DAWN - Opinion; December 19, 2008

Published December 19, 2008

Peace is the only way out

By Kuldip Nayar

IT is a shame that only 13 out of 760 MPs were present recently to pay tribute to the watch and ward personnel shot dead on Dec 13 in the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. I was then a member of the Rajya Sabha. The house had finished question hour and some members had called it a day. I was one of them.

But before I could leave, I heard shots and shouts to stay inside. We were roughly 500 members who took refuge in the central hall of parliament. Outside the hall were the tall statues of Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. I recalled how much the two had sacrificed, not only for the country’s independence but also for India’s ethos of democracy and pluralism. The terrorists wanted to harm those values.

There was hardly any MP who did not suspect Pakistan’s hand. Subsequently, the attack was linked to the Lashkar-i-Taiba. Again, the attack on Mumbai where nearly 200 people were killed was linked to the Lashkar and its offshoot Jamaatud Dawa.

Previously, India’s reaction was to station troops on the borders for almost one year. This time, the anger has been deeper and wider. Yet the government has shown restraint. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s only request to his Pakistani counterpart was to send the ISI chief. The Pakistani government agreed to do so, but was apparently unable to convince the army. We know the limit to which elected rulers in Pakistan can go. On the other hand, they have domestic opinion to placate. But why is Islamabad reluctant to take action against terrorists who have been identified as having lived in Pakistan. Whatever it has done so far against the terrorists, it is not on India’s request but on Washington’s. And whatever is done will be under international pressure.

In India, with the exception of a few warmongers, there is a realisation that there is no option other than peace. Defence Minister A.K. Antony has publicly stated that there will be no war. Some television channels which queered the pitch in India have been ticked off. The Rajya Sabha committee has issued guidelines to indicate what should not be covered, i.e. “the repeated display in the media of human corpses in case of … incidents of bomb blasts, arson, etc., which causes a negative psychological impact on the viewers. News channels in many foreign countries do not telecast the footage of dead bodies.”

In the media itself, there is serious discussion whether all it did was within the limits of objective journalism. I hope the same examination takes place in Pakistan. Some time later, editors of television channels and newspapers of the two countries can sit across the table and debate the matter threadbare.

The first story that the terrorist arrested belonged to Faridkot in Okara district of Pakistan’s Punjab was broken by Britain’s Observer. Dawn took the investigation further.

Subsequently, some Pakistani channels beamed interviews with Faridkot villagers. Why couldn’t this have been done before the Observer story? New Delhi has identified some of the dead terrorists and published their pictures. The Pakistan media should have pursued the story.

It is also time for the politicians of the two countries to undertake an introspection regarding their conduct. Even if they do not talk about war, their speeches and body language are far from friendly. They run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. Why are they stoking the fires of hatred when people on both sides are charged? Whether there is a campaign in Pakistan not to watch Indian movies is not known. But the halls showing Indian films are practically empty according to reports. On this side, the minister for sports and youth affairs says that the cricket series with Pakistan cannot take place after what happened in Mumbai. Thus the recrimination between the two countries goes on.

France and Germany fought for hundreds of years. Today they are the best of friends. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah gave me this example when I asked him before Partition whether Hindus and Muslims would jump at each other’s throat once the British left. He said we would be the best of friends.

I have no doubt that one day this will happen. The assassinated Benazir Bhutto told me in London a few months before returning to Pakistan that she would have “a borderless subcontinent”. President Zardari has tried to go in the same direction, but has been rapped on the knuckles. Manmohan Singh has said many a time that destiny has thrown India and Pakistan together and they cannot but be good neighbours.

I admire the courage and commitment of people, even if a small group of them, in lighting candles in Karachi or taking out a procession in Lahore in memory of those who died in the Mumbai attack. This is the time when India needs understanding. This is also the time when faith in good relations between India and Pakistan is being tested.

