Saturday, 9 July 2016
Showkat Islam Sahib and death of Kashmiri youths
Dr Shabir Choudhry 9 July 2016
Salam brother, like you, I am also saddened on killing of some more young Kashmiri people who have lost their lives over a ‘struggle’ which was never ours. You were brave enough to ask some questions; however, I did not know how to react and express my sentiments.
I know what I am going to write will annoy many people. They will criticise me. They will level more allegations against me. Despite that I feel I have to write, and ask some questions from you and others who cry over plight of the Kashmiri people; and sadly want to continue with the same policy that has hurt us so much over the past decades.
1. Did you really think the world and the neighbouring country will shed blood tears over killing of Kashmiri young men in a struggle to make Kashmir part of Pakistan?
2. Is it not the case that blood in Kashmir and dead bodies suits their policy?
• Did you read Pakistani Lt General Shahid Aziz’s book: Ye Khamoshi Kab Tak, page 177, where he asks his seniors:
What policy is this that just to keep enemy engaged in Kashmir we will continue to shed Kashmiri blood? Is there an end to this Jihad? Do we have an end in mind or are we going to keep it at a certain level which keeps India engaged there?
3. They had an agenda and a plan in mind - how to use name of Kashmir to advance their interests; we on the other hand, had no plan or a strategy and result is before us. It is sad that many people of Jammu and Kashmir are still promoting that agenda for various reasons.
4. Sadly to many it is a business - a blood business - more dead bodies and destruction better it is for their business. These merchants of blood want to ensure that the Kashmir pot continue boiling at a certain level.
5. Let us acknowledge and analyse, even after 28 years of the militancy, that we were fooled in name of 'azadi.
• Ask yourself what preparation did we make before borrowing some guns from the neighbouring country; which, sadly also occupies our land?
• What strategy was in place to care for the families of the dead, injured and orphans?
• Was there any organisation to care for the widows and their children?
• Even in militancy there are many sections and a complete system which needs to be established before you embark on this bloody path. Was there anything established? There are so many other questions related to this. 6. Were the political leaders taken in to confidence? Did anyone in Kashmir know what some young men were going to do with the borrowed gun?
7. Did they not think of consequences of using a borrowed gun? Did they not think that Indian army also has guns and they will kill and commit human rights abuses in which their brothers and sisters will suffer?
8. Were leadership of minorities taken in to confidence?
9. Or they were perceived as non Kashmiris and not trustworthy? How do we blame them for not joining the ‘struggle’? Question arises which struggle? Whose struggle?
10. Were our preparations sufficient to care for the ‘struggle’ and defeat a country like India? Or we were happy that a neighbouring country which has a deep rooted agenda and obsession to get Kashmir has given some guns, bullets, money and few days training.
11. Did pioneers of the militancy and their leadership thought once they killed few Indian soldiers or local policemen with the borrowed guns in Kashmir, India will pack their bags and leave Kashmir?
12. Was there any plan to liberate areas under Pakistan? Or the ‘struggle’ wanted only to liberate the Valley?
13. Death of young people is sad, but was that death for independence or to make Kashmir a ‘slave’; or put it mildly, make Kashmir a part of a neighbouring country?
14. When our ideological lines are not clear, our strategy is not clear, our vision is not clear; and we continue to wave flags of Pakistan, India and ISIS the world will continue to view this in the context of India and Pakistan conflict to get Kashmir.
15. Or they may think that some Kashmiri youths have also chosen the path of extremism – following path of Daaesh.
16. Ask yourself which country wants to be engaged in India Pakistan competition to get maximum area of JK?
17. We asked similar questions in mid 1990s. We said estimate is that around 30 thousand people have perished in the ‘struggle’, and there is no end in sight. All disputes are resolved on the negotiating table. It is up to us to start talks now or get 50 thousand people killed and then talk.
18. We were branded as anti Pakistan, anti Movement, anti Jihad and Indian agents. These allegations are still levelled against us, and now we hear that more than 80- 90 people have lost their lives.
19. Is it not time to show rationality and think why we are in a cul de sac? Why we are so helpless, bleeding and suffering with no light at the end of tunnel? There is no one to even wipe our tears. There is no shoulder to cry on.
20. If we are sincere with the people of Jammu and Kashmir State and want independence of the State, then we have to acknowledge our mistakes, formulate a new strategy for the liberation of the entire State. If we want to please everyone, and do politics in name of struggle then continue with the old policy of accusing each other, waving different flags to give confusing messages to the world community.
