The war on terror & President Zardari

by Shireen M Mazari
Now that the presidential election is over, and “democracy” has been fully established according to so many analysts, commentators and, of course, ruling party supporters, one can certainly claim that nowhere but in Pakistan could one see such free elections – where questions of financial integrity, propriety and mental health never became issues at large. And, since the president is not duty-bound to declare assets, the moral factor hardly weighs in, in a system that allows horse-trading and deal-making like no other.

But, technically, to be fair to the new president, the elections were transparent and constitutional – other than the little incident of violation of Article 226 of the Constitution in the Pukhtunkhwa Assembly. But then as the ANP folk explained, this violation of the Constitution was “just for fun”! Where else but in this free wheeling state of ours would politicians proudly boast that they violated the Constitution “just for fun” and where else would the presiding officer, the chief justice of the same province, take no notice of such unconstitutional shenanigans! Clearly our politicians’ desire for unbridled freedom in the name of democracy cannot be reigned in by a few Constitutional restraints.

Meanwhile, it seems our media pundits have decided that the new democracy in Pakistan means that no one must critique the ruling party and its leaders – or else one will be labelled “undemocratic”, a supporter of the ubiquitous “Establishment”, whatever that may mean especially now that our new all-powerful president is himself going to control all aspects of the state – which would also include the “Establishment”. The “elite” is also being abused as being anti-democratic, which is interesting given that the electoral college for the president comprises primarily this very elite.

Mr Zardari too is from this so-called “elite” although he has conveniently referred to this group as emanating merely from the “region stretching between Lahore and Rawalpindi-Islamabad”. Perhaps his earlier dementia made him forget about the brutal feudal elite of Balochistan that has just buried alive five women, or the equally decadent elite of Sindh which practices Quran marriages to control property and, like the feudal elite of Southern Punjab and the tribal elite of Pukhtunkhwa, indulges in and justifies the evil of karo kari and “honour” killings! With the nauseating political and media sycophancy, Anjum Niaz is like a breath of fresh and free air and has rightly made the point of the invasion of the carpetbaggers – something I had pointed to many months earlier and which is now taking over all state structures.

Anyhow, with Chief Justice Dogar administering the oath at the presidency, the actions of November 3 have received their final legitimacy from the democratic dispensation – the PML-N’s continued whimpering notwithstanding. It is unfortunate that the lawyers and civil society movement that actually created the democratic space, was let down by its supportive but myopic political leadership that fell into the Zardari coalition trap and even now seems to be dithering somewhat.

Not only are the actions of November 3 now irrevocably legitimised politically, the growing kowtowing to the US continues unabated. The little glimmer of hope for national assertion that came with the so-called suspension of NATO supplies was misplaced as there really had been no suspension of these supplies in the assertive sense, and if there was any doubt, Malik and Mukhtar eagerly removed them by clarifying that the centre had not ordered any such suspension! The foreign minister’s emotive speech to parliament and the subsequent resolution condemning the US ground military attack on Angoor Adda seemed to be just so much hot air, given the US’s total disregard as reflected in an upping of attacks on Pakistani soil subsequently and given the Pakistani state’s lack of any substantive response to the same – despite the JCSC chairman’s statement. It seems we are now becoming adept at playing the game of duplicity with our own people – with words and deeds going in opposite directions. This has been the hallmark of the present rulers on all issues beginning with the restoration of the judiciary.

So we now have a qualitative upping of the military ante by the US with ground troops also coming into the attack on Pakistani soil. In face, after Angoor Adda, the US and ISAF/NATO have increased the frequency and intensity of attacks against Pakistan, mostly killing innocent Pakistanis, especially women and children. And, what does our minister of the interior have to say? Certainly no condemnation of the erosion of our sovereignty by the US, fast becoming a hostile state. Instead, he declares that all suicide bombers and their handlers are Pakistani as is the financing of the same. So effectively does that justify US military intervention into Pakistan? And what happened to the foreigners that had been identified in the FATA region? Are they innocent of acts of violence and terrorism?

Even more ridiculous is our defence minister, who seems to be functioning more as an apologist for the US. His latest contribution in this regard was to justify the Angoor Adda attack as justified on the grounds that something must have provoked it even while the foreign minister was telling parliament that the attack was unprovoked and targeted only innocent civilians. The dangerous new US-Pakistan nexus with its core the Haqqani-Durrani-Malik triad has to come to an end. I have always maintained that US long-term strategic goals will always be divergent from Pakistan’s even though issue-specific cooperation can take place from time to time. It is the terms and conditions of this cooperation that have always been crucial for Pakistan.

Finally, as for the argument, that what can Pakistan do to counter the US destructive agenda for this country – and we are now going to witness the IMF coming here too later in the month, and already the western media has begun an attack against our nuclear assets by talking of terror groups developing “dirty bombs” in Pakistan – there are some options presently available as long as the war in Afghanistan continues.

One, we need to have our own viable policy to deal with extremism and terrorism and that has to have a politico-economic framework within which military action can be used as needed. Dialogue has to also be an essential part of this strategy and in earlier columns I had identified the need to differentiate between differing groups of people in the affected areas.

Two, the US has to be sent a clear message that no attack on our territory is acceptable since we can carry out the actions ourselves. Our air chief is reported to have said that if asked the PAF can retaliate against intruders into our air space. That should be made the official policy. Three, as a show of intent, we need to temporarily remove ourselves from the Trilateral Commission and other cooperative exercises to show our intent and our non-acceptance of US-NATO attacks on our territory.

Four, if our own policies are to succeed, they have to have national credibility and that can only come if we create some space between ourselves and the US. As a beginning, in view of the September 9 attack on Commander Haqqani’s family home, which killed 26 people, primarily innocent women and children, since the commander himself was known to be in Afghanistan, we should recall our ambassador to the US for consultations. Whether US intelligence remains incorrect or whether the killing of the innocent was deliberate to send a lethal message to the Muslims of FATA in Ramazan, this should not be acceptable – especially, if, as we claim, we are now a stronger state because of unfettered “democracy”.


The News, 10/9/2008


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