Saturday, June 30, 2007

A 15-page warning from the Interior Ministry: A surprise to the Pakistani army?

It is very hard to believe that the Pakistani army has not been aware of the spreading strength of the Taliban. Indeed, from many reports, the Pakistan military have been funding and abetting the Taliban. Only recently it was openly stated that a general, Hamed Gul, has been providing funds for the Taliban in Quetta. That the Pakistani government was unaware of the growing Taliban threat just boggles belief.
What the letter being discussed may have been indicating is that the government cannot play this double game without risking an uncontrollable internal crisis. They of course already have one: The government has lost all credibility, if the demonstrations – peaceful – all over Pakistan by the middle class are to be taken at face value. The problem for the Pakistani army, who run the country, is that it still wants to justify its war in Kashmir as a Muslim country's claim to territory. So they have thought the Taliban – the troops, the little guys being socialized into becoming human bombs – could still useful. So terrified are the Pakistanis of another war with India. Indeed, they know they would again lose.
I wish I could see hope in this report: I fear we will only see more of the same: duplicity, half-hearted moves toward democracy, denial. The ancient wisdom is that "the unfaithful will be destroyed by their duplicity." [Prov11:3]
Click on the title for the whole article.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Musharraf in Trouble: Some Pakistani views

The June 22-28 [Vol. XIX, No. 18] issue of The Friday Times has several articles that seriously consider whether Musharraf can remain in charge of Pakistan. I appreciate the weekly because it has a history of confronting the government, and has some times been roughed up for that reason. In three separate articles Musharraf’s situation is examined here, and all three intimate that his days are numbered. Bad news for the Bush administration, at least as they see it. I wonder, however, if the Bush administration really wants a government that has virtually no credibility with the Pakistani people – and in fact no credibility with even the American government, since the Americans have repeatedly stated that Pakistan is doing too little the control the Islamists in the Tribal Areas, especially in Waziristan. Because this periodical is not available without a subscription [which is actually minimal] I here quote from all the articles, recommending that it is worth the cost to subscribe to the web edition.

Decisive move in the offing by Najam Sethi

General Musharraf is compelled to seriously ponder a dissolution of parliament soon and early general elections, around September-October. … Free and fair general elections would probably fail to restore the PMLQ to power and upset General Musharraf’s apple cart. But it won’t be easy to rig them to obtain “suitable results” in today’s charged environment … So the only workable option is to try and put the pending SC judgment on the CJP on hold while firming up an alliance/understanding with the PPP before the general elections which guarantees General Musharraf the presidency in exchange for sharing power with Ms Bhutto after the elections. …[G]iven the constitutional necessity of relinquishing charge as army chief before end 2007, he can resolve the uniform issue “constitutionally” only by getting parliament to amend the law that enables him to be both president and army chief at the same time. … [W]hy doesn’t President Musharraf get the current parliament in which he has a majority to elect him president again and also amend the law enabling him to retain his job as army chief? … [But] Any attempt to railroad the current parliament today is likely to fuel anti-government protests outside parliament and compel the opposition parties inside parliament to resign and boycott the general elections. Worse, if Justice Chaudhry is restored, all these plans would go up in a puff of smoke. Therefore General Musharraf has to pull himself out of the quicksand before the CJP is restored. …[A]n appropriate deal with Ms Bhutto and a necessary understanding with the Supreme Court is so critical in these times.
One way or the other, we should expect a decisive move from General Musharraf soon.


