Keep Talking and Keep Listening!

They say listening is more difficult than talking. But what is even harder in today's world is to communicate - an intense process of listening and talking and listening and responding........
This is a forum for people to engage in a conversation which is an art that many people don't know. Lets listen to others while maintaining the courage of conviction.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Political Homosexuality

Do political hijras look any different?

Can I suggest that politics is also highly gendered. Just like things fall in the category of masculine and feminine, political ideology also has its types. Considering my own bias for the feminine, I would argue that there are forces, which support the democratic process, and hence can be rated as feminine. Those that favor authoritarian-military rule fall in the category of masculine. In Pakistan's case there is yet another category of political heterosexuals. These are individuals or forces that might pretend to be feminine but are actually the other, or they tend to swing both ways. Therefore, politics has increasingly become the game played by political hijras (eunuchs) or heterosexuals.

To give an example a few weeks ago Farahnaz Isphani's company organized a show at the Pakistan National Council of Arts, Islamabad where the chief guest were the PM, Yusuf Raza Gillani and the now 'extended' army chief Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani. For those, who are not familiar with the lady, she is a PPPP parliamentarian and wife of Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Hussain Haqqani. She was formerly a booker for CNN before getting a job with VoA which she had to leave because of the company's internal politics and her poor management. Anyway, the news is that this event happened exactly after her husband shook hands with the army chief.

This country and its politics seems to be a great example of political heterosexuality - everyone ready to bugger the other and offering their own service to the more powerful. Farahnaz's case is not new. The government's foreign minister falls in the same category. He seems pretty keen to become 'His Master's Voice'. Shah Mehmood Qureshi's recent letter to the UN in which he objected to the fingers raised by the international organization on the military and its intelligence agencies during investigation of Benazir Bhutto's murder is one of the many examples. Why should it surprise anyone at all? Its nothing new that the great sajjada nasheen has done. I remember a dinner party at the US ambassador Wendy Chamberlain's house in Islamabad. She had invited a few people for dinner including JI's Liaquat Baluch, the NRB fame Lt. General (retd) Tanveer Naqvi, Shah Mehmood Qureshi and a few others. I can't forget how pir sahib was singing praises of the devolution of democracy plan carved out by the general and making all efforts to make the general happy. "Oh it is a great program and we are making tremendous progress in strengthening of democracy" was the pir's refrain. He was then commanding the local government in Multan. It didn't matter that his party chief BB, who was then alive, did not agree with the devolution formula. In any case, the pir from Multan has this toothpaste or a traitor smile. The other examples being Zia-ul-Haq and the present head of the state. You don't know what are they hiding inside. But who cares? Shah Mehmood Qureshi wanted to save his little fiefdom in Multan. This puts him in the category of political eunuchs which means that they are not what we think they look like.

The pir sahib's political heterosexuality is, unfortunately, a manufacturing defect. He was born with it. He seems to have taken after his father Makhdoom Sajjad Qureshi. While Sajjad Qureshi was the governor of Punjab General Zia, who was both the President and army chief then, happened to visit Lahore data darbar. As the dictator got out of the mausoleum Makhdoom Sajjad Qureshi, who was also then the sajjada nasheen of a great shrine in Multan, put Zia's shoes in front of him with his own hands. This is called saving ones backside or knowing which side the bread is buttered, and then really applying lots of it on the toast . But its this over-obsession with saving the backside which turns a lot of politicians towards political heterosexuality. While they pretend to be for the democratic forces, there heart lies elsewhere. Moreover, this is not limited to the PPPP. Look at PML-N where the younger brother has been in bed with the military for a long time assisted by other political heterosexual like one particular chaudhry who actually looks like one in reality as well. Not to forget the PML-Q which is defined by its political heterosexuality. Deep-center, look at the great pir sahib of Pagara sharif who has played second fiddle to the GHQ. Interestingly, the pir sahib was quite powerful during Zia's regime and is held responsible for thwarting the procurement of newer Type-23 British frigates and supported the case for the old Type-21s. The pir sahib is related with pir Yusuf Raza Gillani, Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood (PML-Q), Tasneem Nawaz Gardezi and other political stalwarts. Marriage was a great tool to connect European courts during the days of monarchical and feudal Europe. Dig a bit deeper and you will find familiar names - people involved in getting the Bhutto government of the 1970s in trouble by leaking secrets of dalai camp to the press, or the legal community working closely with the military. Some would like to say "is hamam mein sab nangey hein" (all in this bath are naked). This is not about nudity but about political sexual preference.

Nothing odd in this behavior except that the elites tend to service their interests first. Shah Mehmood Qureshi or other pirs like him represent a certain vested interest. Given Pakistan's patronage based political system, an individual politician's capability is gauged on his power to extract resources (all kinds) from the state. This formula does not produce democrats but hijras. 64 years after independence the patronage based political system has turned the tide in a way that civil-military relations must be carefully re-evaluated. There is now an abundance of political hijras and military hijras (these are military personnel pretending to be pro-democracy while they just use the concept to further their own political objectives. Most just want to remain in circulation through the media and the conference circuit and not die away like frogs).

Time to rethink the concept of the powerful establishment in Pakistan. Although it is a complex subject on which serious work was not done after the great sociologist Hamza Alavi or American political sociologist Stanley Kochanek (sadly both are now dead), I would like to lay down some basic perimeters of the country's power politics and contours of the establishment. First, as argued by well-respected authors like Mohammad Waseem, Pakistan's polity is really bureaucratic in nature. The state bureaucracy, from the early days, had a game plan for the state according to which politics, politicians and political parties were to be used to seek legitimacy from the public. This is also the reason that the military bureaucracy allows a civilian interlude every ten years. Also, it explains why the politicians tend not to learn from their past mistakes. Power, including electoral power, is always carefully manipulated. Most politicians understand that the electoral process is primed to meet the demands of the establishment except for in a post-crisis election. The formula is that every election after a crisis is likely to be fairer than the one held in relatively normal circumstances. For example, the 1970, 1988 and 2008 elections were comparatively fairer. In the absence of a crisis it is easier to distract the un-motivated voter to sift through the results.

