Monday, September 18, 2006

A View from Modern Gedrosia

There are an estimated 100 million blogs plus currently in cyber space. While Pakistan has a minuscule share, a few hundred at a guess, not many are written from a Baloch perspective.

Hence my interest in a newly reactivated blog
Blogging Balochistan by Gedroshian (Gedrosia being the ancient Greek name for Balochistan).

Anyhow, this is his latest take on the Balochistan scene:


"Is ISI dumb or are we just getting smarter?"

Allow me to give some coverage to some recent ISI untruths.

Balaach Killed Bugti

Here is the newCentralAsia coming up with another classic investigative report, telling us that it actually was a Baloch killing Baloch. Faujis of Pakistan totally innocent. “Our story is built on a narrow but dependable base of sources.” Yeah, we sure know of your dependable sources.

Some gems from the article:
  • The Army team was trying to negotiate with Bugti in order to evacuate him for medical treatment.
  • Akbar Bugti was a prisoner of Balaach Marri
  • The support for BLA had eroded considerably during the past few months
  • The explosion in the cave was caused by a remote controlled device
Got any better conspiracy theory?

My bet is our dear friend Tariq Saeedi at newsCentralAsia edited the draft of the story many times before he came up with the final edition.

Bugti’s sons are fighting for his property.

This little rubbish story was put forth in Urdu press, showing the sons of Bugti as greedy sardarzadas, who started fighting among themselves for money, soon after their father died.

Bugti’s Cave Palace

So, Bugti was getting some R & R at a 5 star cave at Kohlu, when the brave, noble and valiant faujis of Pak got him. Then there was electricity short circuit, and then the cave fell down. They did nothing. Really. Totally innocent. The Kohlu cave must have been built by a government contractor. (Thanks
Adil Najam, and Onlooker for the pictures)

In short, some
pictures of a hotel/palace were circulated, chain-mailed (hint: by Paki agencies) at Paki cyber space, revealing to the naïve pakis how truly bad, and evil Bugti was.


The Russian spies are back. Yeah,
those KGB spies who told the world how BLA, and Baloch struggle for freedom is actually all a façade. Last week, Daily Jang decided to let a columnist translate that piece of rubbish into Urdu, and bring it to a broader audience in Pakistan, almost TWO Years after it was originally published, by our friends at newCentralAsia. Was it a coincidence? Did the columnist recently went through some old papers, and thought this article would be of interest to his readers. Naah, He was told/ordered to write this.

Aren’t these ISI guys supposed to be professionals? Shouldn’t they be good at maligning the Baloch, by now?

I have a funny feeling that this blog site is soon going to blocked for Pakistani readers. So read it while you can.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Dancing Peacocks & the Quaking Lady

Shortly after Bugti’s killing if all the opposition parties had resigned in masse from the national and provincial assemblies, the ‘democratic’ façade would have toppled. This would have led to the political demise of PML(Q) and Musharraf, in that order.

But this has not happened and it is pertinent to ask why?

I believe it is because of the action and inaction of two political parties.

The Dancing Peacocks of the MMA.
Never have Maulana Fazlur Rahman and his Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI) had it so good. As the official leader of the opposition in parliament Fazlur Rehman has relished the weight the post has given him in the public eye. And his party men continue to enjoy the power and perks of MMA ministries in two provinces which were provided to them by the rigged 2002 election.

Having announced their intention resign from the assemblies as a protest against the Bugti’s killing, the MMA quickly backtracked. Then they pegged their resignations on the Hudood Amendment Bill and milked the issue for what its worth.

Currently the JUI crowd see themselves to be in a win-win position. If they prevent the modification of the monstrous Hudood laws against women, they will project themselves as champions of religion. If they fail in their mission and then resign, they will then portray themselves as political martyrs to the insidious forces of secularism.

In the meantime their provincial ministers, particularly in Balochistan, are raking it in. Money, apparently, has no religion.

The Quaking Lady
Don’t believe the PPP when they say that the Swiss case against Benazir Bhutto (and Asif Zardari) is political eyewash. It isn’t and the lady knows it.

The evidence against Benazir Bhutto and her spouse was strong enough to convict her in July 2003 of money laundering (the charge of corruption was not included as the funds had been placed in Geneva banks prior to the recent enactment of Swiss anti-corruption legislation) by Swiss Magistrate, Daniel Devaud.

Benazir Bhutto appealed the case. Unfortunately for her now there is an additional charge of aggravated money laundering which carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail as well as a fine of about one million Swiss francs if Bhutto is found guilty.

While she is trying to drag out the hearing as long as possible, time is, nevertheless, against her.

Under pressure – despite the so-called Charter of Democracy – it is widely believed she is in secret contact with Musharraf’s emissaries.

