Iraq under military rule
IN an article on April 20 I presented a brief account of politics in Iraq during the thirty-seven years of monarchy (1921-58) and suggested that even though the ruling political forces allowed the appearance of certain democratic forms and rituals, they did not really have much use for democracy. It may be appropriate now to survey political developments in Iraq during the decade of military rule that followed the monarchy’s overthrow. Next week we shall review the doings of the Baathist regime (1968-2003).
A 14-member central council of a group called the “free officers,” led by Brigadier Abd al-Karim Qasim (the only general officer in the Iraqi army at the time) and Colonel Abd al-Salam Arif, and backed by the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP), planned and executed the coup that ousted the monarchy in Iraq in July 1958. Qasim and Arif soon developed differences over the pace at which a political union with Egypt and Syria should be pursued: Arif wanted union as soon as possible, whereas Qasim wanted first to focus on the economic and social modernization of Iraq, leaving projects of Arab unity for later. Arif was sent away within a few months.
A coup to overthrow Qasim was attempted in 1959 but it failed. A team of militants belonging to the Baath party, including a 23-year old man of the name of Saddam Hussein, tried to assassinate Qasim a few months later; he was wounded but not killed. It should be noted, however, that his support base had already begun to shrink. The army could not be relied upon as a solid ally because, split into factions, it had never been a united whole. In fact, factional alliances within the army, with or without the participation of external forces, had been the initiators of coups from time to time since the early 1920s.
Qasim gave no thought to building institutions, not even a political party of his own. The ICP backed him until the end of his rule-mainly because of his opposition to imperialism and his indifference to slogans of Arab nationalism and unity. But he did not reciprocate the ICP’s support by allowing its notables a significant number of posts in his government. Reserved, aloof, cautious, and something of a “Lone Ranger,” Qasim preferred to work with individuals-for instance, Brigadier Ahmad Salih al-Abdi, the army chief of staff-and others whom he thought he could trust. His rule remained essentially personal.
Qasim’s economic policies (to which we shall turn shortly) invited the opposition of the larger business families, and some of his social reforms (limitations on polygamy, ban on child marriages, and equal rights for women in inheritance) alienated the ulema. Arab nationalists in the army, recruited by Ali Salih al-Sa’di, secretary of the Baath party, and encouraged by the American CIA, overthrew and executed Qasim in February 1963, allegedly because he had betrayed the principles of the 1958 “revolution.” Qasim is reported to have dismissed the accusation, saying that he alone had known what these principles were! Abd al-Salam Arif took his place.
The new cabinet consisted of 21 members, of whom 12 were Baathists. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr, whom Qasim had discharged from the army and who had since become a lawyer and a Baath activist, became the prime minister. During the next few months the Baath party launched a campaign of terror and annihilation against its political rivals, especially the communists.
Yet, at this time the Baath was a rather small organization, divided between radicals and moderates, and its influence in the army was modest. On November 18, 1963, Arif carried out a coup of his own and expelled most of the Baathists from the higher echelons of his government. He too neglected to build institutions, and his regime became a cabal of chosen individuals — many of them drawn from his home district (al-Ramali), bureaucrats, and leaders of loose army factions. A party, called the Arab Socialist Union, supposedly a counterpart of an Egyptian organization of the same name, was launched in 1964, and other parties were asked to merge with it, but it did not go much beyond the initiation ceremonies.
Arif was killed in a plane crash on April 13, 1966, and was succeeded by his brother, Abd al-Rahman Arif. An attempted coup a few months later failed. It should be noted, however, that Abd al-Rahman did not have much support outside his own faction in the army and the security services. Defeat in the 1967 war with Israel discredited his government as it did all other Arab governments. That and the on-going trouble in the Kurdish areas were taken as evidence of his incompetence.
His trend toward socialism alienated the conservatives, and his failure to advance the cause of Arab unity disappointed the Arab nationalists. A coalition led by Baathist officers removed Abd al-Rahman Arif in a coup on July 17, 1968, and in another coup two weeks later the Baathist officers expelled their rivals and took power unto themselves. Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr became president and remained in that post until he yielded to Saddam Hussein. Thus began the long night of Baathist rule in Iraq to which we shall address ourselves later.