Second, as Hamza Alavi argued, the state bureaucracy (civil and military) was meant to service the interests of the elite. I would argue that the over-concentration of power resulted in turning the civil and military bureaucracy into powerful stakeholders (for those interested in data-based analysis plz see Stanley Kochanek's book on Pakistan's Politics and Interest Groups). Third, at this juncture the establishment or the power elite is closely connected with each other through personal ties and shared interests and values. Just look at different powerful families. One example that quickly comes to mind is that of the Abida Hussain clan which has stakes in the political system, the media (through Najam Sethi/Jugnoo Mohsin group), business and industry (Syed Babur Ali), the military and the civil bureaucracy. Another angle - you will find members from the same family in different political parties as well as the state bureaucracy, the media, judiciary and other powerful groups. So, they tend to fight each other and use the conflict to gain legitimacy. This explains why the political leadership never managed to get rid of the army nor the army could ever succeed to bring about alternative leadership.

Therefore, I'd like to argue that the powerful establishment always comprises of a primary group which is aided by a secondary group of beneficiaries. Its the prime actors who form the core of the establishment. Since the birth of the country, there has been a lot of juggling between the primary and secondary players until the group began to consolidate its shape in the past couple of decades or more. A glance at the following table will give some idea about the partnership:

1947-54: (primary) LF+TIs+CB+Mil
               (secondary) TMs+PMIs+LC+Media

1954-71: (Primary) Mil+CB+LF+TIs+B&I
               (Secondary) LC+PMIs+Media

1971-77: (Primary) LF+TIs+CB+Mil
               (Secondary) Mil+B&I+LC+Media+PMIs

1977-88: (Primary) Mil+CB+PMIs
               (Secondary) LF+TIs+LC+Media

1988-99: (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+PMIs
               (Secondary) LF+TIs+Media+LC

1999-01 (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+PMIs+Media
              (Secondary) LF+TIs+LC+NGOSec+ForExp

2001-08 (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+Media+PMIs
              (Secondary) LF+TIs+LC

2008-todate (Primary) Mil+B&I+CB+Media+LC
                    (Secondary) LF+TIs+NGOSec+ForExp

LF = landed-feudal
Mil = Military
TMs = Trader-Merchant class
B&I = Business and Industry
CB = civil bureaucracy
LC = legal community (a glance at Kochanek's work will show that the legal community was always part of the power elite. They were included in the initial legislatures and played a more formal role in the form of the judiciary)
TIs = Traditional Islamiscts (pirs and sajjada nasheens)
PMIs = Post-modernist Islamiscts (religious right and religious warriors)
NGOSec = non-governmental sector
ForExp = Elite foreign expatriates that are increasingly becoming partners of the state bureaucracy and frequently channel money into military sponsored projects abroad. These connections are useful especially in terms of financing positions and endowments abroad that will service the interest of the bureaucracy.

A careful look at this power arrangement and you will notice how state bureaucracy has always been a member of the core/primary. This includes the Bhutto years when the military was resuscitating and the civil bureaucracy became tremendously powerful due to its expanded role in business and industrial management. Also, the media was always on board. The first paper Dawn had state-sponsership and its editorial was always close to the state including after the change from the right to left of center. Its just that the center (after 1971) was aligned with the left as well, or at least seemingly so. Then there was Pakistan Times, the Nawa-i-Waqt group, Massawat, etc. After its physical expansion the media has begun to play a more important role. While the ownership was always aligned with the establishment, especially state bureaucratic forces, in recent years the editorial has largely managed to align itself as well. No wonder, the pay commission issue is never resolved.

The problem with the above alignment is that the elite become myopic and predatory and begin to inadvertently destroy the state. They have managed to damage the nation-state and all we are now left with is the administrative-state. This structure results in generating a clogged-up political system reeking of stench because political power does not move around and is concentrated in a small space. Much to the dislike of my alleged leftist friends, the current fad of militancy is actually a result of the above-described political heterosexuality and muck. Violence is natural in a socio-polity where all legitimate means to re-negotiate power are dead or tightly-controlled. This is not to suggest that the Deobandi-Salafi-Wahabi jihadis are the future. They, of course, have a central place in the core group of the establishment and may partly replace the elite in different parts of the state, if not the entire country. But more important, they will prosper considering that the existing elite have mostly seemed to turn into bloody hijras. I would like to apologize from the actual physical hijras because they may have more balls in them than their political counterparts.

Ps: If you think the above table needs modification, plz suggest and lets have a good discussion. An analysis of the sociology of power politics is crucial for understanding the country's political future.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ludwig von Rochau's Children

Ludwig von Rochau was a German gent, a 19th century writer and politicians responsible for formulating the theory of realpolitik. The idea is about the state using Machiavellian tactics to expand its power. The theory is extremely state centric. I suspect the German really must have come and settled in South Asia because we have ample supply of people who subscribe to this theory. I suppose as the Punjabis would put it our realpolitik buffs must share their nani (maternal grandmother) with the German especially Rochau.

This preamble was meant to express my surprise at the fact that so many of the educated people, especially from media and academia, seem so enamored by realpolitik. Very recently had a chance to look at journalist Aamir Ahmed Khan's article in Express Tribune titled: 'India is not to blame" ( The main thesis of the author was that the present Pakistani civilian government is hopeless and has voluntarily given up the option to run its foreign and security policy, and that the Taliban were being created by Indian RAW. I immediately sat down to jog my memory about the last time GHQ ever allowed any political government to run either the security or foreign policies. Or is it that Aamir Ahmed Khan, who runs BBC Urdu, has joined the bandwagon of those who believe things will improve dramatically only if Asif Ali Zardari and his personal clowns would leave. What goes without saying that he probably considers these other clowns as trustworthy. Not surprised. In fact, I was reminded of a conversation I had with the author way back in 2007 just a couple of days before my book military inc was launched in Islamabad. I had gone to invite him for the event and he had kindly offered to take copies of the book to Generals Pervez Musharraf and Ehsan. At that time, Mr Khan was quite close to General Ehsan and remains so.

More recently, another good journalist known for his mastery over a European language was in the American capital. He was found telling friends about how Pakistan army was ready to and engaged in cleaning the country up of all these unsavory Taliban and militants. The proof? His meetings with General Asfaq pervez Kiyani which normally run into a few hours. The gent was of the opinion that the shortest meeting was three-and-a-half hours and only when he requested the good general to wrap up. Does it surprise anyone why the army doesn't do so well in battles? If its general spends hours explaining or educating a journalist then where does he find the time for his own men and operations!

