Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rawalpindi’s ongoing Puppet Show in Islamabad


Rawalpindi's ongoing Puppet Show in Islamabad


In my recent article  (URL above) on the ongoing turmoil in Pakistan, I had stated that in 'the Book' based polity of Islam, the lines between the Mir and the Pir ,the temporal ruler and spiritual ruler still remain blurred ,contested and changing ,with examples of Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt. Hopefully this tussle will keep on going peacefully and a balance /separation between the military and civilian leadership would be achieved one day .Finally with overall control of the popularly elected representative and accountable civilian administration. This tug of war will take its time depending on the history of the state before Islam was imposed by force, by persuasion or by other means. Saudi Arabia from which Islam emerged might have been Jahiliya, but Egypt, Anatolia aka Turkey and the subcontinent had ancient and flourishing civilisations before the arrival of Islam. Saudi Arabia's billions of petrodollars are keeping the Ummah and Muslim nations away from modern, representative, responsive and accountable governments.


As for the role of military in Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, I began my career as assistant press attaché in Cairo in early 1960s spent 10 years in Turkey .An Indian diplomat cannot escape Pakistan, its politics and its anti-Indian profession in any capital .Since Cairo I have maintained close interaction with media throughout my postings abroad and in India. I have a fear idea of the noble profession of journalism, which has changed and deteriorated, especially in the last few decades because of overwhelming influence of American and European corporate money and consequently of their counterparts and ruling establishments in most countries forced to follow neoliberal capitalism.


Since retiring in 1996 from Ankara, as an independent journalist I have written scores of print articles on international affairs in top newspapers of India, Dubai, Lebanon, Turkey and elsewhere. And since 2002 many hundreds of articles and blogs .I have expressed many times my poor opinion of Indian media, especially the so-called national TV channels with their obsession with trivialities, celebrities and sports. Among anchors Karan Thapar is OK but he should stop scowling, angry and inquisitorial .Hindu remains the best newspaper.


I have great respect for many journalists in Turkey and Pakistan, where they have been hounded by ruling establishments, whether military or civilian and many are in jail. Salim Shazad, to whom I corresponded, was tortured and killed by ISI; others are regularly hounded. We had a few such brave journalists like Kuldip Nayar and Arun Shourie during the Indira Gandhi imposed emergency in 1975 – 77.

Pakistan's democracy;

Throughout the Cold War, the so-called democracy in Pakistan was basically a Western media myth to put its ally on a par with India, which was on the opposite side. Utterances by Pakistan prime ministers against India made good copy in Western media. Barring perhaps Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1972-77), after the military had been totally discredited in 1971 following the liberation of Bangladesh, the Pakistan armed forces have been de jure or de facto rulers of the country. In the 11 years between General Zia's death in 1988 and Musharraf's takeover, Benazir Bhutto and Sharif were eased in and out of power whenever they tried to interfere with the military's autonomy, or their control of nuclear arms, or the policy on Kashmir and foreign affairs.  Constantly squabbling with each other, they nevertheless amassed huge fortunes by corrupt means.  Bhuttos, specially Zulfiqar Ali, and Nawaz Sharif had the opportunity and political support to lay the foundations for democracy, but instead they chose despotic ways to steamroller the institutions that provided the checks and balances in the state. This highlights the inability of Pakistan in general to accept the give and take of a democratic system and administration.  

For all the good copy that Benazir Bhutto provided the Western media, she was perhaps one of the most incompetent administrators in Pakistan's history, with her husband, "Mr 10 percent" Ali Zardari; making it worse (he even became the president and completed his term). She played a seminal role in 1996 in promoting the stranglehold in Pakistan of the Jamaat-i-Islami and other fundamentalist groups.  They remain deeply entrenched in the Pakistan armed forces, the ISI and the establishment, with the potential for full-fledged implosion.

