Sharif defiant, troops deployed in Pak capital

14 03 2009

Source: TOI

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday ordered troops to be deployed at sensitive areas in the capital as the threat by the opposition to go for a mass

Protests in Pak

Pakistani journalists and employees of a private channel hold protest against the blockage of their channel transmission in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo)

sit-in outside the Parliament neared, but the army said the deployment would take place “only if the situation warrants.” Meanwhile, PML (N) chief Nawaz Sharif has refused to negotiate with the government and said the Long March to Islamabad will continue despite government crackdown.

The army said it had received a request from the government to deploy troops at sensitive locations to maintain law and order during the protest by lawyers and opposition parties.

The troops will remain on alert and will “move only if the situation warrants it”, chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas told Dawn News channel.

He refused to identify the sensitive locations. The lawyers’ movement and opposition parties, including former premier Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, launched a “long march” on March 12 to pressure the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to reinstate judges deposed by former President Pervez Musharraf.

The organisers of the protest have said it will end with a sit-in near parliament but the government has said it will not let the demonstrators enter Islamabad.

The army’s Rawalpindi-based 111 Brigade, which has usually played a crucial role in past military coups, held a meeting on Thursday to review the law and order situation in the capital and nearby areas.

Lawyers and opposition have said the authorities have detained over 1,200 people to thwart the protest.

Prohibitory orders banning protests and rallies have been imposed in Sindh, Punjab and North West Frontier Province but the protestors have said they are determined to march to the capital.

The authorities have sealed all highways leading to the capital and have forced halt to three big opposition motorcades converging towards Islamabad.

Rebellion roar in Pakistan

10 03 2009

Source: Telegraph India

Islamabad, March 9 (PTI): Pakistan today warned former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that his anti-government speeches amounted to sedition, shortly after he openly asked Pakistanis to rebel.
With the standoff between the government and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief showing no signs of easing, the army got the backing of former President Pervez Musharraf to deal with the crisis.
“If the country faced an internal threat to its integrity, it is the responsibility of the army to protect it,” Musharraf told reporters in Karachi shortly after returning from India. The former general said he would consider becoming President again if he could play a useful role in the post. “If I am offered the post of President and if I can be a useful President… then I will want to contribute to this country,” he said.
Sharif stepped up his offensive against President Zardari ahead of protests by his supporters and lawyers. He asked policemen at a charged rally in Jhelum not to abide by any illegal and unconstitutional orders of the government. Sharif urged the people to take to the streets and get ready for a “revolution”.
The Asia Times Online website ( said the army may be forced to intervene into the government’s affairs. It quoted army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as asking Zardari to quickly end the standoff with Sharif by March 16.
After Sharif’s rallying cry, interior security minister Rehman Malik said in a televised news conference in Islamabad: “Inciting people for disobedience is sedition. … It could get life imprisonment and a fine.”
Malik said the government would not outlaw the march but said the protesters would not be allowed to rally in front of the parliament building or other downtown areas, as they are planning.
He suggested they protest in a park on the outskirts of the Islamabad.
The protesters have said the march will be peaceful, but that they will not leave streets close to the parliament until the judges are restored. Sharif’s supporters say that the judges were sacked as they had planned to take up cases that could weaken Zardari’s already shaky grip on power.
Referring to Sharif’s comments against the government after the supreme court banned Sharif and his brother and former Punjab chief minister Shabaz from contesting elections, Malik urged the former Prime Minister to hold talks with Zardari.
At a news conference in Karachi, Musharraf, who resigned as President in August last year to avoid impeachment by the Pakistan People’s Party-led government, said he had no plans to join any party.
“In the current environment, I have no intention of joining politics. Frankly, I haven’t given any serious thought to joining politics,” he said in response to a question.

Politicians let us down again: Pakistan media

10 03 2009

Source: NDTV
Tuesday, March 10, 2009, (Islamabad)

Is a military coup round the corner in Pakistan? As speculation of another military takeover grows, the media in Pakistan has warned the country’s politicians to slam on the brakes now and resolve their differences and put an end to the crisis.Arising out of the confrontation between the two mainstream parties, President Zardari’s PPP and Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N, the warning comes amid media reports that the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has warned President Zardari to clean up the mess and that too by a deadline, March 16.