Something should be said here about the socio-economic policies pursued by the post-1958 military regimes. In 1958 two per cent of the landholders owned 68 per cent of the cultivated land. Reforms initiated by Qasim’s government limited individual holdings to 250 hectares of irrigated, and 500 hectares of rain-fed, land (one hectare equal to 2.47 acres). Amounts in excess of these limits were taken over, after payment of compensation, and distributed to landless peasants in parcels of 12 irrigated and 23 rain-fed hectares. (During the next two years the Baathist government further reduced these ceilings and ended compensation.)
One of the major goals of the reforms was to break the power of the landed aristocracy, and this goal would seem to have been achieved. By 1971, 95 per cent of the agricultural population owned land. Efforts were made to establish cooperative, collective and state farms but these modes of organization did not help production to any significant degree. The increase, if any, did not keep pace with the growth of population. A country that had food surpluses before 1958 came to the verge of becoming (and a few years later did actually become) a net importer of food.
The governments under consideration here did give some attention to industrial development. They aided light industries — construction, food processing, and textiles — and allocated resources to the development of iron and steel, aluminium, and petrochemicals. But there were no great strides in this area. Excluding oil, industrial production remained constant at 15 per cent of the GDP. Oil was nationalized, and in another decade or so Iraq would become an “oil state.”
Spending on the development of infrastructure (roads, railways, airports, water, power) and social services such as education, health care and housing increased substantially, and price and rent controls were instituted. Trends begun during the decade of military rule continued to be operative during the first decade or so of Baathist rule. Between 1958 and 1983 (the years for which my sources provide figures) enrolment in elementary schools increased from 500,000 to 2.6 million, secondary schools from 74,000 to one million, and higher education from 8,500 to 120,000. In 1980 virtually all children in the relevant age group went to elementary schools and 60 per cent to secondary schools. More than 50 per cent of the Iraqi population had become literate.
In terms of progressive social and economic change, and delivery of services, the dictators would appear to have done considerably better than the quasi-democratic governments under the monarchy had done. It is in the domain of politics and forms and styles of governance that retrogression took place. Institutions remained neglected, and some of the ones that had existed before (for instance, the legislature) disappeared altogether. Rulership remained personal, and factions within the army and among the civilian elite vied with one another for access to the man at the top.
The land reforms, referred to above, did subdue the big landlords most of whom were Shia in the south. At the same time, they swelled the ranks of a conservative land-owning peasantry. Other improvements profited the townspeople much more than they did the rural folks. A beginning was made towards the emergence of a well-trained class of technocrats, and doors were opened to the emancipation of women.
Beyond the disaffection of the Kurds, the Shia, ideas of Arab nationalism and unity — pervading segments of the army, professions and the educated younger people — worked as a destabilizing force. The ruling authorities in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world go for unity if it could be had without jeopardizing their own positions of supremacy within their polities. But that could not be. Even Gemal Abd al-Nasser, the great hero of the Arab nationalists at the time, would not want unity except on his own terms. Egypt’s union with Syria collapsed within two years of its inauguration because Nasser’s merger plans, as they unfolded, turned out to be unpalatable for the Syrian elite.
Arab nationalism, like pan-Islamism, had all along been an aspiration more than a serious agenda item for the governments concerned. It ceased to be much of even a talking point after the humiliating Arab defeat in the six-day war with Israel in 1967 in which Syria lost the Golan Heights, Jordan the West Bank, and Egypt the Gaza, and the Egyptian army fled the Sinai, leaving more than two billion dollars worth of Soviet weapons behind.
It became evident that in their existing state of organizational and technological incompetence, the Arabs, even if politically united, would not amount to a force capable of daunting Israel or any of the major world powers. The idea, and the accompanying drive for unity, did not make waves in
Iraqi politics after the end of military rule in 1968.
The writer is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA.
The long slog to summit
PAKISTAN’S reaction to India’s willingness to talk resembles the exhilaration of a country cousin on being invited to a town circus. Statements flowed freely and Prime Minister Jamali lost no time in inviting Prime Minister Vajpayee to Islamabad.