In any case, unlike India, in 1947 Pakistan began with weak grassroots political organizations, with the British-era civil servants strengthening the bureaucracy's control over the polity and decision-making in the country. Subsequently, the bureaucracy called for the military's help, but soon the tail was wagging the dog.  In the first seven years of Pakistan's existence, nine provincial governments were dismissed.  From 1951 to 1958 there was only one army commander in chief, two governor generals, but seven prime ministers.

While the politicians had wanted to further strengthen relations with the British, the erstwhile rulers, General Ayub Khan -encouraged by the US military - formed closer cooperation with the Pentagon.  And in 1958 the military took over power, with Ayub Khan exiling the governor general, Iskender Mirza, to London. A mere colonel at partition in 1947, with experience mostly of staff jobs, Ayub Khan became a general after only four years.  Later, he promoted himself to field marshal.  He eased out officers who did not fit into the Anglo-Saxon scheme of using Pakistan's strategic position against the evolving Cold War confrontation with the communist bloc.  

General Zia ul-Haq, meanwhile, was a cunning schemer, veritably a mullah in uniform who, while posted in Amman, helped plan the military operation, which expelled Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization from Jordan in the 1970s.  But he is more remembered for having prayed at all the mosques of Amman, if not in the whole of Jordan.  He seduced the north Indian media with lavish praise and chicken and tikka kebabs meals.  He planned Operation Topaz, which in 1989 fueled insurgency in Kashmir, while hoodwinking Indians with his goodwill visits to promote cricket contacts between the countries. His Islamisation of the country made the situation for women and minorities untenable, while the judicial killing of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 turned General Zia into a pariah.  But the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan made him a US darling, restoring and fatally strengthening the Pakistan military's links with the Pentagon. This made the Pakistani military and the ISI's hold pervasive, omnipotent, omniscient and ominous in Pakistan.

I reproduce below two excellent and interesting articles by Pakistani scholar-journalists on the current events orchestrated from Rawalpindi military headquarters and the state which was midwifed  by the United Kingdom to protect its and later Western oil interests in Middle East and to counter India .Pakistan has never come out of the Western grip and Saudi influence with its petrodollars . As a result majority of the people have suffered, only the military, landed feudal and upstart rich like Nawaz Sharif have flourished.


.K.Gajendra Singh 4 September, 2014.Delhi


Rise of the mob

Written by Khaled Ahmed | September 4, 2014 12:09 am


Imran Khan broke into the Red Zone and took his party up to the front of parliament house in Islamabad on August 19, saying that if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif didn't resign he would take his several thousand followers to the prime minister's house and drag him out "by his neck". His agitation was hinged on the accusation that the 2013 elections, which brought Sharif's party to power, had been rigged.

First he had wanted the tainted constituencies investigated; now he wanted the prime minister to go. He also knew that Sharif had fallen out with the army. He charged him with endless corruption, claiming that politicians had taken a sum of $200 billion out of the country. The Old Testament came to the rescue.


Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri lead an attack against representative democracy.

Imran Khan said, "We will free Pakistan of pharaohs". The Dawn wrote: "The image of a righteous Prophet Moses (Musa) dethroning a wicked firaun (pharaoh) has often been employed before. It was perfectly effective during Iran's Islamic Revolution. A poster of Ayatollah Khomeini, in the role of Musa dethroning Mohammad Reza, the last shah of Iran, cast in the role of pharaoh. Hosni Mubarak, the erstwhile strongman of Egypt, was also termed by his opponents as a modern pharaoh."


Tahirul Qadri, leading another mob assaulting Islamabad, was more detailed, given his religious scholarship. He quoted the Quran in Arabic and then translated the divine message as ordering the two prophet-brothers, Aaron (Haroon) and Moses, to attack the palace of the Egyptian pharaoh. Strictly separated so far, the two cult leaders had brooked no dilution of their charisma. Now they became "brothers" challenging Nawaz Sharif, the pharaoh of Pakistan. Qadri, nursing an old feud with him, knew Sharif had fallen out with the army. Khan was more amateurish in his scriptural expertise. He quoted Ali, the fourth caliph, on corrupt Muslim states that collapse and honest infidel ones that don't. People could collar the third caliph, Usman, in the street and question his acquisition of a new shirt when the common man went without one. The ideal (city) state was an Athens of Islam, with utopian "participatory democracy" in place, "justice coming to their doorstep".