Post-transition advisory by Khaled Ahmed

Musharraf will be removed because he has been defeated in his attempts to 'liberalise' or 'secularise' the state. … Everybody is pushing for the ‘big change’ in Pakistan. It is not like anything in the past. … In the past there was always somebody who was not against the army. That meant that the party that took on the army was stabbed in the back by another party. The phrase ‘security risk’ was common currency in the civilian discourse. This time no one is on the side of the army, strangely not even the ruling PMLQ.
Has the time therefore come to say goodbye to the dominance of the army in Pakistan? … What we want is a change in the status of the army. We want the army to be like the Indian army – apolitical, professional and non-interfering. …We might add the United States to the ‘other’ of India [as an enemy] and inflict on ourselves the task of a further militarisation of the state. The post-Musharraf period will thus be characterised by a residual India-driven nationalism sharpened by a more acerbic anti-American nationalism. … In the post-Musharraf phase the army will switch to a slight variation in the ideology of the state. To gain the right to intervene as arbiter it will borrow from the consensual passions aroused by the anti-Musharraf agitation. It will be like a conditioned reflex to revert to its real heroes, Generals Hamid Gul and Aslam Beg, the former seated next to Mr Nawaz Sharif in a recent meeting. Since Pakistan lacks the intellectual resource to get out of its India-driven nationalism, the army’s magisterial hold may actually strengthen.
The anti-Musharraf campaign in Pakistan is thought to be a liberal one. This is a misreading of the nation-wide protest against Musharraf’s cashiering of the chief justice of Pakistan. The discourse in Pakistan is still dominantly fundamentalist-Islamist. … Musharraf will be removed because he has been defeated in his attempts to ‘liberalise’ or ‘secularise’ the state.

A democratic ‘moment’? by Dr Ayesha Siddiqa

One thing is clear from a study of Pakistani politics and the military: no substantive change can happen unless there is a change in the leadership of the country. … There are two possible scenarios of what might happen. One is that ‘managed’ elections are held and a civilian government put into place, the stress on managed being important. … There will be a coalition government … Such a coalition will result in two possibilities: first, the country will dive into another battle between the seemingly secular, pro-West forces and anti-West ones (in reality, all parties are highly conservative and non-secular but the battle will be on a pro- versus anti-West agenda); second, a conflict which might ensue after the elections will further complicate an already bad situation and create greater problems of political stability for whoever forms the government.
It must be remembered that more than seven years of military rule have eroded the capacity of civilian institutions to perform. Combined with this incapacity will be the eagerness of the followers of different political parties to ask for rewards. Pakistan’s political system is patronage-based and followers demand rewards. This will happen post-election also. … Another possible scenario, given the nature of the movement that ousted Musharraf, is that the next government will be put on the spot by the seemingly alert civil society since people will reject authoritarianism in both civilian and military garbs.
But this may not happen. Pakistan is seeing a crucial ‘democratic moment’ that could easily be lost or will pass after some cosmetic changes. … What is most certain is the fact that the post-Musharraf scenario does not necessarily mean any substantial reduction in the influence of the army. … The judiciary will also be unable to play the role it played after the reference against the chief justice. The crisis was tiring and the judiciary might want to play it safe, as in the past. Future judges might not want to take on the military …This is certainly a pessimistic picture and may hopefully prove incorrect. But one thing is clear from a study of Pakistani politics and the military: no substantive change can happen unless there is a change in the leadership of the country. The control of the elite cannot produce better results than what we witnessed during Musharraf’s period.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Russian control over Eurasian pipelines

The deals that the Russians have recently made will exert a powerful influence on the course of events in Eurasia. Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan have agreed to construct a major pipeline from Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan and into Russia's network of pipelines, thence to Europe. They have also agreed to refurbish the entire Soviet-built Central Asian gas pipeline system. Moreover, the Russians and Kazakhs have agreed to expand the oil pipeline coming from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk; the Kazakhs will meanwhile gain a stake in the Russian oil pipeline that runs from Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis, Greece. Russia already controls the extant gas lines out of Turkmenistan, which after Russia was the second-biggest gas producer in the former Soviet Union. And Russia controls the main Kazakh export pipeline.
Russia, the number one supplier of gas in the world, already provides a quarter of Europe’s gas. It is also Europe’s second-largest supplier of oil.
These new deals are bad news for the United States and Europeans, who wanted Central Asian oil and gas pipelines to be built under the Caspian Sea so as to connect to Europe through Azerbaijan and Turkey without going through Russia. It is also bad news for China, for these agreements mean that Russia will control most of the energy exports from Central Asia, and so, owing to its intermediate location between Europe and China and the Far East there will be plenty of opportunity to play off the two regions against each other. China, growing 9% a year or more, must have oil.
Recent attempts by some European leaders to get a pipeline from the Caspian Sea area extended through Ukraine to Poland, although important, seems picayune by comparison.
Is the old empire – Russia/Soviet Union –taking form again? Russia is regaining its dominance in Eurasia. Its strategic location and its natural wealth make it a dominant power still.

