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In-camera session: The ultimate betrayal

Published May 17, 2011 03:12pm


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Activists of Pakistan Tehreek Insaf hold placards over the Osama bin laden crisis during the joint sitting of parliament in Islamabad on May 13, 2011, where Pakistan's intelligence chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha and army chief of staff Ashfaq Kayani briefed lawmakers on the bin Laden operation. - AFP Photo

After all the hullabaloo about the civilian supremacy over the military, the parliament's joint session has ended up achieving the opposite of what leaked reports on the military and intelligence bosses being on the defensive might suggest.

The unanimous resolution passed at the end of the session has reaffirmed and validated Pakistan's flawed security discourse –espoused and led by the military and its supporters among politicians and media pundits: That the United States of America – in cahoots with India – is out to destroy Pakistan. What else can explain the worrying absence from the resolution of both Osama bin Laden and the terrorist organisations on the prowl across the country with their poisonous ideologies and lethal strategies to implement them?

Bin Laden was no ordinary criminal on the run from the law. He had been ordering, planning and sponsoring acts of terrorism across the globe using our territory. And in a gross violation of our territorial sanctity, the world's most wanted terrorist, whose organisation al Qaeda more than once declared war on Pakistan, has been living just outside the country's top military academy reportedly for years.

Still, the parliamentarians forgot to refer to the fact that by virtue of his visa-less stay in Abbottabad, he has been undermining Pakistan's sovereignty and subverting the sacredness of our borders as much as the American helicopters did when they invaded Pakistan to capture and kill him.

Whether this omission is deliberate or accidental, it confirms the most dominant view in our security and intelligence discourse that the roots of Pakistan's problems lie outside of the country and not inside. Besides the obvious demerits of this flawed approach which has exposed Pakistan to hostile neighbors on both its eastern and western borders, it allows the military, the government, the parliament and the intelligentsia the luxury to bury their heads in the sand as the chances of an implosion of the state and the society become increasingly imminent around them.

The problem with such smugness is that it wants an immediate end to drone attacks and is willing to go to any lengths to have them stopped but is willing to look the other way as terrorists - operating illegally out of our territory - continue to commit horrible crimes against humanity, within Pakistan as well as outside it.

The parliamentarians have not just underestimated the global anxiety over terrorism emanating from our own backyard, they have also undermined the sacrifices of 35,000 civilians and about 5000 security personnel who lost their lives to terrorist attacks. Or did they actually die fighting against some aliens descended on us through the American drones? By choosing to ignore these issues, the parliament looks like having answered this question in the affirmative.

Visibly hurt and overtly angry over the violation of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty by the Americans, the parliamentarians never asked the military and intelligence chiefs as to why the Taliban were captured in Swat in 2009 even though the security forces have been conducting operations against them in the same region since 2007?

Wasn't the terrorist victory right under the nose of the state authorities as big a security and intelligence failure as the violation of Pakistan’s airspace by the American helicopters? Why haven't we ever demanded and ordered an inquiry commission to investigate that failure in Swat? Or perhaps the parliamentarians believe the conspiracy theories that thousands of suicide bombers brainwashed and trained in Swat and the tribal areas are just the phantoms of imaginations of a security consultant working out of some Washington-funded think tank!

The resolution also has misplaced focus on Pakistan's image, pride, honour and self-esteem even when it ignores some harsh truths that we as a nation continue to sidestep. Despite all the self-glorification and bravado of our soldiers and intelligentsia, Pakistan is a third world country that - despite possessing nuclear weapons - is heavily dependent on other countries for keeping its military machine up and running. The Americans know this and can exploit this for their benefit, only cutting our bloated self-image to size. After all, the world's most powerful country and its military personnel have the technology as well as the political and military muscle to successfully breach our sovereignty and security.

