Monthly Archives: January 2011

Ascertaining Raymond Davis’s identity

By Rana Sajjad Ahmad  

The murder of two Pakistanis by the American man identified as Raymond Davis has riled many Pakistanis. Besides fanning the anti-American sentiment, it has also perplexed Pakistanis because of the rather mysterious manner in which the whole incident played out. From a legal standpoint, solving the mystery of the American’s identity is the most critical part of the ongoing investigation, since it would determine whether or not he has diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution in Pakistan.

There are some indications that Raymond Davis is not a diplomat. However, irrespective of his identity or legal status, the relevant question is whether Raymond Davis should be allowed to get away with murder? This question ties in with the larger issue of how the principle of diplomatic immunity could be abused under certain circumstances.

By way of background, the foundation for this principle was laid down in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, which is considered the most important international agreement on diplomatic immunity. The relevant part of Article 31 of this Convention sets out the immunity of a diplomatic agent from the criminal jurisdiction of the country in which the diplomatic agent is working. A diplomatic agent has been defined in Article 1 of the convention as the head of the mission or a member of the diplomatic staff of the mission which includes administrative, technical and service staff of the mission. Therefore, strictly in accordance with the Vienna Convention, if Raymond Davis’s identity as a diplomatic agent is established, he should be let off the hook.

While this law may seem discriminatory and abhorrent, especially in this particular case, at the state level, it is quite fair and uniform in its application to diplomats. In fact, in the area of diplomatic relations, it has its roots in the principles of goodwill and reciprocity. The US itself is no exception in generously granting diplomatic immunity even in some cases involving serious offences. In one case, the son of a military attaché from Ghana who was suspected of committing 15 rapes was allowed to leave the US without being prosecuted on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

So why is the principle of diplomatic immunity so widely recognised and enforced? One of the rationales for granting diplomats this privilege is their lack of understanding of the local customs. If this is the case, what is the basis for granting immunity from criminal prosecution? It should be easy to understand that regardless of what state the diplomat is working in, rape and murder are not part of its local customs.

Under the Vienna Convention, the only way a diplomat could be prosecuted for a crime is if his own state expressly waives the immunity. Yet, it could be charactericed as an irrelevant provision that would hardly be enforced regardless of how heinous the offence is. In the case of Raymond Davis, the US government has already raised the issue of diplomatic immunity. Assuming Raymond Davis is a diplomat, the demand is legal. Moreover, I cannot think of many states that would waive this immunity to enable prosecution of its diplomats in a foreign country.

Clearly, the principle of sweeping diplomatic immunity needs to be revisited. Like any law, the benefits of the law should be balanced against the costs. Under prevailing principles of international law, the benefits of sweeping diplomatic immunity seem to outweigh the costs, including the costs of not prosecuting diplomats and their family members for rape and murder.

(The writer is a partner at Rana Ijaz & Partners, a Lahore-based law firm, and a graduate of Columbia University School of Law).

NOTE:This is a cross post.


Another great soldier fades away

By: Col. Shahbaz(R)

Gen MacArthur while addressing the joint session of the houses of the USA, made a historical remark that , “Old Soldiers never die they just fade away.”
Major General N.K Baber, breathed his last in early hours of January 10 in Peshawar. He was a great leader of men, who infused confidence in his subordinates through his personal conduct. I first met him in 1970 as a captain, while Gen Baber was posted at Army Aviation Base Dhamial serving in the cpacity of Lt-Col. Once due to bad weather, he himself flew to air lift a seriously injured soldier and shifted him to the hospital. Gen Baber went to East Pakistan during the 1970 cyclones/elections, to organize the aviation effort. His mere presence there brought a very good name for the Army Aviation flying dangerous missions. During 1971 war Gen Baber was posted as commander artillery 23 Division in Chamb sector. Just a few days before the war, Army Aviation Flight was attached with HQ 23 division, and was placed directly under command of Brig Baber. This gave us an opportunity to observe him more closely. He went out of the way to expose himself to danger. 
He would always ask me to accompany him whenever he was going to Jhelum from the operational area. On our way from Padhar, he would give lift to any walking soldier/civilian, whom we met en route. Once an old lady insisted that she would also carry the firewood in the car. Gen Baber asked the old lady’s fire wood to be carried in the following jeep and her clothing in the trunk of the staff car. All this delayed us by half an hour but Gen Baber sat quietly in the car all this time. This is how Gen Baber was, a caring senior officer and a great individual. Few months later Gen Baber was posted as IGFC, NWFP. This was a critical time, he was asked to reoccupy the western border in view of Daud’s takeover in Afghanistan. He very ably, personally led the operation to reoccupy Razmak and other frontier posts with scouts. He was soon promoted as Major General and posted to newly raised infantry division. 
PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto seeing his potential wanted him back in NWFP told him to resign in order to be appointed as Governor to contain the aggressive designs of the new government in Afghanistan. He stayed as Governor from 1975 to July 1977. While as Governor NWFP, he got an ASI of police in Kohat, who committed a murder on Eid day arrested, tried and punished within three months of the murder. While he resigned and joined the Peoples Party, having refused to stay on as Governor on the desire of Zia-ul Haq, his old buddy Gen Fazal Haq now DMLA Peshawar let loose a reign of terror on him. He put him on trial for treason in a military court. But to the good luck of Gen Baber, the President of the Summary Military Court, a Lt Col was an old aviator, who did justice and released him. 

(The writer is a political commentator and based in Lahore.This was published in The Nation).

At the brink or business as usual?

Harlan Ullman  

There is a volatile combination of the enhancement of the nuclear weapons programme, so-called extra-judicial murders and arrests without due process and, of course, the seeming radicalisation of Pakistan and the threat that poses to democracy and to its people

The murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer has unleashed a torrent of international commentary on the larger consequences of his death regarding the radicalisation and secularisation of Pakistan. Prestigious news media from The Economist to The Washington Post have portrayed Pakistan as being at a precipice and point of no return in which the very soul of the nation is at stake. The broader fear is whether Pakistan might or could become a second Iran with an Islamist-led revolution bringing Muslim fundamentalists into power. And reinforcing that fear are Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Pakistan has dramatically increased its number of nuclear weapons to the point where American Bruce Riedel, who advises the White House and US president, said last week in Washington that the country was on its way to becoming the fourth largest nuclear weapons power in the world. Many in Washington and the west, anxious to provide aid and support to Pakistan, are alienated by these reports wondering why, with Pakistan suffering from grave economic and flood-related hardships, precious rupees are being wasted on these weapons. Finally, the whole issue of the blasphemy laws is very difficult for westerners to understand and assimilate.