Click on the title for the source articles

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pakistan's attempt to repackage the Taliban as a Pushtun nationalist movement

I don't know who "taqmalaloo" is and can't find anything on the web about him. However, he has written a very savvy comment on the recent attempts of Pakistan to transform the Taliban from a religious to a Pushtun movement. It is so important that I think it should be widely read. It is for this reason that I reproduce the whole article as I have it. I appologize to him if I have taken undue advantage by placeing it here, but I want it to be accessible to a wider audience. I would link to it on the web if I could otherwise find the address. He identifies himself only as Taqmalaloo.

In the backdrop of the Taleban resurgence in Afghanistan towards the end of 2005 which has claimed more than 4000 lives so far and threatens to challenge the whole NATO/US mission in that country with obvious consequences for the world peace and security; there has been a renewed interest in the Taleban phenomena and the role of Pakistan therein. The popular myth now a day being promoted by a number of players in the Pakistan-Afghanistan blame game is that the Taleban are in fact a manifestation of the ethnic and nationalist feelings and political aspirations of the Pashtun nation at large. This is substantiated by a number of assertions by the Pakistani leadership in the recent past and media commentary. For example, while addressing theForeign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels in September this year, President Musharraf of Pakistan said that "the real danger...lies in the emergence and further strengthening of the Taliban, because they have the seeds of converting and drawing the population to them and converting this into a national war by the Pashtuns against maybe all foreign forces." This shift in characterisation of the Taleban movement from a religious force to one representing the Pashtun nation may be taken as an attempt to give an entirely different outlook to the current insurgency in Afghanistan as well as the tribal areas of Pakistan. A peek at the events in the not so distant past tell us that Pakistan, with the connivance of the CIA, preferred to use 'religion' and the `Doctrine of Jihad' and not 'Afghan or Pashtun Nationalism' to fight and perpetuate the long drawn war against the `foreign forces' of Soviet Union and the later civil war. The question that arises is; what has changed in the equation now which induces us to term the current insurgency as a `national struggle of the Pashtuns' against foreign forces. The answer is simple: while internationally a lot has changed since 9/11, in Pakistan domestically nothing has changed. While the Afghan side spearheaded by President Karzai, himself a Pashtun, blame the upsurge in Taleban activities on continuous support by the Pakistani establishment and its intelligence agencies, the Pakistani side point to a number of issues inside Afghanistan which fuels the insurgency and sustain it. Chief among these, they argue is the inability of Karzai government to establish its writ beyond Kabul. Some amongst the intelligentsia here have even termed President Karzai as the `Mayor of Kabul' to scorn his lack of control over most of Afghanistan. The failure of the Karzai government and the international community in sustaining the reconstruction process of the country, particularly in the Pashtun majority areas of the South and south eastern Afghanistan is also quoted as the cause for the alienation of the local population and their increasing support for the Taleban. There are also muted pointers to the lack of proportionate representation of Pashtuns, who make up the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan, in the government institutions, decision making bodies and particularly the security forces. Together all these factors seem to contribute to the `myth' that Taleban's struggle against the foreign forces is actually fuelled by Pashtun nationalism. Seen in conjunction with the current emphasis of the Pakistani side to include the Taleban in the political process in Afghanistan on the lines of the `peace deals' signed by the Pakistani Military with the militants in its own troubled tribal areas of Waziristan (FATA), this could mean a deliberate effort by Pakistan to empower the Taleban on both side of the Durand Line. Simply put, this strategy aims to drive home the point that the Taleban are not an aberration in the Afghan calculus but represent the political aspirations of the majority Pashtun ethnic group and have thus to be accommodated in any political dispensation in Afghanistan. During the Afghan War, for the USA and the west, the objective was simple: defeat of communism; however for Pakistan the question was much more fundamental and related to its own domestic problems. Beside the defeat of Communism, there were three main objectives of the Afghan war strategy.

