Jul 23, 2008 3
Jul 17, 2008 4
Another poll of Pakistanis has been released. The irony is that Pakistani voices are being increasingly heard, but it stops right there. There’s no actualization.
I forsee not only rising public anger, but also a very ugly end-product. Those responsible–and there are many–will wash their hands, describing it all as inevitable.
The International Republican Institute published the findings of its latest survey, conducted in the first two weeks of June.
Jul 17, 2008 2
1) Securing Pakistan’s Tribal Belt [PDF]
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
DANIEL MARKEY, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia
INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP
* Here’s a ~2002 report by Shoaib Suddle on the same topic.
Jul 17, 2008 0
Almost a year ago, I wrote an op-ed for Lahore’s Daily Times discussing an intensifying phenomenon I described as the “push on Pakistan.” [The paper's editors took out the word "on" and made a 'liberal' (pun intended) edit or two.]
But, in light of the heightened pressure on Pakistan from Washington and the increased role of the Pakistan-Afghanistan conflict in the U.S. presidential campaign, here’s a link to that piece. Some points I made were particularly prescient. Others not so — but we can forget about those:-)
Jul 8, 2008 3
I have drafted many posts in recent weeks, but have not had the chance to complete them. As a result, below is a large posting dealing with a wide array of topics.
Pulling at Karachi’s Ethnic-Linguistic Seams
Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and commercial capital, was hit by a series of explosions this evening. There was no suicide blast; rather, there was a mix of C-4 explosives and grenades thrown in up to eight locations across the behemoth of a city. The commonality among all these different districts: they were predominantly Pakhtun areas.
The low intensity blasts were not the hallmark of a sophisticated terror group. The responsible party seems to be, or seeks to be seen as, an organization with basic explosive capabilities an an animus for Pakhtuns. As a result, many in Pakistan have (directly or indirectly) pointed their fingers at the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)–a militia with a party or a party with a militia–which represents many of urban Sindh’s Urdu-speaking migrants and their descendents. They point to:
Last month there were other ethnically chauvinistic statements made by the MQM leadership. The real danger is that the MQM could use the Taliban bogeyman as a pretext to indimidate (or worse) the local Pakhtun population.
If Altaf Hussain is trying to position himself as the Muhammad Dahlan of Karachi–in this case, the Taliban would be a rough equivalent of HAMAS–and others abroad are enthused by the idea, that will certainly not bode well for Pakistan. Secular thugs are thugs notwithstanding their views on God and society. Karachi is a microcosm for Pakistan. It’s a multiethnic tinderbox. Most are inclined toward good will, but the major power brokers in Pakistan all too often make use of the politics of divisiveness, which retards the country’s growth. In today’s context, the consequences can be far, far worse.
An alternative perspective in Pakistan sees attacks as an Indian response to the hit on their embassy in Kabul, for which the Indians have reflexively blamed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
Few see the Karachi attacks as having been executed by a Taliban-like group punishing the Awami National Party (ANP) for the Khyber Agency operations.
Musharraf Starts Biting
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher’s statement, made to Nawaz Sharif a week ago, that Pervez Musharraf is a “non-issue” couldn’t be further from the truth. Musharraf has been staying politically relevant and seems to becoming more aggressive. He has and will continue to serve as a source of instability and division within Pakistan.
Musharraf told the aforementioned audience in Karachi,”My belief is that we need to let go of past events and look to the future.” But he then, in a display of militaristic bravado, demonstrated why he is psychologically incapable of achieving political rapprochement with his foes when he spoke of being a “commando” and said: “My training is offensive–not defensive…I’ve learned to give an offensive response.”
Musharraf has displayed little to no inclination to be a figurehead. He will continue to pit the country’s two largest parties against one another, a divide and rule strategy that exploits their traditional rivalry, keeps him afloat, and Pakistan continuously unstable. Musharraf has been able to absorb an onslaught of political blows in recent months. That is because he has a bullet proof vest jointly manufactured in Rawalpindi and Washington. But every time he gets hit, his vestless country does as well.
Finally, Musharraf should be more cautious over his association with the MQM. If he continues along his present path, he will fall into the trap of Pakistan’s ethnic-linguistic politics and be painted as an ‘Urdu-speaking militant’ or as a mini-Altaf Hussain.