But then there has been a transformation of the military over so many years. This is no longer a professional force particularly from the objective of fulfilling the task of protecting the state from external threat or drawing out and implementing successful military operations. However, it has done better in saving its own image and managing things politically. Its senior officers are successful public relations guys who know the art of developing rapport with journalists or using the media to their own advantage. Just look at the present army chief who appears to use his own charms, besides deploying the ISPR, ISI and SPD combine, to turn the tide in his favor. The long meetings with our journalist friend are not driven by some altruistic designs. The good general wants to convince the world that he is on top of things when it comes to fighting militancy. Such an image helps convince policymakers abroad of the dire need to retain General Kiyani as Pakistan army's service chief.

This is not to suggest that it all revolves around the issue of the general's extension. However, it feeds into that plot as well. There are three options that are being discussed. First, the general gets an extension. The problem is that he may get it because the American are interested in such an eventuality (apparently, Mike Mullen does not even hear anything against Kiyani in private meetings), but that it may give an impression of Kiyani being an over-ambitious general. Second, he gets elevated to the position of an up-graded position of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. It may not be too favorable an option in the GHQ. Third, extension in the term of the army chief from 3 to 5 years. There are strong rumors with journalists like Najam Sethi supporting such possibility. The good general is indeed extremely smart and intelligent. If Machiavelli were to chose an heir it might be our good commander. After all, this army is trained to produce those that pursue the principle of realpolitik.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Facebook Party

This looks like a season for setting up alternative political parties in and for Pakistan. While some are struggling inside the country to revamp the existing structures or create new ones, others are trying to setup new parties outside.

In Pakistan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F got members of the alliance of religious parties together to revamp it in preparation for the next elections. Similarly, some people have proposed setting up a party of eunuchs in the country. They intend to field candidates in every constituency with the brief message that “we will not make any promises that we cannot fulfill. Others cannot fulfill promises either but we admit that we cannot. All we say is field honest candidates. If you cannot find any then vote for us”. A very clear and crisp message! Even more commendable is the fact that these people made an effort to pose as an alternative despite the socio-cultural bias of the society towards eunuchs. Inherent prejudice was a reason that actress Musarrat Shaheen, who was brave enough to contest elections against Maulana Fazlur Rehman, could not win from Dera Ismail Khan.
However, it is truly appreciable that the eunuchs thought of finding an alternative internally when former dictators like Pervez Musharraf are busy scouting out people in the UK and the US who could bank-roll his political movement in Pakistan. Recently, I had a chance to go to one of the events organized from the forum of ‘Pakistan First’ established and managed by the former head of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Naseem Ashraf. Although the media was asked to come to the event, it was just for a post-meeting briefing by the former dictator. The main event was a private meeting in which he hoped to rope in some of the rich professional expatriate Pakistanis with a desire to make a dent in the politics of the country of their birth. The idea behind calling the press was to show-off that the former general had sufficient support amongst the Pakistani community.
But not everyone invited to the party was a confirmed supporter. Many were there to hear what he had to offer. There were others like an entrepreneur from Philadelphia and another one from Washington state who seemed keen to invest their money in the general. They looked impressed with Musharraf’s facebook following which the former dictator touted happily just like he used to cite the figures of mobile phones and motor-cycle purchase in the Pakistan he ruled as a sign of economic progress. Little did he know that spurious consumption goes up also in non-performing economies.
Sadly, numerous rich and influential Pakistani expats believe they can parachute into the country’s politics or bankroll potential politicians and thus gain a political foothold. Although the old dictator claimed he would hold elections in the party, he claimed he would initially nominate office-bearers. Most important, he did not offer any idea or agenda to attract people to the party. Every question was answered with a ‘we will tell when the time comes’ kind of a slogan.
It looked like a political reconnoitering mission in the US. Reportedly, Musharraf did a better job of speaking then his handlers in the US like Naseem Ashraf. Not to mention the fact that Ashraf was one of the better lot. There were others who seemed to be representing the MQM. While talking to those present, these rather dubious gentlemen claimed that they lived in the US only on Musharraf’s orders. They had returned to Pakistan but returned on the former dictator’s insistence. When asked by people if he did nothing but move around on Musharraf’s beck and call, the gent insisted that he had a life and was happily married. The same gent also claimed Musharraf’s innocence in signing the NRO saying that nothing moved in Pakistan without orders from Washington.
This particular gentleman, who was part of a gang of three, represented a dubious organization called Pak-American Communication which cannot be found on the web. Someone claimed that the people might have represented the MQM. In that case, the only possibility is that there is some wedge within the MQM that Musharraf plans to benefit from. There are educated people within the ethnic party not happy being pide-pippered by Altaf Hussain.
Thus far, the former dictator does not even have a name for his political party. Perhaps, ‘The Facebook’ Party or ‘Made in the US’ might be an appropriate name.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2010.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

State-of-the-art Dumbness in DC

Just met a young aspiring Pakistani mediademic in Washington, DC. He was searching for a way to enter and then make it big in DC's think-tank circle. His presumption was that being from the Frontier province of Pakistan, which borders on the tribal areas and is extremely sell able in the US, he could make an entry into the world of regional experts. He seemed a bit confused as he mumbled something about doing independent research. Little did he realize that the experts in Washington, DC don't care about independence but about who has better information and contacts in the government to sell. Resultantly, every so called Pakistan expert in the US, especially in DC, owns a couple of Pakistani general if not more. Not surprisingly, one Pakistani army brigadier FK, who was connected with the nuclear establishment during the early days of Musharraf and is also related to the former Pakistani army chief, decided to sell himself to an American expert of sorts who currently is big in American intelligence setup. In return Brig. FK got himself a nice house in California. 

Pity, the young man didn't understand the trick of trade in Washington, DC, or, perhaps, I failed to gauge his capabilities. But he represented the cross-breed (of course illegal) between a media person and an academic. These are the new generation of media persons imagining themselves as academics or academics hoping to get famous overnight. As a result one gets this terrible combination which results in the travesty of the noble art followed by Plato, Aristotle, Ibn Khuldoon and many others. In short, the world, especially South Asia is full of such public intellectuals or mediademics. This category seriously believes it can change the world.