Khan carelessly said he was influenced by "Mahatma Gandhi", but a more canny Qadri stayed clear of such references. Instead of the shower of praise he had expected, Khan got a heavy dose of textbook nationalism by the media, which looks at Gandhi as the villain who dared oppose Jinnah, the father of the nation. Qadri was ideologically correct and stayed away from Khan's next "extra-Islamic" reference to civil disobedience too. The irony was that, whereas Khan's party had been represented in parliament, Qadri was an outsider to democracy, a scholar with a cult following who had "written a thousand books".


Both avoided the intellectual fallout of this reference by claiming that democracy had been overthrown by Sharif's corrupt conduct. But the pharaonic palace they were attacking was democracy and the constitution was against them. Rejecting all overtures for "consultation" on "electoral reform", which was Khan's main plank of agitation, the great cricketer signalled war.

The Independence March and Revolution March both rejected the courts of law and their interpretation of the agitation as an illegitimate act. Qadri used political science in his rhetoric but was probably sure that his obsolete reference to "direct" and "participatory" democracy would not be challenged by a population steeped in the already "participatory" city-state utopia of Islam. What man has achieved in the 20th century is democracy that lasts, an order secure against mob attacks. "Direct" Athens was superseded by "indirect" Rome, and Europe today harks back to the "direct democracy" of the city-state of Athens only when it holds referendums, and suffers because of them. Pakistan too has rued all the referendums it has held so far. Today, people choose their representatives and send them to parliament to enact laws on their behalf. If you don't like them, defeat them in the next election but till then, hold your peace.


Former World Bank economist Deepak Lal writes in his book, In Praise of Empires: Globalisation and Order (2004): "The underlying theory behind the NGOs' claims, and the source of their popular appeal, is the wholly illiberal theory of participatory democracy. The Western notion of a liberal democracy is based on representative democracy. From the founding fathers of the American republic to liberal thinkers like Immanuel Kant, direct or participatory democracy on the model of the Greek city-states has been held to be deeply illiberal. Subject to populist pressures and the changing passions of the majority, it can oppress minorities. Greater popular participation does not necessarily subserve liberty. The great liberal thinkers have therefore been keen to have indirect representative democracy hedged by various checks and balances which could prevent the majority from oppressing the minority."


In India too, there are charismatic NGO-type leaders like Anna Hazare and Arundhati Roy who challenge corruption and other evils of the country's democracy. But Hazare's appeal lay in his power to endure self-mortificatory starvation, not in threatening the prime minister with physical manhandling, like Khan, or giving "advice" to his disciples to kill the prime minister, like Qadri. The Lok Sabha caved to Anna Hazare's campaign and passed the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill in December 2013. In Islamabad, parliament is willing to legislate electoral reform but Khan wouldn't hear of it, saying nothing short of dismissal of Sharif would do — after which "I will do ehtesab (accountability)", which everyone in the street knows will be an act of considerable brutality, in the Muslim tradition.


In India, Gandhi's movement of civil disobedience is part of its nationalism. "Participatory democracy" also crops up when Indians feel politicians have distanced themselves from the masses too much. Manish Sisodia, once a close aide of Team Hazare, put his finger on the factor that the movement relied on: "If people actually understood that the country's democracy had lost its participatory nature and had turned authoritarian, then they would once again associate themselves with the issues that the team was raising".


