Sunday, June 24, 2007

Musharraf's 'beloved' Agencies

Life for those opposed to Musharraf's regime can be a terrible ordeal.

A few days ago Dawn published a report of what the MI has been doing to Baloch nationalists. Some of the tortures inflicted on these Pakistani citizens is eerily reminiscent of the vicious dictatorships of South America of the 1970s.

Pinochet was humiliatingly hounded by human rights groups right up to his death. With the new wind of change in Pakistan let us hope that Musharraf suffers a similar fate.


Dawn: When one’s house is not a sanctuary

By Reema Abbasi

THE scene in Awaran village near Mashkay district in Balochistan is one of mourning. Almost every home wears a pall of grief. A young Ali Akber sits in the hostile heat of a dark hovel and tries to console a newly-wed bride and an old mother. His brother Munir Mengal went missing on April 4, 2006, upon arrival from Bahrain at Karachi Airport. Mengal is just one of many whose identity threatens his life.

“He was running a Balochi channel called Baloch Voice. When we went to report the case, we were told that an FIR cannot be registered against an agency so we had to file a petition in the Sindh High Court,” recounts a helpless Ali.

Ali Akber, along with his family, has taken a 100-day hunger strike to Khuzdar, Kalat, Karachi and Islamabad but remains without his brother. “The first phone call came on December 28, 2006, from the Military Intelligence (MI) to say that they will allow two women to meet Munir,” says Akber.

“My mother went with her elder brother to see him. Eight people dressed as civilians brought him and the meeting lasted for two and a half hours in the airport restaurant,” he continues.

Ali Akber says that the officials with Munir asked the family to withdraw their case. “My mother wanted to withdraw it the next day but the judge said that he would reserve it for 20 days and reopen it if he was not returned.”

“The MI called again and changed their demand. They said that we should give an application stating that the agencies did not abduct my brother but Akhter Mengal’s clan was responsible for it. This was a very difficult time but we decided against it,” says a tearful Akber.

The family has not heard from Munir again and the case continues. “My mother has been very ill and bed-ridden for four months. My sister-in-law, who married Munir just two months before he was taken away, and I have not sat for our exams. We heard some weeks ago that he had been taken to Rawalpindi from Karachi,” he says.

Munir and hundreds of others were gone in a heartbeat. Picked up from obscure streets or yanked out of their homes, these men are not safe anywhere. When the blindfold comes off, most find themselves in dark, damp cells with blood on the walls, where whips of rubber, leather belts and drills are wielded at them. The torment has been indefinite for most.

For Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, it lasted six months where he was stripped naked and hung from the ceiling for hours on end, deprived of sleep for many days and given anaesthesia injections. Baloch returned on a stretcher. He was in hospital for three days and could not stand for two months.

This was easier than Sattar Baloch’s agony. Sattar came back with holes drilled into his feet and many months later, he is still trying to stand. Dr Hanif Shareef was also kept for six months and says that it is unlikely that he will ever lead a normal life. “They gave electric currents to my genitals and I have not recovered in so many months,” cries Shareef.

Kazim Bugti, nazim of Dera Bugti, was picked up on November 22, 2006, when he came to meet his mother in Karachi and his whereabouts remain unknown. Former detainees say they have heard him crying for his medicines.

“Munir said that he had not seen any light for five months and was given food only once a day,” remembers Ali Akber.

However, Brigadier Javed Iqbal Cheema of the National Crisis Cell dismisses such stories as incorrect. “The government does not believe in maltreatment of those who have been confined, extrajudicial custody, or illegal confinement. Nobody has come to us with complaints of torture,” says Cheema.

Zafar Jan, a member of the central organisation committee of Jamhoori Watan Party (JWP) says that in the last three years, a large number of people went missing but not one has appeared in court. “Those who have returned say there are innumerable people there. They have a Kuli camp in Quetta and two camps in Karachi. One is in Cantonment and the other is in Malir Cantt,” says Jan.

Jan claims that the camp in Quetta is far crueler than the ones in Karachi and people are tortured to own up to being a part of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA). Sher Mohammed Baloch is one of many kidnapped by the authorities. “He was in a rally and taken away in front of the entire public but officials blatantly deny it.”

Jan maintains that most of the victims belong to the JWP, Baloch Students Organisation or to the Bugti or Marri belt. “Many, like Gohram Saleh who was a driver, have nothing to do with politics but have not been spared.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) claims that out of the 99 complaints registered in 2006, 73 were Baloch and maintains that 70 per cent of these people are not ‘jihadis’. “We have 400 complaints from all over the country and out of these, 340 are Baloch,” says Ejaz Hassan of HRCP.

So far, approximately 10 Balochs have been released. The highest number of disappearances occurred in 2006 with 93 cases and 35 cases were reported in 2005. Interestingly, the Baluchvoice website records 262 abductees.

Cheema, on the other hand, calls HRCP records ‘scanty’. “There are no addresses and parentage of many people and only their names and provinces are mentioned, so how can we embark on a wild goose chase in so many cases,” he says. “Out of all those who were missing and not specifically Balochs, approximately 108 have been traced out.”

But an irate Jamil Bugti says: “It is a war zone. This is ethnic cleansing on a smaller scale. There is no way to obtain real figures because most people are afraid to report a case. Many a time, those who go to the police station do not return either.”

Bugti also recounts meeting Rauf Sasoli, an activist of the JWP. Sasoli was recently released by the spy services. “The man is destroyed. He is like a zombie because of the torture inflicted on him,” comments Bugti.

The spy arm’s bid to quell the impending insurgency in Balochistan seems to have swept up more innocents than suspected dissidents. But despite dismal returns, numbers continue to grow by the day.

For most, the safest place to fall foul of the law would be home. But for those whose greatest crime is to belong to an area rooted in bitter conflict, even this is not an option.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Darth Vader Running Pak-US Policy?

Having come down with a bothersome bug your Blogger has been laid low for the past few days. One of the few things that he managed to read was a piece written by Ahmed Rashid which appeared over a week ago in the Washington Post.

Interestingly, Rashid informs us that US policy towards Pakistan is being currently being directed by none other than the "Darth Vader" of American politics: Dick Cheney.

With such a rabid idealogue in command, it comes as no surprise that the US is so out of synch with the current realities in Pakistan.


The General in his Labyrinth

America's Bad Deal With Musharraf, Going Down In Flames
Friday, June 22, 2007
By Ahmed Rashid LAHORE, Pakistan, Special to The Washington Post

Pakistan is on the brink of disaster, and the Bush administration is continuing to back the man who dragged it there. As President Pervez Musharraf fights off the most serious challenge to his eight-year dictatorship, the United States is supporting him to the hilt. The message to the Pakistani public is clear: To the Bush White House, the war on terrorism tops everything, and that includes democracy.

The crisis began on March 9, when Musharraf suspended Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the chief justice of the supreme court, who bravely threatened Musharraf's plans to consolidate his power. That triggered street protests demanding Musharraf's resignation, which were met by a government-led crackdown on lawyers, the opposition and the media. Thousands of lawyers nationwide, looking like penguins in their courtroom black suits and white shirts, braved police batons and the heat to lead marches. They were joined by women's groups, journalists and the opposition. For the first time in two decades, Pakistan's civil society has taken to the streets.

The roots of the crisis go back to the blind bargain Washington made after 9/11 with the regime that had heretofore been the Taliban's main patron: ignoring Musharraf's despotism in return for his promises to crack down on al-Qaida and cut loose the Taliban. Today, despite US$10 billion in U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001, that bargain lies in tatters; the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, and al-Qaida's senior leadership has set up another haven inside Pakistan's chaotic border regions.

The problem is exacerbated by a dramatic drop-off in U.S. expertise on Pakistan. Retired American officials say that, for the first time in U.S. history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State's policy planning staff, on the National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney's office. Anne W. Patterson, the new U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, is an expert on Latin American "drugs and thugs"; Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, is a former department spokesman who served three tours in Hong Kong and China but never was posted in South Asia. "They know nothing of Pakistan," a former senior U.S. diplomat said.

Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney's office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I'm told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney's aides, rather than taken to the State Department.

No one at Foggy Bottom seems willing to question Cheney's decisions. Boucher, for one, has largely limited his remarks on the crisis to expressions of support for Musharraf. Current and retired U.S. diplomats tell me that throughout the previous year, Boucher refused to let the State Department even consider alternative policies if Musharraf were threatened with being ousted, even though 2007 is an election year in Pakistan. Last winter, Boucher reportedly limited the scope of a U.S. government seminar on Pakistan for fear that it might send a signal that U.S. support for Musharraf was declining. Likewise, I'm told, he has refused to meet with leading opposition figures such as former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf has exiled. (Boucher says he has met with "people across the full political spectrum of Pakistan" during his nine visits there, from government parties to Islamic radicals to Chaudhry's lawyer.) Meanwhile, Boucher's boss, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, demands democracy and media freedom in Venezuela but apparently deems such niceties irrelevant to Pakistan.

With Cheney in charge and Rice in eclipse, rumblings of alarm at the Defense Department and the CIA can be heard. While neither agency is usually directly concerned with decision-making on Pakistan, both boast officers with far greater expertise than the White House and State Department crew. These officers, many of whom have served in Islamabad or Kabul, understand the double game that Musharraf has played -- helping the United States go after al-Qaida while letting his intelligence services help the Taliban claw their way back in Afghanistan. The Pentagon and the CIA have been privately expressing concern about the lack of an alternative to blind support for Musharraf. Ironically, both departments have historically supported military rulers in Pakistan. They seem to have learned their lesson. It's a pity that those calling the shots have not.

What is at stake? Quite simply, the danger of a civil war or the country unraveling even more dramatically than it did when it lost Bangladesh in 1971.

The establishment that has sustained four military regimes is deeply divided. The judiciary and the legal system are out in the streets, demanding an end to military rule. They are backed by the country's gleeful federal bureaucracy, which resented being shunted aside by Musharraf, and joined by civil society organizations and opposition parties. The protesters' ranks have also been swelled by poor people protesting increases in the price of food and other necessities and shortages of electricity during an already blistering summer.

These dissenters have been joined by an increasingly influential media. During military regimes, the media always grow in stature as they act as the conscience of the people and give voice to political opposition. For the first time, the public can watch demonstrations live on private satellite-TV channels -- something that has bewildered the army's Orwellian thought-control department.

On the opposing side stand Musharraf's remaining allies. The most important is the powerful, brooding army. On June 1, its top brass issued a strong statement of support for Musharraf that dismissed the protests as a "malicious campaign against institutions of the state, launched by vested interests and opportunists." But on live TV talk shows, pundits are lambasting the army for the first time, shocking many viewers. Such withering criticism has forced younger officers to question whether the entire military establishment should risk the public's wrath to keep one man in power.

Musharraf is also supported by the business community, which has experienced economic stability and rising investment from the Arab world during his regime. He also retains -- for now -- the backing of a motley group of politicians who came to power after the military rigged elections in 2002, although many of them are considering jumping ship or ditching Musharraf.

Running parallel to this domestic political crisis is the growing problem of radical Islam; the Taliban and al-Qaida are now entrenched in the tribal border belt adjacent to Afghanistan. These groups gained political legitimacy last year when Musharraf signed a series of dubious peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban. They are now coming down from the mountains to spread their radical ideology in towns and cities by burning down DVD and TV shops, insisting that young men grow beards, forcibly recruiting schoolboys for the jihad and terrifying girls so that they won't attend school. The military has refused to put a brake on their extremism.

Musharraf promised the international community that he would purge pro-Taliban elements from his security services and convinced the Bush administration that his philosophy of "enlightened moderation" was the only way to fend off Islamic extremism. But Pakistan today is the center of global Islamic terrorism, with Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mohammad Omar probably living here.

Instead of confronting this threat, the army has focused on keeping Musharraf in power -- negotiating with extremists, letting radical Islamic students set up a base in Islamabad and so forth. Meanwhile, to spook the West into continuing to support him, Musharraf continues to grossly exaggerate the strength of the Islamic parties that he warns might take over his nuclear-armed country. In fact, the United States would be far safer if it pushed for a truly representative Pakistani government that could marginalize the jihadists, rather than placing all its eggs in Musharraf's basket.

How will the current crisis end? It's unlikely to peter out; the movement has lasted three months now, despite Musharraf's intelligence services' prediction that it would end within days. And Chaudhry is a formidable foe -- not a mere politician (who, in Pakistan, are inevitably corrupt) but a judge perched above the political fray.

The logical strategy for Musharraf would be to apologize to the nation for hounding the chief justice, bring all parties to a reconciliation conference and agree to early elections under a neutral interim government. If he still insisted on running for president, he would have to agree to take off his uniform first so that no matter who won, Pakistan would return to civilian rule.

But how can a commando general carry out such a U-turn without losing face, especially when he is being publicly backed by the White House? A secretary of state with vision -- a James Baker or a Madeleine Albright -- could have recognized that Musharraf's time was up. Instead, we have Rice and Boucher and Cheney, who -- just as in Iraq -- can only reinforce a failed policy. Washington is doing itself no favors by serving as Musharraf's enabler. Indeed, the Bush administration's policy of sticking by Musharraf is fast becoming eerily reminiscent of the Carter administration's policy of sticking by the shah of Iran.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle says ‘Dilute Musharraf’s Autocratic Control’

First it was the East Coast press, and now the US West Coast press joins in.

Here is today’s leader from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Editorial: A Pakistan test

Thursday, June 14, 2007

HOW INDISPENSABLE is Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf? For years he has sold Washington on the threat that without him Pakistan would descend into an Iran-style Islamic theocracy, exporting trouble and waving nuclear weaponry.

But it may be time to call his bluff. Never a friend of civil law, he has overstepped himself by firing the country's chief justice and briefly yanking press freedom for broadcast media. He's also planning for a fall vote by a lame-duck parliament on another five-year term as president while keeping his uniform as head of the military. In plain terms, his public image has taken a huge beating.

The Bush administration, of course, won't publicly disparage an ally who has collected some $10 billion in U.S. aid. Pakistan lies next door to Afghanistan, and Musharraf maintains he has done all he can to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists, who are dug in along the two-country border. Pakistan has never been a steady democracy, and Musharraf is a known quantity, hard-nosed strategists argue.

His appeal, however, is growing stale. And the proof is largely of his creation. By firing the nation's top judge, he inflamed protests that brought thousands of lawyers, business groups and political organizations into the streets. The press crackdown had the same effect: pro-democracy groups were galvanized, not the Islamic fundamentalists he has cited as trouble. At one rally last month, violence erupted between pro- and anti-Musharraf groups, leaving 48 dead.

His rule may bend, or break, soon. He's negotiating with former leader Benazir Bhutto to allow her return from exile and to possibly share power as prime minister. That could be an improvement, though it would leave Pakistan's all-powerful military in the picture, with Musharraf as its top general.

An opportunity is at hand to dilute his autocratic control. Washington should shoulder him hard in the direction of democracy and civil law. Such a change won't happen overnight, but Musharraf's weakened position is a chance that can't be missed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stratfor: Musharraf to reinstate the CJ !

To date Stratfor's predictions have been fairly accurate. This latest bit is a quite bombshell as far as your Blogger is concerned.

Is Musharraf actually planning to reinstate the CJ?

If he is, then it is a huge and humiliating retreat for the blundering general. (But then to safeguard his kursi he is left with few other options.)


Pakistan: The Problems With Musharraf's Survival Plan
June 12, 2007 22 51 GMT


In an effort designed to help dissipate the growing political storm in the country and secure his own re-election, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf plans, among other things, to reinstate suspended Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The plan is crippled by too many moving parts, however, meaning Musharraf at best could only hold on to power as a president sharing power with a prime minister at the head of a coalition government.