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs. Email:email@example.com
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
What its scuttling of India’s NSG bid reveals about Pakistan
At least three strands are apparent in Pakistan's reaction to the developments leading up to, and following, the Seoul meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
One, there is a lot of jubilation and chest-thumping that India has been denied entry into the NSG despite its aggressive diplomacy and once again "parity" between the two neighbours has been retained. There is glee that Pakistan applied for membership at the eleventh hour on 18 May, the deadline for applying. This effectively scuttled India's entry into the NSG because had Pakistan not applied, India could have had an easier time at the plenary meeting.
Pakistan's "principled" position (tailored to mirror China's) is that it is opposed to "country-specific exemptions"; it wants a level-playing field and a "criteria-based" approach for NSG membership. Islamabad wanted its application for NSG membership considered alongside India's to ensure strategic stability in South Asia.
Pakistan's attitude was possibly best summed up in an article in The Express Tribuneclaiming that the non-proliferation regime had become stricter due to India's peaceful nuclear test in 1974, but in a twist of fate "it now wants to rehabilitate the thief and make it a sheriff without the latter changing its habits".
However, realists in the Pakistani establishment have cautioned that they should not get carried away by its "success" in foiling India's bid at Seoul. They have pointed out that India enjoys much greater support in the NSG as compared to Pakistan. They have also noted that the NSG waiver that India got with the US support in 2008 provides it most of the benefits that an NSG membership would. Finally, they also realise that the US is likely to continue to press for Indian exceptionalism in nuclear energy development.
Two, Pakistan's "all-weather" friendship with China has been reinforced. Pakistan has noted with great satisfaction China's assurance that it would stress that in case the NSG members made an exception for India, they should do the same for Pakistan. In other words, if India became an NSG member, so would Pakistan. China's insistence on Pakistan's inclusion was justified as being essential to putting in place a non-discriminatory criterion for offering NSG membership: all interested states should be asked to sign the NPT first because exempting any nation from this would weaken the entire non-proliferation regime.
If exemptions are to be made, then the group must agree on a criteria for admission of non-NPT states with no arbitrary "selectivity or exclusion". In this manner, China has signaled that Pakistan could piggyback on the Indian application to become a member of the NSG.
Three, and most significant, is the feeling of hurt over the manner in which the US, and especially President Barack Obama, invested a lot of time and political capital in pushing for India's membership. Pakistan has noted with some alarm the US statement that it strongly supported India's role in global institutions like the NSG and the UN Security Council, and that Washington desired to "continue to work constructively" with NSG members to admit India into the organisation.
Tuesday, 5 July 2016
PAKISTAN- The international Community must take notice of disappearances and extra judicial killing—side event at UN demands
PAKISTAN- The international Community must take notice of disappearances and extra judicial killing—side event at UN demands 5 July, 2016
A Statement by the Asian Legal Resource Centre
The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) held a side event on enforced disappearances and extra judicial killing in Pakistan and also had long discussion with the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID).
On June 20, the delegation of ALRC submitted a 160-page report on enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings in Pakistan, citing the cases and also the updated list of disappeared persons. The delegation of WGEID, led by Ms. Gabriela Guzman, secretary of WGEID and Human Rights Officer, Protection, Religion, Accountability & Human Security Session, expressed its concern regarding the continuous phenomenon of enforced disappearances by the law enforcement agencies particularly in Balochistan and Sindh provinces and unbridled powers to law enforcement agencies including military.
This comprehensive report contains data and cases of torture, extra judicial killing and of missing persons.
Ms. Gabriela Guzman said that the points discussed during the meeting, along with the joint report submitted by the different organizations under the banner of Asian Legal Resource Center, will be shared with WGEID Members.
Recognizing the alarming human rights situation in Balochistan and Sindh including Karachi, she told the meeting that the WGEID fact finding report based on the country visit during the period of 2012-2016 will be published this year. This report has already been sent to the Government of Pakistan but there is no response and follow up on that, she added. She assured that the WGEID is extensively engaged for making follow up on the individual cases of the enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.
Ms. Gebreila said that the team of WGEID visited Pakistan in 2012 and made a report on its visit and discussions with various stake holders including victim families but still did not find follow-up on the recommendations of WGEID. She pointed out that in September session of UN Human Rights Council report on disappearances will be submitted which will cover the situation in different countries.