On that day, lawyers and supporters of Nawaz Sharif are planning a long march calling for the reinstatement of those judges who had been sacked by Musharraf, something Zardari has been reluctant to do.Pakistan’s The Daily Times said in its editorial, “Now that the two mainstream parties have virtually declared the doors of reconciliation shut, commentators are already talking of the possibility of the army stepping in “to bring the country back to normal”. We sincerely hope this doesn’t happen. The army is incapable of providing any political solutions as we have learnt from our bitter experience time and again. But if this does come to pass, this time too the politicians would be to blame”

Meanwhile, the Dawn’s editorial said, “Hurtling as this country is towards the brink of political chaos, there is still time for the politicians to slam on the brakes and reverse course. If not stopped immediately, the chain of events triggered by the ouster of the Sharif brothers from electoral politics and the imposition of governor’s rule in Punjab will surely end in tears for everyone involved.”And The News said, “All this is despicable. There are no other words to describe what we are seeing. Politicians have once more let down people in a terrible fashion. The tall talk of national unity in the face of crisis has proven to be nothing more than a lie. Are we really to believe our leaders are oblivious of the fact that their country faces extreme peril?”

An ostrich mentality

30 05 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008
Ikram Sehgal

Whenever the economy is in trouble, central banks the world over take measures to ease pressures on the business community by lowering discount rates, as done recently by the US Federal Reserve Board and the Bank of England. Intervention is normally anathema to “free market” theory but the fear of a domino effect on the economy evoked a rescue effort. Raising interest rates and tightening monetary policy does fight inflation. In Third World countries with large blue-collar workforces fighting unemployment must be the moral objective. This is at variance with IMF practices and beliefs. While inflation lowers the buying power of salaries, it is still preferable to be employed and have some food on the table for the family than not have any money to buy food.

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has woken up from years of slumber, raising the discount rate and banking charges. And that is meant to control inflation? Manufacturers and merchants will simply pass the rate rises onto the consumers, the common man has had it. Did Governor Shamshad Akhtar consult the government-in-power, what will the PPP answer to the populace? She should have anticipated the rise in inflation. The last SBP Quarterly Report was oblivious to it. Lack of anticipation also failed to prevent a run on the Pakistani rupee and enact pre-emptive measures when the world economic situation was staring us in the face for months. The US dollar was already taking a pounding because of oil prices, and food shortages worldwide were front page news. While the sudden SBP frenzy is not by itself responsible for the stock market downturn, it is certainly a contributing factor. Her recent “Asia Banker” award notwithstanding, is Dr Akhtar up to facing national economic crisis on this scale?

There are signs we may weather the “atta” crisis because of (1) early measures regulating the internal flow (2) reducing smuggling to Afghanistan (3) a bumper wheat crop expected shortly and (4) staggered wheat imports for bolstering buffer stocks. Despite protests from the NWFP and Balochistan, we must keep on hanging tough about internal movement of wheat and atta stocks while keeping supply pipelines open. Why are we being generous in giving Hamid Karzai 50,000 tons of wheat when he badmouths us all the time?

The US is impatient with the peace initiatives in FATA and Swat. While one must not negotiate with terrorists, we must differentiate between terrorists and militants. Those crossing the border into Afghanistan are mostly militants but could also be “equal opportunity” terrorists, Baitullah Mahsud’s forays reaching innocents in cities and towns deep inside Pakistan. Since he has publicly boasted about sending his fighters across the border into Afghanistan, with what credibility do we oppose “hot pursuit” and Predator strikes on locations in FATA’s terrorist-infested areas? The unfortunate Catch-22, further radicalism and virulent anti-Americanism. Both the US and Pakistani interest lie in stopping militant activity on either side of the border, with Mahsud’s terrorists faction isolated from other militants. This fine balancing act is a calculated risk, requiring both understanding and patience from the US. Incidentally our media are accessories to murder, giving media time to terrorists. Pakistan’s must be the only fourth estate in the world that helps spread the terrorist message of hate and suicide bombings. We must act more responsibly, the blood of innocents pays for the media space given to terrorists.

