Does this sound familiar?

It’s a description of the tea party movement, but it describes quite well the conflict between the rural and urban elite within Pakistan:

I am persuaded by Pareto’s and Mosca’s analysis that political conflict always results from a difference between two competing elites or elite factions. Other groups may be involved as sources of support for one or the other, but below the elite level, people are too busy trying to survive to be very much engaged in politics.

The anonymous comment to the effect that mediæval peasants had almost no contact with any recognizable state government is true. Their government was that of the baron on whose land they lived, of the church, and (on those occasions when they travelled to a burgh of regality on a pilgrimage, or to trade for what they could not make for themselves) of whatever burghal authorities had jurisdiction there. Kings and royal courts were remote.

The political conflict of this era typically arose between two elites, just as Pareto and Mosca suggest. They were, on one hand, the landed interests (noblesse de l’épée, Uradel) who held their feus by virtue of military service in time of war, and on the other, the courtiers whose rank was conferred in recognition of their civil service (noblesse de la robe, Briefsadel). These differences appeared at a very early period, and remained operative well into the eighteenth century, when the typical European political division was still between court and country factions.

Maybe it is not apparent to someone living in San Francisco like MM, but not all “gentlemen” are progressive-universalists. There are people who correspond, to a “country party” that, if not aristocratic, is at least plutocratic, here in the vast center of the country – business owners, regional and community bankers, landlords, and rentiers. Indeed, many of them have emerged unscathed from first-tier universities – not so much because their propaganda was rejected, as simply ignored. I grew up among such people, and can attest that they are instinctively conservative. You don’t suppose, do you, that someone like Michelle Bachmann raised her astonishing campaign fund from “peasants”? To be sure, large contributors to such politicians are under no illusions; they simply support what appears to be the lesser of evils.

Opposed to these people in the “court” party are of course the usual crowd of parasites, sycophants, and hangers-on of government, who derive their social and economic position from their proximity to power. Behind these, however, are the state-capitalists whose fortunes are dependent on the rent-seeking opportunities afforded them by politicians.

Broadly speaking, then, the political conflict of the present day really lies between the millionaire country elite (whose money, though smaller, is typically older) and the billionaire court elite (jumped-up, nouveau riche) of New York, California, and the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

The country elite, like the provincial noblesse of the Vendée, is closer to its peasantry than to anyone in the capital – they are natural companions in arms. On the other hand, the court elite allies itself with the urban canaille. So far the latter have prevailed, largely because the former, like their counterparts centuries ago, do not completely understand the nature or the magnitude of their enemies.


Weird situation

One of the weird things about 1999 was that the government had a strange policy of alternately appeasing and then suddenly confronting (in really irrational and unlikely to succeed ways) the military. Like for example, in January 1999 the government handed over WAPDA and a whole bunch of other areas of civilian governance over to the army

ISLAMABAD, JAN 15: Bypassing parliament, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has handed over whole chunks of civilian administrative functions to the Pakistan army.

The army’s new jobs include collecting electricity and water dues, running the country’s much tom-tommed autobahn from the capital city Islamabad to Lahore, Sharif’s hometown, and administering rough-and-ready justice.

In Karachi, the army has been given judicial powers to try civilian criminal offences and deliver a verdict in a maximum of eight days. Its first victim, a man charged with killing a policeman, was executed on December 31.

But the biggest peace-time mobilisation of the army has been to run the country’s largest public sector utility, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Army personnel on duty will receive an additional 50 percent of their basic salary as wages.

Even under military governments — Pakistan has been ruled by the army for 25 of its 51 years — army personnel have never been so widely involved incivilian affairs as they are now, political observers say.

At the same time the second-tier leadership of the PML-N was seen to be getting increasingly close to the military – Gohar Ayub Khan, Mushahid Hussain, Khurshid Kasuri.

You can see the same sort of thing happening right now. The government has surrendered even symbolic role in foreign and security policy. Nusrat Javed, the other day, said that there’s no point considering anything Zardari says about security policy as anything but a ‘parrot’ speaking its designated lines. Just in the last two days Kayani has been on a “short visit” to UAE where met the following:

During the visit, the COAS will meet General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council.

Today, he’s in Kabul where he’s been meeting Karzai and will then attend the tripartite commission of senior military officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US.

Then you have the 2nd tier leadership of PPP moving increasingly closer to the army. Apart from the obvious moves by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, you have Hussain Haqqani becoming closer to the army and defending the army on the Charlie Rose show, you have Sherry Rehman (who is a member of the Parliament’s National Security Committee) writing justifications of the army’s hands off policy in North Waziristan, etc.