With the internet and media passing these stories and sounding alarms, it is imperative to take stock of Pakistan and where it may be headed politically, economically, ideologically and culturally. This is particularly true since most westerners, including those in government, are unaware, unfamiliar or just ignorant of Pakistani society and life. The first indicator of this gap in understanding was the prediction, from the outset, of the then newly elected PPP government falling.

What has perhaps changed the thinking of President Barack Obama towards Pakistan is that the democratically elected PPP government has remained in office for so long. While the current political shenanigans over increasing revenues to meet IMF requirements for further loans and the withdrawal of the MQM from the coalition quickened heartbeats in Washington, the real issue will be how the government comes to grips with strengthening the economy, dealing with the consequences of the floods (that are still very painful) and providing a compelling vision for Pakistanis of a democratic nation that can raise the living standards and future for all of its people. 

With additional support from the US, the PPP can endure provided it takes some of the steps noted above and, more importantly, so will Pakistan’s still fragile democracy be sustained. That said, the religious and ideological debate over the role of Islam, and indeed Pakistan’s blasphemy laws with constitutional standing, will remain front and centre in the minds of those in the West who comment on and have responsibility in the government for dealing with Pakistan. There is a volatile combination of the enhancement of the nuclear weapons programme, so-called extra-judicial murders and arrests without due process and, of course, the seeming radicalisation of Pakistan and the threat that poses to democracy and to its people.

Unfortunately, there is little to be done about the first. Fortunately, the Pakistan government has excellent control and security regarding nuclear weapons. That its security is good has been accepted by Washington. But more evidence and reassurance is needed.

Regarding extra-judicial activities, with a judicial branch that is often tolerant of criminals acting in accordance with Islamic law — and Governor Taseer’s confessed assassin, Mumtaz Qadri, can fall into this category — how to deal with known terrorists and other state enemies is not a simple matter. That flies in the face of western values regarding human rights, even though the US does have drone and rendition programmes that could equally be questioned by the international community.

But radicalisation looms largest now. That Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and former President Pervez Musharraf have both independently stated that there should or will be no change to Pakistan’s constitution and blasphemy laws underscores the potential explosive power of this issue. And the fact that some 70 or 80 million Pakistanis who are 18 and under with few good future prospects could form part of this incendiary mix reinforces the magnitude of the potential consequences.

The good news is that Pakistan seems to muddle through. This furore is likely to die down as a function of Pakistan and its culture. However, there is one way that a silver lining might be found. Pakistani clerics have not been as fully throated in condemning the activities of terrorists in general and Pakistani extremists, and the Taliban in particular. It is up to the clerics to unmask and condemn how these villains are exploiting and defaming the Holy Quran in using it to justify terror and murder.

If the sectarian can be mobilised to help the secular, then there is more than just hope to muddling through and saving democracy. That is one area where all political parties should agree.

(The writer is Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business, and Senior Advisor at Washington DC’s Atlantic Council).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

A Search for Stability and Peace in Pakistan

    By: Dr Nasim Hasan 

     Currently a great fermentation of ideas is going on in Pakistan.  There are at least twelve daily television talk shows discussing every issue of national importance as compared to few weekly talk shows in the USA.  The issues are also discussed and debated on Internet forums, Urdu and English newspapers.