• Counterbalance the majority traditionally liberal and secular
minded Pashtun nationalists with in Pakistan demanding greater share
and political rights in the Punjabi dominated country in the backdrop
of the 1971 debacle leading to the creation of Bangladesh and the
bloody insurgency in Balochistan.

• Simultaneously, neutralize the nationalist elements in Afghanistan
represented by the Soviet supported communist regime, which were
likely to gain strength and thus exert more pressure on Pakistan with
regard to the Pushtunistan issue if left untouched leading to trouble
in the Pashtun belt.

• In the long term, use Islamic extremism to control the strings of
power in Afghanistan, which beside other benefits, will ensure that
her western borders will be well protected. This was deemed vital to
the survival and defence of Pakistan against the arch enemy India in
the backdrop of the 1971 War and explosion by India of its first
nuclear device in 1974. This notion was widely propagated and found
expression in terminologies like ensuring `strategic depth' and
having a `friendly political dispensation' in Afghanistan.

To pursue this strategy, Pakistan thus supported, funded and empowered the fringe religious 'clergy' in the Pashtun areas within Pakistan against the majority, largely secular nationalists, while across the Durand Line in Afghanistan, it shaped the struggle against the Soviet supported Afghan government as `Afghan Islamic Jihad'.
This strategy suited the government very well in that it ensured a degree of local support to the Afghan Resistance by the politico-religious groups like the JI `Jummat Islami'and JUI , `Jummat Ulema Islam'on the one hand, while on the other it wrested the political power away from the traditional secular and nationalist elements in the Pashtun dominated areas and empowered the politico- religious parties which have always been far more supportive of the establishment.

Much has changed in the world in the aftermath of 9/11, however, unfortunately, little has altered in Pakistan's domestic situation which would allow the Pakistani Government the space to bring a shift in Pakistan's strategy. For Pakistan the use of religion to control its domestic problems as well as retain/regain a degree of influence in Afghanistan through the Taleban remains a compulsion and not a matter of choice. In fact, by projecting the Taleban as representing the political aspirations of the Pashtuns, while still retaining their religious leanings, Pakistan wants to reassure the international community of their legitimacy as a group having popular support of the Pashtuns. At the same time it aims to dilute the negative effects of the stigma of religious extremism and fanaticism attached to Taleban in view of their links with AlQaeeda and the brutalities they committed while they were in power in Kabul. And as before, it wants simultaneously to strengthen the politico-religious elements in the North West Frontier Province and FATA to neutralise the nationalist elements which are again gaining popular support being encouraged by the prospects of a politically stable and economically vibrant Afghanistan. It was in this context that a grand Pashtun Peace Jirga was held in Peshawar on 20 Nov this year, organised by the nationalist parties and attended by a large majority of the liberal/secular leadership of the Pashtun ethnic group. This Jirga or `meeting of elders' unanimously demanded an end to the bloodshed in the Pashtun lands on both sides of the Durand Line in the name of religion and the war on terrorism. This new characterisation of Talebanisation as pashtun nationalism and terming the Taleban led insurgency as a demand for political empowerment of the Pashtun ethnic group in Afghanistan must therefore be viewed with a pinch of salt. It can at best be described as a tactic to ensure a continuation of the same old strategy with a new look. The Taleban was never a nationalist movement nor did they enlist support from the Pakistani or Afghan Pashtuns in the name of their ethnic identity. They were created by extending support to the politico-religious right over the decades, indoctrinated, nourished and aided according to a strategy. That strategy has been and still remains the same - political manovouring by the powerful elite in Pakistan to use religious extremism and indoctrination to divide the Pashtuns, denying their political rights and at the same time to regain and maintain some degree of influence in Afghanistan. Obviously this can not be achieved by siding with and supporting the largely liberal, secular and democratic minded majority of the Pashtuns; for the fear that the elite will have to relinquish the powers they hold over all ethnic minorities and give them their political rights and control over their resources. The powers that be would therefore continue drumming the spectre of Islamic extremism in Pashtuns and frightening the world on the one hand and continue supporting the fringe clergy on the other, to continue reaping the benefits that such a strategy entails. The tragedy is that the religious extremism symbolised by the Taleban has no roots in Pashtun society or culture which may be culturally conservative but is predominantly secular, liberal and based on certain traditions. The ultimate losers in all this are the poor Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line.