What is really hurting our image and national honour is the question as to how a country with more than half a million standing troops has allowed rag-tag militant groups to operate from its territory for decades to the destruction of the domestic structures of state and society and to the horrors of the rest of the world. When we meet foreigners they do not berate us for possessing radars that cannot detect tech-heavy American helicopters. They avoid use because they see us as the sponsors and supporters of international terrorism.

By threatening to shut itself from the rest of the world - invoking dire phrases to stop drone attacks and ward off any Abbottabad-like operation in the future - Pakistan cannot earn the respect that its leaders so badly crave. There is certainly a lesson for us in how and why the United States is so hated across the globe: No one likes bullies.

But if the joint session and its resolution were aimed at a domestic audience anguished and livid over the exposure of chinks in our expensive armor, they have added more myth to Pakistan's unrelenting official narrative of our military being second to none in the world.

The parliamentarians have failed to realise that it was about time that we induced some sanity to our public discourse over our military prowess. On the other hand, most of them wanted to know if Pakistan had the capacity to shoot down American drones and never wanted no for an answer. Yes, we can bring down the drones but what next? Can we then afford to risk a war with the American military stationed next door in Afghanistan? If nothing else, this will materialise the nightmare scenario of having the world's two most powerful armies as hostile enemies squeezing us from both our eastern and western borders. Whoever thinks that shooting down a drone will elicit no response from the Americans and India will also not take advantage of Pakistan’s increased engagements on its western border must be either naïve or brave to the extent of being suicidal.

The parliament has a duty to let the people of Pakistan know about all these consequences and not just leave the question half-answered or else the military will be able to keep the country under the misleading spell of its mythical power and fanciful invincibility.

This leads to the most important question of our national polity: How to rectify the civilian-military imbalance in favor of the democratically elected civilian governments where it comes to the formulation of national policies and their implementation in all fields of national life including domestic and external security and foreign and regional relations? If the parliament - or at least some parties in its two houses - believes that the findings of the commission it has proposed to set up to investigate the Abbottabad incident will help them wrest away the control of the national policies from the military, they are gravely mistaken. In fact, the parliamentarians themselves have precluded that possibility by apparently limiting the scope of the investigation.

Going by the tone, tenor and the text of the joint resolution, it is more than obvious that the investigators will be strictly focused on the American invasion into Pakistan, not on how bin Laden could live in Abbottabad undetected and whether there is any truth in unceasing reports about Pakistan army and intelligence agencies secretly collaborating with terrorists. Expect the commission to recommend more sophisticated gadgets and weapons for the military and more resources for the intelligence agencies to be able to avoid the possibility of any more violations of Pakistan's territory and to ensure the security and safety of sensitive strategic sites and the nuclear arsenal. If anything, this will increase the power of the military chiefs and the heads of intelligence agencies rather than diminish it.

Badar Alam is editor of the political monthly magazine, Herald.