          Invariably the politicians from various parties end up fighting and blaming the past dictatorships and era of other parties.   However listening closely it seems that these people agree   on substantive issues while interrupting other people on minor ones.  Many times all guests are trying to get their word across while the anchor person is interjecting more questions.
          I believe the representatives of civil society, religious leaders, intellectuals and media should focus on few fundamental challenges that impact the lives of ordinary people.  Let all of them pull together and make efforts in a positive direction.  This joint effort will certainly result in improvement.  As times passes by the situation will improve.  If all well intentioned people keep on opposing one another on esoteric problems then every day new problems will emerge and efforts in multiple directions will not result any meaningful development.  I also believe there is a need to find and articulate the rational middle ground, educate the public and provide possible solutions.  In the following write- up I have focused on three major matters concerning Pakistan. 
          Control of Corruption
          This is major obstacle in the path of progress in Pakistan that is common in all third world countries.  The politicians from all parties agree on various TV channels that there is a huge corruption problem.  However in every debate the opposition party blames the party in power while the ruling party points towards the mess created by the past dictatorships.  There is an unending list of corruption in bureaucracy, expensive rental power units, sugar shortages and Hajj in 2010.
          After a few weeks new scandals comes up and the debate continues.  The corruption cannot be eliminated in few months or even years.  This will require and independent judiciary and an honest tax collection system.  Nothing can be accomplished without equitable tax and revenue collection system.  Once the state establishes a system where every citizen above a poverty line pays an income tax the conditions will start to improve.   Value added or sale tax places an undue burden on the poor masses.
          I strongly believe that no state can function properly without good revenue collection system.  The state cannot depend upon the generosity of rich countries.  All countries have their own national interests and cannot continue to provide grants, loans or assistance without any return on their investment.
          So it is the responsibility of mass media to start a campaign of education for all people about the need of a strong institution to collect revenue/taxes from all people and sources including customs and excise.
          Rule of Law
          No country can make progress without protection of life, property and personal honor under the rule of law.  The rule of law cannot be established if the country does not have resources to fund well trained police force and judicial system. So it is linked with eradication of corruption particularly in revenue collection system. Since the corruption is prevalent at all levels in Pakistani society it should be given a top priority. 
          In fact all taxpaying people should be given incentives or some extra privileges.    The people who pay high taxes should be given some legal powers such as honorary magistrate or other form of incentives that are recognized in Pakistan. Tax payers should be recognized in private and public forums.
          All corruption, environmental, terrorism, industrial and criminal problems should be properly addressed.  The priorities should be set in place for spending hard earned revenue.  The priorities may differ from state to state and even cities depending upon the urgent need of public.  The investors whether local or foreign will not invest their resources in any country where there is no rule of law.
          The basic criteria in law enforcement agencies should be the competence and honesty. The religious, ethnic, provincial and tribal ties are still very strong.  So the religious parties in particular should accept an honest and competent people regardless of his or her religious or political affiliation.
          Systems of Governance
           The western ideas of free market capitalism, free press and democracy are supposedly the essential ingredients of progress in modern World.  However no system works under bad governance. Democracy cannot function without institutional foundations and rule of law.
          The rise of China under a communist party for past thirty years contradicts this viewpoint.  During the same period, the US and Europe have developed huge budget deficits and national debts.  Many countries in Europe like Ireland and Greece are undergoing great upheaval and uncertain economic conditions.
          Again looking back in Pakistan, the era of Ayub Khan saw substantial economic and industrial progress although he is always condemned by writers and intellectuals as root cause of Pakistan decline.  The difference between rule of Ayub Khan and current democracy is the functioning institutions and systems of governance. 
          Pakistan has to develop systems relevant to the culture, traditions and religion.  These systems can be National Accountability, Independent Election Commission, and Planning for critical issues such as Flood Control and Water Resources.  All parties should agree on certain systems and provide periodic updating.
          The current government and its leadership were elected and run a coalition government at the center and the states.  Common people get disillusioned with corrupt feudal democracy where incompetent cronies are installed in various public sector companies and get away with everything.  Strong institutions to check the politicians and the state are required.  Otherwise even Kingdoms are better for common people than corrupt democracy where the politicians in power loot the country and stash the wealth away in foreign countries.
          Every nation has to develop its own model for progress and prosperity.  This model has to emerge from grass roots and must include the cultural, environmental and geographical considerations.  It is about time that Pakistani intelligentsia discusses this issue and communicates that model to the general public.  Pakistan can look at India, Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, China and South Korea for guidance.
          Currently I do not see any consensus among the major players.  Politicians in power defy judiciary.  The opposition parties like to share power but criticize the government policies at the same time.  Religious parties hark back to the era of khulfa-i- Rashdeen.
          News media focuses on problems that keep on changing on a daily basis.  However most of the issues emerge from corruption, incompetence and lack of strong institutions.  Liberal, conservative, religious, ethnic and regional divide dominates the talk shows.  It is about time people of all persuasions join hands together and select only few issues of national importance.  The issues can be national accountability, control of corruption, electricity generation, building dams for water and flood control, elimination of terrorism, equitable tax collection or any others.
          The system cannot be changed if all major players are pulling in ten directions chasing hundreds of problems.  Religious leaders can highlight the current problems and play a great role in the reformation of society. This is perfectly Islamic to call for honest governance. I am very optimistic about the young generation and their idealism.  The Supreme Court, independent news media and emerging civil society are showing a ray of light at the end of the tunnel.  I have high hopes for a peaceful and stable Pakistan.  

    (The writer is a political commentator based in Delaware, USA).

    NOTE:This is a cross post.

Behind the walls of the Laal Masjid

Naeem Tahir

The massive campaign in 2007-8 against former President Pervez Musharraf landed everyone else’s ‘evil’ doings at his door. The good that he did to the country was mutilated, forgotten, and set aside. The supporters of a Taliban mindset in media and politics spear headed the campaign and all those who could take advantage in power sharing jumped on to the band wagon against Musharraf.

This ‘campaign’ of misinformation did one of the greatest historic injustices. It was a classical repeat of Antony’s statement in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar Quote “….the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones, so let it be with Caesar….” Then Antony goes on to expose the ‘honorable men’ namely Brutus, Cassius and others who conspired, and then reminds the Romans of the great contribution made by Julius Caesar to the Roman Empire. It is also important in this case that the historical facts are placed in the correct perspective and the name of a sincere and devoted leader is understood appropriately because this is in the interest of the nation.

In the case of Laal Masjid operation many people conveniently forget the circumstances and the ground realities in Islamabad leading to the necessity of action. Gross exaggerations about the numbers killed and of ‘brutality’ keep circulating. These are farthest from truth and are in fact intended to motivate the Taliban supporters to continue their terror activities as ‘revenge’.

It is said that 4000 men and women were killed, it is also said that the negotiations were sabotaged. An impression is given that all the inhabitants of the Lal Masjid were totally innocent and were killed in cold blood.

On the other hand it is stated that only 94 militants were killed and these were those who had decided to fight till the end with lethal weapons in their possession and refused to vacate ,and in fact drew the first blood by attacking army personnel. Every effort at a negotiated settlement was rebuffed by the occupants who held innocent students, women and children, as hostages, and as a ‘human shield’. The total number was estimated between 2000 to 2500.

To have a clear perception it is important that we look at the history of the Laal Masjid occupation and its links with the terrorist as well as the conditions preceding the operation and then also look at the operation, the damages and the aftermath.

The Laal Masjid was built in 1965. Maulana Muhammad Abdullah was appointed its first imam. Abdullah was critical of all governments except Zia’s with whom he was very close. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan (1979–1989), the Red Mosque played a major role in recruiting and training mujahedeen to fight along with the Afghan mujahedeen. Throughout its existence, it had enjoyed patronage from influential members of the government, prime ministers, army chiefs, and presidents. Several thousand male and female students lived in adjacent seminaries.[1]

After Abdullah was assassinated in 1998, his sons Abdul Aziz Ghazi and Abdul Rashid Ghazi took over the mosque, making it a centre for hard-line teaching and open opposition to the government. Abdul Aziz remained the official khatib of the masjid until he was removed in 2005 for issuing a controversial fatwa stating no Pakistani Army officer could be given an Islamic burial if died fighting the Taliban.

