of the Afghan conflict, Iranian Revolution and the spreading tide of Wahhabism in Pakistan. Except miserly petro dollars and plenty of terrorism, Pakistan gained nothing.

Pakistan’s frequent interventions in Middle East on behalf of Saudi Arabia have been counterproductive. Guised in the larger context of anti-communism, the cooperation has been overshadowed by the Saudi core belief of monotheists and use of religiously inspired militants to ferment trouble. Yet once again, Pakistan seems willing to support Saudi Arabia to the chagrin of Iran with whom it shares a common border.

Iran has viewed Pakistan’s relations with the Gulf monarchs and USA as counter revolutionary. In reaction Iran has hedged its interests with India to pressurise Pakistan through proxies that trouble Pakistan in Afghanistan, Balochistan and other parts of the country.

Pakistan is a country that has for the past forty years disregarded its own sensitivities and vulnerabilities in reward of dollars. It allowed diverse militant typologies to grow despite awareness that chickens come home to roost. As Pakistan continues to be sucked into a sectarian strife, its appetite for petro dollars only seems to grow. Tied aid has created linkage of a dependence that cannot be broken despite the reality that exploration of resources and development of Gwadar challenge Arab designs. The Yemen front will open no new era for Pakistan. Unless the umbilical cord is not snapped, development will not come.

The second part of my opinion, Yemen: Crumbling Redoubt of Terrorism (Nation: March 28) was a wishful satire on the fable of Godot. Even if Pakistan enters the Middle East as a major player, it will never be permitted to operate against the logistic and finance lines of terrorists located in the Kingdoms, nor will it be allowed the leeway that makes it stronger. Arab countries will continue to feed and breed sidewinders in quest of their religious typologies and tribal politics. The dynamics of the Old and New Yemen will ensure that another flash point is created in a hornet’s nest.

The Saudis have a long history of infighting and intrigue. Pakistan’s only role will be to watch over the patrimonial guards of this house of Saud. Pakistan is a country willing to hold a gun to its own head.

YEMEN: CRUMBLING REDOUBT OF TERRORISM (SATIRE)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:00 am

Yemen

After the USS Cole Bombing in October 2000, Yemen is once again in focus. The incident was symbolic in that Al Qaeda operating from Sudan and Yemen had directly hit an American asset. US warship used to frequently dock at Aden for fuelling. CIA realised that a US-Saudi asset groomed over years had gone hostile. 13 years hence, if Yemen plunges into a civil war, it expands sea pirates across the straits and deprives the world of fuelling stations. Yemen has again been set alight by proxies. This is where terrorism began and this is where it will end.

According to a detailed study of Pakistan Ex Servicemen Association, “the canning policy of obscurity and revelations continues through the events of bombings in Aden, Kenya and Tanzania, till Osama and Al Qaeda resurface in the events of 9/11 and beyond.” Yet after 9/11 it was not Afghanistan but Iraq that was attacked. Afghanistan followed through a UN led coalition while Pakistan got entangled with its own strains of terrorists with links to Al Qaeda and every intelligence agency of the world.

My argument is that while US policy makers and intelligence agencies continued to build their interventionist road map in Middle East and AF-PAK, smaller countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran opened up proxy fronts within the larger game plan. The arming of Syrian rebels against President Bashar al Asaad and the active role played by Saudi Arabia, Jordon, Israel and Turkey is another case of assets gone hostile spreading to Iraq, Libya and now Yemen. ISIS foot prints are visible in Afghanistan. Springs of Egypt and Libya took place in the same context. When President Morsi of Egypt showed reluctance, he was removed through a Saudi backed military coup. The cynical fiction being released by various quarters lend credence to the theory of obscurity and revelations.

In Yemen, the Shiite Zaidi Tribe of Houthis was backed by Iran, hidden hands and detractors of President Hadi. Ever since, they have over arched and threaten to expand the Shia influence to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain. With a Shite dominated Iraq already in place, it spells instability for Gulf States with sizable Shia populations ruled by Sunni monarchs. Chances of the conflict taking a global sectarian crisis cannot be ruled out.

With the rise of Houthis, US forces and not intelligence assets have retrograded from Yemen. USA will continue working through its allies to contain the Houthis, Al Qaeda and ISIS threats. The recent air intervention by Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen aims at restoring the equilibrium. Pakistan seems willing to join this coalition to chagrin of its neighbour Iran with whom it shares a common border.