Richard Boucher, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, arrived June 12 in Islamabad on a two-day official visit. Topping the agenda of discussion between Boucher and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is Pakistan's increasing crisis of governance. Boucher will relay Washington's interest in having Musharraf remain at the helm, but also will communicate that Musharraf needs to reach an accommodation with his opponents.

The two main reasons informing Musharraf's decision to tough it out in the face of the South Asian nation's rapidly expanding crisis are U.S. backing and the support of the senior generals within Pakistan's military hierarchy. Musharraf also knows that he must demonstrate to both Washington and his own generals that he very much controls the situation to ensure their continued support. To do so he has devised a plan to defuse the political crisis involving reinstating suspended Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, something that also will help create conditions conducive for his own re-election.

Though Chaudhry's reinstatement might provide the embattled general with a brief respite, his bid for re-election is going to be extremely hard to pull off in part due to the increasingly assertive nature of Pakistan's judiciary and the media. Ultimately, there is just too much that can go wrong in the process of securing a second term.

The first step in defusing tensions was the government's June 9 move to withdraw restrictions on the media; this had two effects. First, it satisfied concerns within the Bush administration, which was finding it difficult to support Musharraf while his government was openly limiting free speech. Second, it prevented the anti-Musharraf movement from receiving a sudden and major boost.

In the meantime, the government produced a budget significantly increasing government employee salaries and announced that an election schedule would be released soon after parliament approved the budget. Musharraf himself said June 8 that the nation would hear the good news about the end of the ongoing political crisis. "The ongoing drama will end itself very soon and there is nothing to worry about it," he told members of parliament from the ruling coalition and Cabinet members.

The next step will be allowing Pakistan's Supreme Court to reinstate the chief justice, which will be Musharraf's way of neutralizing the legal community's protests. Once back on the job, Chaudhry will not be able to participate in rallies given his position as a nonpartisan national figure -- thus taking the chief justice and his supporters out of the limelight. The government also will try to block Chaudhry from presiding over cases involving the president on grounds that as a party to a dispute with the president, the top jurist cannot appear unbiased against Musharraf. The chief justice and his allies indeed would like to see Chaudhry's restoration and Musharraf's ouster. The government, however, hopes the restoration will forestall the latter.

The chief justice's reinstatement could provide some brief respite to Musharraf. But the president general must go through the process of re-election, which according to the government must take place between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15. The presidential election is highly controversial because Musharraf is seeking re-election from the same electoral college, composed of the current national and provincial legislatures, that elected him in the first place. His opponents have demanded fresh parliamentary elections before the presidential vote. But the main opposition group, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto might be willing to negotiate a deal whereby Musharraf can be re-elected on the condition he steps down as military chief.

Accepting a president in uniform is a redline the PPP cannot cross and sustain its position as the country's largest political party and its reputation of being anti-establishment. Musharraf's uniform constitutes the basis of his power, and assuming the role of a civilian president is a prospect fraught with perils. Even so, mounting pressure to defuse the crisis could force his hand and make him decide to retire from the military, though that would entail another set of complexities.

Ideally, Musharraf wants to remain army chief of staff until after the parliamentary elections to be held sometime in November, though even he knows that under the present conditions that is asking too much. At a bare minimum, however, he wants to remain military chief until the first week of October so he can oversee the next round of routine promotions and retirements of senior generals. That would allow him to stack the military deck with people he can theoretically work with even after becoming a civilian president.

Another hurdle to his re-election is that even if he were to have a deal with the PPP, members of parliament from the Islamist coalition, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) -- which controls one and a half provinces and is one of the largest opposition blocs in parliament -- could see its members tender their resignations, thereby rendering the electoral college dysfunctional. And street protests would come back with a bang should Musharraf try to force his way to re-election. So any deal would have to include not just the PPP, but the MMA and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted from power in 1999.

Balancing the civilian side of his government with the military side is rapidly becoming untenable for Musharraf. As a result, the resolution to the current crisis requires a very complex arrangement that under the present conditions is unlikely to hold. Thus Musharraf at best can hope to share power as a civilian with a much broader array of far more assertive civilians.

Monday, June 11, 2007

US Intelligence now writing Musharraf Off?

Over the past few weeks, U.S. intelligence have started to conclude that Musharraf is on his way out. "It is the sense people have, and it's been out there," says Rob Richer, a former deputy head of CIA operations who has met with Musharraf personally and long worked with the Pakistanis on intelligence issues. "This is the view of both senior (U.S. intelligence) officials and people who follow the issue closely." What's more, Richer tells [the writer], Musharraf himself knows his time is up, and is "looking for an exit strategy":
"He believes his successor has got to be someone who supports the military but it won't necessarily be someone in uniform. There's no obvious candidate … At this point, he's looking for the right person, a right-winger, someone who understands the Army."

From: Some in U.S. Intelligence See Musharraf on His Way Out’: by Spencer Ackerman, a senior correspondent for The American Prospect

It is difficult to know General Musharraf's fate, a former Pakistan analyst for the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Marvin Weinbaum, said. "He may be able to get through the next few months, get to October. That is the earliest date for elections," he said. "But he is so damaged, his credibility will be questioned."

…Today, American intelligence officials see one possible successor to General Musharraf in the current vice chief of staff of the army, General Ehsan Saleem Hayat, according to two American intelligence officials.

Another possibility is the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff of the Pakistani military, Ehsun ul-Haq, a former chief of Pakistan's intelligence service.

Yesterday, Mr. Ackerman reported that Mr. Haq met last month with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.

From: The New York Sun ‘Military May Pull the Plug On Musharraf’

WSJ: Off With the Uniform...

A reader pointed out that the wingnuts in the White House - and most Republican party supporters for that matter - consider the New York Times to be a ‘left-wing’ rag. (I just love the way the Americans habitually mistreat the language) While the NYT is hardly a mouthpiece for socialism, it does however symbolize a more liberal form of capitalism.

Anyhow, as it was pointed out, the Wall Street Journal, the bastion of unvarnished capitalism, is taken much more seriously by the US right-wingers.

So here is what was written in the WSJ yesterday.

WSJ: The Musharraf Dilemma
By MAX BOOT, June 11, 2007; Page A13

Pakistan may be reaching a crisis point. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is chief of both the country and the armed forces, is facing the most serious threat to his rule since he seized power in 1999. His high-handed suspension in March of the chief justice of the supreme court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, has galvanized opposition from the urban middle-class that had hitherto acquiesced in his rule. On May 12, street protests got out of hand in Karachi, leaving 48 dead and contributing to a sense of worsening crisis. Mr. Musharraf has since tried to regain control by cracking down on independent media outlets and by jailing hundreds of opposition political activists, but the protests continue.

The Bush administration is reaching a decision point: Will it continue to provide unqualified support for Mr. Musharraf on the grounds that he is too valuable an ally to give up in the Global War on Terror? Or will it pull the rug out from under him and insist on a transition to civilian democratic rule? In this matter as in so many others, George W. Bush should ask himself the WWRD question: What Would Reagan Do?
As it happens, Ronald Reagan confronted a crisis remarkably similar to this one 21 years ago involving another pro-American dictator in another strategically important country. Ferdinand Marcos had ruled the Philippines, home to two of America's biggest overseas military bases, by martial law since 1972. He had loyally stood by the United States and fought against a communist insurgency, but his rule started to unravel when opposition leader Benigno Aquino returned to his homeland in 1983 and was assassinated on the tarmac.

Evidence pointed to conspiracy involving Gen. Fabian Ver, commander of the Philippine armed forces. But a three-judge panel acquitted Ver and 25 others, and Marcos promptly reinstated him. He then shamelessly stole the 1986 presidential election from Benigno's widow, Corazon Aquino.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest. "People power" was supplemented by a rebellion within the Philippine armed forces. But Marcos still had the loyalty of much of the army, and was prepared to use it to hold onto power by force -- unless the U.S. intervened.

