Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Pakistan: Musharraf Treason Case

On the floor of National Assembly Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif has given a policy statement on trial of ex-President and retired General Pervez Musharraf. He wants this treason case to go to its logical conclusion, with the consensus and support of all the political parties.

However, some constitutional experts warn that this could open Pandora’s Box. Some experts go to the extent of saying that going further on this sensitive case could destabilize the country, which can prove detrimental to the continuation of PML-N government but more importantly initiating extreme instability in the country.

Some of the experts say that ‘Mian Sahib is running too fast and may lose the breath too early’. They say Mian Sahib should have waited for a while and focused on other pressing issues. In fact the biggest threat is fast changing scenario in Afghanistan, which could have severe impact on Pakistan. United States is directly negotiating with Taliban and also seems adamant at giving a major role to India, which certainly does not bode well for Pakistan.

Some experts go to the extent of saying that ranks and files of Pakistan Army will not tolerate life imprisonment or hanging of a retired General. Some of those who abrogated the Constitution of Pakistan will also have to face the music. If one person has to face the brunt, how can others remain insulated? They refer to Ziaul Haq who made Mian Sahib provincial minister, which led to his deserting the then Prime Minister, Mohammad Khan Junejo, in an attempt to get even closer to Ziaul Haq.

While Mian Sahib seems adamant at punishing Musharraf, a question also has to be answered, who issued instructions not to allow lending of Musharraf’s plane in Pakistan? The point has to be kept in mind that not only the life of Chief of the Staff was put at stake but had the plane ran out of fuel, all the passengers on board would have lost their lives.

Some insiders say that efforts were also made to push the plane into Indian Territory. They say India would have immediately shot down the plane or minimum brought it down, arrested, trialed and hanged the in service General and Chief of the Staff. This would have provided India and ideal opportunity to punish the ‘Kargil Hero’. Over the years Mian Sahib has been saying that Musharraf had taken the decision at his own without even informing him.

One of the conspiracy theories is that United States wishes to close ‘Musharraf Chapter’. This does carry some weight because aircraft carrying Ziaul Haq along with many generals, who played key role in Afghan resistance against USSR, was blown up. Ejazul Haq, son of Ziaul Haq has been saying over the years that blowing up of plane was not an accident but an act of sabotage, in which the US Ambassador in Pakistan and a brigadier general also lost their lives.

Some of the critics say that over the years Pakistan Army and ISI has been maligned badly and pushed to the wall. Musharraf has also been accused of conspiring to kill Akbar Bugti and Benazir Bhutto. Bothe these allegations are aimed at portraying that Army has been involved in some heinous crimes. Interestingly Musharraf is being trialed for issuing instructions to kill or abrogating the Constitution but hardly any action is being taken against those who claim responsibility of killing of dozens of people and attacking sensitive installations.

Courtesy: The Financial Daily

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Pakistan United States Relations: Tying Loose Ends

At this juncture when two of the deadly foes, United States and Taliban fighting a war for more than a decade, are getting ready to shake hands, the time has come for Pakistan to revisit its relationship with both. Hamid Karzari, President of Afghanistan is soliciting help of India to manage his country once withdrawal of US-led Nato forces is complete.

To arrive at any meaningful decision first the history of Pak-US relationship needs to be explored. It is difficult to recollect all the events taking place since 1947 but a few deserving full attention are: 1) Pakistan spying USSR for United States during cold war era, 2) Pakistan broking  in establishing US-China relationship, 3) Pakistan fighting US proxy war after USSR attacked Afghanistan with the help of Taliban, 4) Pakistan fighting against Taliban when US attacked Afghanistan and now 5) Pakistan fighting with different militants groups within its territory that are funded by some external powers that adamant at plunging the country deep into anarchy.

Almost at the end of each phase Pakistan had to pay huge cost. When USSR threatened to attack Pakistan, the then prime minister asked United States to give protection but he was assassinated. Many Pakistani still wonder; was he killed by USSR or United States?

Once Pakistan took the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger secretly to China United States achieved a major breakthrough but India imposed war on Pakistan in 1965. Interesting Pakistan and India signed an agreement in Tashkent but Indian Prime Minister died in a mysterious manner. In Pakistan riots started against the then President Ayub Khan and he had to step down in 1968.

In 1970 general election Awami League of Sheikh Mujeeb attained majority but he was soon arrested and trialed. Mean time riots started in East Pakistan, India helped rebel group called Mukti Bahini. India also attached West Pakistan. The war ended on a bitter point, more than ninety thousand troop surrendering and East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh.