It is for the first time perhaps since the partition of the subcontinent that the leaders of politics, religion and professions all alike and the people of all shades of opinion belonging to all regions have rid themselves of the Indian paranoia. A reference to the core of Kashmir, however, is understandably made in all expressions of opinion.
The sole sour note struck by some Lahore industrialists that a settlement on Kashmir should come before trade quite obviously reflects more their worry about the competitiveness of their goods than their commitment to the Kashmir cause. Almost everyone, quite understandably, has cautioned the government in its euphoria against bartering away the self-determination right of the people of Kashmir.
The response of Mr Vajpayee to Mr Jamali’s invitation has been, on the other hand, phlegmatic. Creating a right environment and preparation for talks would take time, has been his first reaction. The attitude of the Indian government, parties and the public ranges from condescending to negative. The foreign office spokesman did not miss mentioning “cross-border terrorism” and Pakistan not offering to open its air space to the Indian aircraft (for flights to Afghanistan).
At the adverse extremity of reaction not unexpectedly is paranoid Bal Thackeray who sees no need to normalize relations with Pakistan. His views mirror his obsessive hostility not towards Pakistan alone but also towards the Indian Muslims. and surprisingly even an educated audience in a show-of-hand vote after a debate on TV held that the present was not the right time nor were the circumstances conducive to negotiations with Pakistan.
The leadership and the people of Pakistan alike now seem to realize that the path to a settlement of the Kashmir dispute lies through amity and not hostility. Not so the Indians — the government and the people alike. The flutter of optimism in Pakistan thus has to be tempered with caution and patience — caution in rhetoric on Kashmir and patience in the long slog of negotiations starting with the ambassadors and going up to the prime ministers. The lessons to be learnt from the past are many and useful. The foremost is that the approach to a problem which is intractable, as Kashmir indeed is, and to a relationship which is long mired in suspicion and hate scarred by wars cannot be emotional or flamboyant.
Whether it is General Zia forcing himself on India to watch cricket or Musharraf’s nostalgic visit to his childhood haveli in Delhi, this relationship did not improve an iota nor did Vajpayee’s bus journey to Lahore in between. Zia’s cricket diplomacy made no difference either way and is all but forgotten. Vajpayee was greeted in Lahore by noisy protesters brought out on the streets by some religious, or jihadi, organizations. He had to abandon his bus at Wagah or a helicopter to carry him to Lahore. He dined at the Fort protected by armed men and smelling tear gas. Then Kargil followed whipping up war frenzy in India. Vajpayee accused Pakistan of stabbing him in the back. His popularity at home soared.
Musharraf’s nostalgia was soon overtaken by the debacle at Agra. The summit held there without preparation or a formal agenda strained relations further which went on deteriorating to reach the brink of war. In the 17-month long confrontation between the two countries, the world has come to believe that India has blinked first. New Delhi is also being credited with the peace initiative to which Pakistan has responded. On both counts it is a failure of Pakistan’s diplomacy.
Pakistan’s persuasive efforts spread over 20 months (ever since Agra) to resume talks, and Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali’s first invitation to Mr Vajpayee (all but ignored by him) seems to have made no mark at all on the world opinion. This shows Pakistan’s low credibility as a nation and its image of militancy fostered by clerics and fighters who preach, or march, to kill and die. They either idealize or demonize. Moderation and tolerance are not their virtues.
India’s senas and dals excel our sipahs and lashkars both in numbers and bigotry but they escape the world censure because they march and kill within India. The ruling BJP coalition, despite its Hindutva, presents an enlightened and democratic image because the Indian constitution makes no mention of Hinduism. On the other hand, the rhetoric of our clerics, the adventures of their disciples in the neighbouring and far-off lands and the official Islamic ideology bring to us no gain but cause enormous complications.
The biggest setback it has caused is the loss of support on Kashmir. Despite our protestations, the world at large, even our allies in fighting terror, remain unconvinced that Pakistan is not sending armed men across the Line of Control. Even US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Armitage, while praising Pakistan’s “spectacular” role in fighting the Afghan terror, have not been able to bring themselves up to acknowledge that the armed movement across the LoC has ceased. Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri’s argument — that if half a million Indian troops deployed across the Line of Control cannot check the infiltrators how can Pakistan on its side? — finds no takers. The predominant perception worldwide remains that Pakistan is not doing enough to stop infiltration.