But that is a separate debate which we'll continue later. For the time being, wanted to tell you about my conversation with this aspiring mediademic about finding a niche in the US. My suggestion to him was to look at some other geographic area for study especially if he wanted to study issues pertaining to national security. A mediademic cannot develop independent expertise because he/she is too eager to become a public figure and seeks quick info which can only be sought through those who have control of sensitive segments of the state. So, the option is to engage with those who control information or develop expertise which takes time which a mediademic definitely does not have. 

All states control information on national security and Pakistan is catching up to the game very fast. Traditionally, media persons and academics in Pakistan did not have the ready access so people made wild guesses about the military but did not have sufficient information. An opening to national security issues started to be provided as a result of post-Kargil Musharrafian glasnost. This meant that a new breed of mediademics was to be created both be design and default. The design lay in the fact that information was released selectively to trusted people and default means that such a category of public intellectuals got created because such people thought they knew better than everyone else. The state created an interconnected structure comprising of: (a) ISI, (b) ISPR, and (SPD - Strategic Plans Division).

Headed by a brash three-star, the ISI reaches out to people. The three-start talks about John Adams and political philosophy with people over a glass of whiskey. WoWW.... how impressive. It certainly gets the enlightened moderates. Then there is the lovely ISPR which is deeply entrenched in the media through familial relations. The general has a network of family members spread all over (thank godness for mothers who produced more than one child!). Now, even the Gen. ISPR son is getting trained to join the media and is happily using one of the English dailies to polish the art of a mediademic. Not to forget retired military mediademics who are an informal subsidiary of the ISPR. These old generals, who are good at flirting as well as being prominent, ensure defense of military's interests. 

But the SPD takes the cake. The organization was set up as the secretariat of the National Command Authority and is in the business of nuclear weapons management. However, given that they have a lot of time and are headed by another 'ants-in-pants' kind of general, the SPD team does a lot of things including making of intellectual missiles, upgrading intellectual missiles to ballistic missile category and searching for intellectual nuclear fissile material. Its head General Kidwai's men can be seen around town in Islamabad and in international academic circuits in their Armani suits flirting reasonably with both men and women and scouting out potential partners at home and abroad. 

Nationally (within Pakistan) it always helps if you are an attractive, young female with a flair for foreign clothing, long hair and lots of charms. The SPD can set you up in your independent shop or help you find a career in one of the many national think-tanks. Today, there is not a single young scholar who is not linked with the SPD in one shape of form. The civilians are being trained as junior partners until the time that military personnel in the SPD get trained and retired so they could take positions in the media. The organization even approves setting up of foreign NGOs in the country. Recently, the head of an American foundation, which was opening office in Islamabad, was advised to have a friendly tete-a-tete with one of the Armani-suited SPD gents. The meeting was meant for seeking common understanding. Technically, the approval for setting up an NGO comes from the Economic Affairs Division (EAD). But EAD is more like a figurehead. The matters are actually controlled by the SPD.

This is a highly evolved structure due to which military has managed to completely penetrate the media and academia. Retired and/or a few serving military personnel along with civilian partners can be found in all organizations. The establishment has now control editorial of all media outlets. 

But the more interesting scam pertains to Pakistan's ISI-ISPR-SPD intellectual combine making in-roads in the US capital. Since America never had an expertise on Pakistan due to its temporary interest in its South Asian ally, American experts have never looked at the country beyond their own security needs. So, Washington really doesn't have experts which is to Islamabad's advantage. So, the military has happily tried to create space to its advantage by injecting its own people, buying budding experts and co-opting big names who are non-experts. 

In the first case, three-and-a-half people were injected into American academic circle. There is one highly connected woman who was injected with the help of friendly financiers. These are military's clients, who are mainly expatriates or the corporate sector that, in any case, is friendly with the military. They fund the project of bringing GHQ-friendly people to other countries. The other is a gent from a well-known military family who briefs American regarding the benefits of trusting the military rather than the political forces in Pakistan. A third is a new entrant inserted at almost entry level in a think-tank, who worked as a consultant with the SPD, and probably continues to be one. The half, of course, is a Pakistani mediademic injected into an American university. The reason he is considered as half is because his job is limited to defending the military's credentials as the US's partner in the war on terror. 

The second category relates to young Pak-American budding mediademics. One chap, who is well placed in American military think-tank, sells the military in Washington (it must be mentioned that he doesn't market Pakistan but just the GHQ). He is so well-entrenched in Pakistan army's system that he was even party to getting his sibling married off to a Kashmiri leader. How cooperative! The reward is get access to Pak military officers. This helps the chap build his credibility at home and retain his job in his think tank. For those who understand the doggy-dog world of capitalist society, they will understand the significance of retaining a job. 

The third category is of old experts who are wined and dined on their trips to Pakistan. This is called co-option which means show carefully and take out the stickiest portions while revealing the rest. This also shows a change in attitude. The military does not hide everything any more. It allows for some criticism as long as the end result is that people's belief in the army is restored. 

No wonder if some think that the war on terror is a tough fight for the US to survive. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Zia's Children

Sunday, April 05, 2009
By Ayesha Siddiqa
As the entire Pakistani nation watches video footage of a 17-years-old
girl screaming on their television screens during the process of her
torture at the hands of the brutal Taliban in Swat, one wonders if the
mothers, sisters, daughters and the male members of this nation will
ever take time out to think about this system of justice advocated by
these men who are not even qualified to interpret the Quran and Sunnah.

How did these men know that she had committed adultery? Or were
the men in Iran, who ran a jeep over both the arms of a young boy to
punish him for stealing sure about his economic circumstances?
Sadly, all this will be justified in certain quarters as upholding of
Sharia. But the legal system of any land is meant to do justice
which is not just the application of some legal norms, but the
application of law in conjunction with sensitivity towards the
economic, social and political conditions of a place.