President Reagan confronted a difficult choice. He felt personally loyal to Marcos and was afraid of the consequences of toppling him, having little confidence in Ms. Aquino's leadership abilities. Reagan abhorred the way Jimmy Carter had abandoned the Shah of Iran in 1979, and didn't want to make the same mistake.

But his Secretary of State, George Shultz, had seen early on that Marcos's legitimacy was eroding. "I became increasingly convinced that Marcos was the problem, not the solution," Mr. Shultz wrote in his memoirs. The secretary of state had refused to call for the dictator's ouster, but he had insisted that the Philippines hold elections -- demands that Marcos had finally agreed to.

The crisis came to a head on Sunday, Feb. 23, 1986, as Marcos was massing troops in Manila to crack down on the post-election protests. The top-level National Security Planning Group met that afternoon in the White House Situation Room to decide whether to continue backing him. Only White House chief of staff Don Regan offered any support for Marcos. The rest of the foreign-policy team said his day was done. The president was reluctantly won over. He authorized his friend, Sen. Paul Laxalt, to call Marcos and convey the message. By Tuesday, the dictator and his gaudy wife Imelda were on their way to exile aboard a U.S. Air Force jet.

This was no aberration. Even while protests were erupting in the Philippines, a similar situation was occurring in Haiti. Here, too, another pro-American dictator -- Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier -- was sinking. And here, too, the Reagan administration refused to throw him a lifeline, forcing him into exile.

The Reagan administration also played a role in getting the military regime in South Korea to give up power and hold free elections in 1987. The same year, with American encouragement, Taiwan's Chiang Ching-kuo ended martial law and began the transition to democracy. The following year, again with U.S. backing, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet held a referendum, which he lost, bringing his long reign to an end.

All these actions were taken notwithstanding the very real risk, at a time when the Cold War was still going strong, of what would follow in the wake of pro-American strongmen. Back then, just as today, lots of "realists" made the better-the-devil-you-know argument. (Henry Kissinger wrote an op-ed expressing "grave concerns" about Marcos's overthrow.) But what Reagan and especially Mr. Shultz realized was that giving a blank check to dictators was a bad deal. Sooner or later, it would lead to an explosion that would make an anti-American regime -- of the kind that arose in Nicaragua and Iran in 1979 -- more, not less, likely. The best way to prevent such a disaster was by pushing for civil-society reforms culminating in free elections, something that previous administrations failed to do with Somoza or the Shah.

The choice is made more difficult in the case of Pakistan because, unlike the Philippines or South Korea, it possesses nuclear weapons. Our ultimate nightmare is for those weapons to fall into the hands of Osama bin Laden's allies. But that is extremely unlikely. The coalition of religious parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, won only 12% of the seats in the legislative assembly in 2002, even though Mr. Musharraf hindered more secular parties from competing. There is no reason to think it is any more popular today. The two main opposition parties, the Pakistan People's Party led by Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif, have their own shortcomings, including corruption and a history of dealings with Islamic radicals. But they represent the broad middle of Pakistani society, not the extremist fringe.

Moreover, Mr. Musharraf has talked a better game than he has delivered. He has taken at least $10 billion in American subsidies since 9/11, and in return he has sent his troops to fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban. But he has also struck deals with tribal authorities in South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Bajaur that essentially turn over those vital border regions to Taliban control. No wonder terrorism in Afghanistan is exploding. Taliban fighters receive training and support in Pakistan, possibly still from their historic patrons in the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency which reports to none other than Mr. Musharraf. There have even been a number of incidents in recent months of Pakistani troops providing covering fire from their side of the border for Taliban militants assaulting Afghan army positions. Mr. Musharraf has been useful, but he is either unwilling or unable to do enough to combat the terrorists in his country.

There is no need for President Bush to call for his ouster at this point, any more than Reagan called for Marcos's ouster early on. What he should do -- what Reagan did in the Philippines -- is to insist that the constitutional process play itself out. That means that, if he wants U.S. aid to continue, Mr. Musharraf should give up either the presidency or his post as army chief and allow free elections in October that could be contested by all legitimate political parties.

Reagan's words at Moscow State University in 1988 still ring true today: "Democracy is the standard by which governments are measured." Mr. Musharraf is not living up to that standard.

Mr. Boot, winner of the 2007 Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism, is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "War Made New" (Gotham Books, 2006).

A Thundering NYT Editorial

Today a NYT editorial openly criticized the Bush Administration for continuing to support Musharraf.


Pakistan’s Dictator
Published: June 11, 2007

"If Gen. Pervez Musharraf were the democratic leader he indignantly insists he is, he would not be so busy threatening independent news outlets, arresting hundreds of opposition politicians and berating parliamentary leaders and ministers from his own party for insufficient loyalty to his arbitrary and widely unpopular policies.

But nobody takes General Musharraf’s democratic claims seriously anymore, except for the Bush administration, which has put itself in the embarrassing position of propping up the Muslim world’s most powerful military dictator as an essential ally in its half-baked campaign to promote democracy throughout the Muslim world. Washington needs to disentangle America, quickly, from the general’s damaging embrace.

Ever since his high-handed dismissal of the country’s independent-minded chief justice in March, the general has been busily digging himself into an ever deeper political hole.

Last week, he issued a decree giving himself increased powers to shut down independent television channels, but under mounting pressure he withdrew it over the weekend. More than 300 local political leaders in Punjab were arrested in an effort to head off protests against the decree. Still, thousands of lawyers, journalists and political activists gathered to protest the firing, the censorship and the general’s continued rule. Pakistan seems to be rapidly approaching a critical turning point, with a choice between intensified repression and instability or an orderly transition back to democratic rule.

Were Washington now to begin distancing itself from the general, it would greatly encourage civic-minded Pakistanis to step up the pressure for free national elections. That’s a process the chief justice was trying to make possible when he was fired. And that is what Pakistan’s last two democratically elected leaders — Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif — are both campaigning for from abroad. The United States should be supporting these efforts, not continuing to make excuses for General Musharraf.

Pakistan has its share of violent Islamic extremists, military and civilian. But they are clearly in the minority. The best hope for diluting their political, and geopolitical, influence lies not in heating the pressure cooker of repression, but in promoting the earliest possible democratic elections."

Foolishly Torn in Two

By changing the lyrics of an old song we may get an accurate depiction of Benazir Bhutto these days – Torn between two ‘decisions’, looking like a fool…

The problem with her is that she is prepared to go to any length to get rid of the Swiss and Spanish money laundering cases against her, for good.

At one stage Benazir had gone as far as accepting Musharraf’s uniform and re-election by the existing assemblies. Now with Pakistan on the boil she has upped her terms, but she is still seriously considering negotiating with the General.

While undeniably a skilful political operator, she is not overly endowed with political analytical skills. That is why she is keen to toe the line of the Bush Administration (which fears that a chaotic overthrow of Musharraf will give the militants the upper hand.) For some reason the lady is convinced that she can only become a prime minister again courtesy of the US.

While she might have read some Shakespeare at school, it is time Benazir re-read Julius Caesar, especially where the great Bard says:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

By not listening to the voice of the people of Pakistan she is well on her way to missing the tide.

Benazir in a fix over 'deal' with Musharraf
Malaysia Sun
Monday 11th June, 2007

Lahore, June 11 : Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto seems to be in a fix whether to strike a deal with President Pervez Musharraf to come back to power or to ally with the opposition parties against the present government.

According to a PPP source Benazir is eager to legitimise Musharraf's rule for the next five years. In return, she wants withdrawal of cases pending against her and holding of free and fair elections, which would ultimately bring the PPP to power.

However, this has reportedly met with strong opposition within her party.