The delegation of ALRC shared the situation of the rule of law in Pakistan and raised serious concerns on the gross human rights violations in Pakistan. Delegation particularly pointed out the recent cases of disappearances, killings and torture in custody of the political workers and activists of movements in Sindh including Karachi and other different parts of Balochistan. It also highlighted the genuine concerns of the Pakistani civil society on the chronic absence of the rule of law, rampant extra judicial killings and the culture of impunity, enjoyed by the law enforcing officials in Pakistan.
The delegation, urged response from the Working Group on individual cases of extra judicial killings and missing persons in all the provinces. In response to the concerns raised by the delegates, Ms. Gebreila Guzman said that the points discussed during the meeting, along with the joint report submitted by the different organizations under the banner of Asian Legal Resource Center, will be shared with WGEID Members.
The delegation of ALRC was consisted of Mr. Baseer Naweed, ALRC, Ms. Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director, Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), Mr. Hammal Haidar Baloch, Balochistan Nationalist Movement Mr. Sardar Shoukat Kashmiri, UKPNP, Mr. Nasir Aziz, UKPNP, Mr. Dilip Kumar, Chairperson of Sindh Human Rights Watch, Mr. Hasan Mujtaba, writer and columnist, Mr. Sufi Laghari, Sindhi Foundation, and Hatim Baloch of Baloch Human Rights Council.
On June 21, the ALRC held a side event at UN Human Rights Council building on the enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings. The speakers at the side event were experts in their field and prominent activist working on the issue of enforced disappearances. The speakers agreed that enforced disappearances are the direct outcome of a degenerated and collapsing criminal justice system.
The speakers opined that as Enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings are espoused by nearly all law enforcers, it becomes an easy way to control crime and maintain public order. The promulgation of draconian laws such as Protection of Pakistan Act (PPA) which gives unbridled power to the law enforcement agencies (LEA) particularly to the military, is a dire measure by the state failing to ensure human rights of its citizens.
The speakers of the side event were; Mr. Baseer Naweed, ALRC, Mr. Sharan Srinavas of Right Livelihood Award, Mr. Fernando of UNPO, Mr. Mehran Baloch of Balochistan House, Ms. Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director, Women in Struggle for Empowerment (WISE), Mr. Hammal Haidar Baloch, Balochistan Nationalist Movement, Mr. Sardar Shoukat Kashmiri, UKPNP, Mr. Nasir Aziz, UKPNP, Mr. Lakho Lohano and Ms. Rubina of World Sindhi CongressMr. Dilip Kumar, Chairperson of Sindh Human Rights Watch, Mr. Hasan Mujtaba, writer and columnist, Mr. Sufi Laghari, Sindhi Foundation, Hatim Baloch of Baloch Human Rights Council, Mr. Arif from MQM and Mr. Munir Mengal of Voice of Balochistan. A report from Mr. Nasrullah of Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) was also presented in the side event.
The speakers pointed that the confirmed numbers of disappeared persons and extra judicial killings are not available because the government hides itself behind the terrorist activities. Those persons who were disappeared but may he reappeared they gave the names of security persons and even identified their names who tortured them in incommunicado but judiciary failed to take action against perpetrators. The cases of extra judicial killings are very much common and are reported from every province which remained high as compared to previous years. The military operation against terrorist, the Zarb-e-Azb, has proved to be worst kind of extra judicial killings. In Sindh province a new phenomenon of extra judicial killings were reported in the name of Full fry and Half fry, where police decide how to deal with the suspects, more than 100 persons were killed in the name of full fry.
Pakistan’s ambassador in China boasted earlier this week that they had killed 3,400 people in military operations in Balochistan to protect the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Killing thousands of people just to assure China to invest money? What sort of state is Pakistan? And what sort of humanitarian values the world is defending if it cannot speak a word against this genocide of the Baloch people on their own homeland. However, unfortunately, 3,400 is not the total number of the Baloch killed by Pakistan state.
The people of Pakistan are looking for justice but Pakistan is the other name of injustice. After Bosnia and Croatia, Pakistan has the highest numbers in disappearances and extra judicial killings. The mass graves of disappeared persons are found as the commissions formed to probe the mass graves but they conspicuously given impunity to the law enforcement agencies.
The Kashmiris and Gilgit-Baltistan have been forced to remain in Pakistan but they do not enjoy the constitutional rights and nor they have been treated as the citizens of Pakistan. The intelligence agencies use the citizens against India in proxy war and if persons refuse to become part of proxy wars they were disappeared and after some times their dead bodies are found abandoned.
