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									Who will save Pakistan?

Najam Sethi
Sunday, January 30, 2011

Last Friday, three friends of mine commented in this paper on ―the state of the nation,‖ each
presenting a contrary view. Much of what each wrote about the nature of the problem makes sense
to me. But some of the prescribed solutions raise disturbing questions in my mind.

Shaheen Sehbai is outraged by the continuing corruptions and blunders of the Zardari regime, no
less than the ―miserable‖ opposition of Nawaz Sharif. ―In three years, the political system has
collapsed, the parties have turned into mafias, the economy has officially reached the point of
bankruptcy, security has vanished and people have been crushed under the weight of struggling for
sheer survival caused by the grandiose failures on all counts,‖ he argued. ―Politicians have to
understand that a crippled and dilapidated Pakistan which cannot be revived would be in no one‘s
interest,‖ he reasoned. More ominously, he concluded: ―That stage will not be allowed. It should
not be allowed. If politicians cannot deliver, someone has to.‖

Who might be that ―someone‖?

My friend‘s solution was articulated thus: ―In practical terms, the military is already calling the
shots because Zardari and Sharif have failed, singly and jointly. Besides the strategic assets, the
military establishment controls the internal, external, economic and financial policies. The
commanders get regular briefings on all critical issues, even matters like Reko Diq contracts and
negotiations with the IMF. They talk directly to Washington on matters of vital importance. They
have not acted to stop the rot because they thought the politicians will themselves rise to correct the
system. They have been proved wrong.‖

Is my friend suggesting that it is time for the military to stop pussyfooting and overthrow this
crippled, crumbling and failing political system to set things right?

I hope not. I have serious problems with such prescriptions. We have had three military
interventions, and each has been a terrible, divisive, politically impoverishing experience and left
ugly scars on our body politic. If a litany of political blunders can be laid at the door of this civilian
government – actually, of every civilian government to date – much worse political abuse can be
attributed to our wannabe military saviours.

Shaheen should know what I am talking about. After all, he was among the most outspoken critics
of the last two military dictators to stalk our land. And if, as he says, ―in practical terms, the
military is already calling all the shots...and controls the internal, external, economic and financial
policies‖ of the country, what more is left to hand over to the khakis? And if, by handing over
practical control of the fate of this country to the khakis under the facade of a civilian regime, we
are going from bad to worse, why should we invite more trouble by legitimising another military

My friend Ayaz Amir is more anguished than outraged. Like Shaheen, he too is desperate for
someone to appear on the horizon like a gallant knight and exorcise ―the demons and nightmares‖
haunting our beloved country. Who might be that ―someone‖?

―Only a Kemalist army‖ could make a go of it, he believes. But in the same breath, Ayaz correctly
dismisses the notion that ―an army high command wedded to a fortress-of-Islam myth can take
Pakistan out of these woods.‖ Indeed, it is his view that ―between the armies commanded by
Mustafa Kemal and those which guard our ideological frontiers – never mind the inconveniences of
geography – the distance is as vast as between the mountains and the seas.‖
So what is the challenge today? ―As in 1966-67.‖ writes Ayaz, ―it is to sense the hot winds blowing
and fill with something new, some colour and poetry, the barren desert of ideas which is the
national political stage... Pakistan needs a makeover, a turning away from the past and a reinvention
of the very idea of Pakistan. Is there any artist out there who can fulfil this historic task?‖

If my idealist friend Ayaz doesn‘t have any ―artistic‖ answers, there is no shortage of those who
hanker for a Khomeini to save Pakistan a la Iran, which is neither a Western-type ―democracy‖ like
Pakistan, nor a praetorian regime like Egypt or an autocratic one like the one that has just perished
in Tunisia. Is a pious strong man at the top the need of the hour?

Pakistan certainly needs much more law and order. It also needs better economic management,
greater social equality and much less corruption. But a ―Made in Pakistan‖ Islamic revolution is
neither possible, nor desirable. For one, an Islamic revolution, as opposed to a putsch (like the one
by Gen Ziaul Haq), requires a regional and religious homogeneity (as in Iran) and intellectual
leadership (like the Ayatollahs) that is missing in Pakistan. Also, the performance of the religious
parties in government – the PNA during Gen Zia‘s time and the MMA during Gen Musharraf‘s
tenure – was worse than that of the mainstream parties in the 1990s. Therefore, any such frustrated
impulse is a recipe for anarchy, not good governance. Also, one should not overly glorify the
Islamic Revolution in Iran in view of the marked and increasing yearning for greater ―Western
type-freedoms and democracy‖ among its urban middle classes.

So where do we go from here?

My friend Shafqat Mahmood is not so forlorn. For him, ―the state of governance in our country that
fed deep pessimism suddenly seems capable of reformation. The internal checks that were never
visible before in the system have now come aggressively to the fore. And are beginning to leave a
mark.‖ He is referring to the newly aggressive and independent Supreme Court of Pakistan. ―What
has not been experienced in any sustained way is the impact of judicial accountability on
corruption. Seeing it unfold graphically, with all the details being laid bare, is not only surprising
(and satisfying) but opens up immense possibilities.‖ He is talking about the Supreme Court‘s
intervention to hold the high and mighty politicians and bureaucrats accountable for corruption and
misuse of power, no less than its firm advice to the military to remain within the ambit of the law
and Constitution regarding the ―missing‖ persons.

I agree. We have experimented with men on horseback like Gens Ayub, Zia and Musharraf and
with wannabe Bonapartes like Z A Bhutto, and lived to regret it. Therefore, we must try and fix the
system incrementally, without derailing it. In this regard, the Supreme Court is rightly banging on
about accountability and corruption. No less significant, there is, finally. broad agreement between
the government and opposition over the essential elements of an agenda for reform, even if the will
is still weak and there is much foot-dragging. Sooner or later, too, we will have a neutral Chief
Election Commissioner and NAB chairman, and then we can have another go at trying to make
parliamentary democracy work.

But I would be amiss if I did not raise qualms about two core institutions that need to reform
themselves if we are to get going. The army must revamp its national-security doctrine and stop
insisting on commandeering the heights of economy and society in an age of internal scarcity and
regional distrust. And the media must act with greater responsibility to encourage a progressive,
moderate and international outlook in the mindset of the nation. No modern democracy or economy
can work in the stifling environment of religious orthodoxy, international isolation or military

The writer is Jang Group/Geo adviser on political affairs.
Over the top

Masood Hasan
Sunday, January 30, 2011

It‘s sheer madness these days to question what is wrong with us. In the days when the Zionists were
lambasting the Egyptian forces in the Suez, an Arab friend of mine organised a fun fair to collect
money for the war effort. When I arrived at the venue I asked him, ‗Abdul, why the long face
buddy? What‘s wrong with you?‘ Abdul shrugged his shoulders, ran a hand over a three day
stubble, looked me in the eye and said, ‗Brother what‘s right with us?‘ End of discussion. The fun
fair was a success. I wish one could have said the same for the war.

Now many moons later another dictator whose reign seems endless is facing a rough time from a
disillusioned nation many among them from a new generation which cannot understand why one
man should continue to rule forever? As per script, the law enforcing agencies are out in full battle
gear, gunning people with water tanks, plastic bullets and the real stuff. The people are out on the
street and things are serious. As Pakistanis watch from afar, many wonder when will that day come
when the people, the ordinary folks who lead ordinary and inconsequential lives, rise up and take to
the streets and say, ‗enough is enough‘. Many believe that the day will never arrive because
something vital has been extracted from within us, that we are just a walking talking body of
soulless people who enact the rituals and endure the tedium of daily life, then wither away and are
buried somewhere forever.

If the Pakistanis possessed a soul once, vibrancy or even a sense of being, it has long gone
consigned to the overflowing and cracked dustbin of our national aspirations. Today, for most of
the people, one day simply merges into another so that it is hard to recall what happened when.
Maybe there are other nations that possess this incredible appetite for punishment but surely most
will agree that the Pakistani people have an insatiable appetite. Look around you and ask if there is
one man who will stand alone, without a firearm and stare back defiantly at an approaching tank.
That classic picture became a symbol for all struggling people but forgive me if I don‘t see one of
my fellow sheedas looking down the barrel of a tank gun. More than likely he will burst forth into a
‗qaumi naghma‘ and do a folk dance that depicts the four provinces – an item we have done to

Writing on the passing away of jazz legend, Dr Billy Taylor a few weeks ago, I was inundated with
emails from people who saw something of value in that particular piece. Even one friend who said
that about half a dozen lines of what I bothered people with on Sunday mornings was all that could
be endured, this piece was better than the usual drivel. So I have been thinking that is there some
way we can reawaken our somnolent people and at least point out the direction whether they take
one step or another and it was music that came to my mind. That and a forced stop at Liberty
Chowk in Lahore yesterday where one looked at this obscene plaza that now sits like a giant frog
on what was Madam‘s residence. A small sign – thank you Lahore, says ‗Madam Noor Jehan
Road.‘ That‘s it. That‘s our sum total of thank you to a woman who sang her heart out for us and
lifted the sagging spirits of this battered country with half a dozen songs that still run a shudder up
your spine and bring a tear to your eyes.

Those wonderful soldiers Madam serenaded with all her heart and soul are long gone, replaced by
one of the world‘s most capricious armed forces, air, land or water and who in turn have spawned
the spooks that run our lives from shadowy outfits fired with a myopic and misplaced zeal of
‗patriotism.‘ And more dirty tricks afoot so that the question of who really rules Pakistan is always
one that leaves people more bewildered than before. And what have we done for Madam? No
official acknowledgement of her birth or death anniversary aside from a few cursory and passing
references, no seminars, no festivals in her honour, no scholarships floated in her memory, no re-
issue of her great work stretching four decades. No nothing. Madam is dead and so be it.
And Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali has suffered similarly. Buried in Faisalabad he is just about forgotten.
His nephew mints money the other side of the border and charges the kind of fee his uncle might
have in his last few years and while he holds forth on how much he owes his legendary uncle (and
Rahat Fateh Ali is no comparison to the Ustad) – I at least have never once heard him, here or in
India or for that matter the rest of the world, talk with passion about preserving the legacy of the
man who put Pakistan on the map of contemporary music blending our traditional stuff with the
musical patterns much loved by a new set of listeners the world over. The industrialists of
Faisalabad are rich enough to build a city named after Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan but they will not do
that or even a fraction of it. There is no festival here and all that the rich apparently do is feast in
the evenings or shop in the plazas.

The only music that is acceptable here or in Lahore or elsewhere is to invite slobs to drink scotch
like one would drink lassi on a hot June afternoon and make fools of themselves shoving thousand
rupee notes down the inviting bosoms of nautch girls as the Brits put it quaintly. The brush with
music is confined to mujras and money flows faster than scotch here. And the sad list is long –
painters, writers, calligraphists, dancers, theatre stars, television stalwarts – all have and will suffer
a government that does not care and a people who have lost touch with their real roots. Those who
don‘t even know their yesterday cannot even dream of having a tomorrow. And it is not a question
of money. It‘s a question of taste and priority. Hence you have Musharraf‘s Potato atop
Shakarparian Hills but no monument to Madam or the great Ustad, to name just two. How many of
us know where that diva Roshan Ara Begum lies buried amongst the most lyrical notes that flowed
from her magical throat? More the question will be – Roshan Ara Begum? Who is that?