Maulana Fazlullah and his “holy army” in Swat terrorised the local population, imposing brutal authority with great savagery in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. They had to be militarily eliminated; this was done in brilliant fashion by the Army. Maulana Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah’s father-in-law, has been in government custody since returning from Afghanistan (of his own choice for self-survival because he got his “volunteers” slaughtered by the Coalition air strikes and Northern Alliance during the short, sharp Afghanistan war post 9/11). Rashid Dostum buried thousands of surviving Pakistanis, handed over by Mullah Dadullah in Konduz during Ramzan in 2001 for his own freedom and that of his Afghan followers, alive in containers in Shebergan. Estranged from Sufi Mohammad, Fazlullah took over the TSNM during his absence. The ANP government in the NWFP acted pragmatically in releasing Sufi Mohammad and entering into a peace deal with him to counter Fazlullah’s residual influence.

Trying to push the 62-clause Constitutional package through Parliament in one go is not advisable, some points will likely get short shrift. Can the PPP muster a two-thirds majority? Even in a joint session of Parliament the numbers don’t add up! The major stumbling block is the proposal to reduce the Chief Justice’s tenure to three years, making him retire before he becomes active, in effect the “minus one” formula. The president will hardly agree to giving away his powers to appoint the Chief Justice, the Chief Election Commissioner and the services chiefs.

We should not allow Musharraf-specific emotion and prejudice overwhelm our good judgment, Article 58 (2) (b) and the National Security Council (NSC) should be retained. Without these the Armed Forces would have to declare martial law (thus committing treason technically) when the situation spins totally out of control. Any presidential move should be qualified, if imposing 58 2(b) fails due judicial scrutiny, the president should resign. The appointment of the services chiefs should not be politicised in the manner Mian Nawaz Sharif did when he was prime minister. Even though Musharraf certainly had merit, two course-mates senior to him, Ali Quli and Khalid Nawaz, had no less. The choice of Musharraf was political for Mian Sahib’s own personal benefit, it rebounded in his face. The president should forward three choices to the prime minister for public scrutiny by a joint parliamentary committee. If their recommendations are in variance to his, the president should consult with the prime minister and the committee. The same process can be followed for the post of the chief justice, as well as for the CEC.

When denials to outlandish rumours without any foundation are not handled professionally, the perception will be “the lady doth protest too much,” as my good friend and colleague Kamran Shafi has duly noted. The ISI’s political cell undercuts (in public perception) the Army’s firm (and welcome) resolve to stay away from politics. Col Skorzeny, Germany’s “Commando Extraordinary” during World War 2 had it right when he said, “Politics is the soldier’s curse!” Deviation from the ISI’s primary mission is not only a waste of public money, time and effort, it undermines this national asset’s tremendous potential (and successes) in keeping the country secure from external dangers, demeaning the achievement of the vast majority of the agency’s magnificent rank and file who get a bad name simply by association.

With its political wing transferred lock, stock and barrel to the Intelligence Bureau (IB), the ISI must be actually (not theoretically) under the prime minister’s control. Rather than honestly facing unpalatable facts, this country excels in burying its head in the ground and circumventing the truth as they did in 1971. For the sake of the country we profess to love, stand up and be counted, instead of continuing to put our heads in the ground and closing our eyes and ears to existing realities.

We do not need an ostrich mentality!

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder

The Legacy of Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s Proxy Wars, Islamic Jihad and the Taliban

28 12 2007

The most horrific acts of terror in recent times has just been in the neighbouring pakistan. Benazir Bhutto the former PM of Pakistan has been killed in an allegged Alqaida attack. FACT prays for peace to her soul.

Another high profile victim for the fundamentalism and another round of applause for the fundamentalism from the stupidity.