The disappearances and extra judicial killings have become endemic and has been treated by the state as the best solution to deprive the people of their fundamental rights and right to life. This is the main cause of serious concerns in Pakistan where state nor government and even judiciary do not willing to eradicate the menace of disappearances and extra judicial killings. Enforced disappearances erode the structure of equity and human rights that form the basis of justice systems throughout the world. By providing impunity, the State has itself become a party in the murder of its citizens, denying them the right to fair trial and due process. The state inaction in the face of rising trend in extra judicial killings and enforced disappearance has further eroded the public confidence and shattered the hope for sustainable democratic society.
Because of the absence of rule of law and criminal justice system the security agencies enjoy the impunity and it is impossible for the victims and their family members to get justice. The judiciary has totally failed to recover the disappeared persons and bring the perpetrators of disappearances and extra judicial killings before the court of law.
Pakistan has been at the fore front in the war against terror thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives and there is still no end in sight to the mindless blood and gore. Each day many nameless unfortunate souls are picked up by the agencies never to be seen or heard again. The effected families are left in a lurch to search for their loved ones. The police too don’t register an FIR the aggrieved family is even denied the right to know the whereabouts of their son, father, husband or brother the entire state machinery becomes operational to silence and threaten the suffering family.
In September 2015, the government of Pakistan has admitted to having arrested 9,000 people from Balochistan in 2015 under the National Action Plan. However, rights groups fear that the number of enforced disappeared persons in 2015 could be even higher. The speakers lamented the practise of holding the victims indefinitely and without charge.
The most difficult issue in addressing enforced disappearances is that the practice is largely un-documented. The “disappeared” individuals are not charged with any crime, and they never appear before any magistrate to challenge their detention or plead their innocence. They are not registered by State authorities, their whereabouts are kept unknown, each intelligence agency is unaware about the people disappeared by the other, and the victims are held indefinitely.
Extra judicial killing being another dangerous and unconstitutional state practice was also discussed at the side event. Extrajudicial killings by State agencies and their proxies remain rampant across Pakistan, more specifically in Balochistan. The speakers noted that Extra judicial Enforced disappearances undermine the deepest values of any society committed to respect the rule of law and human rights, and that the systematic practice of enforced disappearances is recognized as a crime against humanity under international law. Any act of enforced disappearance is an offence to human dignity and a grave and flagrant violation of multiple human rights guarantees, including the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
The speakers said the international community was reluctant to recognize the humanitarian crisis in Balochistan, Sindh, Kashmir, KPK province and Gilgit and Baltistan and urged them particularly USA and European community to take notice of the increasing violations of human rights in Pakistan and raise the issues of enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings at the highest level. The speakers realized that this is not the only responsibility of UN but also the UAS and European Union including all those countries who are champions of human rights to review their economic and bilateral relationships with Pakistan until the state of Pakistan stop the menace of extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances.
The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.
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Thursday, 30 June 2016
June 28, 2016
A new study of Pakistani school textbooks backed by a US government commission has concluded their contents will make it virtually impossible for a new generation of Pakistanis to envision a peaceful future with Hindu-majority India.
The report “Teaching intolerance in Pakistan: Religious bias in public school textbooks”, released this week and sponsored by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), noted that the textbooks are riddled with errors about minority faiths and cultures.
The textbooks, which reach more than 41 million children, negatively portray religious minorities as “untrustworthy and inferior”, the USCIRF said. The study was conducted by Pakistan-based NGO Peace and Education Foundation (PEF).
According to the study, a tenth grade Urdu textbook states: “Because the Muslim religion, culture and social system are different from non-Muslims, it is impossible to cooperate with Hindus.”
The report said: “This kind of education closes all doors for a new generation of Pakistani Muslims to see a peaceful future with Hindus of India, and worse yet, it provides a rationale to treat Pakistani Hindus as outsiders.
“In contrast, it ignores how Hindus and Muslims have cooperated and coexisted peacefully for centuries in the subcontinent.”
USCIRF chairman Robert P George said: “Pakistan’s public school textbooks contain deeply troubling content that portrays non-Muslim citizens as outsiders, unpatriotic, and inferior; are filled with errors; and present widely-disputed historical ‘facts’ as settled history.
He added this reflects the “alarming state today of religious freedom in Pakistan”.