Now that for once the national interest in Pakistan has risen high and the anguish over atrocities in Kashmir is becoming unbearable, the government, the religious parties and their jihadi outfits should speak with one voice and work together to cleanse the country’s terrorist image. Only then will Pakistan earn the world support in its talks with India.
At present, the powers that matter are impelled to help not because they have determined that the cause of Kashmir is just but because they need Pakistan to fight their war against terror. After all, before September 11 most Americans viewed Pakistan as an “unstable country with a tarnished history of corrupt dictators, military coups and territorial violence along its borders.”
At this critical turn in the world affairs when America with its European allies is out to subdue the defiant regimes in the Middle East and America’s allies in the East feel threatened by North Korea’s nuclear potential and intentions, Pakistan is in an eminent position to enlist American support for a Kashmir settlement which may not fully meet the aspirations of the people of Kashmir but may yet end their agony, and also reduce Pakistan’s crushing defence burden.
Our leaders — moderate or militant — should not let this great opportunity pass. The fight for justice and human rights is unending. We will be closing just its one phase.
One last word: Diplomacy and not publicity should determine the content and course of talks with India. The prime minister should silence his many and garrulous spokesmen and advisers. That is the most important lesson to be learnt from the failure at Agra in the hopeful summer of 2001. Then too many people, including President Musharraf himself, spoke too much and too often in public.
Karachi suffers on — and on (2)
“MISBAH this side,” he opened up just as he used to do while heading the Karachi Development Authority and the Karachi Building Control Authority back in the 1990s. Shah Mohammad Misbah rang to thank me for having remembered his kinsman and senior, the talented town planner Ahmed Ali, mentioned in my column of April 27 on the above topic.
He asked if I would become a trustee of the memorial society which bears Ahmed Ali’s name and is now embarking on “adopting” the park named after this good man who so many years ago served Karachi well. ‘No’, was my response. We have enough problems extracting from the government the gutter water and electricity it promised to provide for the two parks adopted by my family — the Bagh-e-Rustom and the Bagh-e-Mucca in Clifton. And you, Misbah, have been hibernating while some 50 acres out of the 60 acres allotted for the Ahmed Ali Park have been eaten away by illegal allotments and encroachers. No, he said, I have hardly been hibernating. There is an ‘inquiry’ against me and though I have so far been in court 53 times the case just does not proceed. Nobody comes to prosecute or to prove the allegations against me. Poor Misbah — he was always thought to have been fiscally honest.
Another response to my column was a letter to the editor, printed on May 7, from the nameless PRO of the Karachi Building Control Authority (KBCA). His contention : “KBCA is appropriately and adequately devolved to 18 towns of Karachi . . . while we need more of our main city roads to be opened to commercialization, a concurrent development of infrastructure is needed and is being catered for.”
The KBCA insists that it has ‘achieved financial stability’, thanks to the proceeds collected from commercialization and the ‘regularization of illegal buildings’, and so forth, quite ignoring the fact that such proceeds should rightly be utilised for the growing infrastructural needs of residential areas devastated by illegal constructions and not for KBCA salaries and expenses, particularly expenses incurred on account of the purchase of a Rs.1.2 million car for the KBCA retired army brigadier chief and four buses for his employees, and certainly not for ‘rewards’ distributed to those who themselves in the first place promoted the illegal constructions.
The ‘commercialization of 6 + 9 roads’ resolution was tabled at the City Council session on April 22. The old teak council hall in the KMC building has been refurbished to accommodate double the number of people now elected to sit in it. Teak has been replaced by formica; the dignified wooden benches by metal chairs resembling those we see outside ‘bhatiarkhanas’. A loss, another loss; but then when is there ever a gain? Anyhow, the consensus was that the matter needed in-depth study and consideration, and a subcommittee of 23 councillors, headed by Abdul Rasheed Beg, was formed and asked to report back in a month. Members of the NGO SHEHRI suggested to the subcommittee members that before they present their recommendations they study and analyse:
1) Information obtained from the CDGK Master Plan Group of Offices on: the history/pros/cons of commercialization in Karachi; layout maps; details of illegal construction on the 15 roads; the magnitude of the enhanced need for utilities (electricity, water, sewerage) and social amenities (parking, clinics, police stations, parks, playgrounds, etc); changes in the traffic flows; alternatives to ‘ribbon/strip commercialization’; the relationship to other urban planning issues (housing, industries, transport, education, health, law and order, etc)
2) Responses received from advertisements and public hearings held to obtain the views and comments of all affected parties — citizens, professionals, NGOs, etc.