Comments (48) Closed

Ahmad Zubairi May 17, 2011 09:04pm
Excellent and one of the most thoughtful and sane article. It hurts to see that we are following the same policies in a delusional manner. I think we are up for a rude awakening very soon and it probably is what this nation needs. Lack of introspection is bound to destroy us. I never thought I would say this but I like what Nawaz Sharif said in last two days about civilian supremacy over military and stop considering India as biggest enemy but it will take a long hard effort to put some sanity in masses of pakistan who have been exposed to military propaganda machine for years.
ashutosh May 17, 2011 09:07pm
Badar Alam Saheb, aadaab arz karta hoon janaab.Aapki iss taqreer ko 1 billion Hindustani toh samajhne ko taiyyar hai;baherhaal kitne aapke humwatan Pakistani iss line of thought ko jazb kar sakeinge.Waise mera jahaan tak taaluq hai mai aapki baat ko tahe-dil se qabool karta hoon.Ek Hindustani reader.
M. Asghar May 17, 2011 09:11pm
Pakistan is becoming less and less "readable" and more entangled with itself due to the festering feudal mindset in all the sections of the society: government and its structures, the military and the intelligence appratus, the religious coteries. It seems that the only way to save the country is the action of the civil society that still has the capacity to face the dangers rationally.
Tahir Naseer May 17, 2011 11:02pm
Its quite unfortunate that many of the parliamentarians lack a proper vision and capability to deal with serious matters. I hope that someone can answer the nation responsibly and truthfully.
malik May 17, 2011 11:15pm
Thanks. I was myself wondering what message the parliament is sending to the world. That it is fine to harbor and support terrorists? We have their sypathizers in public, political and religious parites and military alike. Why could not they tell the nation that we have become an epicenter of terrorism and these people need to be annihilated otherwise......
AA May 17, 2011 11:17pm
I understand and share the same concern , if Pakistan agreed to receive billion dollars aid and its consititution do not permit to allow anyone to use its land terrorism, why he was in a military town over the years. Pakistan military. ISI and govt must take full resposbility. However, Pakistan was butrayed again and again by USA. Pakistan survival and is body in serious danger. There is no way out. I recall the last leg of Obama compagin, when he got very crtical about the well beibg of Pakistan. Pakistan is the last peace of the puzzle before US get to china. Whole nation,looked poorly on our forces who could not defend country. We have corrupt government ee all seek haven w /o death
Vellikkara-India May 17, 2011 11:19pm
Pakistani Journalists are really great. I really acknowledge the boldness of these journalists. They are facing much bigger enemies (Terrorists, Violent Politicians and ISI) than their counter parts in India. I hope one day Pakistan will be ruled by people whose minds and brains are molded by such bold journalism and journalists.
ahsan May 17, 2011 06:40pm
Our leaders both military & civilian have sold their nation for Dollars. Why Muslims are being killed every day in the name of terrorist or jihadis because we have leaders who are traitors and I believe on the day of Judgement they will be given the harshest punishment for their act Insha Allah.
MasoodHaider May 18, 2011 12:06am
Excellent article. If more people publicly make such impassioned pleas for sanity, may be the poison being spread by the delusional jingoism of people like Hamid Mir, Imran Khan, Hamid Gul and the Mullah brigade will lose some of its attraction for the gaullible man in the street.
Anwar May 18, 2011 12:27am
A good article. While it is important to find out how America carried out the mission, it is also important to know how Osama bin Laden hoodwinked Pakistan. Focusing on one aspect and ignoring other is stupid.
Indian May 18, 2011 12:41am
Finally some sanity. But likes of Badar Alam are truely rare especially in parliament and the army. No hope that Pakistan will change much before it is too late.
sami May 18, 2011 01:27am
why we calling a gathering of gheedars,a resolution.
shaukat Ali Chughtai May 18, 2011 02:30am
Great article, Mr. Badr Alam: You hae tried to show the mirror tothe whole society not only pliticians and pseudo parlimentaries but the pakistanis who have been brainwashed by different idealogies and religious groups. I hope you will continue to write on these lines and we are with you what you have narrated.
Ajay Ahlawat May 18, 2011 03:04am