In West Pakistan Zulikar Ali Bhutto became Prime Minister. He with the help of some Muslim countries strived hard to restore confidence of public. He very tactfully arranged for the reorganization of Bangladesh at the historic meeting of OIC in Islamabad. However, after much talked about rigged election, religious parties pushed him to a point where another martial law was imposed in the country and Ziaul Haq took over as Chief Martial Law Administrator and then President of Pakistan. To prolong his tenure he announced to impose Shariah system in the country.

Soon after his takeover of control of Pakistan in turmoil, USSR attacked Afghanistan in an attempt to get access to warm waters. United States took it as a major threat to its hegemony in the region and very aptly labeled this proxy war Jihad. While military support was given by Pakistan and GHQ became the control room, to get ground support Ziaul Haq sought help of two religious leaders, Mulana Fazau-ur-Rehman and Mulana Smai-ul-Haq arranged for thousands of Mujaheddin, who were later on known as Taliban.

USSR lost the war because of internal issues and its forces has to withdraw. United States instead of rebuilding war torn Afghanistan also took quick exist. This plunged the country into civil war as ample arms were available but there was severe shortage of food and basic facilities. At that time Taliban led government was installed in Afghanistan but the country remained plunged in anarchy. Taliban government enjoyed direct support of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and indirect support of United States.

Then came 9/11 that changed the global political arena, OBL was alleged for masterminding these attacks and United States attacked Afghanistan and status of Taliban changed from friend to foe. Pakistan was once again told to join the crusade or face the same faith. Realizing that India was keen in exploiting the opportunity to join United States and also settle its own score on Kargil, the then president Pervez Musharraf joined ‘US War on Terror’.

To give Musharraf’s regime legitimacy entry of Benazir Bhutto was facilitated into Pakistan. However something went grossly wrong and she was assassinated. Philippine story was followed and Benazir’s husband Asif Ali Zardari finally rose to the position of President of Pakistan. During the currency PPP-led government some highly undesirable event happened that included attack on military post in which many soldiers were killed, OBL hideout was found near federal capital and he was finally assassinated but his body was not shown, people still don’t believe this story and openly term it a hoax call.

In the recently held general election the results paved way for installation of PML-N government at federal and Punjab level, PPP government in Sindh, PTI government in KP and nationalists’ government in Baluchistan. Ironically, these parties have not reconciled that they rule the respective provinces and have to cooperate with the federation on national priorities.

During the elections Taliban emerged friends of PML-N, JI, PTI, JUI-F but worst enemies of ANP, MQM and PPP. However, off and on Taliban attacked election meeting of their supported parties.  They have become fully active now, after the announcement that United States is getting involved in negotiations with Taliban.

Many Pakistanis fail to understand that while drones attacks on Taliban staying in Pakistan’s tribal areas are still going on why United States is holding direct negotiations with Taliban? One has the reasons to suspect that the hidden agenda is different from declared agenda. It is also felt that Pakistan is once again being marginalized and India is being given the status of regional super power.

One of the conspiracy theories is that now United States is working on creation of an independent and greater Baluchistan, comprising of one slice each from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. This proposed country will be rich in natural resources and all the super powers will have their share in the booty. This will also help in waging war on Iran and Pakistan.

It is feared the proxy war has already started and killing of people and bomb blasts are aimed at starting civil war. This is not diabolic thinking but based on the prevailing ground realities: 1) presence of ruthless killers, 2) tons of arms and money to support the perpetrators and 3) above all support extended at the global level for establishing an independent Baluchistan.

Supporters of Independent Baluchistan have been active for years. Their endeavors will yield result only when Pakistani society is fragmented. The nation is already divided into sectarian and linguistic groups that are adamant at killing their enemies and undermining writ of the government.  

Monday, 17 June 2013

Pakistan: Writ of Government Challenged

After the general elections and forming of governments at federal and provincial levels, particularly in Baluchistan it was expected that law and order situation in the country will improve. However, it seems some external factors are adamant at plunging the country into anarchy and the game seems to have started in Baluchistan, where some groups are demanding for an independent greater Baluchistan and their movement is supported by certain groups from United States and Britain.

The three incidents taking place in Baluchistan: 1) blowing up of Ziarat Residency, 2) exploding bus carrying female students and 3) taking into siege Bolan Medical Complex just cannot be termed isolated acts of carnage, but part of some grand plan. Experts term these attacks challenging writ of newly installed federal and provincial governments.

Therefore, there is an immediate need to take most stern action against the perpetrators. Even the cursory look at the events helps in identifying the culprits and their motives. The sole motive is to derail the process of integration of Balochs into mainstream politics of the country.