And therein lies our tragedy or at least partially. We have all the potential but we have no vision.
And no soul. No heart. No compassion. We have history‘s greatest explorers who passed through
here but we cannot even recall who they were. The great Khyber Pass should be given to the
Taliban to blow up like they did the Bamiyan Statues as long as it doesn‘t jeopardise their lucrative
opium, gun running and snuggled goods trade – they are and have always been more traders than
servants of Islam. And that‘s the way it goes. When was the last time someone said to you, ‗I have
to go, am reading a book‘?

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email:

Another Bhutto moment in our tormented history

Ayaz Amir
Friday, January 28, 2011

By 1966-67, after nine years in power, the Ayub regime was exhausted, having run out of ideas and
with not a clue in the mind of its leading minions about the future. The 1965 war into which our
self-appointed Field Marshal had stumbled – or should we say sleep-walked? – with no little help
from Pakistan‘s then Talleyrand, the mercurial and brilliant Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had sapped the
regime‘s morale. The Field Marshal was a broken man, in spirit and soon enough in body when
struck by an attack of paralysis in the beginning of 1968.

Bhutto was a creature of that regime, indeed its brightest star. And, as noted above, he had
contributed in no small measure to the disaster of 1965, even if the ultimate responsibility for war
and peace lay not with him but with our impressive Field Marshal, the first of our impressive-
looking men – the lineage stretching from Ayub to Musharraf and including those other two titans,
Yahya and Zia – who were really men of straw and tinplate armour.

But Bhutto was more than just Ayub‘s creature. Bright and restless and with some claim to having
a sense of history – he had read Napoleon and Hitler but there is nothing to suggest that the history
of the sub-continent was ever his forte – his was an ambition waiting for its moment. When
President Lyndon Johnson did Bhutto the favour (which of course did not seem much of a favour at
the time) of asking Ayub to sack him and Ayub, who had his own reasons to see the last of Bhutto,
obliged him, and Bhutto found himself in the political wilderness, and the National Awami Party
which he wanted to join wouldn‘t take him, he set off on his own and with the help of a small but
starry-eyed band of committed leftists founded the Pakistan Peoples Party

Leaving East Pakistan out of the political calculus, this part of Pakistan – which we have inherited
and are making a royal mess of – had known only three kinds of parties: deadwood permutations of
the Muslim League, Pakistan‘s founding party a willing Marie Walewska pandering to the
pleasures of a succession of authoritarian leaders; religious or quasi-religious parties like the
Jamaat-e-Islami, Chaudry Muhammad Ali‘s Nizam-e-Islam Party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, now
led by Pakistan‘s pre-eminent political gymnast, Maulana Fazlur Rehman; and the anti-
establishment Awami National Party, dubbed anti-national because of its ineffectual efforts to
inject a measure of rationality in Pakistan‘s political discourse.

Rationality and what passes for the Pakistani establishment are incompatible propositions, the paths
of reason ending where the high walls of the establishment begin. Fortress of Islam or citadel of

The PPP was a departure from the texture and form of the old parties. Its founding slogans – Islam,
democracy, socialism – resonated with the youth, intelligentsia and the working classes, peasants
and workers, of Punjab. Its tricolour flag – red, green and black – was a work of art. And then the
most vital factor of all: Bhutto‘s charisma and personality which was a change from the drab
political leadership Pakistan had hitherto known.

By the time of the 1970 elections Bhutto had taken Punjab if not the country by storm. He attracted
feudal support in interior Sindh and pockets of south Punjab but his real strength came from the
Punjabi masses.

Immortal land of the five rivers – Beas and Sutlej dead for any good they can do Pakistan and the
Ravi a far cry from the river of love and longing about which the young Master Madan sang (there
is a haunting song by him, Ravi de uss paar mitra...beyond the Ravi my beloved) – what strange
paradoxes have arisen from thy hallowed soil? You made Bhutto a national leader and now, in a
strange transformation, are breastfeeding varieties of religious fanaticism alien to sub-continental

When the definitive history of Pakistan is written, the holy nexus of Punjab and the Pakistani
establishment will have much to answer for.

There is much in common between Pakistan 2011 and as it is likely to be in 2012, and Pakistan as it
was on the cusp of emerging disorder in 1966-67. The old lies exhausted and the new, if only the
gods of luck treat us kindly, is waiting to be born.

Bhutto ultimately was a failure, his tragedy consisting in the fact that instead of buttressing the
regime of reason and democracy, which was the challenge presented to him by history, his despotic
rule paved the way for the very opposite: the wave of reaction which came in the form of the
Nizam-e-Mustafa movement of 1977 and Zia‘s coup which followed soon thereafter. Pakistan is
still reaping the harvest of that summer of evil memory. But as head of the newly-founded PPP he
was a knight in shining armour, for many the messiah that Pakistan had long awaited.

Pakistan is at a similar turning point today. Fixing the economy, one part of the crisis facing the
country, requires bold leadership –- this from a governing dispensation whose chief characteristics,
by universal acclaim, are corruption and incompetence. The nation has just been treated to this
dispensation‘s idea of radicalism: a judicial commission to investigate the rise in sugar prices,
which must be the joke of the century. The ruling dispensation will do nothing to break the sugar
cartel for that would be to step on powerful political toes. But it will not desist from throwing more
dust into the eyes of the Pakistani masses. Lenin roll over.

But beyond economics, if Pakistan is to be saved – that is, if we are still interested in anything of
the kind – of foremost importance is to roll back the tide of reaction flowing from 1977 onwards
which has turned Pakistan into what it is today: an abnormal country preoccupied by strange
theories of strategic depth and security. The army‘s mindset is inoculated with concepts and
theories that would have Clausewitz running for cover. So it is not an easy task changing this

But if the tormented soul of Pakistan is to know any rest, if the demons and nightmares haunting its
existence have to be exorcised, then sooner or later this task has to be undertaken. Or we will
continue down the paths we are currently on, hostage not so much to Indian or Zionist or indeed
extra-terrestrial designs as to Frankensteins manufactured in our own strategic laboratories.

And not to put too fine a point on it, only a Kemalist army, and not an army high command wedded
to fortress-of-Islam myths, can take Pakistan out of these woods. But not to get too far ahead of
reality, between the armies commanded by Mustafa Kemal and those which guard our ideological
frontiers – never mind the inconveniences of geography – the distance is as vast as between the
mountains and the seas. For Pakistan‘s purposes let it suffice that the jihadi baggage taken on board
during the Zia years is discarded. Even that is no easy undertaking.

Do we have the imagination to realise that the only way to give fresh impetus to the Kashmir cause
is to scrupulously follow a policy of non-interference? Left to themselves, the people of Kashmir
may achieve something. As the past has shown, any venture in which Inter-Services Intelligence is
involved is doomed to failure.

This was just an aside. To return to our main theme, the challenge now, just as in 1966-67, is to
sense the hot winds blowing and fill with something new, some colour and poetry, the barren desert
of ideas which is the national political stage.

This government is not going. But in the larger scheme of things its fate and that of the knaves and
jokers who form its battalions, and are presently on parade, is hardly of any consequence. In the
scales of history something more momentous is taking place: the ideas which have sustained
Pakistan these last 30 years, and given it a permanent headache, are collapsing.

Those ideas are still around but they have degenerated to the point where, for large numbers of
Pakistanis, an assassin is a national hero. This is a metaphor for our times. Pakistan needs a
makeover, a turning away from the past and a reinvention of the very idea of Pakistan. Is there any
artist out there who can fulfil this historic task?


Needed: another Durand

Nasser Yousaf
Friday, January 28, 2011

‗You have got to stop this war in Afghanistan,‘ is now famously remembered as one of the last
entreaties of Richard Holbrooke before the charismatic US special representative for Afghanistan
breathed his last. But is it really a war?
A friend, quite well read and eloquent, challenged this view politely at a party at the residence of a
British Pakistani friend when the opinion was aired that America was given to hyperbole. Bemused,
he demanded an explanation. ‗Well, look at what is going on in Afghanistan. Are these not isolated
small-scale skirmishes with bands of insurgents that the Americans are flaunting as war?‘ The
explanation seemed to have the intended effect and led to an engrossing discussion.

For the past many weeks, CNN is repeatedly splashing images from a video made by a freelance
filmmaker while in the alleged captivity of some Taliban. The incident is being touted as the most
horrendous example of Taliban savagery that threatens to dwarf the fear of hell fires in comparison.
For those living in Peshawar, the Taliban snipers shown in the video are probably one of those
leftovers from the last days of the Soviet occupation who were entertaining western journalists in
every second street of Peshawar in exchange for the much sought after credibility license from
western governments.

Richard Holbrooke had been to the front several times during his nearly two-year long stint. On the
face of it, he looked calm and in control of the situation, but in retrospect it now appears that his
rearguard action was doomed to fail and his composure did not extend beyond the media room. The
message that Holbrooke unfailingly carried home was of total despair, in which his countrymen
continuously had to deal with emotional and psychological problems.

The war in Afghanistan, and prior to that in Iraq, has exposed the excessively maudlin character of
the American nation. They spend half of their fortune on their soldiers, each one of them dressed in
a million-dollar garb, and then indulge themselves in some of the most ridiculous public displays of
emotion. Go through any American magazine and one will come across pathetic pictures of U.S
soldiers bivouacking in sand or wiping sweat off their brows. You don‘t train and dress your
soldiers in an expensive outfit for a pageantry parade but to fight your wars in which death is a

Since the war, as the Americans prefer to call it, is in our backyard, there is no escaping discussion
on the subject. Some senior retired soldiers were recently found reminiscing about their times with
the British soldiers whom they regarded as immensely superior to the Americans. ‗Stoicism was the
hallmark of the British Army,‘ one of them quipped while branding their American counterparts
more iPod and cell phone savvy.

Stoicism was indeed what personified the British soldiers, if one goes through the chronicles of the
British period in the Frontier. John Nicholson, the administrator of Bannu in the mid-nineteenth
century, almost single-handedly won the day for his beleaguered troops in the 1857 uprising against
the British. Alexander, Nicholson‘s teenage brother, was hacked to pieces by the wily Afridis near
the forlorn Ali Masjid area in the Khyber Agency. In fact, all four of the Nicholson siblings served
in India and while every little detail about them is chronicled, nowhere do we find that their parents
whined or shed a tear for their wards in public in the manner that the Americans are wont to do.

A little after the Nicholsons, Edwardes, Abbott and others, the Durand brothers emerged on the
scene. It is no small credit to the elder of the two, Mortimer, that what we call Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa today and find breathing in a modicum of safety is owing to his foresight and great
political and administrative acumen. For all the skill he employed in forcing Amir Abdur Rahman
to draw the Durand Line, Mortimer lies buried in obscurity in the cantonment cemetery in D. I.
Khan, although his name stands prominently on the world map.

