Monthly Archives: January 2012

Robert Greenwald and Reporter Michael Hastings Take on the Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War Machine

Hastings, in his hard-hitting new book, discusses “politically correct imperialism,” why the military is obsessed with its legacy, and why we’re stuck in post-9/11 thinking.

By:  Robert Greenwald

Not many journalists can say they had a hand in getting a commanding general relieved of duty in the middle of a war. But Rolling Stonereporter Michael Hastings did just that when his 2010 story on Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, sent shockwaves through Washington and resulted in McChrystal being recalled to DC and uneremoniously fired by Barack Obama.

Hastings’ report, “The Runaway General,” detailed how McChrystal and his top officers spoke of their civilian superiors with sneering condescension, and revealed that they didn’t genuinely embrace the counterinsurgency strategy being sold to the public at home. The piece was a result of fortuitous circumstances. Hastings had at first been allowed only controlled access to McCrystal, but when European air-traffic was grounded following the eruption of the Eyjafjöll volcano in Iceland, Hastings ended up catching a bus to Berlin with McChrystal and his staff, who let down their guard during the extended ride.

The young journo is a veteran war correspondent who covered Iraq as well as Afghanistan. The McChrystal story wasn’t Hastings’ first significant report, and it wouldn’t be his last — in 2011, he broke a story about how David Petraeus, McChrystal’s replacement in Afghanistan, was using military psy-ops units to influence visiting United States senators’ views of the conflict.

Hastings’ new book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America’s War in Afghanistan, draws on his extensive grounds-eye-view reporting from the decade-long conflict. Filmmaker Robert Greenwald, director of Rethink Afghanistancaught up with Hastings to discuss his book and the ongoing war.

Robert Greenwald: Let me congratulate you on this book, it’s an absolutely wonderful read. I felt like I was reading some combination of a detective story, a movie screenplay and Orson Welles all at the same time.

Michael Hastings: Thank you so much.

RG: One of the ideas that you talk about is that the “terrorist safe haven” is the “weapons of mass destruction” of the Afghanistan war. Why don’t you explain how you came to that realization and why it’s important.

MH: Well, I call it the “safe haven myth.” And what that means is that this idea that the best way to protect ourselves from getting attacked in the United States by terrorists is to invade and occupy other countries – that’s essentially what they mean when they say we can’t accept terrorist safe havens. And the response to the safe havens has been to expend billions of dollars and tens of thousands of American troops to try to prevent something that is quite nebulous.

I mean, it’s very clear a terrorist safe haven can be anywhere, and they are everywhere. So the notion that the best way to defeat them or to make yourself safer from a terrorist is by occupying countries always struck me as funny. How are 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan going to protect us from another terrorist attack? And the answer is they’re not. That hasn’t happened because all the other terrorist attacks we’ve seen, and attempted terrorist attacks, they’re not coming from Afghanistan. The terrorists have moved.

Whether they’re coming from Nigeria and Yemen or different parts of Pakistan or Connecticut, you know? The Times Square bomber, the foiled plot there, was hatched in Connecticut – is it a terrorist safe haven as well? No. And it gets to the larger point, which is that if you considered terrorism a law enforcement problem you were considered to be some sort of appeasing Neville Chamberlain type. But in fact, that’s the way to defeat terrorists.

I mean, every study shows that the way to defeat terrorist networks is through law enforcement and intelligence gathering, it’s not through invading and occupying.

RG: Yeah, I’ve read a lot of those studies and it couldn’t be clearer that there are ways to get terrorists, and the way that’s guaranteed to fail is to invade, occupy, kill lots of innocent people. So do you have a sense of how and why this theory came into being? I mean, is it completely driven by the politics of the Bush administration? The think tanks in DC? Some combination thereof? Because it’s so far off the mark in terms of any rational notion about keeping us safer.

MH: I think it has to do with the original reaction to September 11. By going into Afghanistan where, at the time, Osama bin Laden was being given safe haven by the Taliban. It was a legitimate rationale — “Okay, the Taliban government is protecting this terrorist and as a response to that we are going to punish this government for their actions.”

And at that time, remember, there were warnings. In 2001 people were warning, oh, this could be a quagmire … and again, they were laughed off the stage. So then, 10 years later when we were clearly in a quagmire, the military having kind of sunk their claws into the war find themselves in a situation where they need to justify all the tremendous outlay of resources.