The report said the social studies, Pakistan studies, and history curriculums teach students “a version of history that promotes a national Islamic identity of Pakistan and often describes conflicts with India in religious terms”. It added, “The conflation of national and religious identities creates a narrative of conflict and historic grievance between Pakistani Muslims and Indian Hindus.”
The report cited a social studies textbook of Sindh province that states: “Even a half century after the creation of Pakistan, (Hindu racist) organisations are still working to eliminate Muslims. As a result, violence has occurred between Hindus and other groups living in Pakistan, which resulted in the destruction of Babri mosque and Hindu-Muslim riots in Gujarat…”
The report further said: “In post-independence history, wars with India are emphasised and examples of peace initiatives are largely ignored, resulting in an unbalanced historical discourse focused on intractable conflict.”
The new study found some intolerant passages identified in another study in 2011 were removed from textbooks, while many new examples of bias were added, including passages that portray Pakistani Hindus as Indians.
The study made several recommendations, including the acknowledgement of peaceful coexistence and religious diversity in Pakistan so that students learn to respect all faiths.
The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan US government panel that monitors the right to freedom of religion abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, secretary of state and Congress.
Wednesday, 29 June 2016
The world’s second biggest economy is the world’s biggest investor in infrastructure.
CHINA SPENDS MORE ON INFRASTRUCTURE each year than North America and Western Europe combined. That’s according to a new study published last week by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. The fact that China is investing so much in roads, rails, ports—and everything else that keeps society up and running—hints at big trends that could shape the global economy in the coming decades.
“Infrastructure investment has actually gone down in half the G20 economies,” says Jan Mischke, senior fellow at McKinsey Global Institute, who worked on the report. The culprit was the global recession in 2009. But it hasn’t stopped China.
Between 1992 and 2013, China spent 8.6% of its GDP on building roads, railways, airports, seaports, and other development projects that are key to keep people and goods on the move, and keeping the economy strong. That same spending figure was just 2.5% for Western Europe, and 2.5% for the US and Canada put together.
“The report is an important wake-up call about the perils of under-investment in infrastructure,” says Robert Puentes, a senior fellow specializing in metropolitan policy at the Washington-based think tank, the Brookings Institution. "The super-charged growth in China's economy is fueled by these investments in infrastructure."
Europe’s and North America’s infrastructure is getting old, fast. It needs more money to be replaced, made better, and made safer. More investing also means greater environmental sustainability, more jobs, and innovation that fuels new technologies.
Last year, for example, the US Department of Transportation study revealed that more than 61,000 bridges in the country are “structurally deficient”; in 2014, US Vice President Joe Biden described New York’s LaGuardia Airport as “third world.” In 2013, the UK government announced a £100 billion infrastructure plan, saying that the UK had “for centuries been pioneers in infrastructure,” but in recent decades, “let this proud record slip.”
Last week's study asserts that, based on the current trajectory of investment, the world will be left with major infrastructural gaps: The world will need to invest $3.3 trillion a year for the next 15 years to keep pace with economic growth forecasts.
The report is an important wake-up call about the perils of under-investment in infrastructure.
Having said that: Of course China would be spending a lot on more ways to get its citizens from point A to point B. Emerging markets like India and China are looking to build from scratch, not just improve things that already exist. The report even says that 60% of worldwide infrastructure investment need will be in emerging economies like China, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
But Puentes points out that one has to remember, when looking at the report’s numbers, that different countries spend different amounts on different things. For example, the US is required by law to spend a mandatory amount on certain programs, like Social Security, a federal welfare program.
“If the US spent zero on Social Security and defense, the percentage of the total that goes [toward] infrastructure would be higher,” Puentes says.
Jan Mischke agrees: China will need to invest more of its GDP annually, and the US and Europe will need to invest less, since there’s a lot of infrastructure already in place. The problem? “China has actually invested much more than needed, and the US, much less than needed,” Mischke explains. "Despite this overinvestment, China's needs for the future remain vast. The key opportunity for China is to deploy capital to more productive areas like research and innovation, and to raise efficiency and effectiveness of spending."
Incidentally, China is home to the world’s first maglev train—a superfast train that replaces wheels with magnetic levitation and reaches a top speed of 430kph (267mph). It opened way back in 2004, and it represents futuristic technology that most other nations can only dream of, even today.
China's taken its impressive infrastructure business on the road: Last year, it signed a £32 billion deal with Brazil and a£5.2 billion deal with the UK to help build new infrastructure in those countries, like railways and power plants.