The economist, who sees the germ of the "welfare state" and its infamous budget deficits in "participatory" democracy, gets predictably jittery. He knows that the early clauses of the constitution, pledging equality and security of livelihood to all, are only hortatory in nature and the state merely needs to "aspire" to them. It appears that when fathers of a constitution sit down to write it, they consign the "hot air" of their misplaced early enthusiasm to these articles. But if you are a Muslim trying to avoid the obsolete caliphate of history by grabbing its utopia through "welfare", you are defying the global consensus.


Qadri and his Awami Tehreek want to revive the 40 "rights"-related opening articles of the constitution. Khan too refers to a falahi (welfare) state in his speeches as his answer to the difficult questions about how a terror-stricken state can survive. Both share the funding-through-charity organisational background exempting them from taxation. Khan is clearly "confiscatory" in his welfare pledge — like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s — while Qadri only hints at it.

Most non-authoritarian Muslim states are either unstable or coming apart in the face of violence. Anna Hazare wanted to die; Muslim challengers want to kill.


The writer is consulting editor, 'Newsweek Pakistan'

The script behind Pakistan's sit-in
By Malik Basharat Awan

Asia Times Sept 4, 2014
Amid ongoing protests to topple a democratically elected government in Pakistan, liberal voices speculate that protest leaders Imran Khan, the chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, and Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri are acting upon a script written by the country's security agency. 

The public relations department of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has categorically rejected any links with the protesters amassed in Islamabad, but the chronology of events before the sit-ins strongly suggest the existence of such a script. A campaign against Geo TV, which has challenged ISI, the sudden decision to launch Operation Zarb-e-Azb against against insurgent groups in northwest Pakistan, Imran Khan's severe criticism of former

Supreme Court judges and the recent protests over allegations of vote-rigging in the 2013 polls all appear to be separate events, but if you connect the dots, they seem a part of a well-written script. 

Since 2008, the establishment has suffered setbacks in every bid to impose its decisions in matters pertaining to civilian jurisdiction. Three institutions - the media, the judiciary and political parties - strongly resisted moves that could help the military regain its control on national politics. Therefore, it had become necessary to discredit all three. 

Two factors in particular had helped the establishment overthrow elected governments: the weak judiciary and the major political parties' ravenous appetite for power. In all the previous military coups, the judiciary always kissed the jackboot, while the political parties were too weak and loosely bonded by political values. It wasn't until the 2007 state emergency that the country's chief judge renounced abasing himself before a military dictator, General Pervaiz Musharaf, and the major political parties refused to give shoulder to a dying dictatorship. 

When the dictator sacked the judiciary to save his rule, the strong outcry in the media made the public to come on streets and force the military dictator to retire. So, under the new circumstances, the trio of media, judiciary and the political parties, have become an aegis of democracy and, hence needed to be broken in order to forcefully gain and retain the power. 

The establishment's experience with media, particularly with Geo TV, had never been very pleasant. It was the only channel which stood firmed against then-president Musharaf in 2007. While other channels shook hands with the military dictator after a week or two of emergency, Geo solitarily bore the brunt of the dictatorship and suffered broadcast suspension for nearly three months. Since then, its stance on the military's interference in politics had been quite rigid and it decried any move that could have destabilized an elected government. 

It is an undeniable fact that Geo is a popular television channel and also an agenda setter, influencing not only the public view but also those of other media houses in Pakistan. Thus, the script-writer knew that to implement its wider strategy, it needed to discredit Geo TV and its owner, Jang Group, in the eyes of public first and create a divide within the media. 

In the first phase, the credibility of Geo TV was gradually and systematically destroyed through another private TV channel, acting as a retinue of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Tahir-ul-Qadri. As soon as Geo TV accused the ISI chief of the attempted murder of one of its most vocal anti-establishment anchors, Hamid Mir, rival media groups started an anti-Geo TV campaign, questioning the group's loyalty towards Pakistan. 

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader Khan, once a partner in Jang Group's campaign to help Pakistani flood victims, wasted no time to jump on the bandwagon and ask people to boycott Jang Group. Meanwhile, to contain the channel's reach, certain elements bribed and threatened cable operators to pull Geo TV from their networks.