Wow someone has the ability and the daringness to think critical of the situation. Great piece of work. Actually if you think this is but obvious. Retrospection has to come from within and then only Pakistan can flourish. Years of aid dependence without any development of core sections has made Pakistan hollow. Military is trying to fill in by empty rhetoric but words never bring food, education and independence. Agreed Pakistan has enough nuclear weapon for India rebuttal and winning maybe but the moot point is who would want to invade Pakistan. Sensible strategy and commonsense knows that with a disease like terrorism patronization in Pakistan, it has to implode from inside and the world is waiting. So get up Pakistan take charge, remove terrorism and make Pakistan the way Quaid wanted in first place!
Faisal Azeem May 18, 2011 03:05am
Very good Analysis and very right approach to dissecting the In-camera session and joint resolution. Believe me, people are still not ready to think that we have been betrayed again by the Military and the Political leaders. By the way, if Shuja Pasha had to accuse politicians of their issues, why did he present himself in front of the parliament. When Army cheif refused his resignation, that was enough to understand that it is "Same Old-Same Old", I lost confidence in this In-camera session, as soon as I heard that
L.D. Malaviya May 18, 2011 04:17am
In-camera session: The ultimate betrayal By Badar Alam. At long last, a voice of sanity! But will it be heard by the people who really matter in Pakistan? As to the query of how OBL could stay visibly undetected for so long in Pakistan, you shall hear from the Americans - bit by bit, of course!
Faiz Khalil May 18, 2011 06:07am
There is a tussle of poors, looking for how to survive, the religious extremists of how to gain auhtority thru the nook of gun,The liberals of how to dominate the culture of valentine and holloween over society,The politicians of how to get more richer,The Generals of how to test and taste the tubes of nukes and bottles of alchole. This tussle among all sector of our muslim society have rendered everybody the enemy of everybody.The world power, looking at our pathetic state, grazing like a tiger in junglle and doing everything the king of jungle oan possibly do to others. Since there is no authentic voice or force in our society to stand up and block the way of this tiger, It is more convenient for us to put the dirt on each other on every occasion of national crises to be awashed clean few days later with no signs of scrathing seen on any side.Thus the staus que of our social destruction continue.
Shafique May 18, 2011 06:34am
Good to hear a voice of sanity. Keep it up BA.
Analyst May 18, 2011 06:38am
The basic question that needs to be asked is, When and why were the Americans given bases inside Pakistan? How many bases are under their control? As circumstances and even some reports have suggested, the Americans came from a base within Pakistan, close to Abbotabad. Who put them there in the first place , and why? Don't believe everything at face value. The real world of international strategy is very complex and murky.
manish May 18, 2011 07:44am
Feeding a snake means risking a bite. most of the countries who have helped subvertive forces have had to pay the price. whether India for LTTE, or America for Al Queda, and Pakistan for its house of terrorists et al. sooner one learns better it will be for the people all over the world. Neither Earth nor God are divisible. Only we have drawn our lines. To err is human. But to err and not deterr is fool. Osama in his death has provided Pakistan a golden chance to pull up her shocks. If the intentions are right.
Taatya Singh May 18, 2011 08:07am
I agree with everything except one line: " .. India will also not take advantage of Pakistan’s increased engagements on its western border ". India has no interest in Pakistani territory or in the destruction of Pakistan as a country. It does have a deep seated interest to protect itself from terrorists that come from Pakistan. Even this would be ok if Pakistan would set an example of these people and punish them (like India is punishing the perpetrators of the Samjhauta Express attack). Unfortunately, Pakistan subsequently protects the perpetrators or (if pushed into a corner) puts them up in front of courts with incomplete information so they can set them free. This hurts!!
Vinay Mehta May 18, 2011 08:39am
Dear Badarsaab, Your article came across to me as one of the most clear, well articulated and rational pieces on the whole Osama Bin Laden killing and its repercussions as far as Pakistan is concerned. You have correctly pointed out the flawed policy that Pakistani politicians have followed for ages of blaming others (East or West). The lack of democratic power is evident from the fact that not one top-level head has rolled even though either Shuja Pasha or Kayani or both share the blame for the debacle and embarrasing manner in which OBL lived right under the military and ostentatiously ISI's nose. Only when Pakistan politicians learn to introspect seriously and sincerely, then only democratic institutions will be able to solidify and exert true governance over their own military. Regards, Vinay Mehta Bridgewatger, New Jersey (USA)