Pakistan should understand India’s anger. Those who attacked Mumbai might be Al Qaeda or the Taliban who are playing havoc in Pakistan as well. But there are organisations which are helping, training and arming them. Why have such extremists remained beyond the pale of law? Even when some of them were ‘detained’ after the attack on India’s parliament, they were practically free to preach and spread poison.

Nobody has accused the Pakistan government for the attack on Mumbai. But Pakistan has not been able to insulate its territory which the terrorists continue to use as a launching pad as well as their refuge.

Unfortunately, some of the speeches in the Rajya Sabha were exactly on the lines of statements made in the US Congress after 9/11. President Bush attacked Iraq and Afghanistan and played havoc with America’s liberal values and traditions. It has taken all these years for the nation to assert itself through the election of Senator Barack Obama to the office of president. Civil societies in both countries should take note of this.

The writer is a leading journalist based in Delhi.

Murder she wrote

By Ayesha Siddiqa

THESE days a common concern of many ordinary Pakistanis pertains to the conspiracy to destroy the country. But what happens when the country’s own institutions are involved in spinning a cobweb or falling into a trap that can cause ultimate damage to the state is a question worth asking. This line of questioning stems from a story recently published in Britain’s Sunday Times on Dec 14 and reported by Dawn the following day.

The story titled ‘UK may help find Pakistani general’s killers’ written by Carey Schofield is about the mysterious death of former Special Services Group Maj-Gen Amir Faisal Alavi. The article claims that Gen Alavi was not killed by militants in November 2008 as claimed initially but that those responsible may have been some of his senior colleagues about whom he had complained to army chief Gen Kayani with regard to their alleged involvement in evil and corrupt transactions with the Taliban. These officers, whose names were blacked out by the writer herself before publication, had apparently been a cause of Gen Alavi’s removal from service two years ago while he was serving in Wana, Waziristan.

The military publicity machine, of course, went into action soon after. It made counterclaims that the general in question had been removed due to his involvement with a woman in Islamabad. Considering former Gen Pervez Musharraf’s reputation as a cultural liberal (not to be confused with political liberal), he was hardly the person to have questioned or punished his officers for such a crime. Or perhaps there were too many people involved in the affair.

Undoubtedly the Schofield story raises questions about the military’s reputation as a professional and cohesive force. What it says between the lines is that rather than a cohesive force it may be divided between those officers who compromise on the national interest by doing questionable deals with the Taliban who then target army personnel and others who choose to confide in foreign journalists and governments about internal wrongdoings. According to the story, Gen Alavi had not only foretold his own death to the journalist after he dispatched the letter to the army chief, but had also complained to the British military in August 2005 (during his visit to the headquarters of the special forces or the SAS) about the lack of the army’s will to fight terrorism.

A closer look shows that the story paints the highest command of the service in a bad light. Were there moles in the army chief’s secretariat who leaked the contents of his letter to those that Alavi accused of being involved in his removal from service? Of course, the other question that comes to mind is that knowing his organisation and the fact that the letter would be opened as a routine before it reached the chief, why did Alavi choose to send it ‘through the proper channel’ rather than secure a private meeting with the top boss?

However, a question that the official-sponsored rebuttal did not ask was about the access provided to the British journalist to write a book on the Pakistan Army. It was in the process of doing so that she came into contact with Alavi and many other generals including Pervez Musharraf. The real and untold story is that of the disappointment felt by the army’s top brass at being accused of killing one of their own. Sources claim that she had direct access to Musharraf and many other generals.

Carey Schofield, whose main expertise is the Soviet military and not South Asia, was introduced a few years ago to the GHQ by one of the army’s favourite writers via one of Musharraf’s most favoured diplomats. The idea was probably to have a foreigner, not popularly known in the world of academia, write a book on the army so that it could sell against all other literature being produced by Pakistani writers generally considered to be unfriendly by the GHQ. She had more access than what an ordinary writer could dream of. Her introduction on the Oxford University Leverhulme Project describes her as writing a book in collaboration with the GHQ in Rawalpindi. We don’t know if she was also given access to classified material but that is hardly the issue.