The plot on which Lal Masjid was built was allotted by CDA. With the passage of time, the mosque administration encroached upon the surrounding area and a big complex like a fort was constructed. CDA remained unable to get the encroached land vacated till end 2006. In early 2007, CDA strongly persuaded and issued a vacation notice. Aziz and Rasheed, initiated move by taking possession of the Children Library, located on the adjacent plot, by using the female student force. These students were motivated in the name of religion and thus the visible conflict started.

The students (both male and female) took to the streets to persuade video shops not to sell “vulgar” movies. Thus the students took matters into their own hands, much as the Taliban did as they emerged as a power in the 1990s in Afghanistan and in the Waziristan tribal areas. They also arrested a woman on the suspicion of running a brothel. The police tried to broker the release of the suspected brothel owner and, when they failed, they arrested two female teachers from the seminary. In a matter of minutes, students and followers of the Taliban blocked all important arteries in Aabpara, and also took two police officers with their official vehicle as hostage.

Obviously the Laal Masjid Taliban were challenging the government machinery and asserting their will. Abdul Rasheed and his brother Abdul Aziz commanded widespread support and were vocal in their backing of the Taliban.

Following the kidnapping of the alleged ‘brothel’ by the women students of Jamia Hafsa – who still held a children’s library hostage – the leaders declared the establishment of a ‘Shariat Court’ of their own and, according to Dawn, “vowed to enforce Islamic laws in the federal capital and threatened to unleash a wave of suicide bombers if the government took any action to counter it.” The report in Dawn goes on to say:
“Our youth will commit suicide attacks, if the government impedes the enforcement of the Sharia and attacks Lal Masjid and its sister seminaries,” Maulana Abdul Aziz, the head of the mosque said in his Friday sermon. The fresh suicide bombing threat intensified fear among Islamabad residents.

It was also said that the suicide bomber who had attacked Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel in January 2007, had been seen near the mosque the same day. Religious activists, some of whom were wearing masks, also staged a demonstration before the Friday prayers. Burqa-clad girl students of Madressah Hafsa kept a vigil atop the seminary’s roof. The activists were chanting “Al Jihad, Al Jihad”. Armed with sticks, a group of religious activists set on fire thousands of video and audio cassettes and computer compact discs. Women drivers on Margalla road were being told by the Taliban/students to stop driving or be prepared to suffer by a throw of acid on their face.

This is how the situation in Islamabad was developing. Many people now seem to have lapses of memory and have forgotten the reality. There was an atmosphere of fear. In fact it was a parallel of what was developing in Swat. Laal masjid inhabitants were in fact the first experiment of the terrorists in controlling by fear in the name of Shariat. It was the forerunner of the strategy to be later used in Swat and Waziristan.

It is very likely that the latest strategy of controlling by ‘War Within’ was being experimented in other areas as well but keenly watched by the terrorist planners for the outcome of Islamabad. If the Laal Masjid experiment in Islamabad would succeed then the terrorists would have controlled Swat, part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Waziristan. They would have brought under control a large area including Islamabad. Pakistan’s existence could have been fatally endangered.

The situation had indeed developed because of covert support of sections of beaurocracy, some elements in the agencies, and some politicians. It is well known that some supplies of rockets and weapons when caught were released due to the efforts of Zia ul Haq’s son Ijaz ul Haq, who offered a personal guarantee. There were indeed supporting funds of foreigners and those who take political advantage by the support of Taliban elements.

During this period Islamabad was being attacked by terrorists and elsewhere-foreign engineers and technicians helping Pakistan were abducted and killed. Pakistan’s tested friend China was being targeted to isolate Pakistan.

The situation was turning so serious that general public wondered why the government was not taking any decisive action. Then happened the Lal Masjid terrorist’s raid on a Chinese beauty parlor. The raiders man- handled the Chinese men and women and abducted them.

The situation had grown to international proportions. Civil society and Media were pressing for some action. The Chinese President directly approached the President of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharaf and requested for the safety of the Chinese people.

Now action had to be taken. The Laal Masjid occupants had taken an open war attitude.
It is important that all these factors are recalled and the backdrop of the Lal Masjid action is understood.
On this background, Government machinery moved with determination, however every effort was to be made to reach a peaceful settlement, and if army action was to be inevitable then minimum damage to life and property was to be ensured.

As the first step, the Laal Masjid was cordoned off and the movement of the occupants was restricted.
Appeals were made to the occupants to vacate the mosque. All possible steps were taken. Politicians including Chaudhry Shujaat, and Ejazul Haq tried. Imam e Kaba arrived to make the Masjid occupants to desist from militancy but was shunned. Eidhis came and made appeals to no effect. The Wafaqul Madaras tried their best, Council for Islamic Ideology tried to make them understand, but all failed. The Laal Masjid occupants and Mr. Abdul Rasheed stuck to their agenda.

Before army action an opportunity was provided to those who did not ascribe to militancy to leave the mosque. Many left.

On July 3, 2007, the stand-off between the students barricaded inside the mosque and the government resulted in bloody gun battle. The violent students attacked. In the encounter over twenty people, including students of the mosque, and paramilitary personnel were killed and over one hundred others were injured.
To avoid collateral loss, on July 4, 2007, the government offered amnesty to juvenile students if they surrendered and over 1000 of the students who supported the cleric accepted, and were allowed to leave. Abdul Aziz Ghazi tried to escape in a ‘burqa’ to avoid notice of his colleagues, and he was arrested after being detected by a senior army official.

Government and Security officials had repeatedly asked Maulana Abdul Rashid to surrender but he refused. He proposed that if government would give him and his militant students a safe passage without surrendering arms, and  to allow him to live  in his home village, he would hand over Lal Masjid , Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Faridia to Wafaqul Madaris (a federation of Madaris). This proposal was made to Ulmai Karam and Government of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Chaudhdry Shujaat.

This proposal was a trick and fraught with very dangerous consequences. A considerable number of trained militants would have gone scot free and brought havoc to the city of Islamabad. It was a trick to get out of the ‘hole’ and spread around for extreme terror. This proposal could not be acceptable for security considerations. The safe passage was intended to be ‘unchecked’. If accepted this would tantamount to allowing a large number of armed militants go free and carry out their activities and join other terrorists.