Abdul May 18, 2011 10:04am
Excellent article!
foruchandan May 18, 2011 10:05am
Hope Pak recovers and stands tall...thats the wish of all INDIANS....but they should not harm us either when they stand up on their feet....
Ramachander nanduri May 18, 2011 10:14am
Stealth drones as per your story in the to day's Dawn stories.As I predicted the subcontinent at least a decade behind Technology of this type of spyware and warfare and except wringing hands in despair the parliment nor the milatary have any real power not only pakistan but entire subcontinent.It is time Parlimentarians wake up and change power structure in pakistan in favour of its citizens who feel unsafe particularly minority muslims(shias,ahmadias,bohras etc)who feel the burden of trrorist activities directed at even places worship shows impotency of Law agencies and suffering of innocent citizens of pakistan same applies to all subcontinent leaders.
Ramachander nanduri May 18, 2011 10:34am
Where was parliment when Leaders gave operational control of atleast 2 airbases i counted in your stories and it sounds hollow to argue loss of sovernighty and alleged invasion by USA as tey were freely roaming in skies with their toy drones long before obl was eliminated.These are serious questions showing duplicity or naivity of political,military,so called fearsome ISI as they knew USA is unstoppable milatarily.I think back and admire Pandit Nehru who rejected american overtures and money and some how kept territolial freedom in spite of poverty and need for$ and fotunately inspite of turmoil and problems India never allowed any foreign power to have bases.You cannot sell u soul and expect them to Respect.However fortunately USA is democratic and does not belive in good old land grabbing Imperialism they always get out as winson chyrchill said"A country has no permanent enemies or friend but permanant interest".Pakistan must implement that and romove India from enemies list and devolop mutual relatinship which is limited to cricket.
Truthfinder May 18, 2011 10:47am
Good Analyses but where is the Solution?
shankar May 18, 2011 11:02am
Wonder why there is such a wisdom gap between the columnists in dawn & the general public. You are bang on. The destruction & damage caused by OBL to Pakistan and to the world is a thousnad times more than the temporary vilolations caused by drones & Abbottabad attcaks by US. I am surprised the Pakistani's do not see it that way. Where are Pakistan's priorities? A recent survey seems to indicate that 51% of Pakistanies are saddened by OBL's killing. This is shocking! You want a guy, who by his actions, has sent Pakistan to chaos & destruction to continue living to do more of the same! All I can say is "God save Pakistan from Pakistanis"!
p r sharma May 18, 2011 11:04am
politicians be it from ruling or opposition parties do not preser to go against the majority public sentiment. they least bother long term goal of national goal of well being and economic development of the country. Narrow and immediate party interest is important to them and every sane person understands that the joint resolution is meant for the domestic audience only. militant/ islamist terrorists have been projected in Pakistan as the Saviour of Muslim pride and are heroes. a section of media is also glorifying them. author's analytical views need to be reached to urdu reading people for awakening/ change of mindset. Thereafter a change is expected.
Ashvin Subramanyam May 18, 2011 11:13am
Mr. Alam, kudos to you for such an honest and frank article. We in India have much to gain in Pakistan's rise to prosperity and in its success as a stable, liberal, democratic country. Let our two countries together engage in a path of economic prosperity and peace for the benefit of our two peoples. Bigots, Zealots and terrorists, irrespective of their faith have no place in today's world. Kudos also to Nawaz Sharif for asking and raising some tough questions in his recent speech in Karachi. Sincerely, Ashvin Subramanyam.
Zaka ud din May 18, 2011 11:32am
Typical American voice. Distinguish between Jihad and Terror. Which needs true Iman on Hadith and Quran. Please do not mess up the terrorism and Jihad. Regards
Sameer, Melbourne May 18, 2011 11:54am
It is great to see that journalist seems to have found a voice to quesion ISI’s strategy to use terrorists as assets. ISI is making us a loughing stockin the world since their "assets" are killing us & have become liability. And stupid parliament agreeing with them rather than fighting for the democracy.
Madhusudan May 18, 2011 02:36pm
Great article but for a snide remark on India. The Indian leadership has made their position clear on this issue. The armed forces in India are a department of the Government. Despite any loose talk, they cannot act without orders from the Government elected by us the people of India.
krishnamoorthy May 18, 2011 02:38pm