Musharraf is obviously keeping his options open. If the plans for the heavily rigged 2007 elections come awry, then he can do a deal with Benazir Bhutto and prolong his stint in power.

Previously Interpol had issued Red Corner notices on the two at the instance of Pakistan government some months ago. That, however, was more of an advisory than a warrant for arrest.

Last week the District and Sessions Court in Islamabad ordered officials to issue the warrants to the couple through Interpol The latest court ruling may help the government to issue arrest warrants through Interpol, in which case Benazir, who lives in Dubai and London in self-exile, may face arrest and extradition.


To prevent the MMA and the PPP from resigning from the Assemblies it is a case of desperately offered carrots for the MMA and the brandishing of a stout stick at Benazir Bhutto.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Completely Half-witted Propaganda

There appears to be a new and rather sordid effort to denigrate Akbar Bugti, the slain Baloch leader. It comes in the guise of an email, currently doing the rounds in Pakistan, titled “House of Akbar Bugti.”

The email, which contains photos of luxurious ‘cave’ rooms (one of the fake pics depicted above), seeks to convey the impression that Nawab Bugti was living in complete luxury when Musharraf’s commando’s came to eliminate him.

Well, it took a vigilant blogger, Adil Najam, less than 15 minutes to track the pictures of the luxury cave rooms to the
Cappadocia Cave Hotel in Turkey.

In his blog
Spreading Lies’, Adil Najam had this to say:

I do not know who came up with this idea. If it was some zealot intelligence agency wallah, then it is particularly un-intelligent, even for our intelligence agencies. Or, maybe, it was just another super-patriot thinking that this will somehow help Pakistan; think again, you just made us all look not just needlessly violent, but abjectly dumb. Well done!
Quite interestingly, I have just discovered that the above link to the Cappadocia Cave Hotel is currently inaccessible in Pakistan. Not surely blocked I hope?

So for Pakistani readers unable to get to the source of some of these bogus pictures I suggest you click the following link: Cappadocia Cave Hotel.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Mean Little Pakistani

One of the failings of the Pakistani culture, which I have noticed over the years, is the depressing preponderance of the ‘mean little man’ syndrome in our society.

And yes (before readers start jumping on me) I do agree these people exist in every society, but in Pakistan, to our misfortune, we have somehow ended up with a much larger share compared to the international norm.

These petty egotists can be found in every spectrum of Pakistani society – military, bureaucracy, politicians, businessmen and multinational executives.

One example, whom I shall call SFA (for “short fat …umm… aalu?”), comes to mind. SFA came from a well-heeled Punjabi family and was educated at Cambridge, albeit in some obscure subject like widget demography.

He crept up the greasy corporate ladder of a well-known multinational until one day, much to his joy, he was made chairman. The first thing SFA did as the new boss was to indecorously insist that his predecessor return his company car that very same day. For the next few years he ran the company like a spoilt feudal despot; shouting, abusing and bullying his colleagues (even during board room meetings) and throwing nasty little tantrums when things didn’t quite go his way.

Eventually he miscalculated by throwing one tantrum to many by threatening to resign if his overseas superiors didn’t give him another pay rise. Much to SFA’s amazement his resignation was accepted. I am told the mood at the company was joyous and ‘ladoos’ were openly dished out to all and sundry.


My recollections of mean little men (and SFA in particular) were triggered off by the following article which appeared in today’s The News.

Little Men By Shakir Husain

We all come across them in our daily lives, and they seem to crawl up from under their rocks whenever they are least needed. They come in all shapes, colours, and sizes; and just when you think your life is insulated from them, 'they' make an appearance. There is no logic as to why they are the way they are, because education and exposure does not seem to alter their genetic DNA. These little men, or a literal translation of chotay adm, exist in all facets of life, and to be fair they exist everywhere; however, Pakistan has been blessed with more of them than we deserve.

Actually more than anything else, these little men are the root cause of most of what is wrong in our country. With their huge egos, and the insecure little fiefdoms that they have managed to carve out of the system they hold forth for decades without much substance. And while I am going to risk sounding sexist you do not find many women indulging in these sins of the ego. I have and still maintain that women make better administrators, CEOs, leaders, and politicians because somewhere in there it's programmed in their DNA. Oh well, it's enough to contend with half the population and a real blessing not to have to deal with the other half in this particular arena of the chota.

You will find them at immigration, at most government offices, and pretty much the entire private sector. While I'd love to perpetuate the myth that these little men are only found at government offices, they've managed to infiltrate the bastion of capitalism in Pakistan as well. It seems that the 'lateral move' is not just reserved from the army to the bureaucracy anymore. You know we are screwed when the little men start putting their little egos before profit or the good of the 'company'.