And so the way they came up to justify what they were doing was to adopt these counterinsurgency tactics. Now, this is where counterinsurgency relates to the terrorist safe havens because General David Petraeus said, and I found this during the research, he said counterinsurgency is the framework we should view counterterrorism through. And that’s not true, and everyone knows that’s not true. But they had to come up with a justification to continue to pursue the policies that they wanted to pursue.

A general told me recently that the military is risk-averse and legacy obsessed. And I think that’s interesting. Especially the legacy-obsessed part. Because once they started in Iraq, and once they sort of started on this project in Afghanistan, it’s much less risky to keep doing what you’re doing. Leaving is a risk. Staying and doing what you’re doing, you know what the outcome is going to be because you’ve been doing it for 10 years.

And legacy-obsessed means they don’t want to have a repeat of Vietnam. They want to be able to say — the Pentagon wants to be able to say, General Petraeus and General McChrystal want to be able to say that they won. And so that’s why they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing until they can convince everyone that they won.

RG: Now, I underlined so many things in your book that it would take a day to just quote them all. But one quote that stuck with me summed up the essential flaws in the thinking, the safe haven flaw, if you will: “Marja must be controlled in order to eventually control Kandahar. Kandahar must be controlled to control Afghanistan. Afghanistan must be controlled to control Pakistan. Pakistan must be controlled to prevent Saudi Arabia terrorists from getting on a flight at J.F.K. Airport in Jamaica, Queens.”

Did that revelation all come to you at the same time? Or how were you able to put that together and make it so crystal clear?

MH: Well, to me this was apparent in Iraq, but it’s also apparent in Afghanistan: that nothing that we’re doing on a daily basis — by “we” I mean NATO and U.S. forces — has anything to do with preventing another September 11. I mean, 99 percent of the people we killed over these past 10 years would never have posed a threat to the United States. I mean, that’s a devastating indictment of our endeavors — it’s devastating.

RG: Well, when we began our work on Afghanistan, we did it at a time when the war was incredibly popular — it was the right war – but a cursory look made it clear that the fundamentals made no sense. Iraq, you could argue — obviously we were opposed to it – but you could argue they had weapons of mass destruction and therefore you should do something. It was a wrong but rational argument. In Afghanistan, I cannot find rational, logical arguments for doing what we’re doing.

MH: In 2008, after my first trip to Afghanistan, I came back and did a story forGQ, and my editor said something — and it’s a line I’ve stolen from him – he said we’re stuck in post-9/11 thinking. There was this whole period of time where you could be accused of pre-9/11 thinking, but what’s happened is we’re stuck in post-9/11 thinking. And these misconceptions that I think took hold quite early have become institutionalized. And institutionalized in a way that is meant to shut down debate.

Because you may say, well, we should get out of Afghanistan, and then the answer is, well, what about the terrorist safe havens? Grover Norquist actually made the argument that there’s a reason why there’s not a robust debate from the other side about Afghanistan – it’s because they know how flimsy their argument is.

And we haven’t even gotten to the fact that by being in these places – and with the trauma that we’re inflicting on these societies while we’re there – that’s the way you create terrorists, it’s not the way you defeat terrorists.

RG: Yes, well, with the exception of you and a few others we have allowed some of these folks to get away with outrageousness under the pretense that it’s serious thinking. And I think the so-called liberal hawks have also done us an extraordinary disservice for which they have paid no public price. And you had a really good name for it — “politically correct imperialism.” And I just love that.

MH: It’s really amazing to see. And the sort of liberal human-rights pro-war community, they only use these sort of human rights issues when it’s to their advantage. The great argument is we can’t leave Afghanistan because what about the Afghan women?

And the problem with that line of thinking is not that, oh, you know, I’m not concerned with the fate of Afghan women, it’s that the U.S. government and the Pentagon is never going to be concerned with the fate of Afghan women. And the only reason these arguments are used is to put forth these sort of plans for constant war.

But I should rephrase that. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s just not a priority. And all these human rights issues that get put out there as reasons to stay, are just, in my mind, again, it becomes a strange form of this politically correct imperialism. If the U.S. government were actually concerned about the fate of these native populations, then you clearly wouldn’t want to invade them and raid their houses and detain tens of thousands of their citizens. Does anyone really think that we have any concern at all for the fate of Afghan women?

