The ISI demoted- By Ahmed Quraishi

It’s not democracy’s fault. So something has to be wrong with Pakistani politicians. Consider the magnificent blunder of removing an army chief midair and ordering the pilot to land in India. Or – even better – picking Saturday night to neutralize one of the formidable spy agencies of the world, the ISI.
The agency has three enemies: Karzai’s puppet regime, the Indians, and some elements in Washington with an acute case of ‘Pakistan-phobia’. Why a newly-elected government in Islamabad would choose to identify itself with this company is a mystery, especially when the Pakistani military is completely detached from politics. There are no threats to this elected government from any quarter.

In fact, if the spooks were to conspire against this government, they’d do their best to keep it in power for as long as possible. This current administration is worse than the half dozen governments that paralyzed Pakistan for nine years and led to our first military intervention in 1958. It’s worse than the ‘lost decade’ of 1990s. In fact, this government is a slam-dunk for the camp that wants to do away with the parliamentary system in favour of a strong elected executive.

And why not? This system is fraught with deformities. Never before was Pakistan under the influence of so many unelected officials after an election. If elections were supposed to produce a remote-controlled prime minister, what was so wrong with Mr Shaukat Aziz?

Instead of presenting the ISI’s severed head on a platter to US officials, Prime Minister Gilani should have arrived in Washington armed with the secret information that has prompted the Pakistani military leadership to order a joint intelligence probe into the range of contacts that Indian diplomats and intelligence operatives in Afghanistan have developed with sectarian and other terrorists in Hangu, Swat and the tribal belt. And while at it, the prime minister could have asked President Bush to probe the fate of ‘Prisoner 650’ at Bagram, suspected to be a Pakistani woman allegedly raped, tortured and kept in a cage by US soldiers in a men’s facility. Rights activists believe she could be Dr Afia Siddiqui who disappeared from Karachi along with her three underage kids in 2003.

The fact is that this is a government whose principals could not assume power in Islamabad without Washington’s help in arranging the infamous law that wiped clean their legal histories. People think this government would be obliged to President Musharraf since he passed that law. But going by the current intrigues, this is not the case. So who is this government siding with anyway?

Last week, this government fired Munir Akram, our UN envoy. This polished diplomat from interior Sindh has been an effective diplomatic cannon for Pakistan at the world body. While no one is indispensable, Akram is shown the door just when Pakistan is supposed to counter this week India’s moves to get preferential treatment from the IAEA. The Americans want Pakistan to lay off and not create problems for India on this count. Akram’s removal at this time is nothing less than a back-stab.

The other relevant questions are: why is this government keeping Beijing without a Pakistani ambassador for this long? President Hu Jintao of China has already approved the name of a nominated Pakistani ambassador. Why has this government ordered the said ambassador to stay put in Islamabad? Again, who in Washington is advising this government to tilt away from our most important strategic ally? Why is it that patriotic officials influencing foreign policy are anathema to this government? Both Mr Akram and Dr Shireen Mazari were effectively defying some of our overbearing western allies, especially the Americans. Both were tersely removed from office.

None of this, however, justifies changing the government. It justifies changing the system. Or a decade from now, we’ll end up with another political quirk. We had a plane hijack ten years ago and a Saturday night ISI demotion this time.

The writer works for Geo TV.

Email: aq@ahmedquraishi.com

Source: The News, 29/7/2008

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