The Legacy of Benazir Bhutto: Pakistan’s Proxy Wars, Islamic Jihad and the Taliban
by Dr. Subhash Kapila

Benazir Bhutto twice ousted as Prime Minister of Pakistan, prompted by fears of arrest is presently in self-imposed exile in Dubai for the last two years. Sensing that elections may be held by the Pakistan Army next year and with a political vacuum existing due to banishment of the last Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, she has been active in running around Western countries subtly projecting that she is the only viable civilian alternative to head Pakistan. With the inauguration of President Bush in Washington, she has already visited Washington in February and embarking soon on a second outing. Her campaign on Capitol Hill is aimed at impressing the American law makers and the think-tanks in Washington that she is a moderate Pakistani leader having nothing to do with Islamic fundamentalism, proxy war in Kashmir or with Taliban. Such a line carries conviction to the Americans when coupled with her personal charm and western education eloquence.

In India too, there are many advocates of Ms. Bhutto amongst retired diplomats of Nehru-Gandhi vintage, Track II participants and Generals/Admirals turned peaceniks. The Indian media glitterrati as is their wont, do not take pains to delve deep in to the political background of such leaders.

In the current security environment obtaining in South Asia in the India-Pakistan context, Indians are led to believe by opinion makers that Islamic fundamentalism, proxy war and Jehadi terrorism and the Taliban were and are the creations of Pakistan military rulers beginning with General Zia and now General Musharraf. This is only partly true.

The significant fact that has not been brought out by the Indian media and opinion makers is that Benazir played a significant role in drawing Pakistan deep into the Islamic fundamentalism morass, in escalating the Pak proxy war in Kashmir and giving active encouragement to the formation of the Taliban.

The aim of this paper is to highlight the active involvement of Ms. Benazir Bhutto in these activities as Prime Minister of Pakistan. Revelations in a recent book authored by the Director of the United States Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare eloquently highlight Ms. Bhutto’s complicity. (1)

Other published works stand referred to in order to substantiate Ms. Bhutto’s involvement in setting up the Taliban.For the record and also to enable readers to correlate contemporary events in South Asia, the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister of Pakistan were1.

1 December 1988 to August 1990.

2. October 1993 to November 1996.

Benazir Bhutto’s Islamic Fundamentalisation of PakistanBenazir Bhutto’s first advent as Prime Minister coincided roughly with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan where Pakistan was spearheading the American effort. Since strategic aims had been met, it would have been logical for the self-proclaimed Pakistani democrat Prime Minister to wind up the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahideen bases in Pakistan and their nurseries. No such thing happened.

On the contrary “Benazir Bhutto, who became the Prime Minister in 1989 had a profoundly different perception of the role and utility of Islamist terrorism. Convinced that Pakistan’s destiny lay in strategic alliances with such countries as Syria, Iran, China (PRC) and North Korea, Benazir Bhutto’s Islamabad re-examined all aspects of Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan and the world of State-sponsored terrorism became an instrument of crucial significance for Pakistani policy. Islamabad now committed to furthering Islamism in the heart of Asia . . . Islamabad recognized the growing specter of confrontation with the United States over strategic posture in the region. Still Islamabad shifted to active support for militant Islamism.”(2)

As a follow-up of Benazir Bhutto’s policy of exploiting Islamic fundamentalist terrorism as a state-sponsored tool, Pakistan was flooded with about 16000-20000 Islamist militants from over 20 countries all freely given visas for Pakistan. The Soviets had withdrawn from Afghanistan and surely they had not come for Afghanistan’s liberation. They had come for training in Pakistan and to fight for Pakistani state-sponsored Jehads from Kashmir to Central Asia.

General Zia as military ruler of Pakistan for eleven years preceding Prime Minister Bhutto could not achieve what she achieved in terms of Islamic fundamentalisation of Pakistan: ” In the quest for Islamic violence the camps of the Islamist Afghan resistance in Pakistan became to Sunni Islamist terrorism what Lebanon had been for radical leftist terrorism. Pakistan became a place of pilgrimage for aspiring Islamist radicals.” (3)

Benazir Bhutto on return to power in 1993 had not lost her zeal for Islamic fundamentalisation : “By the end of 1993, after her round of visits to Beijing, Pyongyang and Tehran, Bhutto clearly demonstrated her determination to implement these policies (Islamic terrorism as state-sponsored foreign policy tool) and realise this strategic posture as soon as possible. Markedly increasing Pakistan’s participation in the Islamist international terrorist system was an integral part of Bhutto’s new strategy.” (4)

