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DAWN - Opinion; October 11, 2002

October 11, 2002


Iraq crisis and Pakistan

By Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

WHILE the nation’s eyes are riveted on the outcome of the general election held yesterday, few people seem to be aware of the intensity of the storm that will hit Pakistan when the US launches what appears to be an inevitable attack on Iraq.

In some ways, the fallout from the Iraq war will be greater than what Pakistan lived through during the American strike on Afghanistan last October-November. Those who opposed Pakistan’s decision to throw in its lot with the US-led world coalition were not necessarily pro-Taliban; in many cases, even anti-Taliban sections of society found it difficult to decide which side they were on in the war between George Bush and Osama bin Laden. This kind of situation is going to arise again when one is called upon to arrange one’s order of revulsion between the likes of Saddam Hussein and the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz combine.

While virtually all religious parties opposed Pakistan’s support to what they believed to be a “Christian war” on a Muslim country, some major religious parties were incensed by the loss of their clout in Kabul with the ouster of the Taliban regime. The same sense of fury and revulsion is bound to reassert itself on a wider scale — perhaps in the form of anti-US and anti-West agitation and violence — once the US launches its invasion of Iraq.

America today is in a ferocious mood. The Bush doctrine of “pre-emption” is dangerous as a philosophy of action — an awesome weapon with which America has armed itself and let the world know it. Evidently, the US thinks that the barren hills of Afghanistan were not much of a target for avenging itself for 9/11. What it needs is something more worthwhile — a plum target to spend its fury on. Iraq, with its oil installations and a relatively well-developed economic and technological infrastructure, could be a more satisfying target. More important, savaging Iraq would immensely please Israel. That clinches the argument.

Iraq being a Muslim country, an attack on it will have grave geopolitical consequences for the whole of the Middle East. There is every possibility that Iraq’s devastation may possibly be followed by an attack on the other Muslim member of the “axis of evil”, Iran, and that could leave the Middle East shaken to its foundations and in a state of primal fury. The public opinion in Pakistan will naturally react with intense revulsion to what will be seen as a western attack on the heart of Islamic civilization. The end result will be a re-enactment of the Sykes-Picot pact, except that there will be one mandatory power instead of two.

While Pakistan should extend all its moral and diplomatic support to Iraq, it must also realize the limitations of its power, particularly in view of the threat to its own security from the current military stand-off with India which has now entered its tenth month. In the given context, the best bet for Pakistan would be for Washington to see the wisdom of avoiding any course of action that might trigger an eruption of anti-West anger and violence in all Muslim countries, including Pakistan.

Pakistan’s close political and military cooperation with the US in the war against terrorism has transformed the country’s geopolitical position in the world and given Islamabad several advantages, including some definite economic gains. But the greater gain has been the end of this country’s political isolation that began with the 1998 nuclear tests and reached a high watermark with the military takeover in October 1999.

This is not to overlook the painful fact that the US support has been far below Islamabad’s expectations, for Washington had — or perhaps chose — to maintain an appearance of neutrality between Pakistan and India, often tilting on one or the other side to keep the other party guessing.

On Kashmir, the US attitude might have disappointed Islamabad, but New Delhi, too, has felt frustrated over Washington’s refusal to see the Kashmir issue through the Indian prism of regarding the valley’s freedom movement primarily as a case of Pakistan-inspired terrorism. Colin Powell’s utterances during his last visit to New Delhi, especially with regard to his reservations about the election in occupied Kashmir, were positively to India’s distaste.

On many other issues also, Pakistan and America do not see eye to eye — non-proliferation, Palestine, the human rights violations of the Pakistani suspects of 9/11, and the Bush administration’s emphasis on unilateralism which treats even America’s European allies with contempt. But, on the whole, the US has cast a positive influence on what has been a highly critical situation in South Asia since last December.

In May and June, the US played a key role in averting a devastating war in South Asia. One could not say what Washington’s attitude would have been if Pakistan were not on the American side in the war on terror and if the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building had taken place while Islamabad sat on the fence. In that case, an Indian attack on this country would not have taken long to come.

Last month, America decided to resume arms sales to Pakistan. The sales will include not only arms whose supply had been discontinued but new weapons systems as well. More significantly, US Defence Undersecretary Douglas J. Feith said at the end of the US-Pakistan consultative group’s meeting in Islamabad that his country had an interest in Pakistan’s security concerns and that the two governments had decided on a “long-term relationship.” This shift in America’s arms sales policy should help Pakistan’s US-oriented defence system, which has been in desperate need of spares and replenishment.

