Civilian cover

In any given crisis-like situation involving interaction with foreign governments, the only certainty is that this is how the Pakistani opposition will react:

In other words, barring perhaps the NAP and its supportive reaction to the Taskhkent declaration every Pakistani opposition party in history uses a crisis in foreign affairs to act like a maximalist lunatic in order to extract the maximum domestic political advantage at the expense of the party in power. In many cases, of course, this is also true of ambitious elements within the government itself, especially when the government is weak, such as Bhutto during and after Taskhent and Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the current situation.

More interesting, to me, is the army’s ability to act like a sort of permanent opposition – at least when it’s not in power. So, in the current situation we have Ahmed Shuja Pasha cancelling his trip to the UK. By the way, has anyone considered that this cancellation is a very effective pressuring tactic, the message being that if we, Pakistan, don’t cooperate with your homegrown terrorism problem, then you are in deep trouble? Anyone who naively makes the argument that as a “beggar” country Pakistan has no leverage over the UK is being extremely stupid. Pakistan, by virtue of being the terror training hub for most of the UK’s homegrown terrorists has far more leverage over the UK than the UK has over Pakistan. In fact, that’s the argument made by Anatol Lieven in one of his articles about the nature of UK’s relationship management with Pakistan in the future. This fact has been reflected by the UK’s Afghan policy so far, and Cameron’s remarks are being given a befitting response by the Pakistani establishment in order to drive the point home to him early in his career so he doesn’t make this mistake again. As in its relationship with the US, the Pakistani establishment is selling security. The difference is that Pakistan has the ability to negatively impact domestic security within the UK which gives it far more leverage.

So as we can see, the military has the privilege, by virtue of the cover offered by Pakistan’s nominally civilian government, of acting like a party in the opposition in terms of how far it can go in being undiplomatic in its response to a foreign affairs crisis. We saw this same dynamic playing out after Mumbai and during the whole Indo-Pak dialogue. In fact taking things a step further, one might even argue that in terms of foreign relations, this current situation is really the sweet spot for the military. As opposed to a situation like post-2001 in which Musharraf was really in the limelight and could be openly pressured by Armitage, etc, in the current situation the army can pretty much do what it wants and will always have the cover of foreign countries being unwilling to upset the applecart overmuch for fear of strengthening the military’s hand and enabling a takeover of the civilian government.

In other words, we can see that the civilian government gives the military the cover to act like a permanent, maximalist opposition. As a society, Pakistan is quite cruel in its treatment of its politicians, but perhaps this is the most cynical use of them of all!


How does the MQM do it?

I just read a really funny statement by Altaf Hussain in which he asked Zardari to review his visit to the UK in the light of David Cameron’s remarks about Pakistan. Now of course if one is seeking political asylum in a country one is perfectly entitled to criticize it’s leadership. But to urge your head of state to cancel his trip to the country is going a step beyond that, surely.

Anyway, this is pretty much parallel to MQM being a benificiary of the NRO but withdrawing support from it at the last minute. And it made me wonder about how MQM manages to take such clearly illogical positions? Not as a moral question, but more as a practical one. There are several explanations

1. MQM is able to avail of tacit “establishment” support at various times. Except for a decade or so when it overstepped its bounds, its always had the advantage of being the one small ethnic based party that has not been on the wrong side of the Pakistani establishment ideologically. This is due to the rather unique relationship of the Mohajir ethnicity (linguistic grouping, whatever) with the Pakistani state. Mohajir nationalism is not opposed to the idea of the Pakistani state per se, in fact its deeply connected to it. This makes MQM somewhat more privileged as a party in relation to the ANP (which only got accepted by the establishment when it completely softened its political stance) or the NP (under Hasil Bizenjo) and much more privileged in relation to parties like BNP-M, PKMAP, etc.

2. MQM is confident that it will have the support of its base no matter what it says. If Altaf Hussain acts hypocritically or MQM collectively acts hypocritically on the NRO, it doesn’t have a hugely fickle electorate (like, for example, the PPP or to a lesser extent PML-N). So it can afford to make statements for national consumption that aren’t really scrutinized by its own voters.