The 23 subcommittee members were also invited to a discussion of the issues involved. Only six councillors (Jaffar-ul-Hassan, Saeed Ghani, Ghulam Abbas Talpur, Rehana Efroz, Shamim Mumtaz Wasi and Younus Sohan) turned up to hear planner Arif Hasan, architect Akeel Bilgrami and several SHEHRI members make presentations.
The highly qualified and experienced Arif Hasan gave an overview of the planning problems of Karachi. He emphasized that the issue of ‘commercialization’ could not be looked at in isolation from what is happening to the rest of the built environment — no city structure/master plan exists ; various activities have developed in an ad hoc manner all over Karachi; spaces for warehousing, cargo terminals, and the services sector to transport (terminals, depots, workshops) have sprung up at random, creating traffic congestion and environmental degradation; and the absence of housing and infrastructure for the lower income groups is adding to the population density of the existing settlements, creating veritable slum conditions.
Establishing commercial corridors along these 15 arteries, only three of which have service roads, and some of which are major exits from and entries to the city, would not only adversely affect the concerned areas but generally exacerbate the multiple urban/environmental problems of Karachi.
Arif managed to convince most of those present into agreeing with him and admitting that the basic reason for the promotion of commercialization was to raise money for the city government and that the need for additional commercial space was almost non-existent.
As for the inequitous ‘regularization,’ and in the ‘laissez faire’ milieu generated by the ‘regularization’ ordinance so senselessly promulgated by former governor of Sindh, Mohammadmian Soomro, buildings of all sizes and shapes are being approved and constructed, in complete defiance of any town-planning principles and layouts. I would like to invite Mohammadmian (who has been removed from our midst and now chairs the most honourable Senate) to spare some of his ‘precious time’ one day and accompany me to examine and assess for himself the damage his ill-conceived ordinance has done and continues to do to the city of Karachi.
There is also a dangerous aspect to all this. How many citizens interested in the environmental and safety concerns of Karachi know that most illegal high-rises have been ‘regularized’ without correctly and technically ensuring that the structures comply with earthquake-resistant codes and are safe for occupation? In their indecent haste to generate money (officially or otherwise), the KBCA has conveniently relied on the certification of ‘briefcase’ engineers who do no practical design work but merely sign and stamp drawings. If the buildings collapse during severe seismic tremors, as they did in 1999 in Turkey and again last month, and in 2001 in Gujarat, the government can turn round and happily blame the hired ‘briefcase’ professionals.
Since the departure in August 2002 of the KBCA Chief Controller of Buildings, the retired army brigadier and engineer, Dr. Zafar Malik, one of those rare creatures recognised as good and honest men (who has sadly since died), the new administration, headed by neither an engineer nor an architect, has pressured the KBCA officials of each zone to ‘regularize’ two buildings each day. Those who have applied for ‘regularization’ have generally been either owners of residential houses or highrise developers against whom stand High Court demolition orders.
Certain builders are allowed to pay only 25 per cent of the penalties, the rest supposedly to be paid in instalments, after which the completion/regularization plan is issued. This concession enables KBCA to collect some of the money due, saves the builder from demolition and/or court action, but leaves the issue in limbo. Experience over the past decades has shown that builders do not pay due instalments. Over four billion rupees is now owed to the KBCA for commercialization, regularization, additional storeys, and so forth.
On to another form of ‘regularization’. On January 3, 2001, the Sindh Urban State Land (Cancellation of Allotments, Conversions and Exchanges) Ordinance 2001 was promulgated to deal with the unlawful allotments by political governments since 1985 of large tracts of urban land in Karachi for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes. Land unlawfully allotted amounts to almost 10 per cent of the area of this city.