Unfortunately, Pakistan after the Khomeini revolution never enjoyed comfortable relations with Iran. India to Pakistan’s chagrin enjoys more influence and cooperation with Iran that include alternate routes to Europe and Central Asia via Chabahar and Bandar Abbas. Pakistan’s own proxy war with Iran often with Indian backing continues in Afghanistan, Balochistan, parts of Karachi and KPK.

This jigsaw of intelligence operations, repeated defection of proxies, great power interests and hares like Saudi Arabia and Iran hunting with the hounds is likely to continue behind the façade of cynical fiction. The growing thaw in US Iran relations will be tested by US backing of Saudi strikes in Yemen. With a lame duck US President, the entire rapprochement could reverse in due course. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to US Congress and Kerry led Iranian realignment reflect two extreme opinions in a US House led by Republicans.

Though Pakistan despite a $ 1.5 Billion tag had refused to be drawn into security of Saudi Arabia against ISIS, it now seems willing to become a party in Yemen. This sudden volte face is of concern for Pakistanis amply reflected by Dr Shirin Mazari. She said, “a proxy war in Yemen is being waged and has all the hallmarks of spilling over into other parts of the Gulf region especially Bahrain but beyond into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan already has a serious sectarian terrorism issue” Dr. Shirin Mazari is justified in her apprehensions and Pakistan must tread this option with extreme caution.

But what reasons despite such suggestions may tempt Pakistan to throw caution to wind?

Earlier Pakistani refusal was military’s reluctance in being drawn into a conflict. One obvious reason was that Pakistan army and air force were busy in operation Zarb e Azb and its variants in Khyber Agency. Urban terrorism in Karachi and unrest in Balochistan had their own impact. Does it now mean that Pakistan’s defence forces now have major internal dynamics in control and are willing at targeting the exterior lines of terrorism located in Middle East?

The above argument supports my second contention. Military operations against terrorist organisations revealed irrefutable complicity of Arab countries in funding and outsourcing terrorists. Pakistan confronted these countries with hard evidence and demanded affirmative action. Arab countries with vulnerability in mind realised the futility of raising sidewinders and are willing to employ Pakistan’s proven expertise to strike at terrorist targets deep inside Middle East. This targeting policy will most likely include Houthis, ISIS and Al Qaeda. If true, then Pakistan Air Force will ultimately become active against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. This explains why Pakistan’s Chief of Air Staff accompanied the Army Chief in the meeting with Prime Minister.

For Pakistan, a bigger role in Middle East has not come without hardwork. American and British intelligence agencies are notorious for fermenting instability in Pakistan. It appears that General Raheel adroitly pointed to such interventions during his military diplomacy and succeeded in creating space for his paradigm that includes Zarb e Azb, Karachi and the daredevil decision to hold Pakistan Day Parade in Islamabad after a long hiatus. This means he will not hesitate to eliminate the support bases in Middle East and yet maintain a balance and not be drawn into a Shia-Sunni conflict.

The opening of a new front in Yemen will assert Pakistan’s position in the region. I hope the emerging paradigm in Middle East will open doors for peace and development not only in Pakistan but also hermit monarchies.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

WHERE DO I BEGIN?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:59 am

Given the present state of governance in Pakistan, a violent reaction to twin bombings in Youhanabad was foreseeable. A deprived community was tearing at seams and violent eruptions a matter of time. The Punjab Government must take the blame for not reading the pulse accurately. Though it rewarded this community with a woman MPA, it preferred to select an opportunist than a leader. I am not justifying a crime but endeavouring to find explanations of why a peaceful community turned violent. Inasmuch as bombing of two churches is condemnable, lynching and burning of two men by a frenzied mob is deplorable.  The act is contrary to Biblical teachings and inability of prayer leaders to sink the message that states: –

“Do not be afraid of the painful test you are suffering as though something unusual was happening to you…If any of you suffers, it must not be because he is a murderer or a thief or a criminal or meddles in other people’s affairs”. Peter II 4: 12-14