The little man comes in many guises. He can be educated at Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, Karachi University, or LUMS -- but none of these institutions will have taken the little man DNA out of him. Like a Pavlovian experiment gone bad, he will always return to his roots despite the opportunities he's had in life. His sole job in life is to make life difficult for everyone around him, and to ensure that at each step of the way everyone knows that he is the 'boss' of his little fiefdom. Without this there is no validation of his life, and he'll go out of his way to ensure that homage is paid to his 'greatness'. So if you're one of those who can't pay homage and feed his ego, you can forget about getting whatever it is you need done.

The 'little man' syndrome can be attributed with causing the largest impediment to the development of Pakistani society, and really should be treated as a disease. The amount of time wasted on feeding little egos and sycophancy, if ever calculated, would run into billions of dollars. This figure would represent bad decisions made unopposed, professional advice unheeded because the 'little man' had a cunning plan, or the inability of the advisors to tell the man that he's wrong. And this cycle has been continuously perpetuated for six decades now.

With their fragile egos and a complete lack of confidence these little men are threatened by anyone and everyone at all times. Completely paranoid they will go out of their way to claim credit for other peoples' work, discredit other people, and generally form a wall that covers up for their inadequacies. Their favourite prey is junior staff or newbies, and this is unfortunate as this is the time when young people are most vulnerable. This also explains the high level of mediocrity that exists in the government and corporate sector today. It's simple --mediocre people cannot have really smart people working for them because that would shows how incompetent they (the mediocre ones) are; hence, they choose to surround themselves with even worse specimens than themselves.

While I'm definitely not a shrink, my wife is a certified one and she explained the whole 'little man' syndrome to me, it all came together. The root causes can range from low self-esteem, to whether the individual wasn't hugged enough, to low body image, to having an overpowering father or home environment. But in my book there's absolutely no excuse for putting these people in positions where they can perpetuate their insecurities and lower the bar. The little man syndrome develops into the 'playing God' syndrome and that's a dangerous thing.

Generally the rule of thumb is that when you encounter such people treat them like the bullies they are and don't try to feed whatever trip they're on. I'm not from the new age school of thought so I don't subscribe to the new fangled theories on touchy feely stuff. Call out the 'little men' and move on is what I say. If you're confused about whether someone has 'little man' syndrome and how to identify it, there are a few common sense rules, which you can use. If a person dyes their hair, there's some insecurity they're having a hard time dealing with.

If a middle-aged man is being a lecher there's some weird stuff going on there. If a balding man suddenly shows up at work with hair plugs, there's definitely something wrong. Look for the people who have the constant need to be noticed, recognised, and for the whole world to know how important they are. Those are the ones who one needs to beware of. In the meanwhile, good luck navigating life in the land of the pure with the cohorts of little men who are floating around.


Reader’s are welcome to list their examples of mean little men, if they wish to.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Poor Shaukat Aziz

Shaukat Aziz was taken seriously by the public at large during his near five-year stint as Minister for Finance. But this ended the moment he got rather shamefully elected from two-rigged by-elections in Tharparkar and Attock, rural constituencies where most of the illiterate rural voters had never even heard of him previously.

In Pakistan everyone, other than perhaps some members of PML (Q), acknowledges that the country is being ruled by a uniformed autocrat backed by the might of the army. That leaves poor Shaukat Aziz little room to project himself as a head of government as he has been completely overshadowed and subsumed by Musharraf.

So it’s not surprising that the man is constantly making trips overseas. After all it is only when he travels abroad as the ‘constitutionally appointed’ prime minister of Pakistan is he accorded the attention and importance due to a head of government.

So how much did Pakistan spend on Shaukat Aziz’s overseas trips last year?

According to newspaper reports a sum of Rs. 750 million (or US$ 12.5 million).

One might say that it is rather hefty price to pay for Aziz’s sensitive ego.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Hot Time for Musharraf in the US?

According to book publisher Simon & Schuster Pervez Musharraf has a hectic US schedule to promote his forthcoming book ‘In the Line of Fire”. The promotional road show will commence on 24 September with an appearance on CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ and finish with Musharraf on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on 1 October. Along the way he will also appear with humorist Jon Stewart on ‘Comedy Central’.

However, I suspect that it will not all be plain sailing for Musharraf in the US this time. Much of his ‘heroic’ anti-terrorist image in the US has suffered deep erosion in recent times. Notably, in the past week he has been at the receiving end of several brickbats from major US newspapers.