Afghanistan continues to be unstable. A volatile Afghanistan is not in Pakistan’s interest, nor in the interest of the US, which could fear a re-emergence of that country as a breeding ground for terrorism. Here, too, Pakistan and America have a common interest in ensuring that Afghanistan does not relapse into chaos which non-regional powers would want to exploit.

In the wider global context, a closer relationship with the US helps strengthen the community of interests that America and China have in Pakistan’s stability and economic development. It removes any misunderstanding that the anti-China hawks in Washington may have over Islamabad’s close military and political ties with Beijing. A Pakistan enjoying friendly relations with both China and America will be a factor for peace and stability in South and South-west Asia, and the Iraq crisis must not be allowed to disturb this equation.

Let us not forget the haste with which India offered logistic support and bases to the US in the aftermath of September 11. All that Jaswant Singh’s offer did was to expose the desire India has been cherishing for a long time to develop a strategic partnership with the US since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In this unipolar world, evoking American wrath is suicidal. After the demise of the USSR, there is no countervailing power in the world that could stand up to America. Unfortunately, Jiang Zemin, Vladimir Putin and Atal Behari Vajpayee know this truth more than some of our religious demagogues.

The day after

By Firozuddin Ahmed Faridi

OCTOBER stands out as an eventful month in the political history of Pakistan. On October 16, 1951, the first prime minister of Pakistan was assassinated in broad daylight.

On October 24, 1954, the first non-political governor-general of Pakistan clamped emergency over the entire country and dissolved the first constituent-cum-national assembly, with a wave of his paralysed little finger. On October 7, 1958, the second non-political governor-general of Pakistan imposed the first martial law and abrogated the first constitution. On October 27, 1958, the first military dictator of Pakistan imposed the presidential form of government. On October 12, 1999, the incumbent military ruler took over and the Constitution was suspended. And on October, 10, 2002 (yesterday), general election was held as directed by the Supreme Court.

Within a couple of weeks, the elected members of the national and the provincial assemblies will be required, under article 65 of the Constitution, to take their oath of office. No member can either sit or vote in the assembly unless he/she has taken the oath.

The question is: How will the oath be worded? The question is neither semantic nor academic. It has far-reaching political and legal significance. Time will show its significance. In view of the paramount importance of this question, let us look at the wordings of the oath of office of the members of the national and the provincial assemblies, as contained in the various constitutions of Pakistan which were framed in the chequered history of Pakistan.

On February 29, 1956, the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan enacted the first constitution of Pakistan. The following oath of office was laid down in its second schedule for the members of the national as well as the provincial assemblies:-

“I... having been elected a Member of the National Assembly (or Provincial Assembly of...) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and that I will faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”

It was a brief, simple and comprehensive oath of office.

The constitution of 1956, approved by the representatives of the people of Pakistan, was killed in its infancy two-and-a-half years later, on October 7, 1958. The country remained without a constitution for three-and-a-half years. On March 1, 1962, the military ruler conferred a constitution of his liking, almost like a personal gift, on the hapless people of Pakistan. He declared that he had derived his constitutional authority from the referendum which he had held two years ago, on February 14, 1960. In what he, in his judgment, considered to be a frank and forthright style, he declared in the preamble of the 1962 Constitution, as follows:-

“I, Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan, Hilal-i-Pakistan, Hilal-i-Jura’at, President of Pakistan, in exercise of the Mandate given to me on February 14, 1960, by the people of Pakistan do hereby enact this Constitution.”

The oath of office both of the members of the national and the provincial assemblies, as laid down in the First Schedule of Ayub Khan’s constitution, read:-

“I... do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan: That, as a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan (or the Assembly of the Province of...), I will perform my functions honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully, in accordance with the Constitution, the law and the Rules of the Assembly, and always in the interest of the solidarity, integrity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan: And that I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”

Four interesting points may be noted here. Firstly, the oath deliberately omitted to make any reference to the fact that the person taking the oath of office as an elected member of the assembly has been so elected by the electorate as a member of the assembly. Secondly, the “Rules of the Assembly” were treated at par with the Constitution. Thirdly, the new wordings were, in part, repetitive and superfluous.