Our military and civil bureaucrats and politicians say a lot of things during informal discussions. The tendency to tell the real story while boasting about their performance gives away many a secret. It is also worth asking whether anyone bothered to check on her background before providing access.

I remember the British author from my book launch at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, last year. Schofield questioned me on the use of a particular term in my book, Military Inc, with the objective of embarrassing me. Later, a colonel boasted about how the question was passed on to her.

The point I am trying to make here is that it has often been the army’s strategy to support sponsored research in order to create army-friendly literature through luring foreign academics and journalists with free trips, hospitality and access to the institution and its secrets. This approach was used at least on three earlier occasions.

Very briefly, the first book published in 1979 by an unknown publisher never made it beyond a few libraries. The second book the research for which was sponsored by Gen Ziaul Haq was banned. The third one has made the rounds but the author has no academic standing. Finally, an unknown British publisher will publish the latest book by Schofield. What is a matter of greater concern, however, is that at this point the GHQ might not even be sure of the contents of the book for which tremendous cooperation was given to the author.

While Carey Schofield seems to have burnt some if not all of her bridges with the Pakistan Army by publishing the story in the Sunday Times, a question that the generals must ponder over pertains to what else might have landed on the table of the British intelligence other than the Alavi story. This time the facts may be irrefutable because the army itself volunteered them.

The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.


What does America want?

By Cyril Almeida

LOST count of US officials stampeding through Islamabad yet? You’re not the only one. Officially, the Negroponte-Boucher-Patterson triumvirate guides American policy in Pakistan.

But so many people have worn out the welcome carpets in Islamabad and Rawalpindi in recent weeks that you would think there’s a special going on flights to Pakistan at the moment. Buy one, get one free.

Actually the Pakistani(s) connected to the Mumbai attack may have inadvertently done just that. They may have thought they were stoking India’s ire; they may not have counted on the Americans ganging up with the Indians against Pakistan. Here in Pakistan, the strategists have grudging praise for India’s response thus far: she’s played to perfection the battered bride given yet another black eye by her out-of-control husband in the hope her new lover will sort out the bullying husband.

What’s not clear yet is if this is strategic brilliance on India’s part or just a plain lack of options. It’s probably a bit of both. Domestically, the firm-but-sensible approach may not be the UPA government’s best bet, especially with general elections due next May. But with 34,000 Americans in Afghanistan and with more on their way next year, India’s tanks are as good as muzzled and its fighters’ wings as good as clipped. Full-scale conventional warfare is off the table, not least because the black eye the Americans themselves are nursing in Afghanistan at the moment may become a devastating punch to the solar plexus if Pakistan really activates its tribal areas against the Americans.

So India has resorted to carefully calibrated railing against Pakistan while eagerly showing her Pakistan-inflicted bruises to the US, the UK, the UN — whoever cares to look really. It may even be painful memories of Operation Parakram that have led India to choose this path.

Operation what, you ask? Exactly. Following the attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001, the Indians assembled troops on the border and threatened war unless Pakistan sorted out its Kashmir-loving militants. The problem was that the Indians’ timing was a bit off: 9/11 was still a raw wound and the Americans were charging into Afghanistan. No way was another war being fought in America’s theatre of war.

All India got for its cage-rattling was a ban on some jihadi outfits, which quickly enough re-emerged with new appellations that fooled no one. It didn’t even scare the Pakistan Army. Before Mumbai, a senior army official confidently stated that India blinked then because it feared us. He didn’t mention the US.

India is doing the smart thing this time.

What is far from clear this time though is the American angle. In 2001-02, the US intentions were clear: Pakistan was being coaxed out of the doghouse to sniff out Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Being distracted by the Indians wasn’t an option, especially given the Pakistan Army’s India obsession.