While Mortimer was thus occupied, Algernon, the younger Durand, was engaged in a breathless
operation securing the extreme northerly frontier of Gilgit and Chitral for British India. These days
as we fly above the loftiest mountains in the world on our way to Gilgit, Skardu and Chitral, little
do we realise that Algernon and his British and native soldiers scaled those heights on horseback
and on foot in the most inclement weather conditions towards the last decade of the nineteenth
The Great Game was at its peak and Russian agents had infiltrated as far as Hunza and Nagar, as
we find the story told in ‗The Making of a Frontier‘ by Algernon Durand. It wasn‘t merely the
Russian threat that he ventured to counter but also had to grapple with the utter chaos, intrigue and
treachery rampant in local politics. A humane Algernon ensured that the native troops who had not
been paid their salaries for over six months got their dues in his presence.

When one last wrote, nearly a year-and-a-half ago, how urgent it was for Holbrooke to re-enact
Durand by working to fence the Durand Line, some tribal friends did not initially fully support the
idea. ‗But don‘t you rule out the settled areas being fenced from the tribal belt then,‘ friends asked,
sounding a grave warning and appearing to be half convinced. However, already walls have been
erected on some portions of the settled-tribal divide to secure some affluent areas of Peshawar.

America is still struggling to find Holbrooke‘s replacement. It is time they extended the search
beyond US boundaries. The Afghan War budget for the US has far exceeded its homeland security
expenditure. Fencing the fateful Line might be far less expensive, unless the US is playing a
different Great Game than the one trumpeted and aimed at whittling down the movement of the

Time to give up hidebound thinking

Saleem Safi
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pakistan is faced with numerous problems, but its complex and troubled relations with India and
Afghanistan are the source of most of its problems. Our internal and external troubles mainly flow
from this source.

Our strained relations with India compelled us to maintain our defence capabilities at a level not
maintainable with this country‘s resources and capacity. Feeling the crunch, we looked to other
support, and that inevitably turned Pakistan into a security state. A security state is unsuitable for
the nurturing of civil society, and that is why democracy has not taken firm roots in this country.

The pursuit of the strategic depth doctrine on Afghanistan and the fierce competition with India to
counter its influence in Kabul gave rise to the culture of extremism in Pakistan. This culture
tarnished our image in the world community. The state‘s ostensible helplessness in the containment
of this threat earned us the tag of ―failing state.‖

So, any well-meaning leader in Islamabad who wants the country to develop a democratic culture,
have an efficient state and achieve progress and prosperity will have to find ways to secure peace
on both the western and eastern borders of Pakistan.

Tragically, these issues have never got the due attention of the political leadership, the intellectuals,
the media and civil society. We have left the two fronts, Afghanistan and India, to the
establishment, or at best to the Foreign Office.

The country‘s political and media personalities are not eager to keep abreast with new
developments in both India and Afghanistan. A few think tanks watching both countries are not
worth the name because they either serve as mouthpieces of the establishment or look to
Washington and London for financial survival.

In this situation we cannot expect fresh thoughts and new ideas on these critical issues.

Pakistanis have been made to develop certain stereotypes about India and Afghanistan. News and
analyses in the print and electronic media merely strengthen those trite and old perceptions. The
people are frightened with threats that no more exist. The emerging and real threats spawned by the
changing environments in India and Afghanistan find no mention in such debates, discussions and

For many years, India‘s priorities in the region, and the situation in Afghanistan, have undergone
many radical changes. A few days back, an Indian diplomat came to my office. We hotly debated a
range of issues, including Kashmir and Afghanistan. I told him that we cannot wrest Kashmir from
the Indian clutches by force, but at the same time India will never be able to match us in

He was unable to justify his country‘s role in Afghanistan. I told him that India‘s intention to
exploit the situation of near-anarchy in Pakistan is suicidal, because Pakistan would not lose much
in a possible war with India. If a war broke out between the two countries, India would be the
bigger loser, because its dreams of becoming a superpower would be permanently shattered.

The diplomat stressed that India cannot afford a war with Pakistan. If it could afford such a conflict,
then Kargil and the Mumbai attacks offered the best opportunities for a war with Pakistan. But I
told him that, though unwillingly, India would be dragged into a war with Pakistan.

He was not convinced by this logic and asked how that would happen. I told him that India had
provided to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates the means of triggering a war between India and Pakistan.
India is playing into the hands of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates because it has signalled to the
extremists and militants that a lone incident can derail the peace process between the two rival
countries. So if Al-Qaeda and its affiliates felt threatened in the region, they would seek to cause a
war between India and Pakistan as the last viable option. These groups have the capability of
launching terrorist attacks and any Mumbai-like attacks in the future can trigger a war between the
two nuclear powers.

During this discussion, I felt that the Indian establishment has not even thought of this possibility.
Rather, they have the idea that, like in the past, Pakistan still controls the militants. I am certain that
this new element in India-Pakistan relations has not been appreciated by our policymakers as well.
And that is why we lack vision, direction and purpose to seek new avenues for healthy competition
and better relation with India.

The ground realities have undergone a sea change in Afghanistan as well. For example, despite its
being non-existent at the moment, we are still obsessed with the term ―Northern Alliance‖ in that
country. Most of the leaders of northern Afghanistan have turned against their friends of yesterday.
Hamid Karzai, who used to play second fiddle to his Western friends, has now become a stumbling
block in the way of the fulfilment of certain designs of those very friends, the United States and

Similarly, the Taliban are also a changed species. They were enemies of Iran in bygone days, but
they have now established training camps on Iranian territory. During their rule in Afghanistan,
they were against photography, but today they use video cameras, CDs and the internet as special
tools in their war against the foreign forces in their homeland.

Similarly, we are told that the United States forces will flee Afghanistan, sooner rather than latter.
However, against this perception, a few days back the US awarded supply contracts for ten years to
keep its bases operative in Kandahar, Sheendand and Mazar Sahrif.

We need to get rid of traditional thinking on India and Afghanistan and determine new priorities in
view of the new realities. We should do this with an open mind. This necessitates engaging
collective wisdom. Unfortunately, we are victims of a huge gap between the views and beliefs of
the military and the civil establishment on these issues. That gap should be bridged through
discussion and constructive debate in order for Pakistan to forge a united approach on this critical
juncture of our history.

We never needed this line of thinking so desperately. This is a difficult task, but not an impossible
one. If we fail to do this, the fire will engulf the entire country, to the satisfaction of our enemies.

The writer works for Geo TV.

Email: saleem.safi@janggroup.

Fault lines

Dr Qaisar Rashid
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The assassination of Salmaan Taseer has once again brought to light one of the many social and
political fault lines in Pakistani society: for one group of individuals the question is to what extent
religious radicalisation of society is acceptable; for another the question is to what degree
liberalism can be tolerated.

This fault-line is not new. It has been there since the inception of Pakistan. Before the formation of
Pakistan, religio-political parties had had little direct role to play in politics, but in the post-
independence period, availability of the space for political manoeuvring through ‗religious‘ means
opened a new vista for them.

Several religio-political leaders emerged to proclaim that Islam was urgently ‗required‘ and many
of them even prescribed what kind of Islam the state needed. When the army entered the political
sphere through martial laws, it enabled the religio-political parties to reinforce their role. To make
sure they stayed relevant these parties collaborated with the army. Sectarianism too sprouted from
the struggle that ensued.

The Objectives Resolution was passed in March 1949 not to make the country a theocratic state but
to lay the foundation of a Muslim state which would be a federation. (recognising ethno-linguistic
identities and protecting the minorities). Later, the incorporation of ‗Islamic‘ provisions in the 1973
Constitution swelled the ‗religious‘ aspect of the Constitution and outsized the democratic, federal
and pluralistic aspects.

The 18th Amendment has now balanced the tilt with its 102 amendments – but there is still a need
to do more in this regard.

The irony is that the religious right could not have had Pakistan to operate in without the liberals
leading them. Without the liberals in the lead in the movement for the separate homeland for
Muslims, Pakistan could not even have come into being.

And the greatest of these liberals was Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, our founding father,
who had said: ―In any case, Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state to be ruled by priests with
a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians and Parsis – but they are all
Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their
rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.‖

The most burning of all the questions raised in the aftermath of the assassination of Salmaan Taseer
has been whether Islam should be exploited for leverage against political opponents.

It is now becoming obvious that Pakistan has gone beyond the stage where precedents could have
been set for the separation of the religious from the political. Looking at the history of general
elections in Pakistan, one reaches the strange conclusion that the voters, and not the state, have
been trying to separate the two.

But that can happen only if the elections are not rigged directly or indirectly – or the political
process id not interfered with – for the benefit of political combines like the Muttahida Majlis-e-
Amal, as happened during Pervez Musharraf‘s military rule.

The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: qaisarrashid@

Balochistan‘s prospects

Najam Sethi
Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan says the situation in the province of Balochistan is on
the brink of civil war. In 2010, over 100 decomposed bodies were found, many in Mekran, and over
300 persons are still ―missing.‖ Most of the dead bodies showed torture marks. Al-Badr-like
shadowy groups, such as Baloch Musla Defai Tanzeem and Sipah-e-Shuhada-e-Balochistan are
responsible. Last year, there were 117 incidents of targeted killings; another 119 people died in
bomb explosions and 19 were killed in sectarian attacks. NATO tankers are routinely torched.

Taliban Shura leaders are holed up in the Quetta region from where they are directing attacks on
NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. NATO wants to bomb their hideouts. Gas pipelines to
Punjab are constantly attacked and supplies disrupted. Ethnic-cleansing is increasing. Many
questions arise. Are the Baloch nationalists fighting for secession or autonomy? Where are all the
missing persons of Balochistan? Who is carrying out ethnic cleansing of settler-Punjabis? Who is
target-killing leaders of the nationalist movement? What is the role of the ―agencies‖ of Pakistan
and India? What are the grievances of the Baloch? Is there a ―solution‖ in sight?

Balochistan is a sort of tribal confederation with its attendant pulls and pushes, competitions and
conflicts. Baloch nationalism draws its inspiration from the enforced accession of Kalat state to
Pakistan at the time of Partition. The hurt and wound of the original sin has progressively become a
rallying nationalist cause only because accession did not lead to integration into the new nation-
state of Pakistan.

Indeed, in time the nationalist narrative has transcended the original agitation politics of non-
integration (how many Baloch are there in the bureaucracy, the army and the public sector?), and
sought to renew itself on the basis of the militant politics of exploitation (Sui gas royalties are
inadequate, Gwadar Port is not in Baloch hands, Baloch lands are being bought up by Punjabis,
Balochistan‘s minerals are being extracted by foreigners for a song, etc.). The case of East
Pakistan‘s slide into alienation and separatism comes to mind straightaway. But a comparison
points to some critical differences.