Fourthly, and most interestingly, the valiant manner in which those who gave, or took, that solemn oath to “preserve,protect and defend the Constitution”, defended that constitution in its hour of trial is now a matter of history. The army general who imposed this constitution on March 1, 1962, was forced to abrogate it himself, seven years later, on March 25, 1969. He handed over the power, the people and the country — lock, stock and barrel — to another army general.

Between March 25, 1969 and April 21, 1972, i.e., for about three years, the country was again without any constitution. This three-year period also saw the dismemberment of the country and the defeat of its armed forces.

On April 21, 1972, Mr Z.A. Bhutto, who has the dubious distinction of being the first, the one and the only civilian chief martial law administrator in world history, gave an interim constitution to Pakistan. Under its second schedule, separate oaths of office were laid down for the members of the national and the provincial assemblies, which were, however, similar. The oath of office for the member of the National Assembly read:-

“I... do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan: That, as a member of the National Assembly, I will perform my functions honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully, in accordance with the Interim Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law, and the Rules of the Assembly, and always in the interests of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan: That I will strive to preserve the Islamic ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan: And that I will preserve, protect and defend the Interim Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”

It is the above oath of office which, with minor amendments is even today the oath of office for the members of the assemblies.

It is also worth noting that it was for the first time that the words “preservation of the Islamic ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan” found a place in the oath of office of the law-makers. Those who credit Ziaul Haq for his ostentatious display of Islamization would note that it was Mr Bhutto, and not General Zia, who introduced this clause in the oath.

On April 12, 1973, the national assembly of Pakistan passed, by consensus, a new and permanent constitution which was enforced from August 14, 1973. Under its third schedule, the draft of oath used in the Interim Constitution (1972) was adopted, with minor amendments.

The constitution of 1973 was suspended on July 5, 1977 and the country placed under martial law for the third time in less than twenty years. Eight years later, on the eve of the revival of the suspended constitution of 1973, the fourth Chief Martial Law Administrator General Ziaul Haq, on March 17, 1985, added the following sentence to the oath of office of the members of the senate, the national and the provincial assemblies:-

“May Allah Almighty help and guide me (Ameen).”

It may be instructive here to know the oath of office for an elected member of the parliament under the Indian Constitution, enacted in 1949. The wordings are:-

“I... having been elected a member of the House of the People do swear in the name of God/solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India, as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter.”

It is, therefore, only to a Constitution which is established by law that a member of the Indian parliament or the provincial assembly is required to swear allegiance. In other words, he is not to swear allegiance to any legal instrument, be it the Constitution or otherwise, which is not established by law.

In the momentous month of October, 2002, the 140 million Pakistanis, hapless as ever before, will be watching with suspense the oath of office which the newly-elected members of the national assembly and the four provincial assemblies will be required to take — solemnly.

The writer is a former additional secretary of Pakistan.

Ashcroft’s dismay

ATTORNEY General John D. Ashcroft, in a sharp speech to a conference of U.S. attorneys, responded this week to those who have criticized him for showing inadequate respect for civil liberties since Sept. 11, 2001.

The attorney general lamented that while “our actions are firmly rooted in the Constitution,” they have “nevertheless ... been met in some quarters with disdain and ridicule.” He expressed dismay that secret detentions and “military detentions of unlawful enemy combatants” — which is to say locking up American citizens without trial or access to lawyers — might be controversial. And he made clear that criticism will not deter him: “History instructs us that caution and complacency are not defences of freedom: caution and complacency are a capitulation before freedom’s enemies — the terrorists.”

But caution and complacency are not the same, and it is disturbing to hear Mr. Ashcroft equate them. Complacency is a danger. Fighting terrorism has required changes in the organization of our society and may require more; some may be profound, and some may impinge on liberties that Americans have long taken for granted.

But caution in approaching such a diminution of liberty is a virtue. It reflects caution, not complacency, to ask that the Justice Department account honestly to Congress and, as much as possible, to the public about the changes it seeks. It reflects caution to hope that members of Congress deliberate seriously before changing the rules of surveillance and detention.

It is not complacency to consider how effective those changes are likely to be relative to their impact on American liberty _ to seek, in other words, a balancing of risks and dangers without having to fear attack from the administration for allegedly endangering security.