It is clear from the long history of rebel-government confrontation that some of the quarters are trying to create a justification for a greater and independent Balochistan. It will comprise of one slice each taken from Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

The only objective is to first create an independent but extremely feeble country and then to take control over its natural resources. In this endeavor the perpetrators are fully supported by regional and global super powers.

The attack at Ziarat Residency was aimed at demolishing a sign of federation but more importantly denounce Pakistan movement. It is clear that the perpetrators not only defying Pakistan but are the most ruthless people who have been fighting with Pakistan Army and also blaming it for the ‘sage of missing persons’. A question arises, if Army has killed the perpetrators, how many soldiers and officers were also martyred by them?

The attack on female students was solely aimed at shifting the focus from Ziarat Residency to Quetta killing. Some of the quarters are openly asking what is more important an old building or human lives? However, no one is demanding stern action against those who not only killed the students but also occupied Bolan Medical Complex.

Quetta incidents seem similar to the attacked on a bus carrying Shias and then attack on Jinnah Hospital where the wounded were being given medical treatment. This gives a reason to believe that Quetta carnage was undertaken by those who were involved in Karachi massacre. Now Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has claimed responsibility of these attacks, they had also claimed responsibility of carnage in Karachi.

Some of the people have started talking about killing of Sunnis in Quetta to portray as if the killers were Shias to create rift between the two sects. This gives a reason to suspect that the killing and siege was undertaken by the group (Jandullah) that claims to be fighting for the protection of interest of Balochs in Pakistan and rights of Sunnis in Iran. The time chosen was the day elections were being held in Iran.

While one can talk about many other conspiracy theories, one deserving immediate attention is weakening of the present Government in Baluchistan, which mostly comprise of elected members belonging to middle class and not the clan Sardars, as it used to be in the past.

Another theory is that the blasts and carnage is aimed at proving that conditions are not conducive for the construction of Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Those opposing this project want to pull Pakistan out of this project also know that any unilateral decision by the Government of Pakistan will make it liable to pay damages to Iran for not meeting the contractual obligations.  

Some of the cynics have been saying for ages that Sardars are the biggest exploiters of Baloch. However, to save their skin they portray that federation is usurping rights of Baloch. Ironically, ordinary persons living under the most inhuman conditions are mesmerized by this mantra.

Though, it is difficult to say that Baloch Liberation Army has conducted the terrorist attacks or charges are being framed against it. However, neither the Government of Pakistan nor the ordinary person should forget that rebel groups are being supported around the globe by those who wish to create their hegemony in the region; and Pakistan is not an exception.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Pakistan: Baluchistan under Siege

Two of the terrorist attacks taking place in Baluchistan province on Saturday clearly show that some external elements are adamant at destroying peace of the province. Baluchistan was expected to return to normalcy after installation of an elected government. This government enjoys full support of nationalist parties and PML-N also.

The first terrorist attack was at a historical building commonly known as Ziarat Residency. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah has spent his last days there. Dawn quoting the officials has confirmed that most of the old memorials inside the monument were destroyed, with historic photographs of the founder burnt to the ground in the resulting fire.

The second but most brutal was the attack on bus carrying student of the medical university killing at least eleven women after a bomb ripped through the bus.  The intensity of blast can be ascertained from the picture taken by AFP and place at Dawn Website.

Less than an hour later, sounds of explosions and firing spread panic and chaos through the Bolan Medical Complex where most of the wounded had been taken, at least three explosions were heard from inside the hospital.

Television reports said Deputy Commissioner Abdul Mansoor Khan, who had earlier been wounded, was killed by shots to the head and chest. According to the latest reports, three soldiers were also said to have lost their lives in the still continuing gun-battle between security forces and the militants.

A correspondent reporting from the hospital confirmed the second blast occurred inside the emergency ward of the hospital. The nature of the blasts at the hospital and the extent of the resulting damage were still unclear.

Though, no group has so far claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, the attack on bus and then on hospital reminds one of attacks on the day of Chelum of Imam Hussain in Karachi. Taliban/TTP had claimed responsibility of these attacks.

These attacks pose a big challenge for PML-N government headed by Mian Nawaz Sharif, which wants to initiate negotiations with Taliban/TTP. He had, as a good will gesture also supported formation of government by nationalist parties in Baluchistan.

Some experts also say that banned outfit Janduallh, which is supported by foreign intelligence agencies may be the mastermind. Historically, members of this outfit have been involved in bomb attacks and killing of innocent people. Its chief was hanged in Iran after a full trial as he was found guilty of killing Iranians and destroying strategic installations.