The ordinance allows the unlawful allottee to ‘regularize’ his illicit acquisition by paying the difference between the market price and price at which the land was favourably allotted. No account is taken of the fact that most of the allotments of raw land are not in consonance with (or are in blatant violation of) a master-plan or town planning scheme and thus further degrade the built environment of Karachi.
All decisions of this government are now being made on a pecuniary basis, and all revenues are spent on propping up a profligate government structure. The writs of law and order are virtually non-existent. Social responsibilities of the state such as education, health, security, and other conventional functions of government are being progressively assumed by the private sector as state institutions cannot cope. The regulatory functions assumed by government departments are, in actual fact, mere extortionary functions.
Helpless, we the people are, and helpless we will remain.
It’s time to rethink Kashmir
KASHMIR does not have any military solution — the last decade of unremitting conflict proves this fact. Pakistan lacks the muscle to wrest Kashmir from illegitimate Indian rule, and India cannot win decisively over Pakistan in the difficult, mountainous terrains. This remains as true today as in 1989 when New Delhi’s unconscionable manipulation of Kashmiri politics, and its monumental administrative incompetence, led to a popular uprising. Pakistan was quick to translate India’s losses into its gains.
The Afghan war was over, fighters were aplenty, and large numbers of Kashmiri refugees flowed onto the Pakistani side. Thus the bleed-India-through-jihad policy, to be simultaneously accompanied by denials of involvement, was born. This was a supposedly low-cost option that Pakistan’s military establishment imagined would lead to eventual victory, a means to change an otherwise unchangeable status-quo.
Post-Iraq — and 70,000 Kashmiri, Pakistani, and Indian lives later — it is time to ask whether Pakistan is gaining or losing by single-mindedly pursuing this path. Has this “low-cost” covert war brought Kashmir any closer to liberation? Without serious and scrupulously honest introspection, a wise future course cannot be charted for our nation. Pakistan must now decide whether it can afford the next decade to look like the previous one. With Prime Minister Vajpayee’s forthcoming visit, which he dramatically describes as the “third and last” peace effort of his lifetime, it is essential to see how yet another failure can be averted. Rethinking Kashmir is now essential for both sides.
Pakistan’s rationale for covert war in Kashmir was two-fold. The first objective was to bleed India into a state of abject weakness after which it would presumably quit Kashmir. But this goal was never met. Indian forces, both regular and paramilitary, did sustain high losses in Kashmir and the cost of maintaining large contingents remains considerable. But no evidence suggests any real weakening of Indian resolve or strength. On the contrary, as particularly evidenced during the Kargil war, an unprecedented show of national unity emerged in India. The rise of virulent Hindutva forces can be traced directly to anti-Pakistan feelings and the Kashmir situation.
More significantly, contrary to the expectation of Pakistani strategists, India’s economy did not collapse but, instead, boomed. Indian foreign exchange reserves currently stand at over $70 billion and IT companies alone earn India a solid $10 billion a year, more than Pakistan’s total foreign exchange holdings. This figure is expected to double in the next two-three years. Indian scientific institutions are now being counted among the world’s best. Pakistan’s re-born economy, on the other hand, owes more to General Musharraf’s adroit handling of the 9/11 attack than to any inner strength. Its industry is barely crawling while education and scientific research seem incurably ill. In a technologically driven world, this is a devastating weakness.
The second Pakistani rationale was, and is, to keep Kashmir in the news. The implicit hope is that a high level of tension between two nuclear-armed states will eventually alarm the international community — most particularly the United States — and so force a recalcitrant India to see reason. To raise fear levels Pakistani leaders sometimes deliberately worked to cultivate an image of Pakistan as a defiant, nuclear-armed state ready to commit suicide. But, at other moments, they sought to project an image of being calm, assured, and responsible. Though confusing, such signals made the threat of nuclear apocalypse sufficiently real to keep a steady stream of western leaders coming to Islamabad and Delhi at the peak of the tensions last year. Pakistan felt pleased — the world was now not forgetting Kashmir and would rush to solve the dispute.
This turned out to be a fatal miscalculation. In fact, the principal alarm evidenced by the world in general, and the US in particular, has been in relation to the Kashmiri Mujahideen and Pakistani nuclear weapons. This attitude preceded the 9/11 attack, but now dominates all thinking.