A ―confederation of tribes‖ with mutual jealousies and conflict was not as conducive to the rise of
unified Baloch nationalism like the political and cultural homogeneity of the Bengalis was for their
nationalism. Therefore Islamabad was better able to divide and rule the Baloch than it was able to
subdue the Bengalis.

This was reflected in the split between the nationalist tribal sardars of the Marri and Bugti tribes in
the resistance movement of the 1960s and 1970s when the former took up arms against Islamabad
and the latter sulked on the sidelines or actually embraced it. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Marris,
Mengals and Bugtis tried to obtain a measure of political and economic autonomy from Islamabad
but failed, because the mainstream PPP and PML-N were busy making and breaking governments
and ignoring the imperative of economic development and national integration.
The military government in the 2000s negated the benevolent effect of economic development by
depriving the sardars and middle classes of Balochistan of its largesse. (Gwadar was tied securely
to anchors in Islamabad and the Bugti tribe was threatened with military reprisals for agitating
about royalties from Sui and contracts from Pakistan Petroleum.)

Worse, in the 2002 elections, the military regime propped up the mullahs and religious ideologues
of Balochistan (and NWFP) at the expense of the tribal sardars, mainstream politicians and the
middle classes, effectively depriving them of power-sharing. This culminated in alienating the
Marri sardars and forcing them into exile and antagonising the Bugti sardars and compelling them
to resist by force. The premeditated elimination of Nawab Akbar Bugti through a military operation
became the catalyst for an unprecedented unified stand by the Marris, Mengals and Bugtis against

This was a turning point for Baloch nationalism. Here was the necessary condition for revolt and
rebellion. The sufficient condition was provided by a new twist in regional politics. The American
intervention in Afghanistan brought an anti-Pakistan regime to power in Kabul that saw profitable
leverage against Pakistan in hosting Baloch insurgents and fanning Baloch separatism.

On the other border, with India, it was also payback time for Pakistan‘s jihadi incursions and
instigations in Kashmir in the 1990s and early 2000s. Thus, the Marri-Bugti leaders in exile readily
clutched at the new facilitators and providers of arms and funds from across Pakistan‘s eastern and
western borders and launched their armed resistance against Islamabad.

The undemocratic national security ―deep state‖ of Pakistan has responded by a policy of
repression. That is why Baloch nationalists are target-killed by invisible agencies whose calling
card is ―Pakistan Zindabad.‖ Or they ―disappear‖ in the dungeons of military field-intelligence
units where the writ of the soft state (judiciary and civilian administration) is absent. And that is
why the Baloch nationalist movement is portrayed as an Indian-Afghan-sponsored ―conspiracy
against the integrity and solidarity of Pakistan.‖

The nationalists have retaliated with a policy of ethnic-cleansing of Balochistan‘s settler-Punjabis
because they are seen as potential allies of the enemy deep state dominated and led by Punjabis.
Their bloody fate can squarely be laid at the door of insurgent Baloch nationalism. Is there a way
out of this quagmire?

Secession, for an independent Balochistan, is not possible, because the modern nation state guards
its territorial sovereignty and integrity fiercely. India‘s state has wiped out an entire generation of
Kashmiri ―freedom fighters‖ without relinquishing an inch of territory. Therefore, as in Kashmir,
the insurgency in Balochistan will lead to repression, not secession. Only a foreign intervention and
war could create conditions for Pakistan‘s disintegration and Balochistan‘s secession as an
independent state, as happened in 1971 in the case of Bangladesh.

But nuclear equations tend to deter war with India. Will the mere promise of political autonomy
and economic development and representation in the organs of the civil-military bureaucracy
persuade the insurgents to abandon armed struggle and accept rehabilitation in Quetta?

No. The secessionists will cease insurgency only when the external forces that feed and prop them
up back off and their safe havens in Afghanistan dry up. That is when they will consider returning
to the mainstream, and that too only if there are credible and positive inducements for it. Therefore,
the sufficient condition for insurgency today (foreign support) must become the necessary
condition (by being withdrawn) for negotiating true autonomy and integration of Balochistan into

But foreign support and safe havens for Baloch nationalists will not end until there are mutually
related settlements of outstanding disputes between Islamabad and New Delhi and Islamabad and
Kabul, so that their proxy wars and insurgencies can come to an end. This also implies an
appropriate end-game in Afghanistan acceptable to the USA.

Is that a tall order? Yes, it is; in the short run, at least. In the longer term, however, there is no
alternative for the three states in the region. Each must respect the territorial integrity of the other
two in the interest of peace, stability, integration and economic development in the region. A US
withdrawal from Afghanistan must be presaged by a historic India-Pakistan rapprochement.

The writer is Jang Group/Geo adviser on political affairs.

Over the top

Masood Hasan
Sunday, January 23, 2011

I am unable to understand the outrage following the honourable Prime Minister‘s foundation-stone
laying ceremony in Islamabad the other day. The project, which is causing some anger amongst
―disgruntled elements,‖ is part of the PM‘s Economic Recovery Drive and aims to generate far-
reaching economic benefits for the masses.

Stripped of all the negative ho ha that has erupted, it merely envisages the building of an additional
104 family suites, besides 500 servant quarters, under the noble Parliamentary Lodges Outreach
Programme that will ensure that public representatives can think and plan how best to run the
country while resting their hardworking posteriors on government largesse. The 500 servant
quarters will ensure that food, drink, massage, general cleaning, and all the rest of that, run in a
manner that would get a nod of approval from Jeeves himself.

Witnesses say that it was a touching sight when the PM laid the first brick with a gold-plated paver
encrusted with diamonds. The chairman of the Senate wept openly as the PM devoutly raised his
hands in prayer and wished the project all success. The chairman of the CDA had already fainted.
He later told visitors at PIMS that the sheer magnificence of the occasion was too much to bear. He
is, thanks God, recovering speedily and shows no disturbing signs of the panic attack he suffered.
Across the land, 180 million and more raised hands in prayer to show solidarity with the PM‘s bold
vision. The project is built on an economy-mode plan, as it will only cost Rs3 billion, a sum the
country can well afford.

Exciting details of this project are now being shared with a joyous populace. The project is on 1.4
acres, which you will agree is most reassuring, and when complete will have a vast car-parking
basement facility, fire-safety measures, garbage chutes – no, these will not be used to send
parliamentarians down into the refuse – hissing and splendid lifts to carry heavy loads – many
parliamentarians look pretty close to hippos and certainly outweigh them – gyms for ladies and
gents – they are looking into gyms for eunuchs also, since this is an across-the-board public facility
– shops, department stores, public meeting rooms, lounges and cafeterias. Rumours that it will also
house an underwater sea restaurant are sadly unfounded. Parliamentarians and their well-wishers
will be able to enjoy all these facilities which, when you come to think of it, are merely
manifestations of the love people have for them and appreciation that a visionary builder of the
calibre that the Sage from Multan is, lives amongst his people and thinks of these improvements in
their lifestyles.

Inspired by the ground-breaking ceremony, the PM also suggested that a security tunnel to
safeguard VIP movement must be built. In the first stage, it will run from the Parliamentary Lodges
Phases I & II to the Parliament Building. Necessary orders have already been issued to the ever-
compliant CDA, and a mere four acres will ensure that VIPs can travel on silent go-carts – BMW is
already developing a model – and shop, sup and sightsee on their way. With so many distractions
en route, it will be a miracle that they will ever arrive, but, then, good things don‘t come fast and

The PM also reminded the fawning audience that developmental projects were his actual specialty.
He reminded the grinning hangers-on that it was indeed his vision that gave us the Parliament
House, Gulshan-e-Jinnah Complex, Parliament Lodges, Ministers‘ Enclave and Faisal Mosque.
Makes old Shah Jehan look a bit of a fool, doesn‘t it?

Experts have been called in to draw up a feasibility plan that ensures all developmental funds in the
next 20 years are exclusively devoted to a network of elaborate tunnels, with all the trimmings that
will connect the government‘s top VIPs with every single building that they might require to visit.
This plan can then be extended to include other cities so that VIPs will never be seen again and
wailing sirens will be the only indication that there is life beneath the surface. This is an absolutely
brilliant idea, because it will forever ensure that the PM has nothing to do with the people, though
some frustrated critics say that this stage of nirvana has already been accomplished by the PM and
his president, who is sometimes heard to be in Pakistan.

We all know that any leader who has a vision is bound to be misunderstood by the general riffraff
that passes for the great unwashed of this land, and this has happened. Some people have said that
the country has a national debt in excess of $53 billion, that thousands upon thousands of victims
from the Earthquake (now happily buried) and the Great Flood remain homeless, having lost even
the little miserable things they owned. The government has chosen not to react to this because the
luxury tunnels to take them to these areas are yet to be built, and unless the responsible men and
women who run the affairs of the country see things for themselves, they are obviously unable to
make any comment.

Some idiot has cited the car auction of the Iranian president that fetched $1 million, which he
promptly gifted to the people to help fund a housing project for the underprivileged. To which we
say, what has it got the president? Poorer by a million greenbacks, some good press, some sound
bytes, and next day it‘s forgotten.

The Lodges which in our case will take at least three years to build, will indeed feature a cost
overrun, as corruption rates are bound to rise further.

By the time it is done, if it is done, it would cost $5 billion which, given the great inflation rates, is
a drop in the ocean, unless we have sold ours by that time. And Chaudhry Nisar must be cautioned
not to derail the PM‘s bold enterprises by asking him to shelve the project. The PM does not
believe in shelves but in immortality. He knows that Sher Shah Suri may be dead and gone, but
everyone remembers the Grand Trunk Road. One day people will be cherishing his government‘s
great work and naming their children after him.

If you do not agree, go to the capital and visit the great monument that looks like a large potato
astride a hill that the visionary Commando had built for a mere Rs800 million. Based on the four
provinces‘ done-to-death imagery, it was supposed to be the guiding light of those who would pass
it by, and the Commando was right. Every day there are long queues here as impatient Pakistanis
and hordes of tourists line up to see the monument. This is the vision that guides us as we plunge

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email:
The spectre of violence

Saleem Safi
Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Muslims of the subcontinent are no strangers to sectarian and religious diversity and divisions.
We once lived side by side with the majority Hindus and minorities like Christians and Sikhs. Even
after the creation of Pakistan such religious groups were an important part of our social fabric.
Linguistics and racial movements also littered this region for a long time, and still exist. However,
we never let the ―bullet‖ decide political, religious or sectarian differences among the citizens of
this country. Our society had the flexibility to tolerate divergent views and movements. The spectre
of violence was not allowed to destroy peace and stability. But why is violence winning the day

Religion is a very strong natural motive. Islam teaches peace, tolerance and respect for humanity. It
abhors forced convictions and stands for reason in matters of faith. The teachings of Islam not only
inculcate distinct principles for war and rules of engagement, but also encourage differences of
opinion among Muslims. It equally stresses respect for other religions and their followers.

But the abuse of religion for individual, sectarian and political objectives has created the worse
schisms, which resulted in a number of violent crimes. Unfortunately, religion is misused for these
very reasons in Pakistan since the country‘s inception. A considerable section of our populace earns
their living through religion and uses it as a source of sustenance. There are others for whom
religion is a political lifeline and matter of social relevance.