Finally you have the party leader in both cases making crazy and irrational moves which come across as desperate acts of rebellion achieving nothing. Zardari going ahead with the Birmingham rally, Nawaz Sharif trying to appoint Gen. Ziauddin Butt as COAS while Musharraf was in Sri Lanka.

So what’s the connection between the pissed off second tier leadership and kamikaze act of the person at the top? I guess it’s a sort of vicious cycle – in the case of Nawaz Sharif, the more he tried to empower himself, the more he seemed to have pissed off his own parliamentarians. Khurshid Kasuri (along with 30 PML MNAs) famously revolted against the fifteenth amendment in late 1998. Hawkish Gohar Ayub Khan was replaced as foreign minister when Nawaz Sharif was attempting to normalize relations, Shahbaz Sharif made statements like “Only a general can manage WAPDA”, etc. There’s also the case that in times of political crisis and impending collapse of the government it makes sense for the second-tier leadership to make overtures to the establishment. That’s clearly what’s happening in the case of the current Foreign Minister but it’s also clear that they are being alienated by the weird decisions of the party leader.

I guess the big difference between Nawaz Sharif and Zardari is that in 1999 Nawaz Sharif was focused on amassing power for himself whereas Zardari has done the opposite. But as both of their government’s get weaker, they both did some some really strange and suicidal things.

Interestingly, this scenario is also paralleled by Musharraf and his alienation of his own base in the army from 2006 onwards.

Is it simply because the imperatives of the very highest position are unique from every other member within the ruling party? Or is it because there is a lot of pressure to split the base from the top? Or is it because the person at the top ends up being the only one interested in maintaining the status quo? Not sure. Any ideas?

Anyway, apologies if this post doesn’t make too much sense – I don’t really remember 1999 that well.

Natural Justice

Many people ask how and when and who will make Nawaz Sharif fall. I say, have faith in natural justice. Most of our prime ministers have arisen from their beds in the morning not knowing that they would not go to sleep in the prime ministerial bed that night – one went to bed as prime minister and was awoken to be told that he had been deposed.

So sez the wise old man of Karachi in pre-coup 1999. His words are relevant as Pakistan seems to be entering into a similar stage of crisis right now. Of course Natural Justice is simply euphemistic-speak for “army coup” as can be seen by earlier paragraphs in the same op-ed (“Jilani, who died last week, did us a good turn when, as Bhutto’s favourite chief of the ISI, he kept his COAS, General Zia-ul-Haq informed of the destruction planned by Bhutto and gave him enough warning for him to act as he did on July 5 1977”)

Anyway, let’s focus on the phrase natural justice. Natural justice suggests that their exists some politically neutral custodian to administer it. Quite clearly, the Cowasjee of 1999 did believe that this custodian does, in fact, exist. And therein lies the problem you see. The issue is not THE ARMY. The issue is the role of the army as the custodian of the national interest (interestingly in the eyes of groups and individuals with widely differing views on what the national interest is!), prepared to administer natural justice whenever necessary.

[In any case, the irony is that the situation which Cowasjee compares to the outbreak of World War I was of course engineered by the very person he is not so subtly calling on to topple the PML-N government which surely was incidental to Kargil at best! ]

hollowed out

Observing the recent spate of political assassinations in Pakistan – from Habib Jalib Baloch and Maula Bakhsh Dashti, to Mian Iftikhar Hussain’s son to Raza Haider one cannot help having the horrifying thought that soon there will be no politicians left in Pakistan’s blighted political landscape The Baloch Hal had a really moving obituary for Habib Jalib Baloch which contained the following line: “Tall trees cannot survive long in Balochistan. People with a tall stature get their heads chopped off.” Replace Balochistan with Pakistan and that line will not be out of place at all. By all accounts Raza Haider was a solid politician of a middle class background and additionally a symbol of MQM’s pluralism.