Puentes says the key to building robust infrastructure programs is in mixing public and private investments — ginning up “true partnerships between government agencies, private firms, financiers, and the general public. This is how many nations successfully develop infrastructure around the world today,” he says.
For instance, Japan’s train system is an example of this public-private balance fuelling the development of a widespread, reliable transportation framework. Its extensive rail network has been a combo of privately invested money and public funds from the government for years.
The emerging market of India, meanwhile — which placed second in the McKinsey study, spending 4.9% of its GDP on infrastructure — saw more private sector companies helping to build roads starting in the mid-2000s.
China has actually invested much more than needed, and the US, much less than needed.
Looking ahead, though, things will only get trickier. There are a lot of new technologies that aim to disrupt the way we build roads, send goods, and transport ourselves. Self-driving cars and deliveries by drones, for example, are realities that are being rapidly realized, and will definitely disrupt how we decide to allocate money to transit projects.
One thing is for sure, though. Considering how quickly ageing infrastructure is in some of the world’s richest nations — including the US and UK — looking to the East for a good example could prove to be the smartest spending decision of all.
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The Future of Pakistan
Dr Stephen P Cohen, a Senior Fellow at the Washington DC-based think tank the Brookings Institution, is considered as the ‘dean of the Pakistan experts’. He is known as one of the world’s most trusted authorities on the Pakistani military and its relationship with the civilian governments.
Author of and the , Dr Cohen recently edited a new book called . The 325-page book focuses on a number of challenges Pakistan currently faces. Here are excerpts from a conversation with Dr Cohen about the predictions the book makes about Pakistan’s future.
Some of the best experts on Pakistan contribute to your book The Future of Pakistan. Why did you choose this title?
The book does not look at yesterday or today, but the day after tomorrow by examining the factors and variables which will influence the future of Pakistan. I became more concerned after publishing my 2004 book, , as many of its more pessimistic judgments were coming true. So, I invited some of the best scholars on the subject to share their ideas. All of them expressed concern about the existing situation. Most seemed to agree, however, that Pakistan would not experience major transformation in the next five to seven years. We did not try to look beyond that.
In my chapter, I paid special attention to the decline of the Pakistani state. The more I looked, the more pessimistic I became.
You say you did not want to offend your Pakistani friends while writing this book but you also insist that a hurtful truth is better than a pleasant lie. What are these hurtful truths about Pakistan that you think need to be told now?
One was that General Pervez Musharraf fooled himself and he fooled everyone else. He lacked toughness, he tried to please everyone. He was not capable of leading Pakistan’s liberal transformation, although he personally held a liberal vision of the future. Some Pakistanis and many Americans thought that Musharraf was the last hope for Pakistan. I disagree, there are a lot of good Pakistanis around, both in the military and outside of it.
However, the army can’t govern the country effectively but it won’t let others govern it either. This is the governance dilemma. Pakistan is stuck between being an outright military dictatorship and a stable democracy. Neither are likely, and an even less likely future would be a radical transformation and the rise of Islamists or a breakaway movement led by the Baloch or other separatist groups. We did not see this coming soon, yet with the obvious breakdown of law and order, the decline of the economy, as well as a dysfunctional civilian-military relationship — change seems to be in the wind — but few of us can be precise about what that change will be. Pakistan is muddling through, but change and transformation are coming, I just don’t know when or how.
Weakness in governance, education, and the absence of land reform made Pakistan a victim of contemporary globalisation. It doesn’t make much that anyone wants to buy, and it is cut off from its natural regional trading partners. Yet, the negative aspects of Islamist globalisation have hit Pakistan hard. Some of the weirdest ideas in the Islamic world have found rich soil in Pakistan, and the country is regarded as an epicentre of terrorism. Pakistan, which was once held up as the most moderate of the Islamic states, seems to be embracing extremists and their dysfunctional violent ideas.
Is Pakistan on the verge of collapse?
No, it is not going to collapse. The military will ensure that the state will not collapse. It is not a country in need of critical support for its survival but it may yet happen some day, especially if the economy collapses.
Pakistan has to make a breakthrough and become a South Asian country. It should join India in a number of cooperative ventures while protecting its sovereignty against foreign interests and intrusions.
The Indians tend to be bullying when it comes to their neighbours, but Pakistanis are capable of defending their interests. Many Indians are ready for a change now. India sees itself as a major rising Asian state and Pakistan is a drag on it.