Had the Punjab Government noticed simmers in the twin colonies of Youhanabad and Bihar Colony, this day would not have come. After reactions to occupation of Gosha E Aman in Garhi Shahu and gutting of St. Joseph’s Colony in Badami Bagh Lahore, it had enough time to apply positive pacification measures. Instead, it resorted to coercion in the guise of urban development. The rumour has it that the government plans to uproot and relocate these communities far from Model Town and Metro Bus. On the pretext of urban development, Bihar Colony is already barricaded and isolated. Short entrances have been converted to long detours. Property mafia is flexing muscles. Water pipelines are contaminated with sewage and polio strains. Environmentally, this huge Christian enclave is becoming inhabitable. An exodus is taking place with vultures and bulldozers in watch. The recent incident of the torture and killing of Zubair a Christian Youth in police custody in Lahore raised temperatures. Youhanabad was a precursor. If Punjab Gardi has its method, frustrations of a community on the edge breed anarchy.

In the larger context of Pakistani society, such incidents of crowd violence, lynching and burning are morphing from epidemic to endemic. The trails from Shanti Nagar to Korian to Gojra to Sambrial to Sangla Hill to Faisalabad to Gosha e Aman to Badami Bagh to Rawapalpindi to Radha Kishen to Issa Nagri in Karachi are far too many to be ignored. Add the lynching of two brothers in Sialkot; frequent burning of dacoits countrywide, Baldia fire in Karachi, police led killings in Model Town and violent hate crimes against the Ahmadiya community to frame multiple contexts for explanations. Realities are ugly and painful.  The state, political parties and civil society must share the blame for keeping their eyes closed to a well-established societal theory. Cocoon the fringe communities and in reaction, violence breeds.

In the first context, hate crimes have gone unpunished for far too long. Since the entire gutting of Shanti Nagar to the most recent killing of Zubair in police custody, the state has been incapable of providing security to vulnerable communities or apprehending and punishing culprits. In Gosha e Aman, the state acted as a property mafia. In Sindh, daily forced conversion of Hindu girls and subsequent diversion into the grotesque sex trade is common.  Religiously inspired crime and violence has political linkages. Highly politicised investigation mechanisms ensure the criminals go scot free. Recently, the evidence of Punjab Government’s negotiations with terrorists has surfaced; something I repeatedly alleged in these columns. Unfortunately, it is Shias, Christians, Hindus and Ahmadiya at the receiving end. The ambers were smouldering for long. To generalise, what has happened in Youhanabad is a reflection of what is happening all over Pakistan. While terrorism prevails, the society implodes.

In the second context, when disfranchised excluded communities, ridden by poverty, illiteracy and stamped with social taboos have little recourse, frustrations take over. Shanty slums around highly developed urbanised environments create a social imbalance that breeds dissent, social inbreeding and crime. Ultimately petty crimes lead to organised gangs. This explanation fits slums of Karachi with Faisalabad and Lahore not far behind. This is a poor reflection of socio-economic initiatives, urban planning and environmental engineering.

In the third context, the state has timidly ceded far too much space to illegal jirgas and mafias. Tribal chieftains and bigwigs enjoy their dictatorial authority with impunity. Every major incident has a political linkage. With no writ of law and poor persecution, crimes go unchecked. In cases involving religious minorities, these crimes occasionally have official patronage. Low caste Hindus in Sindh, Christians in Punjab and bonded labour in both Punjab and Sindh are the usual victims. Breeding grounds for violence are always ripe.

The fourth context is the mainstreaming of religious minorities and fringe communities. All political parties follow a policy of exclusion and reward their most obedient servants not leaders. Others join human rights movements and get into an agitation rather than a developmental mode.  It would be interesting to carry out a survey of non-Muslim NGOS and evaluate their achievements. With petty economic interest at stake, elimination of ghetto syndromes is a difficult and challenging task.

Fifth are the religious leaders of minority communities. The Hindus themselves are divided into castes and the more privileged seldom care for the downtrodden. The three Christian mainstream churches in Catholics, Protestants and Presbyterians have consistently failed to provide leadership and nurture the communities. Proliferation of self-styled churches disrupts synergy. Christian missions despite some of the best education institutions have done little to address the falling literacy standards in their communities.  Role models are far and few. A sorry state of affairs for a community that played a significant role in the formative years of Pakistan in the fields of foreign policy, defence, health, education, railways, police and urban development.

Pakistan is stuck in a vicious cycle; terrorism and social apartheid that breed violence. The cycle seems to be getting more vicious.

Where do I begin to tell the story?

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

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