Well balanced article.Really felt bad that the parliamentarians lost an opportunity to tame the army and ISI & to bring it under it's control.No body in parliament seem to be interested in knowing how come Osama stayed inside Pakistan for almost 5 years without being traced by Pakistan ISI (very hard to believe).This is very surprising as i feel members are scared of questioning the army. As an Indian i feel very sorry for the ordinary people of Pakistan who are the real sufferers in the long run.
Gulab Khan May 18, 2011 03:21pm
I believe this article holds the panacea for all the ills that have plagued our country. One single question needs to be answered by our security forces and agencies: How comes OBL was in our backyard for five long years? Leave the question of how Americans dishonored our sovereignty. Its a secondary question. The primary question from all walks of life must be: How OBL breached our sovereignty. Bravo to you Alam for raising this question. Wake up Pakistanis and ask this single most important question to our Army, ISI and the so-called our representatives, if we really want to live as a dignified nation.
parvez May 18, 2011 03:49pm
Well done Badar. This is the heart of the problem. We all know it. The fact is that our politicians, except a few in the PPP and the ANP, just dont discuss this issue. The problem for Pakistan is Talibans and al Qaeda, their actions, the ultra rights and their apologists. If we dont get rid of these jihadis, the drones will continue (and should continue) and that would not be the worst that we have seen. UN resolutions asking for sanctions and actions will surely follow
V.K.Guptan May 18, 2011 04:10pm
When our society was a pure feudal one landlords or zamindars depended on their managers to manage their affairs. If the landlord was strong one managers worked under him. If the landlord was weak, the manager managed both the landlord and his affairs. The landlord then hardly could raise any voice against the manager even if he was doing something not to the landlord's liking. The frequent military coups in Pakistan has made the Parliament into a weak institution and too timid to talk straight to military. Further one should understand that the present occupants of that institution are persons who came there by default. Had it been Nawaz Shariff or Benazir Bhutto probably it would have been different. The party may have base but not the incumbents.
Enter your name... May 18, 2011 04:30pm
I am amazed to see the sensible .bold and sane thoughts of you gentlemen. And i feel the pakistani media is more sensible and responsible than Indian media.
Baqar R. Zaidi May 18, 2011 06:21pm
Excellent article. I think every country including U.S. blames others for their faults, but Pakistan has developed it into an art form.
jamil May 18, 2011 06:30pm
Observer May 18, 2011 06:38pm
Why there are so many Indians commenting here? We need more Pakistanis to express how they feel.
asfi May 18, 2011 06:58pm
excellent work.
M. Siddique May 18, 2011 07:50pm
Great article. I wonder if parliamentarians had a chance to question the two people in uniform. I wish your article can be translated in Urdu and printed as well. I don't think most of our Parliamentarian are unable to read or understand this article. We need to spread this word around. Kudos, Mr. Alam.
Mansoor Haq May 18, 2011 11:15pm
if Pakistan army does not mend it's ways a day will soon come that those belonging to it will feel ashamed to tell others about their job.
Mathew, Yanbu KSA May 18, 2011 11:18pm
Well written.. A clear view of what is going on in Pakistan. But, how many politicians are there in Pakistan really want to see the change? Good job, keep writing..
vigilant May 19, 2011 03:30pm
i NEVER find so many comments for a good news from pakistan...???
Z Khan May 21, 2011 02:10pm
Lets not blame others. Just look at ourselves. We are a 3rd world country and some how have managed to have the bomb. The standard of education can be seen around us and some of these people are in all sort of positions in our society. If we expect any thing better from them we must be living in clouds. Unless and until we have educated and qualified persons running and supervising our lives nothing will change. The rich politician will milk us and invest their money abroad. Just look at what sort of people are in the parliment and how many have gone there to serve the nation. Lets just accept the fact that we are nothing and will remain so for the next hundred years or even longer as the problem of our society will not be solved by the present lot and their children who will no doubt will take power after these have gone to account for their misdeeds.
SLDUA May 21, 2011 02:27pm
I agree that, at least, Pakistani newspaper DAWN.COM is more sensible and responsible newspaper than any Indian newspaper. In Pakistan, some people have the guts to criticise the self-destructive policies made for it.