But 2008 isn’t 2001. Not that the Americans trusted us much or demanded little then, but today they trust us even less and are demanding even more. And since 2001, the Americans have drawn closer to the Indians and the Indians have shown greater interest in Afghanistan. Add to this Bush’s signature policy of de-hyphenating the Indo-Pak equation, and now Obama’s attempt to put the hyphen back to some extent, and you’re left with an America staring at Pakistan from a very different perspective compared to 2001.

Clearly, the Americans’ intense diplomatic offensive is at one level similar to its aims in 2001-02: prevent war and keep Pakistan focused on Afghanistan. To do so they must offset Indian anger with pressure on Pakistan to do something about militancy — a position that reduces America’s options to an extent.

But if there is a signal the Americans believe Pakistan has sent these past seven years it is that while it may readily accept American dollars, it will not subordinate its strategic interests, at least as envisaged by the Pakistan security establishment led by the army, to outsiders. Hence the distinction between Pakistani Taliban and Afghan Taliban and the frequent accusation that Pakistan has run with the hare and hunted with the hounds.

So shouldn’t the Americans worry that if Indian anger is so outsize this time, they will have to put so much pressure on Pakistan to do something about the militants India wants terminated that Pakistan may again let off the hook the militants America cares most about? Especially if the militants on our western border can also ratchet up the pressure on Indians in Afghanistan, a presence that decidedly vexes the Pakistan Army?

Or if the American strategy is to placate India by squeezing Pakistan just enough so that its primary focus remains Afghanistan, then what happens after the next Mumbai?

There is another, more worrying (at least from the Pakistan security establishment’s perspective) possibility: India and the US have teamed up for a good-cop-bad-cop routine to squeeze what they see as the main problem — the sponsors of terrorism both inside and outside Pakistan’s institutional set-up — rather than go after the cannon fodder of those sponsors.

John Kerry, Obama’s transition point man in South Asia, will have fuelled those fears in Pakistan after his trip to South Asia. In New Delhi, Kerry played up the ISI’s link to the Lashkar-i-Taiba (“They formed it and they know they formed it”) and demanded the agency’s reform. In Islamabad, he all but exonerated the ISI, at least as far as a euphoric media here was concerned.

Of course Pakistanis have a habit of going into paroxysms of fear whenever the ISI is brought up, as though it’s the avatar of the nation itself. It’s not. And neither is it a universal bogeyman. The ISI is really shorthand for all the state, non-state and quasi-state actors that have coalesced around jihad as a policy.

The fact is that it is in Pakistan’s interest to eliminate that nexus. Equally, the cold reality is that it will not be disarmed without a fight, or some concession to its strategic interests.

What should concern Pakistanis is the modus operandi that is adopted to pare back the jihad nexus’s strength. Confrontation, the macho route, will engulf us in a new round of violence and instability. Pragmatism concessions, while morally unpleasant, may prove more effective.


Regional trade prospects

By Michael Kugelman

WITH India pointing to a Pakistani connection in last month’s Mumbai attacks, the Pakistan-India relationship has grown dangerously tense.

Speculation is now rife about how a rupture in ties would inflame South Asia’s tenuous security situation. Indeed, the spectre of renewed sabre-rattling by the two nuclear rivals is worrisome.

However, little has been said about how a breakdown in Pakistan-India relations would undermine trade between the two countries. In light of the Dec 5 decision to postpone trade talks indefinitely, this is a crucial issue, especially for Pakistan. Sustained trade between the two neighbours is central to improving Pakistan’s chronically dismal trade performance — and its economy on the whole.

Pakistan’s current export model involves sending a small group of low-tech, low-value products (notably textiles and clothing) to an equally small set of destinations (particularly the United States and Europe). This is a recipe for trade performance disaster in a world that relishes sleek, modern technology and hungers for services. Indeed, Pakistan has suffered poor export growth and low export competitiveness for decades. This poor performance bodes poorly for Pakistan’s economic prospects, given the difficulty of achieving high macroeconomic growth rates without rising exports.

To attain more export competitiveness and to enjoy better growth, Pakistan must diversify its export portfolio. Healthy trade with India — a nation to which Pakistan presently sends less than two per cent of its exports — constitutes the first step.