But again, that’s taken as a serious argument. You know, people at the Council on Foreign Relations will argue strenuously that’s why we have to be in Afghanistan.

RG: I want to move to a Colbert quote and talk about the Pentagon and the media. There’s a great quote of his from the White House Correspondents dinner, whenever that was, 2006: “Let’s review the rules, here’s how it works. The President makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces the decisions, and you people of the press type these decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put them through a spell check and go home.”

It’s common knowledge about Iraq, but I think the price that we’ve paid for the press being stenographers, or as you call it, the “media military industrial complex,” is significant. And I do not think it’s a question of just sort of attacking some bad journalists, although that can be done, but I’d like you to talk about the institutional way that Pentagon approaches this.

MH: Well, one point on Stephen Colbert’s speech: it’s now considered sort of this amazing speech because it was, but at the time a lot of journalists panned it. Oh, they hated it because it hit too close.

I mean, look, there are a lot of excellent journalists doing great, great work. But the reason I called it the “media military industrial complex,” and one of the sort of insights that I have had is that they call it the Pentagon Press Corps, right? And you sort of think, oh, well it means the people who kind of watch over the Pentagon and perform the media’s watchdog function, but no, it’s an extension of the Pentagon. For the most part.

I mean, when was the last time anyone at the Pentagon broke a story that wasn’t pre-approved? It’s very, very rare. And the reason why it’s so difficult — and this gets to the information operations and the public affairs — it’s a very difficult story to tell because you’re lifting up the curtain on what have become very common practices for journalists to do.

And I noticed this first in Iraq when things were going horribly — this is in 2005, 2006, 2007 when I was there. And the spokespeople in the military public relations apparatus would just lie to your face. Every day they would lie. It was general Caldwell who was one of the spokes people there who I would sit next to at these briefings and he would say everything’s fine, you know? And there might have been four car bombs that morning.

And what’s been scary is that these sort of information operations tactics … most journalists consider them no big deal. And when you try to point out, ‘hey, this isn’t right.’ you get your head chopped off.

I did a story about this information operations team trained in psychological operations that was being asked to spin and influence visiting senators. Did the media respond by saying, ‘let’s launch an investigation, let’s make sure we don’t do this?’ No, they responded by attacking the whistle blower and then at the same time saying, ‘oh, it’s no big deal, this is fine. Of course generals use their information operations psy-ops guys to put together material, it’s not a big deal, it’s just normal public relations.’

But wait a second here. This is not just normal public relations — there are entire operations in the Pentagon whose goal is not just to influence the enemy’s population but in fact the more important goal is to influence the U.S. population. And the line that used to be, or was supposed to have been the red line between public relations and information operations, meaning one you use on Americans and one you use on the enemy, they are tearing that firewall down. So you have generals with public media handlers and they have these contracting companies that are collecting data on who’s tweeting what and they have different Twitter “sock-puppets” that they’ve put up to try to manipulate all these different social media.

And at some point they’re essentially waging this global information war against their own citizens. So that, to me, is the most disturbing trend of it all. And General Petraeus at one point said the most important thing about Iraq was information operations, information operations, information operations. And in the context he was saying it, he meant in terms of convincing the Iraqi people that things were going well. But the real people he was convincing were back in Washington. That’s who the target of all the spin really is.

RG: And when you said the people of Washington … so you are talking about the decision-makers who get impacted by this, right?

MH: Yeah. I think there’s a lot of really good reporting that’s come out on the ground while you’re over there. But you look at the reporting that comes out of Washington on some of this stuff and it’s bonkers, it’s just so far off base.

I haven’t ever really looked at the numbers, but you count up the budget of every major news organization in Afghanistan, and I would guess American news organizations spend maybe 10 million a year, maybe 20 million to cover Afghanistan. The Pentagon itself is spending 5 million just to have one information operations unit there, and they have hundreds of them. So the actual military in Afghanistan is putting hundreds of millions of dollars of resources into manipulating the media. And the media is spending $10 -20million to try to find, in theory, the truth. So it’s this huge power imbalance that you’re always fighting against.