Yet, because of nuclearisation India can’t conceive of finishing off Pakistan. The only realistic option for India is cooperation. Islamabad’s decision to grant India the most favoured nation (MFN) status offers an opportunity to both countries; will it lead to a peace process? I don’t know, but their dilemma is that they cannot live with each other and they cannot live without each other. They need to cooperate along several dimensions, there is no military solution for the problems each has with the other.
Why do you call Pakistan a major foreign policy headache for the United States?
In the book I quote an American who said we assumed that with all our aid and alliances we believed that Pakistan would emerge as an independent democratic state. However, it turned out that India, which did not get our military assistance and partnership, has emerged as that kind of country.
The Pakistanis, particularly the military, have a hard time looking around for role models. Turkey, Indonesia or Malaysia may not be the perfect role models for Pakistan. Perhaps the best political role model for you is India which is also a diverse South Asian state, but now with a stable political order and growing economic power. In India, the military has a legitimate role but still remains under the government’s control.
It is the responsibility of the Pakistani civilian government to find a legitimate role for the Pakistani army, and the army must help in that search, the present arrangement is not working.
You say you don’t know where Pakistan is heading to but once it gets there you will explain why it was inevitable.
I quoted a former US ambassador to the Soviet Union who said, “I don’t know what is going to happen to the Soviet Union but when it does happen I will tell you exactly why it was inevitable.” So, looking ahead at Pakistan’s future, we don’t know what is going to happen to Pakistan but we know something alarming is happening to it. Pakistan will remain, but its identity is changing.
As for America’s mixed role in Pakistan, there were two areas where we should have been more accommodating. First, we should have recognised Pakistan as a nuclear power after it tested its weapons in 1998 — as we did with the Indians. This would have legitimised the Pakistani nuclear programme and reduced the paranoia that the Americans were trying to deprive them of their nuclear capability; it might also have contributed to more responsible Pakistani nuclear policy, right now it is the fastest growing nuclear weapons state in the world — and one with a bad record of transferring nuclear technology in the past. Second, the US should have provided trade opportunities, instead of only military aid, to Pakistan after 9/11. There was a serious Pakistani interest in increasing trade, not just receiving military aid; the US did not respond to this.
How can Pakistan get out of what you call the burden of its history and narrative of victimhood?
First, economic trade between Pakistan and the rest of South Asia should be encouraged. It should hook up with India, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, as well as continue its ties with China. The Iran-Pakistan-Indian pipeline is a good idea and I am baffled why the Americans have always opposed it. Yes, it will help the Iranians, but the pipeline will also help the Afghans, the Indians and the Pakistanis. In my math, three positives outweigh one negative.
Second, Pakistani governments have been cowardly in dealing with those who oppose modernity and try to push the country back to the seventh century. Perhaps the cowardice comes from the fact that the state uses some of these groups for its own strategic purposes, a fatal and self-defeating miscalculation.
Why do you argue that the Pakistani military has neither run the country effectively nor allowed others to run it?
Well, because they are not trained to be economists or how to run businesses although the military manages a lot of businesses once they retire. They are not trained to be politicians. Being a politician is a difficult skill to acquire. People cannot be ordered about, especially Pakistanis. As a politician, you have to find common interests by working with people who dislike each other; Pakistan needs to develop a true political class.
In Pakistan, the military has identified enemies among its fellow-citizens. If you demonise your own people, you are in deep trouble. I mean you can’t treat the Bengalis or the Baloch, or other ethnic or religious minorities the way you treat foreign enemies. That’s the route to catastrophe, as we have seen both in Pakistan and other countries that have given up on pluralism and tolerance and headed down the road to self-destruction.
Of Pakistan’s military leaders, Ayub Khan tried to act as a politician but failed because he could not address two deeper problems, education and land reforms. If you look at the East Asian tigers, they all dealt with land reforms early and invested heavily in education at all levels. Even China has done this, albeit through totalitarian coercion, which would not work in pluralistic Pakistan.
How much influence will Islam and the army continue to exercise on the future of Pakistan?
I like the idea of seeing Islamic parties getting a chance to govern, and then discovering whether they succeed or fail. I’d also like to see somebody like Imran Khan get elected — not that I am a particular fan of his, but let him get elected and assume the burden and responsibilities of governance, and be held accountable. Let him succeed or fail on these terms.