3. As a small coalition partner in a shaky coalition, MQM (like JUI-F) feels confident that the larger party (PPP) in the coalition needs it more than it needs PPP.

4. And finally, here’s a reason that I find really interesting and that is that MQM, unlike all other parties so far, is somewhat more advanced in the art of audience management. This is in sharp contrast to the party which (in my opinion) has the worst audience management and that is PPP. Now what do I mean by that? By that I mean MQM realizes it needs to say different things to cater to different audiences. MQM understands the need to make vapid (and at closer examination, clearly hypocritical) pronouncements on NRO and on Zardari’s UK visit because that appeals to what a certain audience wants to hear at a certain time. In MQM’s case, this audience is much larger than MQM’s potential electorate and even within MQM’s electorate, most would be happy to hear MQM taking such a “principled” stance, hypocrisy be damned. The percentage of people within MQM’s electorate that would be deterred by MQM’s hypocrisy on these stances is small compared to those who would be gratified at their party taking a stand. That’s weird, isn’t it? But if you are a party that is seeking to grow on a national level, it’s a good policy to throw various statements out there. Even if they are grossly hypocritical on closer examination, chances are that in the political climate (anti Zardari anti NRO) their rhetorical value will be more valuable than the irritation by a small number of disgruntled (mostly PPP supporters) people who will be turned off by their hypocrisy. Now one might ask, is this simply clever management of an audience? OR a party taking advantage of a relatively friendly political climate and a loyal voter base? OR a party with an implicit “bond” certified by the security establishment.

I’m not sure!

Attack on NATO supply trucks is “umeed ki kiran” according to Munawwar Hasan

via this blogger I came across Munawwar Hasan’s jumma khutba of June 4 2010 in which he explicitly called for Muslims to attack NATO convoys passing through their lands (from 6:40 onwards):

Anyway, then on June 9, gunmen set fire to more than 50 trucks carrying NATO supplies near Islamabad.

Then shortly thereafter there was the really entertaining statement by him in which he called the attack “umeed ki kiran” and an expression of “awam ke jazbaat” and wondered why the Interior Minister had any problem with this attack.

Given all that, it was really nice to see Faisal Sabzwari efficiently slap Munawwar Hasan ably assisted by the ARY anchor.

More retardedness from the Foreign Office

I’ve said before that our Foreign Office seems to be populated by the most neanderthal minded dumb****s in the country. Which is not surprising since for the last 40 years our “foreign policy” has basically been vicarious acid-throwing (i.e. in any given foreign conflict we are more likely to support the party which believes in throwing acid on some hapless female, beheading civilians or blowing up girls schools).

So it seems like, empowered by his chicken dance at the Indo-Pak dialogue, the foreign minister has now decided to start openly defying his civilian leadership. From Dawn:

For once the PPP leaders were not just at odds with the military leadership, but also the Foreign Office, led by their party man. The army conveyed its displeasure after the ISI chief cancelled his upcoming visit to UK. After hectic day-long consultations, sources said the final decision was on these lines – President Zardari will go ahead with his visit to UK; ISI chief to call off the trip; and the Foreign Office, which is torn between the political and military cross-currents, to summon a British High Commission official. British Prime Minister Cameron’s remarks in India earlier in the week accusing Pakistan of exporting terror created uproar here with demands for a strong response to the statement.

Mr Cameron, despite protests from Islamabad which described the comments as saddening, and criticism back home, stood by his statement. Diplomatic observers say ISI chief Lt Gen Shuja Pasha’s decision to cancel the visit conveyed the disquiet in Pakistan on the issue, even though the president desired to downplay the diplomatic row by sticking to his plan.

Both Mr Zardari and Gen Pasha were to visit UK separately. Mr Zardari is going there on a five-day state visit, while the ISI chief was to visit London for consultations with intelligence counterparts.