And God forbid you step outside the packet, as some journalists have done, and point this out. Yeah, we all know they’re lying but you’re not supposed to say it, you know? We know we’re getting bullshit every day, but come on, man, don’t point it out — that’s not classy.

RG: Right. So I know that it’s systemic, but are there individual reporters whom you want to call out publicly for their sort of following the Pentagon line and not doing their job?

MH: Yeah. I saw a pretty egregious example with the New York Times Pentagon correspondent who literally just published the Pentagon spokesperson’s anonymous quotes when he was reporting on my stories. And he didn’t bother to call Rolling Stone for a comment, of course, because, well, he’s got the official line from the Pentagon.

But I would also call out a group of very influential national security reporters who work at most of the major media outlets. And if you look closely at their resumes, they all belong or have been paid by, or have worked for very influential think tanks. Now again, what’s the big deal? These think tanks — Center for New American Security is sort of the most egregious example — are funded by defense contractors. These think-tanks also employ a lot of retired generals. And,, more importantly, they are promoting very specific pro-war policies.

And so they put the guys on their payroll whose job it is to cover the policies they’re promoting. And you go through the list, all of them – the New York Times,the Washington Post — have had their guys on the payroll of these major influential think attention, again, funded by defense contractors, and then we expect them to cover their friends and colleagues very critically? They haven’t.

One guy said to me, “I don’t think that just the fact that they had a job or had a stipend or had an office space at these places impacts their coverage.” I said, “I don’t know about that. They’re all on the same team, you know, in this atmosphere.” And CNAS, amazingly enough, brags about the influence it peddles. They brag about all the big time journalists they have on their payroll and the influence that that brings.

And you can call it soft influence peddling, but I think it’s more than that. Look, if you’re a police reporter but you’re working for a police officer association’s policy network which is funded by the police groups, you would be called out for it. If you were a golf reporter and you’re being paid by the PGA but writing for a national publication, you would be called out for it.

So the fact that they haven’t … well, they have been but it just doesn’t stick because they’re all complicit. I mean, that’s the rub. And I understand that it’s tough to make a living as a writer, and these institutions give you an office space, they give you time, they give you money to do more interesting projects, but what’s the price of that? The price is that you have to pull a lot of punches. And you may not even be realizing you’re doing it. But I think they do, I think they’re just playing the game.

RG: Right, the club. Moving from that to the final question I wanted to ask you about. When you exposed what was going on with McChrystal and his team over there, you said you learned by going out in the field not at the K Street cocktail parties …

MH: Yeah, and that was a comment that endeared me to many of my friends in Washington, I’m sure.

RG: I’m sure it did. But an important one because it’s a very clear dividing line, and a very clear perspective. You got quite viciously attacked. Was it organized? Was it the club? And how did you respond to those attacks? And have they had any lasting effect?

MH: Well, look, at first I was perplexed and thought, ‘oh, these guys just don’t get what I’m doing or they’re confused.’ But then I realized it was a little more pernicious than that. I’m trying to think of exactly how I should put this. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by it.But I was. I got a horrible review in the Wall Street Journal which was comical in many ways because it was written by a defense contractor, it was written by a guy who worked for General Petreaus and general Caldwell, and they didn’t disclose that.

But this reviewer says, you know, ‘Hastings is a fuck up because he follows in the tradition of Halberstam and Neil Sheehan, and not reporters who work for the New Yorker or The New York Times.’ And why that was interesting to me was because, I agree, I totally agree with that analysis, but it’s because Neil Sheehan and Dave Halberstam, their experiences were forged while they were in their 20s in Vietnam, you know? They were young reporters covering this stuff. So they saw the war not working first-hand. And that had a very profound impact on how they viewed everything.

And there’s a number of journalists, of my contemporaries, who I would name but I don’t want to get them in trouble, who also have seen these sort of same sort of things unravel in our 20s. And that’s the most formative kind of experience for us. Now on the other hand, you have these kind of liberal hawks guys who their first big war was Iraq, and they were dead wrong about it, you know? They’re these foreign policy experts who were just dead wrong.

And so how do you deal with that? How do you come to terms with that? And my answer to that would be I don’t think they came to terms with it well. As you see when they lash out.