The government's repeated calls for the restoration of Geo TV fell on deaf ears of operators and as advertisers distanced themselves the channel is now striving for its survival and is in a position where it cannot risk provoking the establishment. 

One wonders if it is mere a coincidence that the judiciary, which for the first time in the history of Pakistan had taken up a treason case against a former military dictator - in this case Musharaf - for abrogating the constitution, had faced blistering criticism from Khan since May 2013. A vituperative campaign against former judges, on one hand, was a message for the Supreme Court to refrain from any action against Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, while on the other it was intended to lower the image of the judiciary as an "independent" body. 

Another point to ponder here is that Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf had clearly alienated itself from Tahir-ul-Qadri in 2013 and one of its members accused him of pursuing a foreign agenda. However, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf leader is sharing the stage with the cleric today. The script writer knows that an elected government cannot be overthrown without gathering a large number of committed workers. 

Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf is a popular party with huge support on ground, but it lacks the workers capable of creating agitation. Previously, the establishment depended on right-wing religious parties, particularly of the Deoband sect, to stir political agitation. However, the war on terror has led to a parting of ways between the army and these Deoband-dominated parties. Therefore, Tahir-ul-Qadri's moderate and anti-Deoband stance proved a good alternate for the script writer. For the workers of Pakistan Awami Tehrik, Tahir-ul-Qadri is a spiritual leader and abandoning him is tantamount of inviting God's curse. 

Political pundits argue that the establishment did not want to see democracy flourishing in the country and it had assigned Tahir-ul-Qadri with the job of derailing the electoral process before the 2013 general elections. The plot, however, met a deadly fate only because neither the media nor any major political party joined the cleric in his long march. Imran too, was sure at that time that he was going to win the elections and perhaps could afford to avoid getting his hands dirty. 

However, as the general election proved fiasco for Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, the sudden decision to launch a campaign against the government in tandem with Tahir-ul-Qadri - and that too a year after the election - validates the idea of existence of a script. Imran Khan's ravenous appetite for the premiership has crossed all limits and in this course he does not seem willing to care if the means are legitimate or not. 

Imran Khan's relations with military's top brass are no secret. He enjoyed good terms with former ISI chief Shuja Pasha. He also supported Musharaf in his presidential referendum in 2001, but parted ways when the general refused him the premiership after the 2002 general elections. 

The timing of a long-awaited operation Zarb-e-Azb against terrorist also generates certain doubts. To gather massive crowds, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf and Tahir-ul-Qadri required a clear field, where the threat of a terrorist attack was minimal. Given the bitter history between Tahir-ul-Qadri and the Pakistani Taliban, it was feared that the cleric would fail to gather the support needed for an extra constitutional step, if the threat level was not eliminated. 

Most recently the veteran democrat and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf President Javed Hashmi has also parted ways from Imran Khan over the issue of marching on parliament, alleging that the establishment is backing the duo. 

The ISI reacted to this by issuing a statement denying any connection with the protesters. That denial, however, seems dubious as the agency's public relations department has a long history of rebuttals which with the passage of time have proved incorrect. 

In one such instance, when a US drone fired a missile on a seminary in Data Khel area of North Waziristan in 2007, resulting in the death of over 40 people, ISI had stated that the fatalities occurred when bombs being made by militants accidentally exploded. Follow up media investigations, however, revealed that it was actually a drone attack. During the Kargil war in 1999, statements from the ISI often contradicted realities on the ground. 

Pakistan's establishment must realize that smaller provinces have a long list of grievances against the center, and that only a real democracy can address them. Undemocratic strategies to change the central and provincial governments would further aggravate the unrest in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. The army cannot take the risk of losing support of 30 million supporters of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League and its allied parties and must put the constitution above the institution to save the federation. 

Malik Basharat Awan has an M.Phil in Strategic and Nuclear Studies, a Masters degree in mass communication, and tweets @MBawan.