I had a conversation with Musharraf right after his coup and told him that while the obviously corrupt and extremist political leaders had to be held accountable, that he should also hold elections and let the democratic process move forward. He responded to the effect that he was going to fix the system once and for all. I knew then he was in deep trouble. In a normal state you have to allow people to fail. They must run for office, get elected and then fail on their own terms. It should be left to the people of Pakistan to decide who they elect to rule them. In the long run, they will make the right decision, but the courts, the press, and, rarely, even the military, will be around to prevent disaster. Failure should be seen as helping to perfect the system, not a sign of a bad system. The cure for bad democracy is more and better democracy, not an incompetent military regime, which only breeds resentment as it covers up its failures. In Pakistan the mentality seems to be that having won an election, the victor can persecute his or political rivals. I’d prefer a moderate competent military regime to this kind of pseudo democracy.
How is failure in Afghanistan going to affect Pakistan?
If the Taliban come back to power or if they play a significant role in the future dispensation, there will be a major blowback on Pakistan. We may yet see how the government of Pakistan responds to the Taliban mindset which says that ‘we [Taliban] have defeated one superpower, the United States, in Afghanistan and now we will take control of Pakistan and then India.’ This is a revolutionary movement that has to be contained and stopped, not provided with safe-haven and political support. Staying away from Bonn was a strategic gaffe that put Pakistan on the opposite side of virtually the entire world.
What are some of the future scenarios and options you discuss in the book about Pakistan?
Some American experts are talking about containing Pakistan. This is premature language, but if Pakistan pursues policies which are hostile to American interests in Afghanistan and if they support terrorism then we might move to a policy of containment. This would have two dimensions: erecting a military barrier while supporting internal transformation. I don’t know about containing Pakistan militarily, it seems to be pursing self-defeating policies in any case, but I support the latter kind of policy. America’s goal should be a normal Pakistan.
What should or can be done to immediately bring Pakistan into what you call a ‘normal state category’?
The long-term key to normalising Pakistan is India. The fear of India drives the Pakistan army and the army drives Pakistan. If India can normalise with Pakistan in one way or the other, then Pakistan can devote its resources and energy to becoming a more attractive and respected country.
What are the warning signs and revolutionary options for Pakistan?
An interesting part of the book is where I compare Pakistan with a number of other states. Pakistan is unlikely to follow the Iranian model of a clergy-led revolution because the army in Pakistan is stronger than its counterpart was in Iran. The negative case for Pakistan would be that of Tsarist Russia where the country was destabilised by World War I, the army fell apart and Russia’s ruling nobility had no credibility, and revolutionary groups filled the gap. There are also other bad examples like the Balkans or Yugoslavia, or interwar Japan, where the military pursued fatally self-destructive policies vis-a-vis the West and China.
Never in history have we seen a country so big with so many nuclear weapons in this kind of trouble. When the Chinese went through their cultural revolution, they did not have nuclear weapons. Hence, people were not much afraid of China. When the Soviet Union disintegrated and became Russia, they knew they wanted to become Europeans. Pakistanis should now decide to become South Asians by becoming once again a part of South Asia.
Can China become an alternative strategic partner of Pakistan to replace the US?
If the Chinese could teach Pakistan how to become an economic power, that would be great. Yet, the Chinese are not going to teach Pakistan how to become a democracy. Given Pakistan’s complexity and social diversity, democracy is a good system for it because it allows most people to have a say in the affairs of the state. You can’t run Pakistan from the centre. The army has tried that many times but has failed. After every military takeover, they called back the civilians within three years. On the political front, China is not a role model for Pakistan.
Out of nukes, huge population and geostrategic location, what worries the world the most about an unstable Pakistan?
The nuclear weapons are probably under responsible control. If Pakistan breaks down or some separatist movements succeed, as happened in 1971, then we’ll begin to worry about the nuclear weapons. Pakistan, like North Korea, is “too nuclear to fail,” that is, no one wants to see a real nuclear weapons state disintegrate.
Also Pakistan, like North Korea, uses its nuclear asset and its political fragility as a means to extract concessions from other countries. We’ve contributed to this begging-bowl syndrome, for years. The US should provide aid to Pakistan but link it to more concrete reforms in education, administration, and democratisation. Otherwise we are wasting our time and money. I don’t like the term ‘trust deficit’; trust will grow when there are clear — and public — links between our respective obligations over time.
(Malik Siraj Akbar is a freelance journalist based in Washington DC.)