A few days ago the New York Times thundered in its post-Bugti killing editorial
The Wrong Battle in Pakistan :

When General Musharraf comes to the United States, he loves to be lauded as a leader in the war on terrorism. Back home, his government too often acts like a garden-variety military dictatorship.
And yesterday the following op-ed appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

Pakistan: Friend or Foe?
The U.S. shouldn't prop up President Musharraf's military regime.
By Selig S. Harrison

PAKISTAN'S President Pervez Musharraf is supposedly a key U.S. ally in the "war on terror." But is he, in fact, more of a liability than an asset in combating Al Qaeda and the increasingly menacing Taliban forces in Afghanistan?

Since 9/11, the Bush administration has been propping up Musharraf's military regime with $3.6 billion in economic aid from the U.S. and a U.S.-sponsored consortium, not to mention $900 million in military aid and the postponement of overdue debt repayments totaling $13.5 billion. But now the administration is debating whether Musharraf has become too dependent on Islamic extremist political parties in Pakistan to further U.S. interests, and whether he should be pressured to permit the return of two exiled former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who have formed an electoral alliance to challenge him in presidential elections scheduled for next year.

Musharraf's most vocal defender is former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who has urged continued support for him "no matter how frustrated we become at the pace of political change and the failure to eliminate Taliban fighters from the Afghan border." Musharraf is better than what might come after him, Armitage argues, and is a moderate who has done his best to fend off the entrenched forces of Islamic extremism in Pakistan.

But this argument does not hold up against mounting evidence that, as an ally, Musharraf has been an opportunist from the start who has continued to help the Taliban (just as he had done before 9/11 ) and who has gone after Al Qaeda cells in Pakistan only to the extent necessary to fend off U.S. and British pressure.

On Sept. 19, 2001, Musharraf made a revealing TV address in Urdu, not noticed at the time by most Americans, in which he reassured Pakistanis who sympathized with Al Qaeda and the Taliban that his decision to line up with the U.S. was a temporary expedient.

To Taliban sympathizers, Musharraf directed an explicit message, saying: "I have done everything for the … Taliban when the whole world was against them….We are trying our best to come out of this critical situation without any damage to Afghanistan and the Taliban." He has kept his promise to the latter.

Taliban forces continue to have unrestricted access to Pakistani border towns as staging areas and sanctuaries. Pakistani soldiers look the other way when Taliban units cross the mountains at Bormoi. With U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan suffering increasingly heavy casualties in the face of a Taliban offensive this summer, their officers no longer mince words about Pakistan's role. Col. Chris Vernon, chief of staff of British forces in southern Afghanistan, charged recently that the Pakistan border town of Chaman serves as the "major headquarters" for a guerrilla network in southeast Afghanistan.

Musharraf sees the Taliban as a pro-Pakistan counterweight to Indian influence in Afghanistan and wants to keep it strong in case Afghan President Hamid Karzai is overthrown and Afghanistan collapses into chaos. As a sop to Washington and London, he ordered raids on two small Taliban encampments in July, and he occasionally rounds up key Al Qaeda figures — but in many cases only after the FBI and CIA have confronted Pakistani police with communications intercepts pinpointing their hide-outs.

Even if Musharraf wanted to remove Taliban and Al Qaeda forces from Pakistan, his ability to do so is limited by the political pact that he made with a five-party Islamic alliance in 2004 to win state elections in the two key border provinces. As a result, Al Qaeda and Taliban activity is openly supported by local officials there, and Pakistani groups allied with Al Qaeda are thriving, notably Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba. This prevents Musharraf from carrying out his pledge to crack down on madrasas (religious schools) linked to terrorist groups.

The Islamic parties are flourishing under the protective umbrella of the Pakistani armed forces. Their growth would be slowed if secular political forces had a chance to assert themselves through free elections and a parliamentary system liberated from army manipulation. Under Musharraf, the army has seized much more power than past military regimes, installing military officers in hundreds of government posts previously held by civil servants. Army-sponsored conglomerates control multibillion-dollar enterprises and will not be easily dislodged. As a Pakistani editor commented, "Most countries have an army, but in Pakistan, the army has a country."

The U.S. should use its aid leverage to promote three goals: Bhutto and Sharif should be permitted to return and organize freely. If Musharraf wants to run for president again, he should step down as army chief of staff and run as a civilian. Finally, he should turn over power to a neutral caretaker government that would conduct the elections. This would be welcomed in Pakistan even by elements within the armed forces. An open letter in July from a group of retired generals called for "the disengagement of the military from political power." As one of its signatories, Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, observed, "There is a genuine urge and demand in the country to revert to democracy and give a fair deal to all the parties."

During his last US-visit Musharraf had to be led off the podium by Ambassador Jehangir Karamat after he lost the plot by loudly venting his spleen at a bunch of Pakistani women questioning him about Mukhtaran Mai and Pakistan’s other rape victims.

Let us see what Pakistan’s military leader gets up to on this visit.