The application of Sharia is extremely complex as it entails a
stringent mechanism for evidence. For instance, a witness has to
meet certain conditions. The witness has to be one: (a) who has
never been punished for any crime, (b) has always said all his
prayers in time, (c) never urinated standing up, (d) never eaten from
a market place, (e) never committed any major sin, (f) never
committed any minor sin, and
(g) never failed to carry out obligations prescribed by Quran and
Sunnah. These conditions are so stringent that according to Pakistan's
former Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah even he would not qualify
to be a witness.

Referring to the case of the girl flogged in Swat, the fact of the
matter is that this is one example of the dire conditions of women
in a large number of Muslim societies where there is no legal system
for this particular gender to prove their innocence. In Pakistan in
particular where the Hudood laws were formulated under the Zia
regime, the objective was not to bring justice in the society but to
throttle all forms of justice. In this respect, the Taliban in Swat and
those who ruled Afghanistan for some time are Zia'children. They
use force arbitrarily and apply laws without the real context to
enhance their own power.

For those, who think of General Ziaul Haq as an exemplary
marde momin, it would be beneficial to read Tahir Wasti's seminal
work --- Application of Islamic Criminal Law in Pakistan: Sharia
in Practice". The book published in January this year and authored
by a man, who has experience of both Islamic law and British common
law, is the first detailed research enlisting the ramifications of the
application of sharia law in Pakistan. The writer argues that Zia's
decision to impose Nizam-e-Islam on February 2 1979 was not a
sincere act. Wasti, in fact, argues that had the military dictator been
sincere he would have also invoked the law of Qisas and Diyat as
part of his Islamic regulations that mainly consisted of the five laws
pertaining to: drinking, Zina (adultery), Zakat and usher, highway
robbery, and theft. The punishment for some of these crimes is not
even prescribed in the Quran.

The reason that Zia left out Qisas and Diyat, which finally became an
ordinance in 1990 during Benazir Bhutto's government and finally
passed as a law after twenty minutes of debate in parliament
under Nawaz Sharif was because he was too eager to hang Bhutto.
Such a law would not have allowed for the approver Masood
Mehmood, which, in turn, means that Bhutto could not have
been sentenced to death.

Not surprisingly, Bhutto had filed a review petition number 5-R of
1979 on 13/02/1979 in the Supreme Court asking that his case be
tried under Sharia or Nizam-e-Islam through first invoking the law
on Qisas and Diyat. Notwithstanding the fact that while in power
Bhutto himself played to the gallery by using religion, in case of
his trial his plea to use the religious law was primarily as a legal
point that would technically stop the Zia government from sentencing
him to death. Interestingly, as Wasti points out in his book, Zia kept
returning the draft of this law until he had managed to put Bhutto
to death. The Supreme Court justices gave a split decision on the
Bhutto case arguing on page 29 of the decision of the said review
petition that under section 302 of the PPC read with section 109 of
the PPC, this was a case of unintentional murder in which there was
no room for the witness of an approver. The decision including the
said review petition by Bhutto is reported in PLD 1979 Supreme
Court 741 and the two volumes on "Bhutto's Trial Documents"
published by Justice Afzal Haider.

Zia's government also challenged other cases in which such a law
needed implementation. Unfortunately, the author states, it were
judges like Justices Tanzeel-ur-Rehman and Afzal Cheema who
helped Zia cheat the entire country by bringing about amendments
in the sharia law that suited the military dictator's interests and
allowed him not to pass the law on Qisas and Diyat as long as he was alive.

What is even sadder is that such discrepancy in Nizam-e-Islam
was never seriously challenged by any quarters. Even after the Qisas
and Diyat law came into force, first as an ordinance, and later, as
law, no one really pointed out the problem in invoking the said law.
As Wasti points out in his book, since it is difficult to find a witness,
the law of Qisas was never implemented and the government
basically uses tazeer or diyat to pass judgments. Diyat allows for
compromise in case of murder, a law which was framed not to bring
peace and justice in the society according to religious principles,
but to suit the interests of the more powerful. There are cases
after cases reported in Wasti's book in which poor and weak
people were forced to accept a compromise and forgive the
murderers of their loved ones. The law even encouraged
exchange of women as part of a settlement. Reportedly, since
the law came into force some judges showed their magnanimity
by ordering the payment of blood-money in addition to exchange
of women. Interestingly, the system was never fully challenged
by the legal community due to what senior lawyer and now
human rights activist Iqbal Haider termed, on the floor of
parliament in 1990, as greed of the legal community. This law
permits lawyers to claim their fee without putting in effort that
they would otherwise have to do to in defense of their clients.

The screams of the young Swati girl are the knock on the door of
the entire society to wake up and not allow these men and others
like them, who are at best Zia's children in terms of their sense
of legal fairness, to bring violence in this country in the name
of religion. This is not just about better treatment of women but
also a matter of justice for all and peace and tranquility in the
society. What is being presented as sharia is in reality a system
that protects the unquestioned power of those who have monopoly
over violence and resources in the society. A legal system is an
ever-evolving process that needn't mimic the past without taking
into account the circumstances. In the words of Maulana Amin
Ahsan Aslahi, religion of the past is history of the present which
can only be used as a good reference point and no more.

The writer is an Islamabad-based social scientist and author
of Military Inc. Email:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Did Hamid Mir have a Conversation with the TTP?

The Story
A popular Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir is caught on audio talking to a member of a Taliban group popularly known as the TTP.
Mir and his friends blame the Zardari government especially the Punjab (largest province of Pakistan) governor Salman Taseer for a conspiracy since his paper publish the story. Here's my analysis:
Is the man conversing with, whats alleged as a member of the Punjabi Taliban, Hamid Mir? The simple answer is yes. The man in the tape is Hamid Mir beyond doubt. The voice and style of conversation is his. I have had conversations with him on several occasions and he breaks stories in this very style. The conversation should not surprise people as Hamid Mir has old links with the Islamiscts and the intelligence agencies. In the world of the armed forces information is difficult to access. Relatively better access to information comes at a price which Hamid Mir and many other journalists in the world, particularly Pakistan pay happily. There is not a single journalist, especially on the electronic media who comments on national security and is not fed by the military. I remember one very popular journalist who even writes for foreign press. He is considered an authority on military affairs. The poor chap cannot tell the front of a submarine from its back. Planting people in the media and intelligentsia is an old trick. The only matter of concern really is that how and why is the audio recording made available on the net? The real story is the disclosure rather than the conversation.