In retaliation the Laal Masjid terrorists attacked the Army personnel around the mosque. They went further to burn the building of the interior ministry adjacent to the Mosque. A senior army officer was killed and huge damage to property occurred.

Now a final army action had become unavoidable. Ch. Shujaat wanted to make one more effort before the army operation. He did make a final attempt but failed. The scheduled action at very early morning was delayed by an hour due to Ch. Shujaat’s presence, and some morning light revealed the commandos taking positions, they were fired at and killed, others successfully took positions. Col, Haroon Islam, made a bid to free those who were locked up in a room as hostages and wanted to get out. He risked his life and went to blow a hole in the wall of their cell. The wall breached and all hostages escaped but Col.Haroon Islam lost his life in cross fire.

By this time a total of 97 militants were left in the Mosque. They fought and 94 got killed, three escaped. There were 94 dead bodies including four killed by the militants and found locked in a basement. These have been buried in a graveyard in Islamabad. There were no women among the dead. Five or six male foreigners were there.These are all the verifiable facts.

The huge number of the killed are rumors and have no substance. If any more than 94 were dead then why didn’t any relative or friend register an FIR? Why hasn’t any one even supported the ‘dead’ by any kind of complaint? Why have the families of the hypothetic ‘dead’ not even taken out a protest march? Why hasn’t even a ‘ghaibana’ nimaz e janaza held. This is because the fact is that number of dead was only those whose graves exist.

The operation was conducted entirely by the Government headed by the Prime minister and the Army. The instructions of the President Musharraf specifically were to save as many lives as possible and reduce collateral damage. If his instruction were not carried out the loss of life and property would have been huge. It is absolutely wrong that any phosphorus bombs were used. These are not in the army arsenal. The smoke grenades used do not have any phosphorus. Army acted with utmost restraint, and saved Islamabad from becoming occupied like Swat. The ramifications of Islamabad, the nation’s capital being controlled by terrorists are beyond imagination.

Later on it became abundantly clear that the Laal Masjid was the advance camp of the terror net work supported by enemies of the state and would have been the shortest cut to lose the nation’s sovereignty if allowed to succeed. After being pushed away from the Capitol the terrorists from the mosque joined their companions in Swat and Waziristan and proceeded with the rest of the nefarious plan.

Any Pakistani who confuses the issue of the Laal Masjid and nurses sympathy with Laal Masjid terror group is doing so in naivety without comprehending the facts. It is hoped that this ‘fact sheet’ will help understand the real facts and the importance and inevitability of the action in the interest of the freedom of the nation. It may also be remembered that judicial enquiry has already been held. 

(The author is a free lance writer).

If the Americans remain

By: Zafar Hilaly    –

The US forgets that the weak have one weapon: the errors of those who think they are strong. It misjudged its own strength in Afghanistan, just as it did that of the Taliban. And, having bitten off far more than it can chew, it is stuck for an explanation for its lack of success. That’s essentially the problem that all US emissaries face, including the straight-talking Joseph Biden.

In many respects, Biden resembles his Pakistani counterparts. Like, for instance, his body language, which often belies the words of his carefully-crafted speeches; actually, his discomfiture with written speeches as a whole. But chiefly that, like them, he suffers from dentopedology, which is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it. That said, on this particular visit it was mercifully not evident. In fact, his candour was refreshing and welcome.

A major hurdle in coming to grips with America’s Afghan policy is that the US mission statement is forever evolving, depending on what is needed to keep pace with the mood swings of the American electorate or the changing balance of opinion among its distraught decision-makers. It evolves and devolves, from nation-building; to ushering in democracy; to defeating Al-Qaeda; to worsting the Taliban (but only the “bad” Taliban); to stopping their “momentum,” to “reversing the trend” – and, sometimes, all of the above. It switches from US combat troops leaving in 2011, to not doing so till 2014, and not even then, according to Biden, if Karzai “were to ask for them to stay.” (This latest Biden utterance, which was discounted in Washington, brought his foot dangerously close to his mouth.)

US policies are equally evanescent towards Pakistan. From conducting Special Forces operations within Pakistan, to having boots on the ground, to “not having a single boot tread on Pakistani soil”; to breaking up Pakistan, to not breaking up Pakistan; to being happy with Pakistan, to warning Pakistan that “US patience is wearing thin.” Only in one respect has American policy been consistent, and that is demanding of Pakistan to “do more,” and more, and more – although one suspects that this too might change from “do more” to “do it all.”

Headlines, following Biden’s visit, varied from “US patience on North Waziristan wearing thin” to the subject not really being discussed, as the US was “already familiar with Pakistan’s stance on the matter.” Needless to say, the matter must have been discussed, with Biden making not merely a routine but a passionate reference to the delayed operation in North Waziristan. He would have been gravely remiss had he not done so, because, according to Petraeus, the success of the ongoing and spluttering “surge” depends on it.

At his press conference and in his meetings, Biden also addressed some of the points raised in the paper Gen Kayani handed over to Obama. He had some reassuring words about the US-Pakistani partnership, all of which are welcome. There was the inevitable reference to the need to fight and not nourish terrorists – an impression that has sadly gained wide currency following Taseer’s murder – lest Pakistan be consumed by them.

What neither side addressed, however – because neither wants to for its own selfish reasons – is the increasing hold that extremism is acquiring in Pakistan. This is due mostly, but not exclusively, to deteriorating economic conditions at home but also the war in Afghanistan. And this is because some would prefer the American presence in Afghanistan to be endless, because if it were not for the war the attention, the economic largesse and the military assistance being lavished on Pakistan by America would be missing.

As one American commentator said: “Were it not for Afghanistan and the nukes Pakistan could become a Congo, for all we care.” Unfortunately, that is what Pakistan will resemble if the Americans remain in Afghanistan, and the war continues to consume as much of our attention and resources to the exclusion of other spheres of life. The fact is that the Americans are as much a part of the problem as the Taliban, with the important difference being that whereas the Taliban have nowhere else to go, the Americans do. And they should go – as soon as possible.