The US State Department’s recent declaration of 30 jihadist organizations as terrorist includes the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the largest Mujahideen group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, with no history of attacking US interests. This sends a clear message to Pakistan that violence in Kashmir, whether caused by indigenous groups or by Pakistani-supported militants, will boomerang. In the international press Pakistan now frequently stands accused of inciting violence, and of using the nuclear card to provoke fear, while India is blamed less frequently now than in the past. To be in the news is now no longer a good thing. Are Pakistani strategists ready to accept this hard fact?
The consequence of waging covert war has been a steady loss of international support for the Kashmiri struggle. This fact is known to all Pakistani diplomats who represent Pakistan’s position in the world’s capitals, including those of Muslim countries. The moral high ground — the most potent weapon of the weak — erodes ever more sharply after every massacre of Hindu civilians in Kashmir. This has led many Mujahideen groups to sharply condemn these incidents and to blame Indian security forces, but these denials and condemnations receive little acceptance. On the other hand, India, the occupying power in Kashmir, has successfully portrayed itself as a victim of covert terror.
These damning facts call for a rethink. One wonders if Pakistan has any coherent game plan for Kashmir, or any kind of time-frame. There is little evidence of this. Resistance to change has many sources — a possible backlash from the religious parties and extreme elements within the military, a large standing army that needs an enemy, and sheer intellectual laziness. Inertia, default, and ad hocism dominate planning and design. As the late Eqbal Ahmad passionately argued, although India’s leaders bear much responsibility for Kashmir’s tragedy, Pakistan’s defective Kashmir policy had repeatedly “managed to rescue defeat from the jaws of victory”.
Where should new directions point? Surely, any significant change will require a spirit of compromise as a prerequisite, which in turn requires recognition that a military solution is impossible. If so, principles and pragmatism can then march together, and the two countries can abandon positions fixed half a century ago. The your-loss-is-my-gain mentality must be exchanged for one that values economic prosperity and social stability. On our side, the slogan “Pakistan First” recently offered by President Musharraf and Prime Minister Jamali offers rich potentialities. Suitably interpreted, this requires Pakistan to live up to its officially stated position — Pakistan shall provide only moral, diplomatic, and political support to Kashmiris struggling against India but no more. Indeed, this is exactly what reason, logic, strategic sense, and new geo-political realities require of Pakistan.
If Pakistan should offer a strategic pause then India must respond positively. But what reasons could motivate India, and what forms could the response take? The undeniable fact is that India is morally isolated from the Kashmiri people and incurs the very considerable costs of an occupying power. Its industry, capable of double-digit growth, needs stability for this to happen. And, of no small importance, Indian soldiers do not want to die in Kashmir. By acknowledging Kashmir as a problem that needs a solution, releasing political prisoners from Kashmiri jails, and agreeing to a mutual reduction of hostile state-sponsored propaganda, India would appropriately acknowledge its part of the deal.
Logic and pragmatism require India and Pakistan to explore non-maximalist solutions. Minus the two obvious ones, Kashmir watchers have counted over 30 possibilities. One, that makes particular sense, envisages two reconstituted Kashmiri entities possibly straddling the Line of Control with their own respective governments and constitutions. These two non-hostile entities, one associated with Pakistan and the other India, would have soft borders allowing for easy transit of people and goods. The details need to be worked out by all three parties: Kashmiris, Pakistanis, and Indians. The United States could serve as a facilitator. The road to peace is open — if there is willingness to travel.
The writer teaches at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.
Another corporate scam
THE company directors and officers had a great deal going. They — alone among investors — could buy thousands of shares of stock at a price all but guaranteed to rise. Later, when the stock was about to slump, they could resell at the top-of-the-market price; the insiders got to sell back all their holdings — making more than $6 million — while other investors could unload just a fraction.
That wasn’t all: The company’s five top executives received nearly $6 million in bonuses apparently never disclosed to the board of directors. The company chairman made $5.4 million in 2000 alone.
This may sound like just another sordid tale of corporate greed, but it comes with a twist: The company is Ullico Inc., an insurance firm owned by labour unions. —The Washington Post