This telephone conversation could have been tapped by several intelligence sources including the ISI, MI and IB and the question is which one leaked it and why. Is there anything interesting happening between the PPP government and Hamid Mir due to which the conversation was leaked? The other possibility is that one of the army-run agency leaked it. The first explanation is that they wanted to deflect attention from themselves on Hamid Mir. It seems from the conversation as if Mir caused Khalid Khwaja's death by instigating the alleged Punjabi Taliban. The insistence on KK's links with Ahmedis and Americans could do the trick of inciting the Taliban against KK. But I am sure that was not Hamid Mir's intent. He was just trying to show-ff to the Taliban the superiority of his information. Such show-off comes with the territory that he operates in. But the conversation was then conveniently leaked so that it may appear as something in which the intelligence agencies had no involvement thats is in the killing of KK.

The other explanation is that the conversation indicates some chasm within the intelligence establishment. The conversation basically signifies the presence of multiple groups within the intelligence agencies. There are, at least, three ideological groups within the agencies: (a) the Islamiscsts, (b) the pro-West, and (c) pro-China. These groups exert influence and lobby for their perspective. This means that the flow of information to the top brass is conditioned by the ideological bias of the groups. The information-intelligence is then measured against the policy perspective of the top leadership of the army. Thus, Hamid Mir is not the only journalist working for the agencies. There are others as well. The case in point pertains to that of a female journalist who is dealt with by the external security wing of the ISI. Each ISI division has its own set of journalists. This lady was eventually encouraged by the agencies and the army chief to build familial links with Indian politician through marriage. Her marriage with a famous Indian political figure was made in the GHQ.

But going back to Hamid Mir, his conversation reflects the bias of Pakistan's establishment. There is nothing which he says that is annoying by the establishment's standards. The state has a bias against its minorities which reflects in the conversation. Lets not forget that the Hamid Mir conversation is just the end result of years of Jamaat's infiltration in the establishment. It were during the Zia years (1977-81) that more than 800 changes were made in the text books by a board that pre-dominantly represented the Jamaat. Today, the establishment is essentially Islamisct. The dealings with the US or even China reflect the military's utilitarian approach. It will happily use any of these states to build itself. Most countries behave this way. The name of the game is realpolitik which focuses on power of the state rther than power of the people. The Pakistani state had begun to steer towards Islamism at a very early stage after its creation. Naturally, the ideology rubbed on different elements in the society as well. This is what we can see in Hamid Mir's conversation.

Khalid Khwaja was always with the ISI. He may have been steered by the pro-West elements within the ISI to negotiate some deals with the TTP. There are also rumors that during one of his previous visits, he was suspected of planting an intelligent devise for the US to locate one of the TTP leaders. The discussion of his involvement in misleading Maulana Abdul Aziz does not make sense because Abdul Aziz led his funeral prayers. There is something that doesn't make sense in the story. Whats more important to remember are that the jihadis (aka Pakistani Taliban) are well-entrenched in Pakistan's intelligence system and even its establishment. No wonder, Pakistan's courts have been acquitting jihadis like Lashkare Jhangavi's Malik Ishaq. Recently, the courts acquitted those accused of involvement in the Marriott bombing case and the suicide attack against Lt. general Mushtaq Baig. These decisions could have been changed if the agencies were willing to sort out the jihadis. The segment within the agencies which supports jihad and jihadis has now strengthened. The army and its intelligence agencies now have a dependence on these jihadis. The questions which many ask is that why get their men killed. This is nothing new. There was similar friction in the case of the Algerian military and the Islamiscts. The reason that this particular battle in Pakistan is contained to a few people is because of the influence of the Islamiscts on the army.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Whats Up in Pakistan Army's GHQ?

One Karachi based Mr Seagul has been writing on the issue of higher defense management especially the comparative powers of the army chief versus that of the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staffs Committee. In a recent article the said gent proposed that the Chairman JCSC should get the power to sit on the promotion board and become part of the decisions to post senior officers. This, he believes, is meant to make a toothless Chairman powerful vis-a-vis the most powerful army chief. Whats happening here as our friend Mr Seagul is not known for doing things without being prompted from the 'inside.' Its not that he is a great intellectual when it comes to military matters. In fact, if some one insists on arguing that the article does not indicate a conspiracy then it will be fair to say that Seagul picked up this argument regarding the empowerment of the CJCSC from a common friend based in NYC who has far superior knowledge of the military than Soldier Seagul could (don't forget that he was unceremoniously removed from the military due to his incompetence. He argues that this was done to him because of his mother being Bengali. The argument has earned him good links in the Bangladeshi security sector and allows Seagul to claim at home that the Bangladeshi armed forces will happily become an appendage to the Pak mil whenever the need arises).

Anyway, back to the question of what's happening. Pakistan's JCSC was established in 1976 as a result of an intellectual process started by the Bhutto government. The idea was to de-fang the army chief through empowering the other two service chiefs and making another four-start general. The Chairman JCSC was responsible for joint planning, etc. However, the fact that the new 4-star general had no troops to command made him as powerless as a transvestite. The imposition of martial law in 1977 ruined any possibility of the institution building up. General Mohammad Sharif, who was the first Chairman, complained that Zia-ul-Haq, who then became the President as well, killed the new organization. The fact that Lt. General KM Arif being the vice chief of army sat in the meetings to represent the chief was a travesty of the basic principle of equality between the three services that the JCSC was supposed to bring.

The army never liked the concept of the JCSC and tried to destroy it whenever it got an opportunity to do so. Not only that the Chairman JCSC was never consulted in the planning of major operations like Kargil, the army under Musharraf killed another principle of the head of JCSC to be appointed in rotation from all the three services. Honestly, Nawaz Sharif was the first one to dishonor this principle as he was the one who appointed Musharraf as the Chairman JCSC instead of the naval chief Fasih Bokhari just to buy some time from the army. Sharif thought he could appease Musharraf who had already declared his intent to go after the blood of Sharif brothers since he appointed his own favorite as the corps commander 10th corps which is responsible for most trouble-making coup-making activity. During the days after Musharraf's take over, the internal army think tank produced papers supporting the idea of scraping the JCSC. Later, the idea was not entertained since the organization served the purpose of accommodating one army general without causing too many problems for the army chief and his empire.