Reluctance to swell the fundamental power of government and a desire to augment safety while minimally diminishing freedom _ these are cautious, conservative and sensible approaches. Mr. Ashcroft’s disdain for such qualities is troubling. Zeal to fight the forces of evil can be recklessly deployed; it can misfire against the innocent; and it can, in doing so, cause dangerous threats to go undetected.

Mr. Ashcroft’s own inspector general recently reported that the FBI still has failed to conduct “a comprehensive written assessment of the risk of the terrorist threat facing the United States.” Yet Mr. Ashcroft in his speech confidently asserted that he has already “restructured” that agency, implying that the job of FBI reform is largely done. In that arena, complacency would be a great danger. —The Washington Post

To have and have-not

ONE of the more startling facts of Indian poverty is that there has been no major agitation on economic issues since 1974, when George Fernandes organized the nationwide railway strike that Indira Gandhi crushed with massive force. Is this because George Fernandes joined the Establishment in 1977?

The question is neither rhetorical, nor dramatically personalized. One man’s fortunes cannot change the course of class equations, even if that man is Fernandes. But a fundamental shift took place in Indian politics in 1977. With the absorption of the socialists into the ruling Janata Party in the north, and the conversion of the Marxists into the permanent establishment of Bengal, opposition as a political fact disappeared from the matrix of Indian politics. The only voices that were ever raised on behalf of the poor were co-opted into power. After that opposition became part of the seesaw on which two sides of the ruling class sat. The laws of fortune and democracy decreed that when the Congress was high, the others were low; and vice versa. (The Communists were a law unto themselves; they have not descended from their Calcutta perch.)

Previous to 1977, opposition was on issues: economic policy, corruption, democratic functioning, the rule of law, social justice. After 1977 opposition became an exercise in unseating the government, either through a numbers game in Parliament, or by creating conditions within the country that would make governance untenable. This is why the socialists, George Fernandes included, never went back to the people when they lost power in 1979. They waited in Delhi for the Congress to either exhaust itself or become a victim of its own misdemeanours. No economic issue was raised to any substantive extent in the eighties, or indeed the nineties, a decade dominated by the ultimate Establishment Man, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and wasted by the mavericks that succeeded him. This was also partly because the leopard had changed its spots.

The nature of Indian poverty has never been quite in sync with the nature of Indian economic struggles. The poor can be easily recognized in India. They live below or at the subsistence level. They used to inhabit the fringe of rural society, but now have migrated also to the homeless streets of principal cities. Broadly, but not wholly, they belong to the traditionally subjugated castes and classes, including the Dalits and a growing section of the minorities. But those who led the struggle for the redistribution of India’s wealth never really fought the battles of those at or below the poverty line. Trade unions were the principal armoured tanks on one side of the war, but the trade unions themselves represented a class of Indians that was significantly better off than the genuinely poor. It was axiomatic. Anyone with a job immediately became part of the haves.

The haves became, quickly, an exploiting class. Milovan Djilas discovered a festering New Class among the apparatchiks of post-world war European communism. He would have been exhausted searching for a definition of the “jobbery” class that emerged out of government-guaranteed employment in India. By the eighties, the credibility of the working class was in tatters from its own excesses; by the nineties, it was dead. In the villages too, the economic issues were in the grip of the small and medium farmers, rather than the landless. While leaders like Charan Singh maximized the political mileage of this power, lesser mortals like Mahendra Singh Tikait lit up the sky briefly before they ended up on earth like damp squibs. No one ever saw a national struggle across India demanding higher wages for landless labourers, or even an end to the rape and humiliation to which their women were routinely subjected.

The have-nots had neither the strength to organize nor the inspirational leadership that could have overcome this weakness. The Marxists in Bengal did expand their base into the rural poor, but stopped at the point where land reform expanded their support base to a level where, in the arithmetic of a democratic ballot, they became virtually unbeatable. It was not in their political interest to take the argument further. The further enrichment, if that is the correct word to use in an environment shorn of riches, was left to the invidious trickle-down theory. Some of the surplus from agricultural growth and services would find its way to the marginalized.

The guardians of economic upheaval, therefore, had no vested interest in the poor. And the trade union in which they had invested withered. Leaders like George Fernandes had nowhere to go but into the intellectual wasteland of caste politics, thinly justified by theories of social justice. Inevitably this was a railway platform on their journey to another destination.