Here’s why. Prolonged trade activity between Saarc’s (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) two largest members (in terms of size, population and economy) would spark trade flows throughout South Asia and breathe life into Safta (South Asian Free Trade Area). According to economist Shahid Javed Burki, successful implementation of Safta would nearly triple Pakistan’s total trade over the next 10 years. Pakistan-Afghanistan trade would jump fourfold and Pakistan-India trade would increase tenfold.

This vibrant regional trade would generate new export markets, revitalised export sectors (particularly agricultural, banking, services and transport) and more value-added products for Pakistan.

However, if Pakistan-India relations crumble, trade will wither and talk of a more globally competitive trade model could become moot. Consider that:

— Sustained and long-term bilateral trade requires cooperation on regulating cross-border capital flows; developing transport and communication links; joining power grids and pipelines; and sharing airports and ports. If Islamabad and New Delhi stop talking, the political incentives for such cooperation would diminish at best and disappear at worst.

— Cross-border trade requires the uninhibited movement of people and investments. Yet with a beefed-up presence of Pakistani and Indian troops extending from the Line of Control down to border towns off the Arabian Sea, such movement would be difficult. Free and open trade doesn’t flourish on a war footing. Any hopes of Lahore becoming a trade hub for towns along India’s northern border, or of these border towns profiting from intra-industry trade in manufactured and agricultural goods, would likely be dashed. Similarly, eastern Sindh would have limited opportunities to exploit cross-border trade with western India.

— Adequate security is needed to ensure the free flow of goods. However, shifting Pakistani troops from the NWFP (already one of Pakistan’s most lawless and dangerous regions) to the east would create a security vacuum that extremists would quickly fill. The resulting instability would make land transit in this area a major challenge — hampering Pakistan’s trade with Afghanistan and minimising opportunities for Pakistan-India cooperation in sharing land transit facilities for Afghan trade.

To be sure, a suspension of Pakistan-Indian ties would not preclude a continuation of informal trade (particularly smuggling). However, informal trade could never transform Pakistan’s export model in the same way as open and formal trade.

In the months leading up to Nov 26, trade relations between Islamabad and New Delhi were improving. In July, Islamabad announced it would allow for the import of 136 new items from India. In October, the Line of Control was opened for trade. And on the very day of the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s foreign minister held peace talks with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi and trade was on the agenda. Perhaps they discussed how Pakistan-Indian trade has surged in recent years — from an average of less than $250m during 2001-03 to more than $1bn in 2006-07.

India and Pakistan must not squander this progress. Despite New Delhi’s understandable outrage at what transpired on Nov 26, and despite Islamabad’s justifiable pique at being the target of still-unproven accusations, cooler heads must prevail. With coaxing from Washington, Beijing, Riyadh and other influential capitals, Pakistan and India must remain calm and think in terms of resolution, not recrimination. Pakistan’s trade prospects and economic health — not to mention South Asian security — hang in the balance.

The writer is programme associate for the Asia Programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars in Washington, DC.



Vox populi
22 Mar, 2023

Vox populi

History will not judge kindly those who throw the laws of this land in the bin to keep just one man away from power.
Iraq’s wounds
22 Mar, 2023

Iraq’s wounds

TWO decades after the US military machine — aided by the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ — stormed into Iraq, ...
Mental health epidemic
22 Mar, 2023

Mental health epidemic

THERE are mounting stressors in the day-to-day existence of average Pakistanis. Rising inflation and unemployment...
Petroleum subsidy
Updated 21 Mar, 2023

Petroleum subsidy

The govt seems more interested in reviving its political capital through ad hoc measures rather than fixing economy.
Country on edge
Updated 21 Mar, 2023

Country on edge

In this war of petty egos, ordinary people cannot continue to suffer.
Afghan funding cut
21 Mar, 2023

Afghan funding cut

AS the world grapples with multiple crises, the miseries of the people of Afghanistan seem to have been relegated to...