But every now and then, the army toys with the idea of empowering the JCSC. The first time it happened was under General Mirza Aslam Beg. Since the then newly elected government of Benazir Bhutto had announced a few months in advance its choice of the next army chief - Asif Nawaz Junjua - Beg did not hope to get an extension and so he floated the idea of empowering the JCSC. Beg hoped that he could then lobby the political government to make him the Chairman. But he had to first convince his gang of 9+ generals to support an internal organizational change. His efforts were carefully and successfully blocked by the incoming army chief. Reports have it that General Junjua had the army chief's office carefully bugged with the help of the then DG MI Javed Ashraf Qazi and the chief's military secretary Brig. Zia-ud-Din But (the Nawaz Sharif fame). The idea was to keep an eye on Beg's moves and push him out.

Now, the question is between Kiyani's extension as army chief or his nomination as the Chairman JCSC. The army chief's office is feeding its favorite journalists to plant stories arguing a case for Kiyani's extension. However, the decision depends on three factors: (a) agreement within the GHQ, (b) support of the political government, and (c) nod from Washington, DC. Since Kiyani is the chief and knows how to work the internal ropes because of his tenure with the ISI, the first is not a major issue. The second can be slightly problematic due to bad blood between the PPP and the army. All efforts are being made to keep the PPP leadership on its toes. Not that the PPP government is efficient but the trouble on the streets could partly be artificial as well (in the spirit of keeping them anxious as long as a favorable decision regarding extension is not made). The army chief seems good on the third score except that the New York Time Square bombing plot may not bring him a lot of luck (it is also possible that Soldier Seagul might be touting this idea because his friends in Washington want him to argue for rationalizing the army's power structure so that the war on terror could be fought better. After all, Soldier Seagul has a sharp nose for money and other benefits, and has little problem selling his tender soul). The US will only support Kiyani if he is considered as their man in Rawalpindi with the intent and capacity to deliver. However, if any of the three equations go wrong then Kiyani wants to play it safe and move to the position of the Chairman JCSC but not without some empowerment. general Kiyani is not interested in sticking his neck out for the military unless he is in a relatively powerful position. The powerless Chairman can only get some capacity if he begins to sit on the posting and promotion board of the military, especially the army. It goes without saying that Mr Seagul will not be caught with his pants down making such an argument in case Kiyani gets an extension. The general will not want anyone to challenge his authority as army chief. But if he is not in the 'hot-seat' he would want the organizational story to be written differently.

The golden principle in the armed forces is that the top brass takes care of its interests first. We are in May 2010 which means 7 months away from Kiyani's retirement. Obviously, the General does not want to take chances and is deploying all tactics and resources, especially in the media, to build his case. the other golden rule is beware of North Punjabis. They are always sharp politicians. As for these 'inner court' battles, lets watch which side the sun rises!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Obituary of a Democrat

HH will be remembered for his services to Pakistan's democracy. His voice is missed in today's Washington, DC and its academic circles. Indeed, HH was in American capital speaking for democratic forces at a time when no one would commit themselves to speaking out for what Pakistan and its people deserve. I still cannot forget the evenings in 2004-05 when HH had still not managed to elevate himself to the position of an ambassador and was engaged in writing his seminal work on Pakistan's military and its links with the militants. Artfully, he would utter poetic verses of famous Urdu poets punctuated by theoretical jargon to explain how he arrived at his important conclusion that the army was in bed with the Taliban and jihadis. Of course, HH is a man of monologues, but in the company of veteran journalist Khalid Hassan, he would often give others the chance to speak. Probably, the art of creating a dialogue belonged to KH rather than HH. At that time in history, HH seemed like a person close to unearthing a treasure which, indeed, his book turned out to be. "Pakistan - Mosque to Military" is a seminal work which may not be produced again, especially not by him. The smooth prose, the readability of the narrative and the facts provided in those pages make the book more than just and account of what Pakistan's military had done to the country.  The organization, as HH pointed out, had since long been engaged with religious zealots and used them to fight its battles. 

HH believed that his work would contribute to the struggle by democractic forces to push back the dictatorial dispensation of General Pervez Musharraf. HH had happily embraced the Pakistan People's Party's victory in the 2008 elections as the great success of democracy. For him, Benazir Bhutto's death in December 2007 did not matter since the ultimate joy was that she had managed to make her party transit to democracy. This is what HH and many of his friends in Pakistan and in the US called transition to democracy. I remember meeting him on February 19th 2008 for the recording of Shehryar Azhar's program for ARY on the post-election scenario in Pakistan (if Husein was the prophet of transitional politics Azhar was his Khalifa. Between the two it was claimed that elections represented the change Pakjistan was waiting for). During that meeting Husein thumped his own back and chest claiming that his predictions had indeed come true - Benazir Bhutto managed to force Musharraf to shed his uniform and win the elections. It didn't matter for the ambassador that she had paid with her own life for this transition to happen. 

Later, HH became the great ambassador of this transitional democracy. It didn't matter that the structural problems in Pakistan's politics continued such as the excessive power of the military, the comparative weakness of political institutions and myopia of the combined civil-military ruling elite of the country. The plan was to use American pressure to push back the military in Pakistan. One worried for the life and security of this diplomatic cow-boy especially after the GHQ in Rawalpindi managed to get rid of its own child General Mehmoud Ali Durrani as National Security Advisor. The Kerry-Lugar bill was the high point of HH - the democrat. This was the best he could achive. But it also invoked the wrath of the top brass. The GHQ was extremely upset and made sure it overturned the famous 'transition to democracy'. Besides other measures, HH's franchise for marketing Pakistan's democratic forces in the US was seriously threatened by GHQ's shadow ambassadors in Washington. One is a professional turncoat female diplomat and the other is a relative of an army chief-turned-author. Both are assisted in the US capital, albeit indirectly, by several menial researchers of Pakistani and American descent. The entire team of head honchos and menials combined tries to change American minds and convince them that military is the best thing which has happened to Pakistan. Given that most want to be ambassador in Washington, DC their loyalty to the GHQ and efficiency in marketing the khakis cannot be underestimated. While the lady continues to be busy cultivating relations in Washington so that she could take the most coveted position at some future date, the gent has also emerged as a wannabe. He even got a defense-analyst-for-hire reputed as one of many military's trumpets to write op-eds suggesting that the wannabe should be made the ambassador instead. The military trumpet, who is reputed to pimp for the GHQ, US government and many others depending on who can pay a good price was even invited to an American think tank by the gent as a reward for writing a favorable article. Surely, the lady was not happy with such a move. The said gent spends all his time pontificating about the influence and stability of the military in Pakistan. At the US think-tank the trumpet spoke about turning Islamabad into Dhaka.