Once opposition became a single-point exercise, after 1980, in achieving power for individuals and parties rather than a desire towards economic and social uplift, the BJP proved that it had no equal in the new dynamics. It was the only political formation that understood that it was not sufficient to defeat Rajiv Gandhi. To unseat an individual was comparatively easy, particularly if that individual was being cooperative in any case. The BJP sought to defeat the idea of the Congress. That was the singular purpose of the Ram Janambhoomi movement. But here too the BJP received totally unexpected cooperation from Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress when the leader and the party succumbed to pressure from Muslim fundamentalists on the Shah Bano issue. The ground was furrowed by Shah Bano. It was seeded by Ayodhya. It was fertilized by Bofors. It was harvested by the BJP.

As a political party, the BJP was distinguished by the absence of any economic philosophy. In its early days it simply mirrored the economic liberalism of the Swatantra Party, and had a phrase rather than a programme as its platform: get rid of the “licence-permit raj”, a code-phrase for Nehruvian restrictions on the private sector that later reached counter-productive proportions under Indira Gandhi. In opposition it did not feel any particular need to outline a coherent and credible economic programme; cliches were sufficient. Economics was not its raison d’etre.

In power the BJP adopted pragmatism. As an option it was both inevitable and useful, a combination that should normally be considered lucky in public life. The BJP was not burdened with any past leader who had spouted Marx or even Adam Smith with any particular fervour. Economic reform also sent all the right signals. It was a departure from the Nehruvian past that the BJP was committed to changing; it was just the message that the United States (the BJP’s preferred superpower) wanted to hear; and it went down well with the emerging middle class that provided an important crucible of support to the party.

It also gave the party a modern sheen. The government was confident about negotiating a detour against any roadblock put up by the Congress, and time has proved that its confidence was justified. It was not quite prepared to hit a wall constructed by the RSS and George Fernandes.

The George Fernandes dilemma is easy to appreciate. The man of the year 1974 has travelled a long way in 28 years, but the direction of the journey is becoming evident. He is travelling in a circle. He is not going to end his career with a second railway strike, but the doctrinaire worm, long buried by necessity, just might be beginning to turn. The surprise is the ally that this doctrine has discovered.

The RSS set out in search of an economic policy in the early nineties, when the first signs were becoming evident that a non-Congress coalition, with the BJP as its core presence, might be in a position to win a general election. Economists set out in search of theories on the premise that they must work for the good of the people. This is why so much economic theory is non-national in the sense that while it may not be applicable to every national situation, it is certainly applicable to more than one nation. The RSS, which is India-centric, set out to define a national interest rather than an economic philosophy. The simplest subset of such a mind is property.

Hence, all that is produced in India should be owned by India. This means, in turn, that it should be owned by Indians, since the foreigner cannot be trusted. It is easy enough to link this with the history of colonialism and economic exploitation by foreigners; but it also echoes a distrust of the rest of the world and its dismissal as unclean. (Less than a hundred years ago Motilal Nehru had to do penance to regain his caste after a trip from the West.) Mahatma Gandhi had colonialism in mind, just as George Washington had before him, when he gave a call for Swadeshi. But a nation’s economic strategy must evolve with its development. The Indian economy is not stuck in 1920. Its problem has been that it was stuck for a long while in 1950, and efforts to move out of 1970 are still continuing.

Disinvestment was bound to be the touchstone of this internal battle within the ruling coalition extending from the RSS on the one side to the socialists on the other, with the BJP and the regional parties at various points in between. At the heart is the rather limited view that “our” property will go to “them”; the outsider will get what should be indubitably with an Indian.

What is both disconcerting and fascinating is that such economic nationalism sits so comfortably beside economic theft. There is no outrage whatsoever when Indians indulge in open loot of the Indian economy and the nation’s financial resources. The Ruias actually brag that they have taken only some six thousand crores rather than higher sums alleged; tell anyone who listens that they have no intention of paying anything back, and find a friendly reception among all the privileged of the present ruling group. The Indian economy may have moved from crooked British exploitation to straight Indian theft, but how many patriots find that offensive?

All this debate, conflict and tension is about the economy of the haves. The have-nots do not form a part of the debate. This is understandable. It is because they do not form a part of the Indian economy.

The writer is chief editor of Asian Age, New Delhi.