What Ahmadenijad did not wish for Israel

Arash Norouzi has written the most serious and insightful statement I have seen on Ahmadinejad’s now notorious comment – actually only rumored comment – about wiping Israel off the map. It turns out that that was not in fact what was said. As we know, he was quoting from Imam Khomeini, so in fact whatever he said was not actually his statement, but even then the statement doesn’t say what was widely reported. One more case of miscommunication between peoples who speak different languages. Sometimes the reasons we misunderstand is because, as in the case of Ahmadenijad, we expect him to say outrageous things, so are quick to jump to conclusions. As Norouzi explains, it was the regime – not the country – that Khomeni hoped would vanish (not be wiped off the map).

Click the title above to get the whole article.

Chaotic war in Iraq; menacing choices. Where will it go from here?

I recently received a letter from one of our troops in Iraq. He described the mess there as a kind of chaos in which it is often hard to know who is on what side. Not a two sided war or even three or four sided war, but war of many sides against each other, when identities and agendas are quite unclear. Ideology in this setting is irrelevant. Here is a digest of what he said:

General Petraeus’s Field Manual on Counterinsurgency calls the war a mosaic of sides, with a constantly shifting mix of different parties, where the conflict is different from
province to province and town to town. But from what my friend has seen "mosaic war" sounds organized. What he sees is “total chaos.”

The Al Qaeda that they are supposed to be fighting against seems invisible, a ghost. Violence is everywhere but it is almost impossible to figure out who has done it. They can’t figure out who the insurgents are. Besides the so-called “foreign fighters” attacking our troops there are disenchanted Sunni Iraqis as well as even Iraqi security forces. Shiite militias are fighting Sunnis; and they are fighting each other. When the Iraqi Army and Police are involved, they can be fighting other Iraqis, our troops, or even each other. But then the Americans can’t tell if it's corrupt soldiers or police officers (corrupt meaning, I think, fighting for money) or if they are militias in stolen uniforms, or a mix of both.

He described a gunfight – or rather, a series of gunfights – in which several kinds of people were involved: invisible shooters [they never knew who they were]; an Iraqi Army platoon [whose behavior in battle was exemplary, even in one case heroic]; an Iraqi Military Integrated Training Team working with the Americans, whose behavior also seemed highly professional; his American platoon; an Apache gunship that was called in [which told them it was all friendly fire]; Iraqi Police who had entered the fray because they lived in the neighborhood but because they were at home they were dressed in street clothes. A civilian and an Iraq soldier were shot deliberately in front of them – that could not have been a mistake because he was in uniform, but who would it have been? That was not friendly fire.

What could we expect our troops to accomplish in such a situation, given that they know no Arabic, are unfamiliar with the customs, have no idea how various families and tribes are aligned? As my friend says, it is “a mess.” It is always a tragedy of proportions that exceed out imagination. This is why I wonder about our new “Democratic Congress”. They are now so diligent to get our troops out – and yes, the sooner the better – but what will be the consequence? The heartbreak of this war is that it was never even remotely necessary – and the more we know about what was going on inside the administration we know that it was the creation of a small cabal who had no interest in getting correct intelligence: they were sure they would be heroes and would fix the mess in the Middle East.

But getting out? Rodman and Shawcross in today’s NYTimes remind us of much that we have been careful to forget: that the loss in Vietnam had huge consequences for millions of Southeast Asians – untold numbers killed and mamed, and (a matter of no small consequence) the credibility of the Americans was forever tarnished. Saddam referred to the Ameriocan flight when he invaded Kuwait,. Osama has referred to the American flight many times, and not only the flight from Vietnam but the others: from Lebanon, from Somalia, and the unwillingness of the Americans to support the Afghans after the Soviet withdrawal, and unwillingness to respond to the bombings in Mogadishu and Dar es-Salam, and the bombing of the Cole. So what would be the consequence of abandoning Iarq? Can we abandon the Iraqis who voted for democracy?