Benazir’s active linkages with Pan-Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organisations stands adequately exposed in the book referred: “In mid-December 1993, Turabi (Sudanese Islamic fundamentalist leader) organised another “Popular Arab and Islamic Conference (PAIC) in Khartoum to discuss the next phase of the Islamist struggle . . . The PAIC conference focussed on the role of Pakistan . . . in particular Pakistan’s future active support for Islamist armed struggles and international terrorism. The official Pakistan delegation was led by two other Bhutto confidants (the other was a close Bhutto adviser from her party PPP) General Mirza Aslam Beg, the former Chief of Staff of Pakistani Armed Forces and Lt. General Hamid Gul, the former chief of ISI (Pakistani intelligence) . . . Their participation in the Khartoum conference and leading role in the formulation of Pakistan’s relations with the PAIC and the Islamist (read Islamic fundamentalist) world was proof that Bhutto’s Islamabad would continue to pursue Islamist policies.” (5)

Benazir Bhutto’s Duplicity with the United States: Forming a Trans- Asian anti-USA Alliance

Since Benazir Bhutto’s current visits to USA are related to garner US support for her installation as Prime Minister on return to civil rule, it is pertinent to highlight her duplicity with the United States and formation of a Trans-Asian and anti-US Alliance.

Washington should note that: ” The Islamist surge coincided with Benazir Bhutto’s return to power in Islamabad. Behind a facade of pro-Western and pro-democracy rhetoric she initiated a program designed to make Pakistan a central member of both the Islamic bloc and the Trans-Asian axis, an anti-US radical alliance stretching from the Mediterranean to North East Asia . . . Islamabad emerged from these alliances with distinct roles.” (6)

The roles assigned to Pakistan, can be summarised as follows:

*Pakistan would serve as centre for defence production for the Islamic bloc. This would also incorporate nuclear weapon technologies.

* Pakistan would be the financial centre for laundering Islamist drug money.

* Pakistan would acquire legally or illegally sophisticated western technology for its Islamic and other allies.

“Islamabad and its allies were convinced that Bhutto’s rise to power, especially in view of her pro-democracy rhetoric, would relax the western guard” and that “Pakistan would be able to acquire the necessary items . . . ” (7)

It seems that USA and the West were taken in by this approach.Bezazir Bhutto’s apologists may argue that all this was done under Pakistan Army’s pressure. It does not seem so as Bodansky clarifies that: “Pakistan’s growing role in the anti-US build up was one of Bhutto’s personal priorities (note ‘personal priorities’). Immediately after return to power in fall 1993, she embarked on a series of political moves that would formulate the new grand strategy for a post-Cold War and post- Gulf crisis Pakistan.” (8)

Benazir Bhutto’s Intensification of Pak Proxy War in KashmirIt needs to be noted that: “From 1972 to December 1989, Kashmir was not an issue of high crisis in Indo- Pakistan relations, though Pakistan continued to harp on it during this period.”(9)

It would be obvious from this that both in her father’s tenure as Prime Minister and that of eleven years of President Zia no major escalation took place on the Kashmir issue.

Kashmir was whipped up as an emotive and frenzied issue only by Benazir Bhutto when she came into power in 1989 and thereafter in1993. Never before had Kashmir been made such a provocative issue in Pakistani elections as done by Benazir Bhutto. She outdid what Islamic fundamentalists uttered on Kashmir. “Indo-Pak relations were to go off into a spin from the end of 1989” and that “The tenuous hopes of a new beginning (friendly Indo- Pak relations) came to a somewhat abrupt end in December 1989” (10).