The Foreign Office’s failure to announce President’s Zardari’s UK visit along with his visit to France, which are taking place back to back, fuelled speculations that the visit might be cancelled.

However, shortly afterwards it was clear that Mr Zardari was adamant to go ahead in view of what his aides described as “strategic partnership and broader bilateral relations”.

Two graphics will illustrate this sad state of affairs. The first, via Cafe Pyala:

The second, via blog reader Shahid:

Inciting an emergency

“As a matter of fact, I heard some dangerous talks from time to time that he” [Mirza] before the imposition of the martial law “had told certain people to engineer inciting trouble in Balochistan and elsewhere, so that he had an excuse to take over and abrogate the Constitution and declare a state of emergency. He was looking for such an opportunity and would often talk to me about it. But I would tell him for God’s sake, don’t let such a situation develop, because the country is at stake and we will suffer tremendously. We will lose our prestige with India and the rest of the world. It is a very delicate matter and once you lose respect in the eyes of the world, it is very difficult to set it right.”

Guess the party

“In the election manifesto approved by the Working Committee of the ____ Parliamentary Board, a detailed program was given according to which the ____ ministers would accept minimum salary and it would ensure that low-paid employees could meet their expenses within their lawful resources. Cottage industry including hand-loon would be encouraged. Beggary would be eliminated by converting the beggars into good and responsible citizens. Measures would be taken to increase the agricultural resources. Facilities would be provided to educate every child and researches would be encouraged. The program also included improvement of public health and judiciary, reformation of police department, elimination of briberty and modification in the Panchayat system”.

Kiyani on Kayani

Is this a great quote or what:
“All praise is for the Almighty who bestowed sovereignty upon the army, then made the people subservient to the army and the army subservient to its own interest” – Justice Rustam Kiyani

Read the whole article by Dr. Taqi who seems to be the only one who gets it.

When ranking members of parliament’s Special Committee on National Security write articles toeing the military’s line and the foreign minister writes to the UN criticising its probe into the alleged role of Pakistani security agencies in Ms Bhutto’s murder, tenure extensions for the generals are a given. With such a bunch at the helm in Islamabad, a US nod, not a prod, was all that was needed here.

Here’s the whole article in case the DT link doesn’t work:

COMMENT: The road to perdition —Dr Mohammad Taqi

In the Obama lexicon, the word victory does not exist in the Afghan context. Indications are there that the Pakistani security establishment has been outsourced the effort to tame the Taliban to allow the US a face-saving withdrawal

“All praise is for the Almighty who bestowed sovereignty upon the army, then made the people subservient to the army and the army subservient to its own interests” — Justice Rustam Kiyani.

In his three-minute address announcing a three-year extension in the service term of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani — not otherwise known for his eloquence — appears to have given perhaps the most detailed account of things to come in the region.

Announced like the sighting of the Eid moon, including the hour of the telecast, the army chief’s extension, prima facie, is an exercise in appeasement by an insecure head of the government. With conspiracy theories surfacing, Mr Gilani, in an Eid-like celebratory remark the next day, cleared any doubts about at least where he was coming from. Justice Kiyani was spot on; 40 years later, the people still remain subservient to the mighty armed forces.

In 1988, Benazir Bhutto’s government decorated the army with the Tamgha-e-Jamhooriat (Medal of Democracy) for its “grand services towards restoring democracy” only to be ousted in less than two years by the latter’s protégé Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The appeasement did not work then, it did not work in 1994 when Ms Bhutto let the army unleash the Taliban on Afghanistan, and it is not going to work now. To its credit, the army knows clearly what it wants in the region. A milestone at the end of the obstacle course in the SSG centre in Cherat once listed the distances to Jerusalem, Delhi and, of course, Kabul.