"The ongoing judicial crisis, and the fear of being isolated from rest of the opposition on this issue, are other factors restraining her from negotiating any deal with Musharraf", The Nation quoted the source, as saying.

"On one hand, she seems eager to accept Musharraf as President, while on the other, she is under immense pressure from within the party for maintaining contacts with General Musharraf, which may tarnish PPP's image of a true democratic party", the source said.

"After all, what's the difference between the MMA and the PPP, with the former legitimising Musharraf's first term as President in uniform and the latter gearing up to give legitimacy to his second term, preferably without uniform", is the question being asked by her party leaders.

In her recent interviews, Benazir has been vocal about a negotiated settlement with General Musharraf.

She believes such a rapprochement is vital for a smooth transition to democracy in the country, and to block the way for religious extremists from assuming power.

However, many in the PPP believe that the ongoing judicial crisis and strong opposition from within the party has compelled Benazir to stay away from taking any major decision in the near future.


Insecure as she is about her grip over the PPP, Benazir must now be sharpening her claws for poor old Aitzaz Ahsan. Suddenly he is being considered by many Pakistanis to be Prime Minister material, even the USA Today seems to think so.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Friday, June 08, 2007

Stratfor: An Energetic Intern Could Knock Out Musharraf

Strategic Forecasting Inc., more commonly known as Stratfor, a private intelligence agency (dubbed by Barron’s magazine as "The Shadow CIA") in its latest Intelligence Guidance Report maintains rather radically that:

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is weakening to the point that an energetic intern could knock him out of office. What moves does Musharraf have left, and who is ultimately going to pull the plug?


In a separate lengthier piece Stratfor suggests that Musharraf is desperately keen to oversee the next round of ‘promotions and retirements’ reshuffle due within the Army in the first week of October. Choosing these new appointments “would be an absolute necessity if Musharraf later caves to domestic pressure and steps down as military chief.”

Stratfor also makes a prediction on who the next lot of 'movers and shakers' within the Army will be.

Pakistan: The Future Military Leadership
June 08, 2007 20 45 GMT


For the first time since Pakistan's current political crisis began March 9, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf acknowledged June 7 that he is in trouble. His admission that his hold on power is slipping raises significant doubts about his ability to secure a second term in the presidential election slated for the second half of September. It is too early to predict which actor will succeed him politically, but Musharraf's ability (or lack thereof) to win re-election will be a key element in shaping the Pakistani military's future.


In a speech to lawmakers from Pakistan's ruling coalition, embattled Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he is worried and warned that a change in the current political order would be disastrous for the country, Pakistani media reported June 7. Musharraf accused his parliamentary allies of abandoning him in the ongoing political crisis and said he constantly receives reports about what they are saying privately. The president went on to criticize his allies for not supporting him publicly and questioned their usefulness if they are not willing to step up and defend him in the media and other public forums against criticism from the opposition.

These comments -- Musharraf's first admission of concern since the political crisis began March 9 -- show that the Musharraf regime is buckling under the weight of the crisis, which has created serious fissures within the civilian side of the hybrid Musharrafian political system. Infighting among his allies -- upon whom he depends to secure a second presidential term -- and the rapidly intensifying unrest in the country raise serious doubts about Musharraf's ability to win the next presidential election, scheduled for the second half of September. If the president cannot win re-election, he could try to impose an emergency rule of sorts, but that would only exacerbate matters.

When Musharraf cannot seek re-election, his generals likely will force him to throw in the towel, and a caretaker government, whose main task will be holding fresh parliamentary polls, will be created. It is too early to predict which political force will form the next government, since a number of elements are in play. Whatever happens to Musharraf politically, the composition of Pakistan's military -- with or without Musharraf -- is relatively easier to discern.

If Musharraf Wins Re-election

Musharraf not only wants to get re-elected as president, but he also wants to do so while holding onto the position of military chief. This is because he wants to oversee the forthcoming round of promotions and retirements in order to build the right team to ensure his hold on power -- a step that would be an absolute necessity if Musharraf later caves to domestic pressure and steps down as military chief.

The military deck is scheduled to undergo a routine reshuffle in the first week of October. The most prominent change to come is the retirement of Musharraf's two senior-most subordinates: Vice Chief of the Army Staff (VCOAS) Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) Gen. Ehsan ul-Haq. Currently, these two are the only four-star generals besides Musharraf himself. If he wins re-election in September, Musharraf's priority will be to fill the vacant positions. This process will bring to the fore younger generals, among whom there are a number of possible candidates based on merit and seniority, as well as on personal ties to Musharraf:
• Lt. Gen. Tariq Majeed: commander of the 10th Corps, who is considered to be the most capable among all the corps commanders, and who is the front-runner for the No. 2 position of VCOAS
• Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani: director-general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and another senior general who could be appointed to the No. 3 post, the CJCSC
• Lt. Gen. Salahuddin Satti: current chief of the General Staff who, though a bit junior to other generals, could be moved to a key position
• Lt. Gen. Muhammad Yousaf: current vice chief of the General Staff, who also could be appointed to a critical position

While effecting promotions and appointments, he would want to make sure that his own position is not threatened, especially given the growing movement to oust him from power. Moreover, should he need to step down as military chief and become a civilian president, he would want the next military chief to be beholden to him. This involves not just loyalty but also the creation of dependency. Therefore, he could go beyond the top tier of generals and elevate others, such as 4th Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Shafaatullah Shah, Quarter Master General Lt. Gen. Afzal Muzaffar or 30th Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Waseem Ahmed Ashraf. Director-General of Military Intelligence Maj-Gen. Nadeem Ejaz could also become a three-star general and be made director-general of the ISI.

There is a downside to filling the top slots with second-tier commanders. These generals are inexperienced in political matters, especially in situations like the current crisis. Therefore, they are more likely to press Musharraf to step down if the existing situation escalates, especially with political forces mobilizing for the parliamentary polls slated for November.

Considering the pace and magnitude of the anti-Musharraf movement's growth, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Musharraf can win re-election. Once Musharraf realizes that an election victory is beyond his reach, he could attempt to impose emergency rule as a means of prolonging his hold on power. This will only accelerate the unrest and lead to the point at which his generals will likely have to force him to quit.

If Musharraf is Forced to Step Down

Though he is the army chief, Musharraf has not had time to oversee the day-to-day running of the military because of his duties as a president -- especially as a president who has had to deal with an extraordinary number of domestic and foreign policy issues. As a result, Hayat has been running the military on Musharraf's behalf and could easily step into the role of military chief.

But the task of removing the increasingly unpopular Musharraf -- especially since Hayat is due to retire -- would make the process very complicated, to say the least. Furthermore, Hayat is known to be mild-mannered, which makes him unlikely to initiate Musharraf's removal. Instead, a consensus among corps commanders and certain key agency heads would be required.

This is where the other four-star general, Ehsan-ul-Haq, who has served as head of the military's two intelligence directorates, could play an important role. However, Ehsan-ul-Haq's position is ceremonial, so he does not have the authority to get the ball rolling or even secure a position in a post-Musharraf military leadership. This makes the role of the corps commanders -- who already are key because they are in command of the troops -- all the more important.

From the seniority standpoint, Majeed and Kiyani would be the key deciding players, while Satti and commander of the Mangla-based 1st Corps Lt. Gen. Sajjad Akram would be the prominent players from a logistical standpoint. At the end of the day, a consensus would be needed among the three-star generals, who likely would back Hayat to succeed Musharraf as army chief and get a three-year extension, thereby avoiding his scheduled retirement.

Hayat's first order of business as military chief would be to work with the political forces and the civilian establishment to install an acting president and caretaker government headed by an interim prime minister, which would hold parliamentary elections within 90 days. Though Hayat would not inherit Musharraf's political powers, he would be the one to oversee the reshuffle of the military deck, at which point every position aside from his own would be up for grabs. That said, those who would have played leading roles in the removal of Musharraf will be the ones most likely to assume key posts in the post-Musharraf military hierarchy.