Were they to do so, no “dominoes” would fall, just as they did not after their defeat in Vietnam, despite American forebodings to the contrary; nor would the likes of the Taliban stand a chance of getting within hailing distance of our nukes, the Pakistani army is far too strong for that. In fact, much of the poison would be drained from the current wound that is festering on account of the war; and in the absence of drone attacks or, better still, with the drones in Pakistani hands, the TTP would face a stronger, local, Muslim and no less an implacable foe in Pakistan. The score or so Al-Qaeda leaders remaining in the hills could be handled a lot more easily by US Special Forces operating from bases in the neighbouring Central Asian republics or from carriers at sea. And of course by Pakistan itself, if it came to that.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, power, like water, would find its own level. The Taliban would be hard-pressed to impose their will and Pakistan would be demented if it were to interfere in Afghanistan, having got its fingers burnt as badly as it did earlier when our Napoleons and Bismarcks considered it a launching pad for a similar venture in Central Asia. Of course, provided that other regional powers and India, in particular, did not get up to mischief.

Although the cunning Afghans would likely pit India and Pakistan against each other, in the hope of benefiting from the rivalry, if it ever came to a choice between India and Pakistan only a man as short-sighted as Karzai would prefer to throw in his lot with India, considering the difficulties that Pakistan could create for him; and knowing that, if he did, without the Americans around to save his bacon, it would amount to a death wish.

A similar scenario, with a few variations, such as the retention of two bases in Bagram and Kandhahar by the US, was what Biden had suggested to Obama in September 2009, before it was shot down by the Pentagon-wallas and Biden was made to look like a loose canon. Nevertheless, it is to what the US will probably revert to after the surge fails and the American electorate, already tired of the Afghan war demands an early end to combat operations.

Needless to say, by that time thousands more Americans, Afghans and Pakistanis would have been killed to no avail. Viewed thus, Biden is a far more astute and farsighted a visitor to host than American generals, whose last decisive victory occurred in World War II, not counting the “mother of all battles” that really never occurred in Iraq.

(The writer is a former ambassador).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

The Frailty of the Afghan War

By: Khalil Nouri

As C.S. Lewis says, “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

The Obama administration has found “fragile” but “reversible” progress in its one year assessment of the surge of an addition 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

In a recent VOA report, NATO has also echoed that coalition forces have made significant progress, but confidential U.N. maps released suggest security has deteriorated in parts of the country in 2010. In addition, a recent National Intelligence Estimate by 16 intelligence agencies also found no progress.

In either case, while the Taliban militancy may be diminished, the looming instability — that threatens the coalition’s sustainable and durable gains enabling responsible drawdown of troops and resources through 2014 — is conditioned on the factors that neither the Obama administration nor the NATO alliance has given assessments. In hindsight, these factors are the root causes for the fragility and reversibility of the progress. Some factors have been cited repetitively overtime, but NATO’S helpless struggle against Afghanistan’s youth bulge is the most burdensome and an inescapable one.

As I recall, in 1979 Afghanistan had a population of 15 million people, but now it has risen to about 34 million. This dynamic of a rapidly growing population has much to do with Afghan cultural norms that foster the idea that indeed it is robustly leveraging the war effort against the coalition. In 1979 there were around 3.5 million Afghan boys younger than 15 when the Soviet Union attacked who were merely getting ready for the fight against foreign occupiers. In 2009 and 2010, the situation had changed. There were 4.2 to 4.4 million — mostly unemployed — Afghan males aged 15 to 29 out of a total population of 34 million. Now there are 6.7 million Afghan boys fewer than 15 who are getting ready for battle. This is because Afghanistan’s women have been averaging three or four sons each. Which means the Afghan demographics is miraculously destined to prevail in a conflict against foreigners with an enhancement of youth population over a set span of time.

Mathematically thinking, 3 percent of 6.7 million is more than the 131,000 NATO troops currently deployed in Afghanistan. Given that factor, and per counterinsurgency doctrine, the numbers indicate that Afghanistan needs as many as 600,000 soldiers and police to maintain the current strategy of counterinsurgency. Hence, the odds for reversal of the stated progress are alarming.

Moreover, there is no doubt that the militants are in their seasonal hibernal phase, making their annual return to Pakistan where they will rest until the fighting season begins again in the following spring. Though a few resistance forces are likely to keep up a hum of violence, it will be nothing like the fighting to regain their thrust at the start of spring.

Of course another factor for the frailty of the war is rampant corruption; in fact, 80 percent of Afghans believe that corruption impacts their lives daily. This is consistent with the view that corruption is preventing the Afghan government from connecting with the people; and remains one of the key root factors supporting the insurgency. Also in consort with corruption, evidence suggests that the inherent weakness of central government institutions in Afghanistan is adding fuel to the insurgent cause.

Similarly, the U.S. Military Review underscores the idea that Pakistan is central to counterinsurgency strategy — although NWSC counters this notion — and that progress with Pakistan to eliminate extremist safe havens is vital. And, the Obama administration is contemplating laying the foundation for a strategic partnership with Pakistan. Conversely, always-problematic Pakistan’s continuing to drag its feet on suppressing insurgents in its tribal areas does reflect an awkward arrangement. In fact, the tenacity of the Taliban and their ties to Afghanistan’s many Pashtun (and the reality that the Taliban will continue to enjoy a sanctuary in neighboring Pakistan) has immensely heightened their capabilities and operational reach; and has qualitatively expanded their insurgency geographically, adding plentiful funding sources which consequentially is converse to what the U.S. seeks to achieve.

One should not underestimate the conditions given, that in 2001 a victorious West claimed the Taliban was toppled, but on mission they had not been defeated; they simply retreated in the face of superior forces. In fact, employing classic guerilla tactics they simply melted away into other areas, spreading the rebellion into new parts of the country.

Additionally, because Afghanistan also remains hindered in poverty, and with the legitimacy of its graft-ridden, Western-backed government further undermined after two questionable and bizarre elections; both are conditions that created a perfect breeding ground for anti-government insurgency in 2010. Moreover, there is finally an understanding that, any insurgents who enjoy the support of the population can always bounce back.