On the civilian side, the presidency is barely keeping its head above the water while the prime minister is out of his league in dealing with the rapidly changing geopolitical realities. The civvies have abdicated even their nominal role in foreign and national security policy-making. When ranking members of parliament’s Special Committee on National Security write articles toeing the military’s line and the foreign minister writes to the UN criticising its probe into the alleged role of Pakistani security agencies in Ms Bhutto’s murder, tenure extensions for the generals are a given. With such a bunch at the helm in Islamabad, a US nod, not a prod, was all that was needed here.

In the Obama lexicon, the word victory does not exist in the Afghan context. Indications are there that the Pakistani security establishment has been outsourced the effort to tame the Taliban to allow the US a face-saving withdrawal. The recent tours of Kabul by the Pakistani military top brass, removal of Afghan Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh and Army Chief General Bismillah Khan by President Karzai, the Kabul international conference with the UN belatedly taking centre-stage and, above all, the announcement by the Taliban spokesperson Yousuf Ahmadi point to the new realignment where Pakistan takes a lead role in getting the Americans out of the quagmire.

Mr Ahmadi has stated that the Taliban want the ‘independence’ of Afghanistan and if the western forces really wanted to withdraw, they would not hinder it and that they pose no threat to any person or country. This literally is music to American ears. This ‘success’ in prying away the Taliban from al Qaeda is a must for Mr Obama to retain his own party’s support.

In 1989, the US walked away from Afghanistan leaving the ISI — by default — to sort out things as it wanted. This time around, a hastily put together but apparently elaborate design is unravelling. In both instances though, the Americans have miscalculated the ground realities in Afghanistan and the role of the regional powers. The US assessment is that in a country used to decentralised rule, controlling the countryside helps control the cities and Pakistan can deliver enough ‘reconcilable’ Taliban to allow the US withdrawal with the Karzai government remaining in place at least through November 2012, when Mr Obama makes his re-election bid.

Admiral Mike Mullen’s difficult balancing act last week and his comments about the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba menace are an attempt to placate India. However, it is a matter of time before India, Iran, Russia and the Central Asian states rally together to support the anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan. In 1994, the Taliban were an unknown entity and when they took on the largely non-Pashtun Northern Alliance, most Pashtuns remained on the sidelines. This might not be the case on either side of the Durand Line now and the US cannot do much about this.

The discordant Afghans, including the Taliban, agree on one thing only: they do not want a de facto or de jure division of Afghanistan. Kabul is the symbol of united Afghanistan and the trophy in a ruinous victory. The diplomatic activity between Moscow, Delhi and Tehran and the rallying of the anti-Taliban forces within Afghanistan is the harbinger of the looming battle for Kabul.

As I reached this point in the column, I received the news that Mian Rashid Hussain, the only son of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain, was shot dead some 20 miles away from Cherat. I remembered Faiz’s lines as I did when Benazir Bhutto was martyred:

“Tujh ko kitnon ka lahu chahiay aiy arz-e-watan,

Jo tere aaraz-e-berang ko gulnaar karein,

Kitni aahon se kaleja tera thanda hoga,

Kitnay ansoo teray sehraaon ko gulzaar karein?”

(O Motherland, the blood of how many do you need,

Blood that may give a rosy hue to your pale face,

How many sighs would it take to calm your heart,

How many tears are needed to turn your deserts to oases?)

Mian Iftikhar’s party is the only irritant in the US-Pakistani plans for Afghanistan. The Americans have the luxury to cut and run but the Pakistani political forces do not. The road to perdition is short: Kabul is 266 kilometres from Cherat. The PPP must avoid becoming a party to the carnage ahead, as the blowback has already cost us not just Mian Rashid but Benazir as well.

PS: Mian Iftikhar Hussain’s residence has also been bombed now. We do not need WikiLeaks to tell us who supports the bombers to bring the ANP to its knees.

The writer can be reached at

Balochistan and the new anti-terror law

Apparently Rehman Malik spent the majority of his time on the floor presenting the Anti-terror bill discussing Baloch separatists.