After Musharraf's departure from the helm, regardless of how and when that happens, the military is unlikely to continue to directly run the country. Moreover, because of the assertiveness of the judiciary and the media, and an increasingly vibrant civil society, the military will have to give the civilian setup more freedom than it did in 1988, when military rule came to an end after military-chief-cum-president Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq died in a mysterious plane crash. But, for the foreseeable future, the military will continue to maintain a strong hold over the state -- partly because it is the most disciplined and professional institution in the country.

A Long-Standing Rule Finally Broken

For many years there has been an unwritten rule requiring the Pakistani media not to print nor mention the name of the Director General of Military Intelligence.

Even in Chief Justice Ifitkhar Chaudhry’s recently submitted affidavit the senior intelligence officer is simply referred to as DG MI.

The first time your Blogger saw the intelligence official’s name in print was thanks to Carlotta Gall of The New York Times. Ten days ago, in a news piece about the affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court by the CJ, she wrote: Maj. Gen. Nadeem Ijaz, the director general of Military Intelligence and a close relative of General Musharraf.

With his back suddenly to the wall Musharraf seems to have ditched this ‘hallowed’ convention altogether by getting the DG MI to submit an affidavit in a public court of law. And so the general public finally got a peek at his name from this official document, which begins:

I, Major General Mian Nadeem Ijaz Ahmad son of Late Mian Ijaz Ahmad, presently working as Director General, Military Intelligence (“DG MI”), do hereby solemnly state on oath as under:-

I was appointed as DG MI on 28 February 2005, and have continued to work in that position ever since…

Now that the cat is officially out of the bag, your Blogger can confirm what Carlotta Gall gave away: ‘Major General Mian Nadeem Ijaz Ahmad son of Late Mian Ijaz Ahmad’, also happens to be Mrs Sehba Musharraf’s nephew; his mother being Mrs Musharraf’s elder sister.

More importantly, the hawkish DG MI is believed by many to be one of the Commando General’s closest of advisers in most, if not all, matters these days.

One intriguing aspect of the counter-affidavits submitted by Musharraf’s lawyers is the omission of one from Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiyani, the director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI).

It is worth commenting that the existing three affidavits have all been given by men known to be close to Musharraf; DG MI is a family member; DG IB, Brigadier (Retd) Ijaz Shah, is an old friend; and Lt. General (Retd) Hamid Javed has been serving Musharraf loyally as his Chief of Staff ever since 1 November 2002.

Is it possible that, as an outsider to this close Musharraf loop, the DG ISI was reluctant to embroider the facts?

According to a news report while over a dozen affidavits of government servants are attached to the affidavit of Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Javaid, doubts do exist about their veracity:

At least, one of them is now uncertain not only about the signatures on “his” affidavit but also its contents. At one point, he categorically said that the affidavit was never signed by him. At another stage, he said that the signatures appearing on the affidavit were not his but these did resemble his initials.

Talking to The News on the assurance that his name would not be disclosed, the concerned signatory was apprehensive and shy of going to the court for being a government servant. Since the filing of an absolutely “fake” affidavit does not make sense, the officer was asked to come on the record but he did not oblige. The officer hails from the Punjab.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Musharraf vs. the Cell Phone

Amir Mir has written an amusing piece on how the political battle against Musharraf has now spread to the nation’s mobile phones.

Mobile trouble: Musharraf at receiving end of Pak mobile squad

LAHORE: Sun Tzu, in his Art of War, says: “When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.” Had the Chinese master of military strategy written his tour de force in the era of blogs and pod-casts, he may have modified his maxim thus: “When you shut down the media, do not forget the SMS.” But General Sun Tzu died in 496 BC, long before General Pervez Musharraf decided to gag the media in Pakistan.

Musharraf has of late ratified stringent measures to curtail media freedom. He did not realise, however, that dissent would find an outlet in Pakistan’s growing cellphone subscriber base. A massive campaign against Musharraf has been launched recently by the general public on cellphones.

The ‘Go Musharraf Go’ ring tone is resounding in Pakistan these days, mostly on the phones of those using the services of Mobilink. A senior Mobilink official in Islamabad, who did not want to reveal his identity, said that the number of anti-Musharraf text messages being sent and received every day runs into millions.

The ‘Go Musharraf’ tone — recorded from chants of real-life protests — has been embraced by lawyers and opposition activists. But the public is just as thrilled with the insurgent trill.

As for the dictator-dissing messages, a typical SMS asks: “Who will be saved if a boat carrying Musharraf and his Corps Commanders sinks?”

The answer turns out to be ‘Pakistan’.

Another popular message uses irony to deride the President of Pakistan General Musharraf: “Imagine the pleasure of living in a land where the chief justice cannot get justice for himself and the army chief, security for his life.”

Satire runs through a message pretending to be a campaign letter from Musharraf himself. Part of it reads: “I have the honour of kicking out from the country two former elected prime ministers...”

The letter further reads, “I am the one who had handed over hundreds of Pakistanis to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation...”

The letter then goes on, to say, “I almost sold a steel mill for the price of plastic toys... Please vote for my Pakistan Muslim League (Q) stooges... or don’t vote at all, so that I can enlighten you further!”

A Dose of Reality Finally Creeps In

The other day an acquaintance of mine found himself bound on a PIA Islamabad flight alongside three PML (Q) Federal Ministers. Two of them happened to be his schoolmates and a friendly conversation ensued. Neither of the two ministers was reticent about discussing Musharraf’s future. His days were over as far they were concerned. The third minister, who was following the affable banter, simply nodded in agreement.

Things have reached a pretty pass when Musharraf stalwarts openly announce the end is nigh for their boss.

It’s no wonder, therefore, to discover that the General is now publicly blasting members of his puppet party for their lack of support. Addressing a parliamentary party meeting of the PML(Q) on Wednesday, he took them to task with some of the following grumblings:

The Pakistan Muslim League leadership and the lawmakers…” [are] always leaving him in the lurch” and said the country would be in deep trouble if his set-up got changed.

"I bluntly say that you always leave me alone in the time of trial and tribulation. Whether it was a change in the Afghan policy, Dr AQ Khan and Bugti issues, the judicial crisis or the May 12 incident, you never came to my support,"

Musharraf deplored that out of, what he termed, 1,000 provincial/federal ministers, parliamentary secretaries and chairmen standing committees, he could not see even 10 of them speaking in his defence. "I see the party nowhere. You people are not mobilized," he declared.

"You are not delivering. You have lost the war of nerves. You all are silent upon what the media is doing. If I have to do everything, then what is your purpose?"

Interestingly for the first time Musharraf admitted that all was not well by confessing: "I feel disturbed for the first time".

Those present at the meeting remarked that he looked ‘visibly shaken’.


Reuters have carried this story under the heading 'Pakistan's Musharraf urges party support in crisis' and it has already been covered by US and UK newspapers.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

End of the Line for Musharraf?

A reputable journalist revealed this week that in his recent meetings with senior Islamabad-based diplomats (including those from the UK, US, and France)– he came across an unusual commonality of view; they all seemed to be convinced that “Musharraf had lost it completely”.

In view of this newly emerging reality it is not surprising that Ahmed Rashid, the well known Lahore-based writer and journalist, also forecasts the end of Musharraf in a brief piece he wrote for Newsweek/Washington Post which was published yesterday.


Musharraf = Military Rule, Cannot Survive

Musharraf cannot survive the year. His actions over the past few months have pitted the armed forces against the Pakistani public and a section of the establishment that includes the judiciary and civil society. If Musharraf continues along this present path in defiance of public and judicial demands, he may plunge the country into civil war.

In 1971 the army was responsible for separating the country and it may now do immeasurable damage to what is left of Pakistan. Moreover, Musharraf's policies since 9/11 of subduing one group of Islamic extremists while cozying up to another has proved devastating for a country already beset with too many political and social cleavages.