Historically, sectarian differences had been the subject of intellectual discussion among the leading
elites of various sects. These ulema were well aware of the intricacies and impacts of such subjects
and were extremely careful in voicing opinions on them. In Pakistan these religious differences
entered the social discourse in Zia‘s era when political parties were established on the basis of
sectarian differences. The emergence of the electronic media and relative freedom on the airwaves
injected sectarian issues in the overall political and social discourse. Without qualifications and
knowledge, anchorpersons picked any divisive issue and pushed the debate into every drawing
room. Resultantly, instead of healing divisions and differences, we further bolstered them, to the
detriment of society.

The geo-political environment in this region is equally to blame as a catalyst for religious and
sectarian violence. Disputes with India on the eastern border and differences with Afghanistan on
the western borders dominated our political and defence strategies. We fought many wars with
India and had been wary of Afghanistan becoming an Indian pawn. Russia‘s invasion of
Afghanistan and Pakistan‘s choice to oppose Soviet forces through Afghan resistance forces had a
long-lasting impact on this country. The Pakistani establishment supported the resistance groups.
These groups had necessarily to be motivated for the ultimate sacrifice and hence religion was used
as the tonic. Mainstream Arab-Islamic forces were also invited to fight jihad in Afghanistan.
Pakistan was the supervisor and launching pad while the US and Arab countries provided dollars
and riyals. On the Soviet Union‘s defeat, the US turned its back and declared the Mujahideen a
threat to humanity.

In view of disputes with India and instability in post-war Afghanistan, all such elements retained
strategic value for the Pakistani establishment. Pakistan is reviewing the utility of such groups now.
This is why that at times the state seems to be helpless vis-à-vis the jihadi groups and the religious

The religious and sectarian violence will not die down unless the abuse of religion for personal or
political gains ceases. We cannot relegate religion, as Turkey did during the era of Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk. But we cannot allow religious and sectarian differences to make the running of the state
difficult. The state must intervene through teaching the true lessons of Islam so that the common
people do not fall for the religious interpretations of self-appointed interpreters.

The Council of Islamic Ideology should be declared the sole authority on religion and on the
enforcement of its teachings. Politically divisive figures should be replaced with undisputed
personalities. It would be advisable and beneficial for Pakistani society if well reputed religious
scholars of universities were inducted as member of the council. Similarly, the Federal Shariat
Court should be declared the sole arbiter in religious matters and in enforcement of religious laws.
No one should be allowed to play politics on matters of religion.

The media should not discuss sensitive sectarian and jurisprudential issues in popular talk shows.
The anchors should not raise such issues for improvement of the ratings of their programmes. If
necessary, only authentic and knowledgeable anchors should be allowed to talk to authentic, non-
political and undisputed religious scholars. They should discuss religious matters within intellectual

The state should adopt innovative devices in dealing with Indian and US machinations on the
western border, making certain that these devices do not have a negative impact within Pakistan.
We should not even think of wiping out those whom we used as tools in various wars in this region.
Rather, these intelligent and ambitious individuals should be rehabilitated and allowed to become
part of mainstream society. They should be provided adequate means of living so that they can lead
respectable lives. We are obliged to adopt such a programme in order to save ourselves from their
rage. The US and Western allies could forget them after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan,
but we cannot, as every one of them is the son of this soil and a loved one of someone in our midst.

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem.

Smokers’ Corner: Bananas
Nadeem F. Paracha
(19 hours ago) Today

For long, many Pakistanis have wondered just how do certain Pakistani media men and religious
leaders who have turned the obsessive act of badmouthing the US, Jews and liberals into a robust
cottage industry, manage to travel so frequently to the US. Well, it seems the days of curiosity in
this respect may be coming to an end. According to a front-page story in Dawn last Friday, four US
Congressmen have asked Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, to refuse visas to those Pakistanis who
are on record praising the killer of former Governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer.

There are reports that the US government is now seriously contemplating refusing visas to a
number of Pakistani media personnel, lawyers and religious leaders who have been reported to have
condoned the ghastly murder. These also include TV and print journalists and religious leaders who
travel regularly to the US (and Europe). Most Pakistanis who were shocked by the jubilant
reactions of certain people at Taseer‘s assassination have squarely hailed the report of a possible
US visa ban on these men and women.

This hailing has nothing to do with some Pakistanis‘ resentment of not being able to visit
Disneyland the way all these so-called anti-West media folks, lawyers, politicians or religious
leaders have been doing for many years. Instead, the welcoming gesture by them is more about the
rather concrete perception that surrounds the ways of these obsessive anti-US charlatans in which
they are seen as spreading political and religious hatred and arousing populist political chaos under
the cover of being gung-ho patriots and people of faith who are out to warn the Islamic republic of
the nefarious designs of Americans, Jews and Hindus.

But, of course, unknown to most Pakistanis is the startling fact that many such fiery journalists and
men/women of faith are regular visitors to the US and European countries. Also, for long, a number
of Pakistan‘s staunch anti-West defenders of the faith and sovereignty have had close relatives,
children and siblings settled in various western countries, while they urge Pakistanis to rise against
‗US slavery‘ and to ‗crush America.‘

The question always was, for how long could Pakistanis go on loudly supporting the rising and now
almost entirely knee-jerk and rhetorical tide of anti-Americanism while at the same time be the first
to join the long queues seen outside American and European visa offices? It is a bizarre sight, but
come to think of it, the bizarre, especially in matters of faith and ideology, has certainly become the
norm in this country.

We are quick to use terms like munafiq (hypocrite) for others, but we conveniently refuse to see
that each one of us has become a raving, ranting hypocrite — a double-faced act that we then
explain away as a reaction against corruption and ‗US imperialism.‘ It‘s a vicious cycle that denies
us the patience and logic to reflect upon our own doings instead of always being on the look out for
‗bad Muslims‘, ‗heretics‘, foreign agents and media-made punching bags to blame our economic
miseries, political chaos and moral confusion on. Worse are those who do so simply to bag cheap
and instant applause from morally and intellectually bankrupt sections of society, or from a
populace frustrated by living under the booming hammer of economic downturns, wobbly regimes
and terrorist attacks. So much change (in the mindset and not just faces) has to be allowed and
worked for if this unfortunate country is ever to finally take that turn towards some sort of
salvation. And mind you, like it or not, this turn may also mean us having to embrace certain
economic, social and political ideas and policies which, today, we are mindlessly rejecting as being
western, Orientalist, secular or liberal.

I just cannot understand why so many Pakistanis clamp up when anyone suggests such ideas as
solutions in Pakistan, whereas the same Pakistanis are okay living among these same ideas in
western countries. But then, are they, really? For example, forget about nuts like Faisal Shahzad or
prying puritans like Farhat Hashmi — their topsy-turvy ways are all too obvious — what about
those Pakistanis who keep posting hate comments and speeches on the internet from various US
cities? How did they get the US visa?

No spin: A beauty called Balkasar
Anjum Niaz
(17 hours ago) Today

It’s a heady combination: windblown beauty, wantonly wild, and ladies and gentlemen of
politics, law, foreign affairs and religion. Perched high on a hillock cradled with sleepy hills and
a lake below, there stand our stalwarts under an open sky, chilly and grey, debating the future of the
land. Why drive 60 miles out of Islamabad to meet for lunch at a deserted spot? The host, who
coined the phrase ―laptop warriors‖ could have celebrated his grandson‘s birthday in the Capital.
Instead, Ayaz Amir, the local chaudhry, MNA, columnist and intellectual wanted his guests to see
the dramatic expanse that nature staged. Are you listening minister of tourism? Mount Dhok Sial

The name Balkasar evokes images of rustic romance, age-old chivalry and immortal love. Chakwal
district has produced warriors rising high as generals, air marshals and admirals. Today
Chakwalites still swell the rank and file of our armed forces. Ayaz Amir, who began his career as a
captain in the army, calls fellow columnists ―laptop warriors‖ because of their war on corruption
against the present rulers. Ayaz rates as the ―poorest‖ MNA according to his filing of assets
declaration with the election commission. Why then his contempt for those who want a ‗third force‘
to come and purge corrupt politicians? I think you have the answer.

―You must write about the ransacking of Pakistan embassy in Kabul when you were the
ambassador,‖ I say to Qazi Humayun, who almost lost his life in the mob attack. He‘d rather enjoy
the present moment than be reminded of the Kabul-based Rabbani government‘s mob attack on
September 6, 1995. The Rabbani government (yes, the same Burhanuddin Rabbani you saw in
Islamabad recently hugging our biggies) held Pakistan responsible for the Taliban takeover of
Herat. An agriculturist standing nearby interjects ―Are you kidding? Diplomats, bureaucrats and
khakis, retired or serving, will never open their mouths,‖ he says looking at Humayun, ―Were they
to do that, nobody would care for the media because these people hold the real stuff and know the

How true. Indeed, I look around me and see active and retired power horses that have, are and will
fuel the engines of this nation till kingdom come. ―If only they would speak,‖ says the agriculturist
sage who knows them well, ―but they never will, so our last hope is a Pakistani Julian Assange, the
author of WikiLeaks!‖

While we wait for a desi Assange to arrive, let‘s make do with ‗DiploLeaks‘ that our foreign
ministry doles out to the press euphemistically called ―background briefing.‖ Recently, this
newspaper carried a front-page story that many of us may have missed because of its bland
headline: ―Pakistan finds Biden‘s clarifications unrealistic,‖ (paragraph four was dynamite)
conveyed by Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to President Barack Obama.‖ There were
shuddery allegations against America on ―violation of Pakistan‘s sovereignty, disrespect for Islam;
much-touted American inner desire to de-fang and destabilise Pakistan.‖ The official who gave the
briefing cautioned the US against ―economically squeezing Pakistan, destabilising it and disturbing
the societal balance.‖ His message: ―‗Do not try to turn Pakistan into a battlefield‘ mentioning
incidents in Karachi, Data Darbar bombing, sectarian strife and bomb attacks as part of what could
be described as an international conspiracy.‖ Included in this damning demarche was the donors‘
snub to Islamabad.

Stop! Look at the date when it was published: Jan 16, 2011. Two days earlier, Zardari had met
Obama in Washington. The latter‘s words must have been unvarnished, blunt and plainspoken as
they‘ve been in the past whenever the two have met. Islamabad fired the above stinger missile two
days later to equal the score.

The lady who saved Pakistan from being declared a ―terrorist state‖ is Ambassador Syeda Abida
Hussain. This was when Nawaz Sharif was in the saddle and she was his envoy in Washington. She
had spunk, zing and gutsiness. She told Gen Zia to get lost when he presented her a chador which
he asked her to wear while sitting inside the parliament with male members.

Abida was prime ministerial material, but somewhere along the road, she apparently lost her way.
Whenever I interviewed her, I was in awe of her. She was our role model in school. Today, there‘s
nothing to ask her. Her daughter is a PPP senator.