But he devoted most of his speech — before the house was adjourned until 4.30pm on Wednesday — to separatist Baloch insurgents who, he said, had formed so-called armies and wanted to break up Pakistan with foreign help he promised to disclose in in-camera briefings.

Against them, he said, “Pakistani law-enforcement agencies have a right to react”, though he added: “The forces have been asked not to react (yet).”

But he said there could be no compromise with the insurgents unless they give up their secessionist designs and assured the house they would be defeated like Taliban militants in Malakand. “I offer them to let us join and hoist and salute the Pakistan flag … and we will give them whatever they demand,” the minister said rhetorically. “They will get nothing by opposing Pakistan.”

Mr Malik said the insurgents were targeting not only security forces, settlers from other parts of Pakistan like Punjab and Sindh but also “pro-Pakistan Balochis like Mr Jalib and activist Maula Bakhsh Dashti.

He blamed about 200 killings on insurgents from January to July 20, including three army officers, 21 Frontier Corps personnel, 27 police, 26 Punjabis, 21 Pakhtuns, 12 Sindhis and 112 others.

Her Majesty’s Governor-General

From Time:

Major General Iskandar Mirza, is a blunt soldier who believes his people ready only for a “controlled democracy.” Descended from one of the great Mogul families of India, and the son of a wealthy Bengal landowner, Mirza is a Moslem aristocrat and autocrat. Says he bluntly: “Democracy requires breeding. Pakistan is not ripe for democracy. These illiterate peasants certainly know less about running a country than I do.” Mirza joined India’s raj, or ruling class, when the British sent him to Sandhurst military college in 1918. There he got to be a crack rifle shot and earned his cricket “blue.”; Gazetted an officer in the British army, he fought with the Cameronians (2nd Scottish Rifles) at Kohat in 1921 and with the 17th Poona Horse in Waziristan in 1924. He was Britain’s top policeman in the Khyber Pass area for 20 years before becoming Joint Secretary of the Indian Government Defense Ministry at New Delhi, and, after the partition of India, Pakistan’s first Defense Secretary.

At 55, Mirza. a whisky drinker and a heavy cigarette smoker, loathes intrigue and is staunchly loyal to those who trust him. Says he of Pakistan’s politicians: “They are mostly crooks and scalawags.” Last year when, as Governor of East Bengal, he worked titanically amid the flood disaster and was mobbed by genuinely cheering crowds, a Pakistani said: “Mirza has done more for the common man whom he says he despises than all the politicians who promised a new heaven and earth to get votes.” Today Mirza lives in a big house with ample grounds and cool white porticos in the center of Karachi with his second wife, a sophisticated Persian.* Mirza’s appointment to the governor generalship requires the formal confirmation of Queen Elizabeth, but Strongman Mirza is in no doubt about what his authority will give him. Said he: “The Governor General must have extensive and clearly defined powers, including the power to dismiss governments.” Mirza’s first job was to accept the resignation of Premier Mohammed Ali. The Premier did not want to quit, but the Moslem League, in an all-night session, removed him as its leader. Rebuffed by his party, Ali gave up the premiership too.

Read more:,9171,807483,00.html#ixzz0uoZCO7Gm

Mirza most cordial and very voluble especially on the subject of Mohammad Ali [Bogra]. His remarks concerning Prime Minister could almost be considered treasonable.
He [Mirza] said that Pak had already chosen side of US and that there should be no concern re ratification of Manila Pact. When dressed in terms of practical politics, Mirza said if gang who engineered amendment went too far “We will stop them”. When specifically asked who “We” comprised he answered, “the army and the civil servants.”

Mirza openly showed little respect for Mohammad Ali [Bogra] and placed upon him greatest part of blame for recent happenings. Mohammad Ali, he said, should be treated as a “school-boy as we treat him in Karachi.” Mirza said that the only way for the US to stiffen Ali’s spine was to tighten the windscrew of economic and military assistance, making such assistance clearly dependent upon assurances of sane govt in Karachi. Mirza strongly recommended this course of action to US and stated his belief that Ali would respond favorably.