A Thorny Olive Branch to Nawaz
Musharraf recently said that he’s willing to reconcile with everyone–including Nawaz Sharif. His strategy with the Sharif brothers has been to speak softly sometimes but carry a large stick. Musharraf has kept their political future questionable, dangling them over the edge of a cliff so as to induce capitulation. Compromise with Musharraf, as the PPP can attest to, is a form of political castration, if not suicide. The PML-N has benefitted from being seen as pure from the Musharraf mess. As a result, in the foreseeable future it’s difficult to see the possibility of both Musharraf and Nawaz in “elected” office.
Zardari’s Slow Political Suicide
What is Asif Zardari doing? Months ago, he said he would visit Balochistan, the insurgency-ravaged, least developed, and resource rich province. He comes from a Sindhi tribe that is of Baloch origin. As the de-facto prime minister of the country, he needs to take advantage of the civilian government’s albeit declining political capital and work for a peaceful, political resolution to the insurgency. Zardari has yet to visit Balochistan. Instead, he went on an extended trip to Saudi Arabia (partly to avoid a mini-political crisis in Islamabad) and has since gone to Turkey and Greece. He attended an international socialist moot and delivered some antiquated anti-imperialist rhetoric.
Since, April or so, Zardari has been effectively committing political suicide. It’s been one of the stranger developments in Pakistani politics. Having restored his public image, Zardari is now seen as the same schemer of old. He can blame a faceless conspiracy as much as he wants. But all too many Pakistanis believe he’s part and parcel of it. Until he makes a permanent cut of ties with Musharraf, he and his government will likely weaken as time goes on.
On a broader point: The era of indirect governance needs to come to an end. Zardari should run for the National Assembly when a seat opens. His sister can easily vacate hers (which was actually Benazir’s). Nawaz Sharif should be permitted to run for elections. He and Zardari should lead their parties in parliament. If Musharraf’s political presence is an unavoidable reality, then he should resign from the presidency and join a political party. He has not and will never be a non-partisan figure. The presidency is best suited for an apolitical character who will be content with its soon to be reduced portfolio.
PPP-SB Flexing Tiny Muscles
Last week, Sassi Saura Bhutto–daughter of Shahnawaz, niece of Benazir, and granddaugther of Zulfiqar Ali–arrived in Pakistan for her first visit. The 26-year old Columbia graduate student was received by a ‘dissident’ faction of the Bhuttos: the tiny PPP-SB (Shaheed Bhutto) group that centers around the widow of Mir Murtaza Bhutto, Ghinwa, her step-daughter Fatima, and her son Zulfikar Ali “Junior.”
Sassi’s visit to Pakistan comes as there has been much speculation on the emergence of a serious counter to Zardari’s PPP faction. Such speculation focuses around a pool of disgruntled current and ex-PPP figures, including the aforementioned, plus Amin Fahim, Naheed Khan (BB’s best friend), Safdar Abbasi (NK’s husband), and Mumtaz Bhutto (Benazir’s uncle and head of the Bhutto tribe).
Sassi’s visit is, however, muchado about nothing. According to Fatima Bhutto’s spokesman, Sassi is not interested in politics. She also does not seem to offer much utility at the present moment.
Some have suggested that Ghinwa is using Sassi to bolster her case in a family property dispute. But what’s also possible is that Ghinwa is preparing for the next generation battle in the PPP.
Benazir’s two daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa, have been inducted into the party leadership. The former will head the women’s wing, while the latter will head the youth wing. The two have lived most of their lives out of Pakistan and are not fluent in any of the local languages. The same goes for the child monarch, Bilawal, who is party co-chairman. But he will, according to Salmaan Taseer, lead some rallies in Punjab this August.
And so, in a sense, the future is now.
A.Q. Khan Passes the Boundary
Abdul Qadeer Khan’s house arrest has been eased since the formation of the present government in Islamabad. He’s taken advantage of the relative freedom, giving as much as a dozen television and print media interviews. Khan’s sought to defend his legacy and press for his full release. He’s become more desparate in recent days, threatening to expose Musharraf and Pakistan’s military. He did exactly that on Friday when he told an Associated Press reporter that he transferred centrifuges to North Korea with the help of Pakistan’s miitary and potentially the knowledge of Musharraf. In doing so, Khan exceeded his bounds delineated by both Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment as well as general public opinion. His excess has backfired, putting him on the defensive and could cause him to quiet down in the short term.