These people are not replaceable. They are politicians who were not lifted into political power through some tribal system or some gaddi. They are just politicians who gained their political status through hard work and talent and good political instinct – other countries have loads of them but we have very few. In Pakistan, as Ayesha Siddiqa describes in this blog post (which some may find offensive due to her rather strange choice of metaphor), it is the norm to gain ones political legitimacy due to some kind of mating dance that one performs for the established centres of power – the ‘establishment’ as we like to call it. For an excellent example of this mating dance, one can refer to Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s recent performance at the recent Indo-Pak dialogue. What audience was Qureshi’s performance directed at? What vision was he calling upon? Shah Mehmood Qureshi is simply one example of the PPP’s move (out of necessity) in the last 3 years since BB’s death to replace political legitimacy with a careful courting of the military establishment. I think that it’s becoming clear to most of us that the PPP will not survive BB’s death as a genuinely legitimate political force. It will become just another, in the long list of hollow political entities propped up as civilian fronts for the military to rule through. The political system will continue to be hollowed out through a combination of well-timed assassinations and the active participation of the anti-political elite and (secondarily) through the political class’s own failures at governance. The space that should have belonged to genuinely legitimate politicians will continue to be usurped by violent entities such as Sipah-e-Sahaba who, despite all well-deserved criticism that is heaped upon them, cannot be said to be lacking grassroots legitimacy. (You just have to watch one of their speakers to understand the difference between them and your average PPP or PML or ANP politician). Similarly, from an earlier era, one can certainly question the success of the Majlis-e-Ahrar’s political model, but one of the things that one appreciates about it is their strong belief that the key to a political party’s relevance is its ability to be ever-present in the minds of the people. Of course one can criticize them for their choice of controversies and issues, but has that thought ever crossed the minds of our political elite? The idea that they need to be relevant, even in situations such as disaster management where they don’t have the capacity to be truly effective.

I can’t help thinking about a quote from ZAB on this subject – it goes like this:

If things do not change, there will be nothing left to change. Either power must pass to the people or everything will perish

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he was right when he said that.

The tricky issue of intelligence sharing

NACTA was formed as a repository of all information of institutional memories supposed to be under the control of the PM. But it has been rendered ineffective because the IB, the ISI and the MI have their own spheres and they cannot work under the Ministry of Interior. NACTA has not started functioning properly because of a lack of will.

At the moment, a number of intelligence agencies are functioning in Pakistan that include Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), premier intelligence agency run by the army; Military Intelligence (MI) directly working under the army command; Intelligence Bureau (IB), officially reporting directly to the Prime Minister/Chief Executive to deal with independent political affairs and law and order situation. In police, there are two major agencies: Crime Investigation Department (CID) and Special Branch. Only police and the CID can submit challan and arrest any person. The Special Branch is sued for the protection of the VVIP (Very Very Important Person) movement. Also, there is Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), working under the Ministry of Interior that deals mainly with immigration and cyber crime.

There is a homeland security system in place in the USA since 9/11 and the information is shared at the immigration level. 9/11 gave a vital realisation to the US to improve its intelligence-sharing which is central to the war on terror. In other countries, there are intelligence coordination and supervisory committees in the parliament that review the performance and coordination among the intelligence agencies. In Pakistan, there is no such committee except National Security Committee, a body confined to the periodic meetings only.

Some top police officials, requesting not to be named, say that such gaps have also been noticed in the attacks on Rescue 15 and ISI office in 2007. Examples of prior intimation of the possibility of attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009 and the one on Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in October 2009 are other glaring examples of this lapse. The information of one intelligence agency was overlooked by the other law enforcement and intelligence agencies even though it had been provided beforetime.

“Such examples are not new,” recalls Imtiaz Billa, former DG IB, who had informed the then-NWFP government that Lt Gen (r) Fazle Haq could be assassinated in a week’s time, but no measures were taken and the person was killed. “What is needed is a first-rate and effective coordination system both in sharing of intelligence information and coordination of the joint interrogation,” he suggests.

“There is no sharing system within Pakistan. We are taking up the issue in the national security committee, too. The role of the NACTA is also under purview,” Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, former interior minister and sitting Member of Parliament, tells TNS.

Historically, General Yahya was the first to attempt the formation of a national intelligence commission but the plan never materialised. There were attempts also to set up intelligence academies at that time. A similar proposal was made in Air Martial (r) Zulfiqar Commission in 1989, during the first regime of Benazir Bhutto, but again it could not be implemented. Hameed Gul, former DG ISI, proposed an end to the political role of the ISI but he was rejected.

In 1996, Masood Sharif, former IB chief, proposed Intelligence and Crime Coordination Committee. The proposal was widely appreciated and discussed but, again, it was never implemented.

Much needs to be done to share facilities and information. The latest botched effort in this regard pertains to establishing of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA). The organisation was being set up as a central point for intelligence gathering and handshaking amongst various intelligence organisations, and to produce a counter-terrorism strategy that would also comprise of interaction with media and developing research and analysis tools. Its former head Tariq Pervez, who has a great career in the police, resigned recently in protest against the interior ministry dragging its feet. Now, NACTA is a non-starter due to pressures from within the interior ministry and from the intelligence community