IN fact, of course, our country will not abandon its oil interests – witness the huge embassy complex being built outside Baghdad. But it is going to be more than an embassy: it will be a refuge, a hide-out for an army that may be forced to abandon its friends but not abandon its energy supply station. What would that mean? How could that work?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Pakistan detaining hundreds of opposition

The Peninsula, Qatar’s English language newspaper has just published [6/7/07] a report that Pakistan has imprisoned 1200 members of the opposition. The leader of the Muslim League says that more than 550 of their party members and 675 of Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party have been imprisoned. And of course with these parties, which have substantial middle class memberships the radical Islamist parties have joined. As usual they seek legitimacy and the new crisis with Musharraf may help them to do it. The Qatar web site provides a picture of Muttahida Majlis-e Amal demonstrators.

Click on the title for the whole article.

Sanchez's prognosis: What none of us wants to hear

I find it strange that the major media have said nothing about the statement by retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez in San Antonio interview published on 6/4/07.
He says the United States has lost the war in Iraq: As he put it, with good leadership “we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat,” But he says, we have few signs of the kind of leadership he thinks we need. There is a “crisis of leadership” in America. This is important news because Sanchez is the highest-ranking former military leader to serve in Iraq to say that our country has lost the war. Certainly the news there is not really more heartening than the news in previous years. But still we have a body of people who want to believe that we can win. In fact, the gossip now seems to have shifted from when the war will be won in Iraq to whether we have a chance of winning at all. And now, Gen Sanchez says that we have lost if we can’t get better leadership, and that leadership of the sort needed is scarce. Bad news.

Click on the title to see the whole article.
To see the commentary on it on the Information Clearing House web site see the following:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A call for concern based on half-truths

Here is a case of some truth presented in such a way as to miss the most important point. Adrian Morgan has worked to get a lot of information but strangely has missed the real crisis going on in Pakistan now. Nothing about the middle class revolt against Musharraf, even though he claims that Musharraf is in danger. Yes, he is in danger; but the crisis right now is what Morgan fails to mention: the issue of the judiciary, precipitated by Musharraf's sacking of the Chief Justice. Yes, there is a struggle over fundamentalism and secularism, and yes, there is a Baluch insurgency, and more, an expanding Taliban within the country, funded with narcotics money (plus some Saudi private money) -- but the real danger to Musharraf is the broad-based revolt against him by the lawyers who oppose his sacking of the Chief Justice.
As for the militant "fundamentalism" in Pakistan, yes, it is dangerous and active, and so far it is not being contained. But as Morgan himself says there is little real popular base for the "fundamentalists."

Pakistan: An Ally's Crisis Deepens: Part Two (of Two)
by Adrian Morgan
The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: May 30, 2007

Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan, is an ally but a tidal wave
of religious fundamentalism is about to engulf his nation. With
American travelers now warned not to travel in Pakistan, FSM
Contributing Editor Adrian Morgan details just how frightening
Pakistan's crisis is, raising the specter of a nuclear-
armed, "Talibanized" government.

[For more, click on the title above.]

Friday, June 01, 2007

Creationism vs Evolutionism, even in the Muslim world

One wonders what the world is coming to when even in the Islamic world there is a debate over "evolution" and "creation". As in the United States "evolution" is being blamed for the ills of the world: The creationists in Turkey "blame evolutionary principles for Communism, Nazism and – under an A3 photo of the Twin Towers in flames – Islamic radicalism and the September 11 terrorist tragedy. 'Darwinism is the only philosophy which values conflict', the text says."
In all these debates, it seems evident that "evolution" means something
different from what the every-day evolutionary biologists and paleontologists actually do, and assume in what they do. We are a long way from having even a clear agreement on what we are talking about when we use the terms. The debate conflicts with the assumptions of most of those who formulated the case for a secular science, namely, that an empirical enquiry of material processes can make no claims as to how "the providence of God" works (Voltaire). Folks seem to have forgotten that in the Judeo-Christian conception God works through means -- that is, material means. Which may be one reason that a "secular" science developed (but even then through much tribulation) within that social context.

To read the whole article click on the title above.