This was mid-way in Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure as Prime Minister of Pakistan.The following need to be noted in relation to Benazir’s escalation of proxy war in Kashmir:* “Violence in Kashmir increased between December 1989 and February 1990. India had firm information about a quantum increase in the flow of arms and infiltration by trained terrorists.”(11)

* Benazir Bhutto visited POK for the first time as Prime Minister on 13 March 1990. She gave a historical speech at a public meeting in Muzzafarabad declaring the struggle in Kashmir to be a ‘holy jehad’.”(12)

The increased jehadi infiltration in Kashmir and acts of terrorism during Benazir’s tenures as Prime Minister was the manifestation of what has been discussed earlier, i.e., the adoption by PM Benazir Bhutto of state- sponsored Islamic fundamentalist terrorism as a foreign policy tool. Retrospectively, it can also be analysed that Benazir Bhutto was carrying a chip on her shoulder from the Simla Agreement 1972 days when she was a witness to her father Z.A. Bhutto giving in to Indian demands that Kashmir was to be a bi-lateral issue between the two countries.

The Taliban’s Creation During Premiership of Bhutto

Pakistan figures prominently in any discussions related to the Taliban in terms of creating this medieval monster in Afghanistan and the subsequent inhuman repression that the Taliban has imposed on the Afghans themselves. ISI also figures prominently in relation to provision of Pak Army cadres, military advisers and military hardware. However what does not figure is Benazir Bhutto’s role in its creation. The Taliban emerged forcefully on the Afghan scene in the period 1993-94 and captured the whole of Afghanistan, less the Northern Provinces by September 1996. It requires to be noted that all these developments took place during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure as Prime Minister, i.e., 1993- 1996. As one author puts it: “Furthermore, there was considerable evidence to suggest that the Taliban were being strongly supported by the Pakistani government led by Benazir Bhutto, ironically a woman educated at Oxford and Harvard.”(13)

Initially, more than the ISI, it was the Bhutto party machine both at Islamabad and in the provincial capitals at Peshawar(NWFP) and Quetta (Baluchistan) which were active in the reinforcement and furtherance of Taliban operations. It is indicated that: “When the Taliban captured Kandahar, the ISI was initially more sceptical than the Government about the chances of further success. While General Babar( Bhutto’s Interior Minister) and the Jamiat-e Ulema-i Islam pushed for support to the Taliban, the ISI took a back seat. Thus Babar had a free hand in “civilianising” the initial support to the Taliban.” (14)

Benazir’s newly created Taliban ensured that they had the right connections in Pakistan to enable continued support as this would suggest: “And the Taliban soon developed close relations with several businessmen close to Asaf Ali Zardari- the husband of Benazir Bhutto, who in turn were given the highly lucrative permits to export fuel to Afghanistan. As the Taliban’s war machine expanded, permits for fuel supplies from Pakistan became a major money earner for Pakistani politicians” . . . (15) The linkages and implications are self evident.

ConclusionBenazir’s pretentious pronouncements are avidly lapped up in Washington and New Delhi as emanating from a committed democrat, a Pakistani politician of moderate hues and above all a Muslim with western educated secular values, in short someone New Delhi could trust in political dealings. The above record of Benazir Bhutto however does not match up with what she would like us to believe about her.Bodansky states that: ” Pakistan’s ascent in the Islamist terrorist system is particularly important in a strategic context. Pakistan’s growing involvement resulted in both escalation of the war by proxy in Kashmir and the rise of Taliban in Afghanistan, two movements that still provide shelter and closely cooperate with Osama bin Laden.” (16)

What Bodansky has not added to complete this summation is that in terms of contextual time-spans both these developments emerged during the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Benazir’s duplicity against the United States of America of forming a Trans-Asian anti- US alliance while mouthing platitudes on democracy during Washington visits indicates a fatal flaw in her political credibility. Comparatively speaking, former PM Nawaz Sharif appears far superior to Benazir’s Bhutto. He had at least the courage to fight an election in Pakistan on the agenda of improvement of Indo-Pak relations and won on this issue with an overwhelming majority.

Regrettably, Benazir Bhutto’s record on Islamic fundamentalism of Pakistan, escalation of the proxy war in Kashmir and the creation of the Taliban leads one to the conclusion that Washington’s assessments of Pakistani politicians and Pakistan’s political scene tend to be faulty and unreliable as inputs for any Track II diplomacy. Both these conclusions are pertinent presently for those advising and espousing the continuation of India’s cease fire in Kashmir.