Cooperation with the U.S. is not the problem and the next elected government is likely to do much the same, as long as it has the army's support. The problem is that Pakistan’s people want an end to military rule and the symbol of that has unfortunately become Musharraf."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Our Holy Cows

As all of us are aware we have rather draconian ‘blasphemy laws’ in Pakistan. These laws are widely abused to persecute minorities out of vengefulness or quite commonly, to usurp their property. However, as a predominantly Muslim country the average citizen is understandably hostile to anyone even remotely disparaging the holy prophet of Islam. It is not the presence of this law that offends anyone; instead it is simply the unjust manner in which the law is typically applied that upsets everyone.

Now getting to the real point of this Blog: There are other ‘blasphemy’ rules that have leave your Blogger quite mystified. Three of these ‘Holy Cows’ come to mind.

The tradition in Karachi has been that anyone daft enough to criticise Altaf Hussain gets dealt with pretty swiftly.

And, if one is silly enough to condemn Mullah Omar in the NWFP tribal belt, a bullet in the head is considerably more merciful than the common punishment of beheading the perpetrator.

While the above two ‘blasphemy’ rules only apply to certain localities of the country, the last one affects the length and breadth of Pakistan and it is: Thou Shalt Not Criticise the Holiest of the Holies - The Pakistan Army.

Less than a week ago our Commando General announced that:
It is every Pakistani’s responsibility to ensure that the sanctity and reverence of national institutions, such as the armed forces, is maintained.
In other words he was saying that respect of the army is obligatory for the nation


These days crowds in Punjab are chanting ‘Chacha vardi laanda kyun nai’n: Pension uppar janda kyun nai’n - which was translated by The New York Times as: “Uncle, why don’t you take off your uniform and go back home? Why don’t you take your pension and go back home?”

Others are yelling 'Remove the skin, improve the country,' in an apparent reference to a statement from Musharraf last month statement in which he described his military uniform as his 'second skin.'

Now wonder Musharraf is peeved at the insults to his uniform but then he has only himself to blame. What he has conveniently forgotten is that he was appointed as the ‘Head Chowkidar’ of the country nearly ten years ago. Ostensibly his job was to safeguard the frontiers of Pakistan. Not only is he not entitled to rule the country but he should have been retired from his job as Army Chief long ago.

On the issue of ‘respecting the military’, Adil Najam wrote an interesting piece in today’s News.

Respecting the Military and the Media
By Dr Adil Najam

The writer teaches International Negotiation and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, US. He is the founding editor of

It is both sad and dangerous when a society begins to loose respect for its military. It is sad because it implies the breakdown of the social contract between soldier and citizen. This contract is one amongst the many that are necessary for the cohesion of the nation-state. When it works, it is based on bonds of common identity and mutual respect. This respect is necessary if it is to ultimately translate into the willingness of the former to lay down his life, when needed, for the latter. The breakdown of this primal social contract is dangerous because this is nearly always a sign that much else in society has already broken and a harbinger of more societal fissures to come.

The clampdown of media freedoms by the state is also a sad and dangerous thing. And for much the same reasons. Media freedom, after all, is a representation of -- and in some ways a custodian of -- citizen freedoms. To curtail the expression of this freedom is often the first sign of a state's willingness to ignore other societal contracts.

Neither of these extreme situations has yet transpired in Pakistan. However, we stand dangerously close to the precipice of both.

General Musharraf is right to worry about the increasing hostility against the military as an institution (as opposed to the longer-lived hostility to his person). He is wrong, however, in his attempt to 'enforce' respect for the military. Respect cannot be legislated. Indeed, the attempt to do so is a reminder that respect has already been lost. He is equally wrong in his attempts to muzzle the enthusiasms of an increasingly independent and (for him) bothersome media. As both situations continue to escalate, someone should tell Gen. Musharraf to step back and take a deep breath before things get totally out of hand. The consequences of continuing on the path of confrontation on these issues will not only be ruinous for him, they will also be disastrous for the military as an institution, for the integrity of the media, and for the country as a whole.

The general's government has rightly diagnosed and is appropriately concerned about the sinking support for the military amongst ordinary Pakistanis. However, instead of responding with threats and pontifications, the government should have invested in an honest assessment of why public anger against the military is rising. Most particularly since the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, there has been a rather dramatic shift in how Pakistanis talk about the military. Of course, criticism of the 'generals' and the 'top brass' has been a permanent centerpiece of Pakistani conversations for as long as one can remember (even in times of civilian rule). Additionally, the last few years have seen increasing resentment against the ubiquitous intrusion -- at the highest levels -- of senior military officers in any and all civilian institutions. But the new and troublesome development is that the anger is no longer targeted only at corruption and power grabbing ploys of senior officers. It is now directed at the military as a whole, the entire institution; against all faujis.

This is new and unusual, not only for Pakistan but for any society. Compare, for example, to the debate within the US on American misadventures in Iraq. Even the bitterest critics of the war begin their assaults on the blunders of the military leadership by expressing unreserved support for the 'men and women' in the trenches. This is how it usually is everywhere, and how it has mostly been in Pakistan -- but no longer so.

This highlights the fact that a dangerous threshold in military-society relationship has been crossed. Abject, repeated and volatile public criticism of the military as a whole can only breed despondency, distrust and (possibly) disgust amongst the junior officers and 'jawans' in military. In the worst-case scenario, this resentment could unleash anger amongst the soldiers against the civilian population at large -- the very citizens who the soldiers are supposed to protect then become the 'enemy'. This is what happened in 1971 against Bengalis; to disastrous effect. Alternatively, the rank and file might react by directing their resentment against their own leadership, recognizing that it is the power antics of their own generals that has turned the citizen against the soldier. Neither is good for the military or for the country.

One wonders whether the corps commanders tried to analyze this situation when they met in Rawalpindi last week. An honest assessment would find that there is a desperate and immediate need for the military to visibly distance itself from active politics and civilian institutions. Sensing the public sentiment, at least some of those present at the meeting must have recognized that it is now in the best interest of the military as an institution to move towards the de-militarization of civilian institutions, the removal of General Musharraf's uniform, and ultimately full retreat from active politics. Of course, this is not in the best personal interests of the military top brass; including General Musharraf. Herein lies the roots of the dilemma that is causing so much angst within all ranks of the Pakistan military.

The government's way of trying to resolve this angst, unfortunately, has been to issue some veiled and many unveiled threats to the media -- particularly the electronic media -- who it considers responsible for fanning anti-military sentiments, particularly in the context of discussions and coverage of the current judicial crisis. Most recently this has resulted in the government banning portions of the transmissions of various news channels. Apart from the conceptual sleaziness of trying to save the face of one critical national institution by smearing another, this is a recipe for making bad things worse.

I have never been impressed by General Musharraf's chest-thumping assertions about how he 'gave' freedom to the press. Freedom is not something that anyone can 'give' to anyone else. It is a desire that is inherent, intrinsic and ingrained within individuals as well as institutions. The credit for the expression of freedom by the Pakistani media can, therefore, go to no one except the Pakistani media itself. Having said that, it is also true that while freedom cannot be 'given' it can be 'taken away.' While freedom cannot be bestowed by government, it can -- and often is – curtailed by government. For much of his tenure, General Musharraf does deserve credit for having chosen not to limit or attack the freedom of the media. He cannot be credited with 'giving' the media new freedoms, but he should certainly be commended for not 'taking it away' -- that is, until now.

Unfortunately, he seems to be losing his patience; and his cool. Like many before him, he now finds it convenient to blame the media for problems -- such as the judicial crisis and the increasing anger against the military-- that are essentially of his own making. He seems ready to undo one more positive aspect of his political legacy. Indeed, he may already have.

Just like issuing threats and sermons on the 'sanctity' of the military is not going to restore the respect and dignity of that institution, clamping down on the media is also not going to make prickly political problems disappear. The problem is not with those who are reporting the news. The problem is with the news itself. The respect for the military will be restored when the behavior of the military top brass changes. And the 'ugly pictures' in the media that are so bothersome to the government will disappear when there are no ugly situations to report on.