Then there is Nasim Zehra, the talk show host. As she joins our group, guests come up to her and
congratulate her for getting the liberal left and the religious right on the same page concerning
killing of Salmaan Taseer. They call her bold, brave, and audacious. She is surprised. ―I just did my
duty in bringing the truth before my viewers by giving both the sides an opportunity to present their
objective viewpoints.‖ Her handling of the delicate subject, especially her conclusion was superb.
Nasim is amazed at the silence of the ladies in parliament, including the Speaker, who would not
defend fellow MNA Sherry Rehman.
A jolly cleric present at the party weighs in on the ongoing clash between civil society and the
clergy. He appears to be a moderate and hence in a minority with his religious brothers. The real
clash before me is between the rich and the poor. The privileged classes – politicians, feudal lords,
bureaucrats and businessmen live in luxury while the working staff live in abject poverty and
deprivation. I notice the stark difference on our drive back to Islamabad on the motorway. Before
we enter the Capital, we pass miles and miles of population plunged in utter darkness. All I can see
are ghostly silhouettes of homes standing in sullen silence. Not a shred of light escapes through
these homes. The January night is cold and cruel. How must these people feel, I wonder. How do
they keep warm? I ask myself. Far in the horizon, we see a flood of lights, as if there exist two
worlds in close proximity – heaven and hell on earth. The glare of lights in Islamabad is blinding
when one travels from the darkness to cross over to the other side. It‘s at the discretion of the water
and power ministerty, as to who gets electricity. Someone knows well that millions can be made
through sale of plots where streets are shamelessly showered in light as if they were avenues in
Manhattan. Hard core corruption is everywhere today.

―Youth will be instruments of change,‖ is the prediction by a Pakistani-Canadian psychic. The
young I meet at lunch are our last hope – say technocrats like Harvard law school graduate Salman

Wordsworth put it best when he wrote on the French revolution: ―Bliss was it in that dawn to be
alive/ But to be young was very heaven!–Oh! Times/ In which the meagre, stale, forbidding ways/
Of custom, law, and statute, took at once/ The attraction of a country in romance!‖

Why Karachi is in deep trouble

Shafqat Mahmood
Friday, January 21, 2011

Karachi has never settled down in the last two years. The recent spate of targeted killings is a
continuation of earlier battles. Are these a consequence of endemic poverty, ethnic hostility, or a
fight to death for political space? There are no easy answers, but it seems to be a combination of all

Some political parties are trying to pin the blame on land, drug and other mafias. This is either a
total misinterpretation or a deliberate denial of reality.

The conventional wisdom otherwise is that the influx of a large number of Pakhtuns from the
troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and FATA regions has upset the ethnic balance in the city. Some
estimates place the Pashto-speaking population at about twenty five per cent.

It is argued that this has particularly troubled the MQM because it sees its political hold over
Karachi diminishing. Obviously, if the twenty five per cent get organised, they would take
proportionately similar numbers of seats in the provincial and national legislatures, besides
dominating pockets of the city in local elections.

These conjectures are not out of place, and there is every reason to believe that the MQM would
feel politically threatened. However, this does not explain why it would prompt the party to unleash
its militants to kill the Pakhtuns. How many can it kill, anyway, in a Pakhtun population of
approximately 2.5 million?

Another explanation, in which the PPP is also included, is that people being targeted are political
organisers for the respective parties. The idea of targeting them being that if the activists at the
local level are eliminated it would grievously hurt each party‘s organisational capacity.
A particularly conspiratorial theory is that the PPP is methodically eliminating the MQM‘s local
activists who get the vote out and are very active in ―fund‖-raising. And, in response, the MQM is
eliminating activists of the PPP in Lyari, and those of its ally, the ANP.

If these theories, conjectures and explanations are even partly true, they reveal a very grim picture.
This warfare, what else can one call it considering the number of lives lost, is unlikely to end. It
isn‘t as if one party or the other is going to go away. They all have to live together and the problem
of ethnicity leavened by a fight for political power will continue to haunt this troubled city.

The problem is exacerbated by a virtual collapse of the structure of the state. The first line of
defence or guarantor of order is the police, but its presence is like a shell without substance. This is
generally true of every place in Pakistan, but in Karachi it has another dimension.

Apart from the usual problems of poor training, bad equipment and working conditions, low pay,
and so forth, Karachi‘s bureaucracy and police have been infected by political recruitments over a
long period. The result is that the loyalty of these foot soldiers of law and order is not with the
institution of the state but with the respective political parties.

This obviously results in poor discipline and lack of coordination. For an organisation that, to be
effective, needs secrecy, it also leaks like a sieve. Its capacity to keep any operation confidential, if
at all any such adventure is contemplated, is nonexistent. The result is failure after failure, because
the targeted individuals or groups are never found.

No wonder that a federal force, the Rangers, have been inducted into the battle. The problem is that
this paramilitary organisation does not have the capacity to deal with an endemic problem that has
seeped into the sinews of society. It can partially impose curfew or, in a specific area, do house-to-
house searches, but it cannot possibly replicate knowledge of local conditions that a police force

This is the reason that the most effective operation against criminals and murderers was launched
by the police under the supervision of the PPP government in the nineties. The army had failed
earlier, but the police succeeded. Why, because it had local knowledge and could pinpoint the
target with accuracy.

Another police-led operation of a similar kind is not possible. Partly because of the divided
loyalties identified in it earlier but also because of the repercussions that individual police officers
had to face later. After a political settlement, when many of the criminals were released, the officers
were targeted and killed one by one. Only those survived who were able to run away.

Given this history, why would any police officer take the risk of being proactive against murderers
that currently rule the roost in Karachi? And, lest I am misunderstood, these criminals do not
belong to one community. They proliferate everywhere; they are found among the Punjabis,
Baloch, Pakhtuns, Sindhis and Mohajirs. Elements of just one ethnicity are not dying in Karachi.
All are.

How are we going to come out of this quagmire? Any solution has to include a political settlement,
besides a serious overhaul of governance mechanisms in the city. The PPP, the MQM and the ANP
are only allies in name in the government. Their respective leaderships have to move forward and
become real allies. If there is no political settlement, the bloodshed will continue.

A realisation has to dawn that no political party or ethnicity can win this battle. Even if a
particularly party or community is temporarily cowed down, the problem will not end. The
Mohajirs, Pakhtuns, Sindhis and Baloch cannot wish each other away. They will still be living in
the same space, however many may die in this war. Ethnic-cleansing, reprehensible as it is, is just
not possible.

None of the political parties that represent these communities can be sole winners, however much
they may temporarily appear victorious. The imperative of demography will assert itself politically,
come what may. There is therefore no way out except a political settlement that recognises the
space of each community in Karachi. Otherwise the bloodshed will continue forever.

On the governance side also, much needs to be done. The police force has to be cleansed of
politically motivated recruitments. A similar exercise has to be carried out in the judiciary and in
local-government institutions. Unless the scourge of ethnic or sectional loyalties is wiped, the state
structure will remain nonviable.

The main imperative is for all parties to look at the larger picture. If Karachi descends into total
chaos, the repercussions will be catastrophic not only for the people living there but for the country
as a whole. In such a scenario, no one will be a winner.

Unfortunately, the enormity of the danger facing the country is not visible in the government. No
All-Parties Conferences are being called, no emergency meetings running late into the night; only
Rehman Malik mouthing inanities.

This will not do. Unless serious political and administrative steps are taken urgently, we are on the
cusp of a tragedy.



Harris Khalique
Friday, January 21, 2011

Rawalpindi buried two amazing men last Friday. It was an unbearably chilly day. The weather
reflected what was in our hearts, a sadness that made us shiver inside. For attending funerals, one
after another, of two great human rights defenders in times when we are besieged by insanity and
fanaticism – out there to sweep clean any remnants of civil and political liberties and human dignity
left in this country – was extraordinarily tough.

Mehboob Sada, affectionate, warm and a personal friend to so many of us in Rawalpindi and
Islamabad was unwavering and resolute when it came to his relentless belief in interfaith harmony
and a struggle for the rights of religious minorities in this country and elsewhere. He was serving as
the director of the Christian Study Centre for many years and led the centre‘s research, training and
dialogue programmes with commitment and devotion. In a hostile environment, he fearlessly
pursued his ideals of creating a better state and society where citizens are equal in the eyes of the
law and people belonging to different faiths and denominations live in peace and harmony. He was
close to all progressive individuals, institutions and political groups who aspire and strive for a just,
egalitarian and prosperous Pakistan. He worked closely with enlightened Muslim scholars as well,
nurturing close personal relationships with people like Dr Khalid Masood, former chair of the
Islamic Ideology Council, and Late Dr Farooq Ahmed Khan. He had a penchant for literature,
wrote poetry and loved music.

Mehboob Sada is one of the richest men I know. For Hazrat Ali (AS) once said that the richness of
a man can be established by the number of sincere and trusted friendships he enjoys. St Joseph‘s
Cathedral saw hundreds of women, men, young people and children, Christians, Muslims, Hindus
and Bahais alike, who had gathered to attend the service and bid farewell to Mehboob Sada. He was
ill only for a few months and then passed away quietly. We last met at his office in early August
2010, when he had convened a meeting of Christian clergy and community leaders to discuss the
impact of blasphemy laws on poor Christians and other minorities. His early departure has
impoverished the rights movement.

From the Cathedral in Lal Kurti, some of us rushed to the Army Graveyard, near the old
Rawalpindi neighbourhood of Westridge, to say the last prayers and witness the burial of a great
humanist, an ardent believer in socialist ideals, poet, writer, trade unionist and a leading light in the
fight for freedom of expression and speech in Pakistan, Minhaj Barna. He stood firm all along and
led both working journalists and press workers through Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists and
All Pakistan Newspaper Employees‘ Confederation during the most oppressive years of martial
rules in Pakistan. He did not surrender his ideals or compromised on his struggle, both for press
freedom and for the economic rights of both working journalists and other newspaper employees.
He was imprisoned a number of times, even under civilian regimes.

Minhaj Barna had moved to Rawalpindi from Karachi in the later years of his life to live with his
daughter and her family. His ailing health restricted his movement to an extent. However, I
remember my last meeting with the fair skinned, short, old and physically frail but a thoroughly
satisfied and optimistic Barna Sahib when Kishwar Naheed organised a dinner in his honour.

The real tribute one could pay to both Sada and Barna is to keep their struggles alive.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, political analyst and advisor on public policy. Email:

Saving Pakistan

Meekal A Ahmed
Thursday, January 20, 2011

I write in response to Mr Haroon Akhtar Khan's article "Saving Pakistan's Economy" (January 19).
There is much that he says that I agree with. There is also much that I don't agree with because his
analysis in several aspects is flawed.

His opening premise that the world is reducing interest rates and pumping money into public-sector
development programs while we are doing the opposite is bizarre. I hope he is not suggesting
"quantitative-easing" by our SBP to, using that favourite Pakistani phrase, "kick-Start" the
economy. Whenever I hear that, I get the willies because kick-starting always ends badly. In any
event, especially across Asia now, policy-makers are doing the reverse. In response to signs of
economic over-heating, they are tightening their policy stance.