Pakistan: Foreign Policy Dilemma

It is often said that Pakistan enjoys geopolitically important position but this factor has become its worst enemy. Pakistan’s location has made it highly vulnerable country, be it global politics or ongoing war on terror. Since there are too many state and non-state operators in the region it is often difficult to distinguish between friend and foe.

It is evident that forces having conflicting interests are busy in establishing their hegemony in the region, often undermining Pakistan’s interest and at times subjugating its sovereignty. In such a delicate but complicated situation maintaining good relationship with immediate neighbors and regional and global super powers becomes extremely difficult. This often poses serious threats for the sovereignty of the country.

Pakistan’s top most concern is maintaining cordial relationship with three of its immediate neighbors namely, Afghanistan, Iran and India. In the regional context Pakistan also has to keep happy three regional powers i.e. Saudi Arabia, China and Russia. On top of all it has to follow instructions of United States, leading war on terror in Afghanistan. At time US mantra becomes unbearable because it is promoting India as regional super power and completely ignoring its ‘frontline partner in war against terror’.

A few days before dissolution of assemblies, PPP led coalition government transferred control of Gwadar port to China and commenced work on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. Some experts say that United States, Saudi Arabia and India are not happy with these decisions. They even go to the extent of saying that the two decisions were the reasons for PPP’s defeat in the general election.

Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif is too keen to grant India MFN status and consolidating trade and investment relationship with it. In this endeavor transfer of control of Gwadar port to China becomes a big stumbling block. India is not at all happy on this decision, as it considers presence of China in the Indian Ocean the biggest hurdle in achieving status of regional super power. India also considers Gwadar a big threat for Chabahar port, which it is building at distance of 70 kilometers from Gwadar in Iran. In this venture India enjoys complete support of United States as at no point in time India was warned of violating sanctions imposed on Iran.

Historically, Saudi Arabia has been kind enough to extend financial support to Pakistan and even at this juncture it is willing to offer US$15 billion bailout package to the country. While people many of Mian Sahib’s critics term the package a hoax call there are also growing apprehensions even in the minds of those who are termed ‘cool headed’. They say Pakistan will have to accept either Saudi bailout package or Iranian gas but can’t enjoy both.  Therefore, it is apprehended that Mian Shaib under the pressure of United States and Saudi Arabia may shelf Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which will not be a good omen for Pakistan-Iran relationship.

Keeping this complicated scenario in mind, it was believed that Mian Sahib will appoint a well articulated full time foreign minister. Since the influx of experts from all the above stated countries is likely to increase in due course, it will be imprudent that prime minister negotiate with those dignitaries, who will not be enjoying the status of prime minister.

Experts also fear that Mian Sahib is likely to get overindulged in domestic issues, especially energy crisis and precarious law and order situation which will not allow him to spend around 10 to 12 hours a day on foreign policy issues.

Mian Sahib having decided to oversee this ministry has appointed two stalwarts to advise him on foreign policy, these are former foreign minister Sartaj Aziz and former senior diplomat Tariq Fatemi. However, the two are not on the same wave length and are likely to create more problems rather than ensuring smooth handling of crucial foreign policy issues.

Some experts say that Mian Sahib does not have any competent person to be appointed as foreign minister. PPP had chosen Ms Hina Rabbani as a replacement for Shah Mahmood Qureshi and appointed Ms Shery Rehman Ambassador in United States. Therefore, Mian Sahib needs two replacements, one to fill the slot of foreign minister and other to occupy the most important position in Washington. He may have to continue with the ambassadors stationed in Saudi Arabia, China, India, Russia and Afghanistan for the time being.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Pakistan to elect new Prime Minister

Pakistan’s Parliament is scheduled to elect its new leader of the house or prime minister on 5th June. The three proposed names are that of Mian Nawaz Sharif of PML-N, Makhdoom  Amin Fahim of PPP and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi of PTI.

Election of PML-N’s Ayaz Sadiq and Murtaza Javed Abbasi to the posts of speaker and deputy speaker of the assembly respectively has already set the stage and filing of nominations by PPP and PTI members seem a ritual. In fact this may be an exhibition of strengths held by the three leading parties. MQM’s decision to support PML-N has added additional weight to Mian Sahib, who already enjoys simple majority in the house.

Some of the critics say that filing of nominations papers by PPP and PTI is not a good omen because the country needed a consensus leader of the house who enjoys complete support on issues facing the country, worst being stopping drone attacks and overcoming energy crisis.