Today many Afghans perceive ISAF as an occupying force and no longer part of the solution; they have become part of the problem. Also, the average Afghan population has difficulties absorbing the vague and shifting references akin to, “NATO alliance doesn’t have an exit strategy, but has a transition strategy,” or, “U.S. commitment to Afghanistan is continuing, enduring and long-lasting,” or, “any troop reduction then would be responsible and conditions-based,” and, “This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity.” Afghans can plainly see all these statements as signs of ill-progress.

Therefore as initially stated, the U.S. is on the wrong road, and it should do an about-turn and walk back to the right road; in that case, she/he who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

(Khalil Nouri coauthor of Afghanistan National Reconciliation is the cofounder of New World Strategies Coalition Inc, a native think tank for a nonmilitary solution studies for Afghanistan, and a member of Afghanistan Study Group

NOTE:This is a cross post.

The Tottering Government

By Saeed Qureshi    

Just imagine the abject manner; the incumbent government of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has bent over heavily backward to woo back the perennially rebellious political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. The PPP government wants to remain in power by hook and by crook even if it means selling its veneer of prestige in broad day light.

It has been stooping so low as to fall now into a ditch of disgrace and public chastisement. The political analysts would demur and wonder how a tottering government is busy in making all the base efforts to cling on to the bandwagon of power which is getting out of its control at a breakneck speed.

Many a time, the government has eaten the humble pie. The prime minister made a humiliating pilgrimage to the nine zero to mount the last ditch endeavor to keep the MQM within the government fold. This servile attempt will not stand in good stead for the leading coalition partner in power. The government has budged and surrendered like the ill-famed General Niazi who laid down his arms at the so called Palton Maidan in Dacca in December 1971, before the Jubilant Indian army commander general Aurora.

This is no dignified politics .These are ignominious antics to catch at a straw that would eventually serve no purpose.  Sooner than later the power boat is destined to sink with its passengers. When the people moaned about the RGST (reformed general sales tax) the government pretended to be deaf. When the people protested at the spike in petroleum prices, the government put up stubborn stone walling against such public uproarious clamors. But God bless the MQM that came to the rescue of the masses and thus the government reversed the harsh measures that would have heaped more miseries upon the economically choked people of Pakistan.

When the government is presenting the worst format of governance and not serving the people of Pakistan even with a modicum of good governance, why does it want to hang on to the power? What credentials and bona fides is it left with to be in the power saddle and keep ruling the roost? If today it can muster enough votes in the assembly to survive: what about tomorrow and in the coming days? Will it always fall back upon cheap sell-out of its honor and broker its stay by conceding ground and giving in to the demands howsoever, untenable and exacting, hurled by the political opponents.

The government by its acts of omission and commission has put itself on life support now being administered by its disaffected coalition partners. But how long this artificial rescsuitation would work and keep the political party alive? The MQM’s appeasement cost the government immense chagrin of the global financial brokers namely the IMF, the World Bank and the mighty United States of America. An 11 billion dollar relief loan is jeopardized.

The Gilani government fails to perceive the stark reality that its days are numbered unless it puts it act of performance in order. There are still more looming challenges to the ability of the government desperately trying to hang on to power.

One is from the PMLN that so far is euphemistically dubbed as a friendly opposition. It walked out of the coalition yet it kept dishing out it unqualified support and cooperation to Mr. Zardari and Mr. Gilani. On this gratuitous support, the PPP high command must be gloating.

But of late, the head of the PMLN who has developed a paranoid about the army rule, ever since he was ousted by general Musharraf through a military coup, is sending mixed and rather menacing signals. He has issued a 45 days deadline to the government to accept his 10 point agenda or otherwise face the dire consequences.

As far the electoral count and vote bank, the PMNL has a much better standing than MQM. Moreover, while MQM is having a coalition with PPP in Sindh, the PMLN has the same political quid pro quo with the PPP in Punjab. The PMNL has warned of parting company with the PPP in Punjab if the situation does not show marked upturn with regard to good governance and addressing the people’s problems.

The PMNL has been issuing such warning shots at the PPP from the time when the PPP’s untamable stalwart Salman Taseer was still the Governor of Punjab; giving very tough time to the PMNL led provincial Punjab government. Now when he is no more, the PMNL should have lowered it level of saber rattling. But it did not and instead has come up with a 10 point demand notice.

On the contrary it would be further emboldened to put more pressure on the PPP.  There seems to be no match of Salman Taseer to be picked as the governor of Punjab, who was an unrivaled expert in fire-spitting and tongue lashing. The appointment of president Zardari bosom friend Sardari Latif Khosa would be more irksome for the people if not for the political parties.

Mr. Khosa has earned notoriety for his scams and scandals in kickbacks and other questionable wrong doings. His choice as the governor of Punjab highlights the sordid fact that government is promoting toadyism. Khosa is crafty but not as petulant as his predecessor was.  The exit of Salman Taseer is more conducive for PMNL as it brings it into a stronger bargaining position that before.

It is predictable that MQM that wants to extend its appeal and political canvas to the whole of Pakistan would not like to be tied with the apron string of the PPP for a longer period of time. Its image has been considerably dented by making a last minute compromise with the PPP at the center. If this party keeps it working relationship with the PPP at the federal level, it would fail to achieve its goal of turning into a national party from a parochial one that it is perceived to be now.

The irrevocable stand that the MQM has taken on RGSL and hike of petroleum prices is more beneficial to the MQM than bringing any big advantage to the PPP. The reason is easy to dig out. The MQM took a principled stand in support of the people of Pakistan while the PPP government stalled decisions under pressure and to save its numerical parliamentary strength to forestall a no confidence.

The storm is gathering on the political horizon of Pakistan and is assuming ominous proportions.  The religious lobbies are poised to unceasingly resist the amendment of the blasphemy law and prosecution of Mumtaz Qadri, the killer of Governor Salman Taseer. All the religious parties are united on opposing the government and mobilizing the people on the sensitive question of blasphemy. Of late, they have announced countrywide protest rallies on January 15, over Pope Benedict XVI call for repealing the blasphemy Act and to release Aasia Bibi.

How the government is going to stem such cataclysmal movements is beyond any tangible assessment. That would entail more bloodshed, chaos and anarchy for a country already trapped in the quagmire of problems.