I agree the first priority is to control inflation but the analysis of the causes of inflation has to be
right. Inflation is not being caused by the price of potato and onions, another favourite Pakistani
theory. This is easily seen by stripping out the food component of inflation or looking at the core
trimmed mean rate of inflation, the best measure of underlying inflation. As I had written some
time ago, the core rate of inflation is in double-digits (around 12 per cent) and it is accelerating,
although the rate of acceleration may now be slowing. However that may be, inflation continues to
have a deeply worrying forward momentum of its own, and is still entrenched and needs to be
addressed by tight macroeconomic policies. Of course we should address the issue of food
inflation. That needs to be done through easing supply bottlenecks, ensuring markets are working
efficiently, de-stocking, attacking hoarders and smugglers, and importing speedily where and when
necessary. Food inflation does not require a macroeconomic policy response. Underlying inflation
Mr Khan is right in saying that too much of the burden is being placed on monetary policy, while
the fiscal side is showing troubling signs of unravelling completely. However, Mr Khan spoils his
own argument by saying there should not be rapid fiscal consolidation because it will hurt growth
and employment. There is no country in the world that can grow steadily with low levels of
inflation and create jobs if the fiscal policy is loose and accommodating. Nor do I agree that it is the
public sector that is or must be the creator of jobs. That has been our problem. We believe that the
public sector and public enterprises in particular are there to provide jobs for the boys. It is the
private sector that must be the main engine of growth, jobs and exports.

Mr Khan's plaint about the high cost of credit as holding back investment is simplistic. First of all
the cost of capital is a very small component of total costs. What is hurting industry in Pakistan is
the crippling effects of lack of power we don't seem to be close to solving. Pakistan's large-scale
manufacturing sector probably has their own generators. But 70 per cent of manufacturing output
and 80 per cent of employment and exports originates from small and medium-scale enterprises
about which we know nothing since no one has done a survey of activity in the sector for years.
The national accounts simply impute/assume a constant real growth rate of 7.5 per cent per year,
each year. Second, the appropriate level of interest rates must always be seen in the context of
current and preferably future inflation. Either way, current interest rates are probably negative in
inflation-adjusted terms. The worst thing you can do is cut nominal interest rates to, yes, our
favourite words and that kiss of death, "kick-start" the economy. All you will do is kick-start
inflation, consumption and imports and send the economy hurtling over the edge.

I am aware of the billions Pakistani's hold abroad. However, it is unconscionable to suggest that
there must be given "incentives" and "constitutional guarantees" to bring their money back. These
persons are money launderers and tax evaders. That is a criminal offence and we must not reward
them for their crime. I am glad Mr Khan did not suggest an "amnesty scheme", another bane of our
never-ending fiscal woes.

On the RGST, I agree it was handled badly and it disheartens me how good people in Pakistan can
make such an appalling mess of things. If the RGST is a dead duck, then all we have is the present
GST with its multiple tax rates (some as high as 26 per cent), hundreds of exemptions and
concessions doled out to the rich and connected and millions of "fake- and-flying invoices"
claiming refunds of taxes paid on inputs which they never paid, all this reflected in a tax-to-GDP
ratio that keeps falling. There was much feigned angst expressed in the media about this "new tax".
It is not a new tax. The GST, as rotten as it is, has been operating in VAT-like-mode for a decade or
more. All that was happening is that we were moving to a full VAT, bringing down tax rates to a
single rate of 15 per cent, documenting the economy in a seamless chain of value addition and -
here was the real problem - taxing all those items which were previously untaxed, including,
agriculture inputs. We were doing what Mr Khan himself advocates. Leaving nothing untaxed
except a small group of "basic wage-goods" and ensuring a high exemption threshold of Rs7.5
million per year so as not to tax the small enterprises. Hundreds of thousands of small and perhaps
some medium-scale enterprises were exempt from the VAT-RGST altogether. The world over,
even in Bangladesh and Ghana, consumption is taxed. We need to tax consumption and imports
while fostering savings, investment and exports and not the other way round.

Mr Khan is sadly silent on bringing back progressive taxes - the wealth tax, a real estate
transactions tax, capital gains tax, and inheritance/gift tax which was removed stealthily by
previous regimes handing over another subsidy to Pakistan's rich. Sir, time is running out. Pakistan
needs to take strong and meaningful measures on the macroeconomic and structural policy side
without delay. There is no point in holding a grand conference of economic experts which I hear is
the government's latest "initiative". All they will do is give long boring speeches, talk over each
other, peddle their little pet theories of what really ails the economy (such as abolishing interest)
and drink and eat noisily and copiously.
The writer has served in the Planning Commission and the IMF

Re-engaging India

Dr Maleeha Lodhi
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

After months in diplomatic limbo talks between Pakistan and India are set to resume next month in
a fresh bid to put the peace process back on the rails.

The foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet on the sidelines of a standing committee
meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) due in Thimpu on 6-7
February. This is expected to pave the way for a meeting between the foreign ministers for which S
M Krishna recently renewed his invitation to Shah Mahmood Qureshi to visit Delhi in the first
quarter of 2011.

The diplomatic encounters ahead offer an opportunity to resuscitate the broad based peace process
that was derailed after the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai. Since then formal talks between the two
countries have been hobbled by contending visions of a future dialogue, reflecting the differing
priorities of the two sides – and mutual mistrust.

Last year‘s prolonged diplomatic minuet resulted in a familiar stalemate when officials of the two
countries disagreed on the modalities and agenda to define the terms of their re-engagement. Delhi
insisted that Islamabad take prior action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks before the
renewal of formal talks. Pakistan called for a return to the eight-issue composite dialogue of 2004-
08. Delhi refused to revive this format, seeking instead to focus on the terrorism issue and argue
that confidence building should precede any substantive discussions.

Encouraged by the international community, the two countries however kept talking and this helped
to narrow the chasm over how to transition to full-fledged talks. In September 2010 officials from
the two countries agreed to what was called on outcome document, that was to be announced after a
meeting between the foreign ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The meeting fell through when Delhi insisted that Pakistan make no reference to Kashmir during
the General Assembly session – a demand that was impossible to accept not least because of
intensified protests in Indian-held Kashmir against Delhi‘s rule. Last summer alone over a hundred
civilians were killed in the Valley by security forces.

The outcome document set out a road map of meetings on all the issues that had previously figured
in the composite dialogue. If, and when, implemented this will effectively reinstall the
comprehensive peace process that Islamabad has been seeking in the past two years.

The question now is whether next month‘s meeting in Bhutan between Salman Bashir and his
Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao will reaffirm the September 2010 understanding on this
document and set the stage for its announcement following the foreign ministers‘ meeting in Delhi.

Also in question is whether the two officials will be able to revive the July 2010 agreement on a set
of confidence building measures that were to be unveiled after the Islamabad meeting of the foreign
ministers. When the July talks collapsed amid mutual recriminations, so did the planned
announcement of the CBMs. Although modest in nature – covering humanitarian issues and
reviving the working group on cross-Line of Control travel and trade – they are not insignificant
and might help to ease the fraught climate that casts such a long shadow on bilateral relations.

An immediate irritant that needs to be removed to improve the atmosphere for the Thimpu talks
relates to the position India has taken at the World Trade Organisation to effectively block a time-
bound trade concession deal for Pakistan approved in September 2010 by the European Union. The
deal under the Generalized System of Preferences needs a country-specific WTO ‗waiver‘ to be
operational. In November, India‘s envoy to the Council on Trade in Goods, which works by
consensus, raised multiple objections and stalled the process.

With another meeting of the council due on 31 January, Islamabad should ask Delhi to drop its
opposition and create a propitious climate for the talks ahead. Reciprocity is in any case warranted
by Pakistan‘s gesture to allow onion exports to India at Delhi‘s urgent request.

Delhi‘s willingness to move towards a comprehensive dialogue process may be the result of several
factors including sustained international pressure and quiet urgings by President Barack Obama
during his November 2010 visit to India.

Four other factors may also have urged a change in Delhi‘s stance. One, India having just started its
term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council may see restarting talks with Pakistan
as a way to enhance its credentials to play a larger role on the international stage. This is especially
so as Delhi regards its current Security Council membership as a stepping stone to galvanize more
support and legitimacy for its bid for permanent membership.

Two, Delhi‘s failure to manage the situation in Kashmir may also be urging it to revive peace talks
with Pakistan as a means to pacify Kashmiri sentiments as well as deflect the international focus
and urgings to address the causes of the unrest in the Valley.

Three, Delhi may have concluded that its conditions-based approach to broader talks had run out of
steam and begun to yield diminishing returns. Meanwhile the recent disclosures about the 2007
terrorist attack on the Samjhota Express – in which 42 Pakistanis were killed in a bombing by
Hindu extremists – have put Delhi on the defensive. From this perspective, resumption of dialogue
with Pakistan also helps Delhi defuse this messy situation.

And four, the approaching Afghan endgame is an important factor in India‘s calculus to talk to
Islamabad out of the concern not to be marginalised from a diplomatic process that may eventually
give Pakistan a key role in Afghan-led and US-backed reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.
Dialogue also serves as a means to soften Islamabad‘s stance on an Indian role in post-war

Whatever the mix of motives behind the shift in Delhi‘s approach, the diplomatic interaction ahead
will offer Islamabad the opportunity to test and evaluate whether this shift is tactical or represents a
change of heart to make negotiations meaningful.

Islamabad also gains from renewed engagement. Attaining a modicum of stability in bilateral ties
can enable Pakistan to focus on pressing internal challenges without being distracted by frequent
flare-up in tensions with India. Engagement can also help address immediate irritants and offers an
avenue for conversations on Afghanistan, which the two countries, distrustful of the other‘s
strategic intentions, have never had.

Afghanistan, Pakistan‘s concerns over India‘s role in fomenting destabilisation in Balochistan and
the issue of water rights have poisoned relations in recent years and added new layers of mutual
suspicion, all of which need to be addressed.

The resurrection of a comprehensive peace process can be a vehicle to manage differences even as
efforts are launched to resolve them and prevent tensions from spinning out of control. If
‗management‘ of relations is a near term goal, conflict resolution will have to be the centrepiece of
a purposeful, result-oriented dialogue.

This means a determined effort to achieve a strategic equilibrium by adopting a problem-solving
approach to the disputes that divide the two countries and lie at the heart of longstanding tensions
while identifying areas of mutual benefit where movement can be made.

Unless the dialogue is also able to address Kashmir, relations between the nuclear neighbours will
remain vulnerable to a relapse, even breakdown. Those who argue that the issue be put aside,
overlook the fact that when adopted in the past this approach produced little and did not make the
issue go away. Nor will the effort to miscast the issue in terms of terrorism extinguish the Kashmiri
yearning for freedom. This is evident from the continuing peaceful protests there.