On the Road to Abbotabad

While live TV coverage was banned, the truth remains inescapable - the CJ's trip to Abbotabad attracted larger crowds than even his 26 hour marathon to Lahore.

A reliable journalist accompanying the CJ informed me that there was an overwhelming presence of thousands of ordinary people who simply turned up to catch a glimpse of Iftikhar Chaudhry.

If Musharraf thinks that by switching the TV coverage off he will get some sort of respite, he has read the situation wrong yet again.

Rather than write about it at third hand, here is a piece from Ayesha Tammy Haq in today's News.



By Ayesha Tammy Haq

When I set out on Saturday morning at eight am to join the Chief Justice of Pakistan's journey to Abbottabad to address the bar association, I had some idea of what to expect but let me say in no uncertain terms that all I witnessed exceeded all imagination. I have made the trip to Abbottabad on numerous occasions, particularly in the days following the devastating earthquake of 2005. Comfortably it's a two hour journey and I figured given the long drives the CJP has been going on it would take eight to 10 hours as there are large sections of the road with small populations. In my wildest dreams I would not have imagined that it would take us close to 16 hours to get there. It must be said that being fond of creature comforts I would have been happier sitting in front of a television set watching the journey unfold live via satellite. However, as the government in its wisdom had taken it upon themselves to impose strict censorship on reporting extremely important current events, I and, as I discovered, hundreds more like me got up, donned our trainers and set out for what turned out to be the trip of a life time.

I had interviewed Aitzaz Ahsan for television after the epic drive from Islamabad to Lahore; he was emotive and passionate as he described the journey, the energy, the enthusiasm, the love. The adrenaline that kept them going, kept them awake and kept leg cramps away. He is an incredibly articulate man telling an incredible story. But as I discovered to really feel it you need to be there as mere words cannot even begin to convey the outpouring of sentiment, the energy, the enthusiasm and the pure love of the tens of thousands of ordinary people who came out on the street to show their support for the CJP. It was hot, around 45 degrees Celsius, it was dusty, and because of the huge crowds the procession moved very slowly, so people waited in the sun for hours. Amazingly no one complained. They just waited patiently. The Chief Justice of Pakistan, overwhelmed by this outpouring of love, waved and smiled. It was exactly as Aitzaz Ahsan had said in his interview; the CJP does not say anything. The window pane on his side of the car does not come down. He does not do politics. He only addresses bar associations and when he speaks it is only on matters of law.

The convoy that left the CJP's house in the morning started with fifty cars or so and as it moved out of Islamabad it started to grow. All along the route there were three sets of people. There were the lawyers in their black coats which have now become a symbol of defiance and which they wear with pride even in this uncomfortable heat. The ordinary citizens who came out of his shop, workplace, home or field to show support and the political parties who organized rallies at every small town along the way. It must have gratified those in the Pakistan People's Party to see their top leadership, led by Naheed Khan and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, out on the G T Road in numbers. In all this the CJP never left the car nor spoke to anyone. He shook hands with bar association representatives and ordinary citizens who managed to put their hands in from the driver's side. Political flags were abundant but not allowed to be placed on the car. There was a well-represented press corps, both international and domestic. I met the journalist who had been issued an externment order from Karachi on May 12.

The only planned stop was Haripur where the CJP inaugurated the district bar's website and had lunch, albeit at 5.30 pm. There were hundreds of lawyers, the crowds outside were huge, they all wanted to hear what Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Khurd, Hamid Khan and Muneer Malik had to say. The CJP was inside the Harripur Court Complex well out of earshot. The journey from Haripur to Abbottabad took forever; the crowds grew and grew and grew. At places you did not know where the road was. Prayers for the CJP's success and sadqua for his safety were offered all along the route and the Karakoram Highway was a carpet of rose petals. This was not rent-a-crowd, it was popular sentiment, something President Musharraf would give anything for to have as his presidential campaign. Sadly for him and his managers this is not something you can buy.

As we inched our way into Abbottabad the crowd swell was so huge, conservative estimates are that around 60,000 people were on the road between the bus terminal and the High Court. It took almost two hours to get to the Court where the CJP was to address the bar association. It is here that one must salute the stamina and commitment of the CJP's team. These are not young men in their 30s, yet driven by the conviction of what they are doing they individually have the stamina of a hundred young men. When they spoke the crowd of over 8,000 lawyers listened in silence before re-pledging their commitment and support to each one of the speakers.

Much had been made of the lawyers politicizing this issue. I am a lawyer and say unequivocally and unapologetically that this is a political issue. The removal of the Chief Justice of Pakistan by an army chief is political. The assault on the person of the CJP is political. The assault on the media is political. The attack on Muneer Malik's home is political. The violence in Karachi on the May 12 was political. The blocking of television channels is political. The arm twisting of cable operators is political. The attacks on Ali Ahmed Kurd and Hamid Khan are political. The attempts to impose censorship on the press in particular the electronic media is political. Official denial of actual events is political. As Muneer Malik says everything in life is political, the choices you make are political so why does one need to apologize or pretend that this is not political. Being political does not mean towing a party line. It means believing irrespective of what that belief is. And those who say the lawyers are politicizing the issue are also making a political statement.

Everyone I meet says this is a defining moment. And it is moments like this that changes a person forever. I can say with certainty that the journey to Abbottabad ended with many a changed person.

The writer is a corporate lawyer, host of a weekly talk show on satellite television and a freelance columnist. Email:

Those interested should also read the piece ‘On the Road with Pakistan's New Hero’which appears in the latest issue of Time magazine


Monday, June 04, 2007

A Recipe for Pakistan's Future

There has been a lot of theorizing about the post-Musharraf future for Pakistan. Many fear chaos and a fundamentalist takeover of the country. To your Blogger these views are a load of pessimistic tosh promoted by the current regime to frighten the West..

There are others who dislike Musharraf but loathe Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif even more. To them my message is to stop fretting and relax.

There are those who insist that the illiterate masses of Pakistan are unable to cope with democracy. Most of these people are members of the rich elite who disparage the very idea of passing control of the country to the majority. It is time they hushed up, for their views have been followed for most of the past sixty years.

To my mind the concept of a free society consists of a lot more than just holding ‘free and fair elections’.

Just take the example of the pre-1997 British colony of Hong Kong. Obviously there was no ‘Democracy’ in Hong Kong, ruled as it was by a Governor presiding over a 14-member Executive Council during the 1970s and 1980s. And despite the absence of direct elections, British Hong Kong was one of the freest societies in all of Asia (I know because I lived there for a while).

Why so?

It was free society for two simple reasons – it had an independent judiciary implementing an impartial rule of law and a completely free press that held every individual accountable.

So try and imagine a future scenario with Benazir Bhutto in power and Asif Zardari trying to, once more, rake in a few million dollars from a government deal (the same could, of course, easily apply to the Sharif brothers). The moment the word of the ‘deal’ got out (in Pakistan few things can remain concealed for too long), it would be reported in the press and discussed ad nauseum on television talk shows with audiences of millions. This would then be followed by a suo moto judicial hearing and the guilty party would soon find themselves in deep trouble.

Am I being unduly optimistic? No, the world, my friends, has suddenly changed. Hope is finally in the air.

So I would implore you all to look at the bigger picture rather than simply focus on individuals and their past records. We should all struggle for two causes: the judiciary and the press.

It will not be an easy battle as the entrenched Establishment (the higher-ranking military, bureaucracy and the rich elite) will resist change every step of the way. Right now there is a rare wind of change in Pakistan and we must not allow it to fail.

While all of the Pakistan’s problems cannot be solved by installing an independent judiciary and a free press, at least it will help bring an end to the mega-kleptocracy that has blighted our country and its people for the past five decades.