No sane person is in favor of derailing the prevailing democratic system and its replacement with the army rule. But if the democratically elected leaders are totally oblivious to their responsibilities of serving the country with devotion, selflessness, honesty and patriotic spirit then the people’s yearning for a change whether democratic or otherwise is bound to explode.

Probably there is a viable way-out for the government to avert the impasse that the country is likely to be plunged into by religious movements, or the ultimatums or pressure tactics of other political adversaries. It should, on its own should announce fresh elections and get a renewed popular mandate. That is the only face saving exit for the tottering and shaky PPP dispensation. Otherwise the future scenario seems to be murky for the government.

To many compromises, too many pledges, too many challenges are dangling over the head of an already shaky government. Only God almighty knows how it is going to cope with the plethora of hurdles in its way of completing the five years mandate.

The Prime Minister Gilani’s prompt acceptance of Nawaz Sharif’s latest demands is on the face a tall orders for the PPP government to honor. Similarly Maulana Fazalur Rehman’s demand for the prime minister to resign and not to alter the blasphemy law is a stupendous stumbling block hard to surmount. Additionally people are at their wits ends due to unbridled lawlessness, rampant unemployment, galloping prices, economic miseries, and no hope for the future.

The writer is a Dallas-based journalist and a former diplomat. 

Overestimating the right

By: Rasul Baksh Rais

Reading the comments in newspapers on the murder of Salmaan Taseer, I feel completely lost. Newspaper columnists and commentators have lost no time in declaring the rise of the religious right. Unfortunately, such comments in the vacuum of social research reflect only the personal reading of the events of the commentators. Both, for social discourses as well as public policy formulation, self-manufactured social facts can be disastrous.

For long, there has been a tendency in the media to project the image of the religious right as larger than what it is. One section of media commentators is ideologically and politically connected to the religious right, and as a part of its mission, it exaggerates its numbers and strength. The so-called liberalist commentators, not even knowing the basic philosophical ideas of liberalism, do a lot of fear-mongering both out of ignorance and for personal profit.

How do they profit from fear? Western donors have their own mission of creating a moderate Muslim society — without any clarity on what it means and how it can be done. But the running premise is that something has gone wrong with Pakistan’s society. Over time, we have manufactured some social facts that presentPakistan to be in dire need of an overhaul of all its vital systems from social attitudes to culture, values and ruling ideas. This creates an opportunity for our moderate activists to access the resources of western countries to reform Pakistan. Good luck to them.

True, militancy and intolerance has been on the rise in Pakistan. But it has also been constant and even grown in many other countries. No country in the world can claim to have conquered all forces of darkness and evil.

My submission is that to counter what is evil, we do not need to overstate the forces associated with it. The fringe elements of society don’t represent the whole of it. Also, the grounds of intolerance are not only religious. There is plenty of evidence of gruesome ethnic violence in Karachi and Balochistan.

Religious right groups and factions have grown clamorous and use religious occasions to publicise their point of view. For decades now, they have taken to the street for one cause or another. The question is, do they have a big enough social support base to claim electoral victories? Not yet, but there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t capture a larger public in the future, if our electoral elite continue to plunder the country and use every foul means to amass wealth at the expense of the poor.

Interestingly, our half-baked intellectuals have for decades invented causes for the rise of extremism by reading the fine lines of the curriculum, the nationalist historical narrative, the Afghan war and the Zia regime.

Such intellectual orientations amount to ignoring the real facts that may shift the social balance of power in favour of the religious right — poverty, the increasing gap between rich and poor, and an illegal economy that profits the rich and powerful. The Islamic revolution in Iran is the most relevant social fact to the contemporary conditions of Pakistan. The clergy led the dispossessed to an uprising. The terrorists, militants and suicide bombers with religious orientations are poor, deprived and marginalised. Frankly, flawed state building, flawed politics and flawed distribution of wealth are the real issues that need to be addressed to prevent further social damage.

(The writer is professor of political science at LUMS: Lahore University of Management Sciences).

NOTE:This is a cross post.

Salman Taseer Assassination and Pakistan

From: Major Agha Amin (R)

The assassination of Salman Taseer is a marginal issue for the vast bulk of Pakistan’s population.

This is so because Pakistan’s common man is going through the darkest part of Pakistan’s economic history where mere survival has become difficult for him!

It would not be wrong to say that Pakistan is now a suicide bombers factory where people are willing to sacrifice their life for a few thousand rupees!

People in Pakistan are selling their kidneys to survive! Selling their children! Pensioners are dying silent deaths of desperation!

But the Pakistani elite is enjoying life! Expensive restaurants are full! Expensive cars are on the road and multiply every day!

Pakistan’s crooks who constitute its politicians, civil servants (mostly lower middle class social climbers who make money with massive corruption in a few years of joining FBR, Police or DMG!), generals, feudals and industrialists are enjoying life!

The army, the police, the intelligence has one role! To keep the have-nots under control!

Common man is being killed by police for money! Baloch are killed by the intelligence! People are sold to the US for being Taliban although most are innocent! Drones attack and kill the innocent every day!

Everybody is being killed so blasphemy law is just one issue!

Salman Taseers death is tragic but so are the deaths of  hundreds of Pakistanis every day at the hands of Pakistan’s police, army and Pakistan’s landlords and politicians!

Pakistan is taking  a deep dive into chaos and anarchy!

Salman Taseer or no Salman Taseer, Pakistan is doomed!

The real issue in Pakistan is that those who matter control everything! Some 2 % own 80 % of the wealth and only pay 9 % of taxes! While the 98 % who own 20 % in assets pay 91 % taxes!

Pakistan’s issue is poverty, injustice and exploitation!

Religious hatred is a result of frustration stemming out of poverty!

What difference does it make to a pensioner who gets 85 USD per month and dies a premature death from depression and psychosomatic diseases whether Salman Taseer was unjustly gunned down or not! So many unknown Salman Taseers are gunned down daily by Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies every day!

In Pakistan the have-nots have only one choice! Commit suicide or kill the rich! It’s all about economics!

(The writer is a retired Major from the Pakistan Army).

NOTE:This is a cross post/