Many of the political pundits were little confused when MQM decided to sit on opposition benches but extending support to Mian Sahib clearly shows that the party wishes to sail in two boats simultaneously.
It also confirms the conspiracy theory that MQM just can’t afford to sit on opposition benches.

However, extending support to Mian Sahib can pose some serious problems for MQM in Sindh, where PPP is all set to form the government.

Another conspiracy theory is that extending support to Mian Sahib is part of the grand plan to retain the present governor of Sindh in the office. This deal can save Mian Sahib from a possible embarrassment of governor Sindh not ready to receive the elected prime minister at Karachi airport.

While some political pundits say that supporting Mian Sahib does not bode well for MQM, others say that supporting Mian Sahib is the only way to avoid operation against the party.

One can still recall Mian Sahib had said in the past, “If I come into power I will establish military courts in Sindh”. Even at that time it was taken as a potential threat for MQM because such operations were not aimed at rounding up PPP or ANP activists.

Some of the critics say that Mian Sahib has accepted the NP proposed person as Chief Minister of Balochistan just to avoid confrontation. Following the same strategy Mian Sahib may also concede to some of the demands of MQM Just to maintain peace and tranquility in Sindh, the life line of Pakistan.

The history shows MQM enjoys enough power to bring Karachi to grinding halt at the shortest notice. It is clear that if MQM opt for this confrontation with the PML-N, it will also be joined by PPP and ANP to bring the party enjoying the largest mandate under pressure.

It is not only the residents of Karachi but the entire Pakistan that wants peace to be maintained in the city so that economy of the country can be put on track. Keeping the city normal is also a must for ensuring collection of taxes. Karachi continues to contribute nearly 75 per cent of the total tax. Similarly suspension of activities at two ports of Karachi can cause disruption in the movement of import/export consignments.

Pakistan: Can the rulers develop consensus?

According to the results of recently held elections all the political parties enjoy the status of ruling junta. If members of some of these parties will be sitting on opposition benches in the national assembly, they will form the government at provincial levels.

Interestingly, MQM that has remained part of ruling junta has decided to sit on opposition benches at the federal as well as provincial levels. Under the emerging set up it is expected that the parties will preferably come up with policies through consensus and avoid confrontation.

The real test of their consensus is deciding fate of the drone attacks. All the parties during their election campaign were critical of these attacks and now the time has come to tell the super power ‘enough is enough’. It is expected that prime minister in waiting, Mian Nawaz Sharif may not be able to convince the United States alone but if he enjoys support of all the elected members, he can negotiate a better deal.
In the worst scenario Pakistan has the right to intercept and down any aircraft breaching its airspace. 

However, it is believed that these attacks enjoy the blessing of Government of Pakistan (GoP), which is also extending ground support. It is often alleged that Pakistan provide the necessary details for these attacks because at times undertaking such precise attacks are not possible from ground.

The classification of Taliban into good and bad and Taliban/TTP extending support to JI, JUI-F, PML-N and PTI is not likely to allow the ruling junta to continue support for drone attacks. Many questions bother Pakistanis, what is the reality of Taliban/TTP? Are they friend or foe? If they are friend why are they at war with Pakistan Army?

One of the ways to rationalize good or bad Taliban is, those who cooperate with US-led Nato forces are called good and those who consider them ‘occupier’ have been clasified bad. Though, it has been decided to withdraw Nato forces from Afghanistan, there are fears that there will never be complete withdrawal. United States will retain bases in Afghanistan, party to keep Iran under pressure and partly to get control over the goods going to Central Asian countries via Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan United States is also supporting India in maintaining its hegemony; in fact the US wants the countries located in the region to accept India as a regional power. This is aimed at keeping Pakistan under pressure. In such a scenario Mian Sahib may find granting India MFN status a difficult task. His other associates, religious parties are also not likely to support him in developing too cordial relationships with India.

To overcome energy crisis Mian Sahib is demanding Rs500 billion, which has to be mobilized through imposing new taxes and/or raising rates of existing taxes. It is feared that he may also resort to hike in electricity and gas tariff, which will not be endorsed by his opponents.

Ironically, Mian Sahib has not come up with any policy to contain rampant pilferage of electricity and gas and recovery of outstanding dues. It is necessary to remind him that hike in tariffs just can’t improve cash flow of electric and gas utilities.

Targeted killing has once again resurfaced in Karachi and the worst victim is Shia community. Ironically, some of the religious parties and banned outfits enjoy most cordial relationship with PML-N. The time has come to catch the perpetrators and give them exemplary punishment.