The immediate challenge for Pakistani and Indian officials is to find a mutually agreed road map
for re-engagement that accommodates both countries‘ concerns and priorities but avoids fashioning
a process at the expense of substance. It is the substance of engagement that will determine whether
the latest diplomatic efforts herald a new beginning or another false start.

Is Modi India‘s future?

Aijaz Zaka Syed
Monday, January 17, 2011

He is an agent of change. He is the best thing to have happened to India in decades. He is the only
one who could banish poverty from India. He is the leader India has been waiting for all these
years. He is the hope and future of the emerging world leader that is India. Who‘s he though? Rahul
Gandhi? Nah! It‘s vibrant Gujarat‘s vibrant leader Shri Narendra Modiji.

The biennial event that Gujarat has been hosting to promote the state as the world‘s favoured
investment destination over the past ten years has become a Modi love fest with captains of the
Indian industry and virtual who‘s who of big business, singing paeans to the great leader that
Gujarat chief minister clearly is for them.

Ratan Tata of Tata Group regales the audience with his first person account of how Modi gets
things done in a jiffy and always delivers on his promises. Anil Ambani of the Reliance sees in him
―a catalyst for change.‖ Gujarat is to India, he argues, what India is to the world, the beacon of hope
for the future. His elder brother, the richest Indian and the chairman of the powerful Reliance
Group, Mukesh Ambani, addresses him with utmost reverence, almost as if the chief minister was
Lord Ram himself, saying only he could banish poverty from Gujarat and deliver India itself. And
of course all the Ambanis, Tatas, Mahindras and Mittals promised to invest thousands of crores of
rupees more in Gujarat.

Am I really that clueless? Or is Modi indeed the mahatma India has been waiting for decades? How
can the Tatas and Ambanis of this world forget so fast that this visionary presided over the dance of
death in February 2002 that killed at least two thousand people? This is the very same man whose
gangs went on a rampage, raping and killing women before their loved ones. They didn‘t even
spare unborn babies in their mothers‘ wombs.

This is not my fevered imagination talking. This is something that has been documented and proven
by independent media, rights groups, witnesses and cops and officials who were on duty during
those few weeks when Gujarat turned into something straight from Dante‘s Inferno. At least, three
inquiry commissions have probed the carnage that went on for nearly two months with Neroes in
Delhi fiddling while Gujarat burnt. It didn‘t take them long to discover the truth.

Indeed, there was little to probe. Everyone who read newspapers and watched the television knew
what happened in Gujarat and who executed it with a cool, dispassionate ruthlessness that would
have made the Nazis proud. Newsmagazine Tehelka even caught the killers on tape for the benefit
of everyone. Yet Modi not just remains in power and roams free, India‘s richest and mightiest are
shamelessly grovelling before him, praising him to the skies. The media that long ago brushed
everything that has happened in Gujarat under the carpet remains hopelessly in love with him. Even
those whose sleepy conscience goads them once in a while bring out their kid gloves when dealing
with Mahatma Modi!

This is but just one example of the mindset that is at work not just in the media but in the entire
establishment that has been hijacked by the ideology that rules Gujarat today. Even after the recent
revelations and first person account of senior RSS leader Swami Aseemanand, exposing the direct
role of the Hindutva organisations in numerous terror attacks across the country, the media
continues to treat it as though it was some minor traffic offence we are dealing with.

Remember at least 68 people were killed in the 2007 blast targeting Samjhauta Express that links
India and Pakistan. Thirty-eight people died in the terror attack that hit a Malegaon mosque in
2006. The explosion at the Friday prayers in Hyderabad‘s historical Mecca Masjid claimed 14
worshippers in 2007. Even the Sufi shrine in Ajmer Shareef that attracts followers of all religions
wasn‘t spared.

All these attacks had been of course blamed on the ―Muslim terrorists‖ and Pakistani agents that
apparently lurk in the ranks of India‘s 200-million strong Muslim population. Thousands of young
Muslims – and old – were randomly picked up from across the country, especially from Muslim
majority cities like Hyderabad, and thrown behind the bars without any recourse to justice.

For years they were put through some of the worst methods of torture known to man. I personally
know many such unfortunate men whose lives have been totally wrecked because of someone
else‘s sins. Those faceless men, forgotten by a callous, Kafkaesque system, are still languishing in
prisons, paying for crimes they haven‘t committed. CNN-IBN TV has done a series of courageous
and eye-popping stories on many such men and some of them are available on YouTube.

However, for much of the Indian media and establishment, including the bureaucracy and police,
Muslims remain the usual suspects, no matter what Swami Aseemanand‘s sworn testimony says.
Or the facts and ground realities suggest. Innocent Muslims are still rounded up as the guilty
whenever and wherever a bomb goes off.

The RSS, BJP and their many affiliates with the help of their powerful friends in high places have
started protesting and fighting back with a vehemence and conviction that only they could muster.
BJP chief Gadkari condemns the stunning disclosures and detailed reports in publications like
Tehelka as a Congress conspiracy against the RSS and the Hindus.

Sangh apologists like Swapandas Gupta bend over backwards to defend the indefensible, trying to
explain what is nothing but pure, old-fashioned terrorism as ―retributive violence.‖ The governing
Congress, ever preoccupied with its fine electoral calculations, goes to great lengths to warn against
tagging ―any religion with terrorism.‖ A classic case of living in denial!

As Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote in Indian Express this week, ―our response to this challenge has
been, at best, an embarrassed denial. In the process we have put on display our double standards.
We could not even get ourselves to admit that anyone claiming the appellation Hindu could be
terrorists. This is more a symptom of our prejudice than a fact. This also seemed to blindside
investigative agencies enough that they kept on pursuing the wrong leads and targeting the wrong

Will this ever change? When will India wake up to the clear and present danger it faces in Hindu
extremism? All these years the Sangh fanatics have been dismissed as a lunatic, but totally
harmless, fringe by the establishment. The fringe, however, is not a fringe any more. It has taken
control of the silent majority. More important, as Aseemanand‘s testimony reveals, it is armed and
dangerous. Which has been borne out by the numerous attacks in the past few years. Extremism is
extremism, whether it‘s that of Muslims or Hindus. It eats into the vitals of a vibrant society, as
cancer gnaws its way into a healthy body. However, as Nehru warned half a century ago, majority
extremism is more dangerous because it always masquerades as nationalism. India has to stop this
rot before it‘s too late. Living in denial wouldn‘t get us anywhere.

As I‘ve repeatedly said, the Hindu majority is essentially reasonable, peace-loving and amazingly
tolerant. India is what it is today because of them. But Hindutva extremism is also a stark reality
and a challenge that India has to confront sooner or later. Men like Modi may bring investors but
their kind of politics won‘t work for long. You can‘t build a beautiful utopia on the foundations of
injustice and murder. Your sins catch up with you sooner or later. Our friends next door in Pakistan
are realising to their horror what extremism and politics of hate could do to a large, populous and
diverse nation. We mustn‘t go down that road.

The writer is a Dubai-based writer who has written extensively on the Middle East and South

Taseer‘s real killers

Ahmed Quraishi
Monday, January 17, 2011

Salmaan Taseer was a good Pakistani, a self-made businessman who did not use his politics to
create illegal wealth or stash it abroad like most other politicians. He revolutionised
telecommunications, introducing wireless telephony, Internet and cable television to Pakistan. In
college in Britain, as Ambassador Zafar Hilaly recalled on this page, Mr Taseer read the Quran.

A week before his murder, he accused India of involvement in terrorism in Balochistan and
defended Pakistan‘s moral support to Kashmiris. The day he died, he was wearing a chain around
his neck with Ayat-ul Kursi, one of the most inspirational verses from the Holy Quran. Despite
being a liberal, he was not a ‗westernised extremist‘ and never indulged in attacks against religious
Pakistanis throughout his political career. He criticised a law written by legislators and lawyers, but
did not question Islam‘s death penalty for proven blasphemy. Showing support to a poor Pakistani
Christian woman with young children who was not an intentional blasphemer was a humanitarian
act, and very Islamic. He certainly was not a blasphemer.

Pakistan must prevent three different parties from hijacking the debate over the anti-blasphemy law
and over Mr Taseer‘s murder. One is our own religious extremists. Two is our own westernised
liberal extremists. And the third party is foreign governments and media whose statements
complicate the internal debate instead of resolving it.

Unfortunately, there is no credible face in the Pakistani government that could step forward and put
the issue in perspective. The anti-blasphemy law is not directed at Pakistani Christians. The anti-
blasphemy law traps more Muslims in its net than Christians, as the recent case of a conviction of a
mosque imam and his son indicates. This does not mean the law should not be amended or
repealed. It must be either amended or repealed because it is being abused. For example, the 45-
year-old mosque imam and his 20-year-old son were convicted for life this month because they
dared remove a poster on their shop window advertising a religious event that contained Quranic
verses. It is ridiculous. What mosque imam would commit blasphemy?

The real problem over the law is between an extremist westernised minority of Pakistanis, who
ridicule religion, and between another extremist religious minority, that takes religion to extreme.
The extremist westernised minority wants no religion at all and keeps talking about European
secularism, which is misplaced in Pakistan. This provokes the religious extremist minority into
paranoia and pushes them to extremes, as in the case of the 26-year-old bodyguard who murdered
Governor Taseer. Caught between the two extremes are the majority of moderate, peaceful

The US and other western governments make matters worse by openly siding with the extremist
westernised minority in Pakistan, provoking reaction. Also, some of the foreign support is self-
interested. Some of the foreign governments are using Mr Taseer‘s murder and the impassioned
debate over the law to revive the falling legitimacy of the war in Afghanistan. Linking our internal
debate with a disastrous foreign war is dangerous. Our debate over the law is similar to the US
debate over abortion at one time that sharply divided the American public opinion and led to some
violence. Outsiders must not be allowed to interfere in this debate.

The impression that foreign support is behind Sherry Rehman‘s motion against the anti-blasphemy
law provoked the other extreme. And her move to remove capital punishment for blasphemy is
inconsistent with Islamic injunctions. It is an extremist position that does not appreciate and
understand the religious sympathies of most Pakistanis which are legitimate and require no

On the other hand, Islam has blossomed for fifteen centuries without our made-in-Pakistan anti-
blasphemy law, which contains procedures for trial, witnesses and conviction that are man-made
and have nothing to do with religion. No one in Pakistan dares to commit blasphemy and this law
creates the false impression of prevalence of blasphemy cases in our country. Most Arab and
Muslim countries specify death penalty for proven blasphemy but do not have a law like ours.
Leaders of religious political parties know these facts but chose to play politics and mislead gullible
Pakistanis because they used this debate for popularity and recruitment.

Our overriding concern in this debate is to unite Pakistanis and stop a situation where Pakistanis go
to war with each other because of two extremist minorities. We must stop anyone fanning this
divide and try to bridge it with reason. Incitement to kill or to ridicule religion from either side must
be sternly dealt with. We need to remind our people that a bigger travesty of our religion is to find a
minister of Hajj, himself a clergyman, stealing pilgrims‘ money. This debate can be redirected.

The writer works for Geo television.Email:

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