Suddenly, the skies of American capital city seemed full of vultures hovering around to search the dead body of a diplomat they could chew on. Things became extremely dramatic as it was a matter of survival. For our friend HH, the choice was between killing the democrat to save the diplomat or vise versa. Obviously, the choice was to save the diplomat which was the logical thing to do in a Washington DC where policymakers and the human-terrain type academics stick to a set recipe for democracy out of the political cookbook. HH the diplomat could hear the sound of the boots marching to Washington and it was best to put the democrat to sleep. And so one evening those present at the occasion of the reception hosted at the Pakistan embassy, Washington, DC in honor of the foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani also witnessed the funeral of Husein the democrat. 

Those of us, who care about democracy and politics in Pakistan, will remember the man for his services. He was a charming salesman whose presence will be missed in Washington where there is now hardly anyone to sing a song of and for the democratic forces in Pakistan. The vultures are still hovering above searching for bits and pieces of flesh and bones of the democrat. The spirit will probably be in some pain at the moment but will soon vanish from where it may not be recalled. The services of HH the democrat will always be remembered.

May his soul rest in peace. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mapping the establishment – by Ayesha Siddiqa

January 15th, 2010

As the battle rages between the political government and its rival, popularly known as the establishment, the public silently awaits the final result.
For some, the civilian government has already lost because its capacity to influence policymaking or make decisions without interference has diminished. National security, foreign policy and all strategic decisions are not being made in the presidential palace anymore.
One of the key indicators of this is that the president has deviated from the alternative vision in terms of regional politics and certain other issues that he initially pursued. Now, it is back to the establishment’s agenda, something he needs to do to buy time for his personal survival.
However, incapacitating the president from a policymaking and administrative perspective does not seem to satisfy the establishment which has gone for the PPP leadership’s jugular. The top man of the party has to go at all costs. Even if he survives the onslaught for a while or until the end of his legal term, he would have bled profusely.
This is not a new battle. It has been going on between different individuals versus the establishment for over 50 years. The difference lies in the various actors’ ability to stomach a fight and juggle the different players to survive. It’s a battle fought in space and time.
Why is the establishment so powerful? Because of its character and ability to develop meaningful partnerships. Most people think of the establishment as the military only. This is not wholly correct. But considering the dominance of the defence services neither is such a perception altogether misplaced.
The establishment is not a static entity. It has evolved over the years with newer members joining in and becoming more significant than others. However, a distinction must be made between the core, peripheral and associate members. It is the core members that moderate and control the dynamics of the establishment while the peripheral ones provide support to the system without determining the direction of the working of the establishment. The associate members are taken on board when the need arises.
The core members include senior members of the military and civil bureaucracies, select politicians, media houses and some key economic players. While the military and civil bureaucracies are easier to identify because they have a formal organisational shape and well-defined institutional interests, other actors such as politicians and the media are not so easily captured.
There are some politicians whose primary job it is to watch out for the interests of the establishment and tip the balance within their respective parties in favour of the establishment in case there is any threat to its interests. Each party has such members. So, while a party in power may consider itself as representing the ultimate power and being the establishment, it has some in its ranks who form the core while others including the top bosses may belong to the other two categories.
Part of the media is a core member but it is also divided between the other two categories. For instance, the ownership of media groups had always been part of the core group of the establishment. The editorial teams, on the other hand, did not follow a single path i.e. not all had links to the establishment. There were always some editorial groups with peripheral members while others remained independent.
However, as a professional group, the media was considered too important to be left out of the system and so was brought into the fold completely in the past decade. Proactive engagement with the media was planned to ensure uniformity in terms of alignment between the editorial teams of the media and the establishment. Along with the media as an institution, key intellectuals, academics and opinion-makers have also become part of the peripheral group.
The system is intelligent: it doesn’t resemble that of the former Soviet regime. People are often confused by the various debates in the media that gives an impression of independence. Views can differ and internal battles within the establishment can also surface through the media but this does not mean a qualitative difference of opinion.
Members of the media can support certain political positions or individuals without necessarily wanting to change the overall system in a way that the establishment becomes less significant. And so certain political actions can become a means to negotiate power within the core group of the establishment rather than signify a major systemic change.
It must also be noted that there are some other state institutions, including the judiciary, that are taken on board on a need-be basis. Historically, the judiciary was brought on board to endorse the legitimacy of the system and so the group has associate membership of the establishment. The militant groups on the whole also belong to the category of associate members which means that these can be abandoned or their significance reduced once they are not needed any more. However, a distinction has to be made between the militant groups and those among their leadership who have become part of the peripheral group just like the religious parties.
Another feature of the socio-political system driven by the establishment is that it is largely informal which means that there are no institutionalised modes of communication. A lot depends on signals. Also, an individual, though he/she may be part of the core group, could lose his/her significance if found to deviate from the interests or ideology of the establishment. The system then kicks in to push out the deviant member.
Even the topmost member of the military has been pushed out once he abandoned the principles. The most recent example is Pervez Musharraf who became irrelevant for the establishment once he deviated from certain key principles and embarked upon policy change. The establishment is not a monolith, but it comes together as soon as its interests are threatened. Understanding this dinosaur is necessary before its power is contested.
The writer is an independent strategic and political analyst.
Source: Dawn

A view of Utilitarian Islam

There are many who make the mistake of differentiating between secular in liberal in Pakistan. People, who tolerate or follow some western habits are deemed liberal, and others as radical. However, Pakistan primarily consists of utilitarian secular-Muslims. These people are those, who may have liberal habits, but can use or assist radical elements and ideology as well. This is a profile and analysis of one of the key businessmen in Pakistan. See how comfortably he mixes different drinks