And you can’t ever forget the impact of the complete failure of many of the top names in the media when it comes to the Iraq war. And we’ve never come to terms with it. They just can’t. The guys who were the worst offenders cannot come to terms with their moral responsibility in terms of waging the war in Iraq. And in fact, again, you see them making statements today like, ‘oh, well I didn’t really support that,’ or ‘I was ambivalent,’ or ‘well, I didn’t publicly support it.’ And you think they would have learned with Afghanistan to question more and to not just cheerlead the whole thing.

The fact that every journalist in the Pentagon Press Corps wasn’t standing up when they were going to escalate in Afghanistan and saying, ‘are you guys fucking kidding me? We’re going to escalate in Afghanistan? Are you guys nuts? Have you all gone mad?’ But the majority just reported that some unnamed military official says McCrystal wants more troops, and Obama better give them to him. You know? It was pathetic. It was really, really pathetic.

RG: Which was worse: the reporting on Iraq or the reporting on Afghanistan?

MH: I don’t know. I trash the media but in many ways you can actually be quite well informed if you read The New York Times and the Washington Post and all these places – again, I want to make the distinction between the reporting out in the field and the reporting that happens in Washington … you can get a pretty good sense of what’s going on, you know, from reporters in the field.

But unfortunately, in this warped Beltway view of the world, what happens on the ground matters much less than what happens in Washington. I mean, the great catalyst — and this I write about extensively in the book – the great catalyst for the Afghanistan debate was not what was happening in Afghanistan, it was the fact that Bob Woodward published a report in Washington. It was the leak. That was the great catalyst of the Afghanistan debate in the first year of President Obama’s administration.

Which is really incredible because it’s not like Afghanistan was that much worse than it was six months or a year or two years earlier. I mean, it was a little bit worse but not, you know, not entirely noticeably worse. But it was the fact that it became a political issue in Washington that actually impacted the debate.

RG: Yes. Well, I think that’s an important, and a good distinction. And we found that in our work also — that talking to the reporters who were there in the war zones on the ground is like speaking a totally different language than those who were only at the cocktail parties.

I want to thank you for the book, and the work you’ve done, Michael, and encourage anybody reading this to get a copy. It’s an important book, and it’s a great read. And I keep pretty well informed, but there’s all kinds of stuff that I didn’t know about until I read your book.

Robert Greenwald is the director/producer of “Rethink Afghanistan,” “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism,” and many other films. He is a board member of the Independent Media Institute, AlterNet’s parent organization.
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US probe hardens Pakistani suspicions

By: Gareth Porter

The Pakistani military leadership’s response to the United States report on its helicopter attack on two Pakistani border posts on November 26 has assailed the credibility of the investigation by Air Force Brigadier General Steven Clark and expressed doubt that the attack could have been “accidental”.

The long-expected rejoinder, made public on Monday, charged that 28 of its soldiers at two border bases were killed one by one long after the US military had been told about the attack on a Pakistani base.

The Pakistani critique questions the claims that the US did not know about the Pakistani border posts, that the combined US-Afghan Special Forces unit believed it was under attack from insurgents when it called in air strikes against the two border posts, and that a series of miscommunications prevented higher echelons from stopping the attacks on the border posts.

Revelations in the Clark report – as well as what it omits – support the Pakistani contention that the US investigation covered up what actually occurred before and during the attack. Information in the report suggests that the planners of the Special Forces operation the night of November 25-26 may have known about the two Pakistani border posts that were attacked while feigning ignorance to the commander who had to approve the operation.

It also portrays a military organization that was not really interested in stopping the attack on the border posts even after it had been told that Pakistani military positions were under fire.

The Pakistani analysis does not repeat the assertion made by General Ashfaq Nadeem, the director general for operations, in the aftermath of the attack that the coordinates of the two Pakistani border posts had been given to the US military well before the incident of November 25-26.

The analysis leaves no doubt, however, that the Pakistani military believed the United States was well aware of the two posts. It said each of the posts had five or six bunkers built above ground on the top of a ridge and clearly visible from Maya village about 1.5 kilometers away.

The Pakistani critique asserts that two or three US aircraft had been operating in the area daily, and that US intelligence had questioned Pakistani officials in the past even about changes in weaponry in its border posts.

The Pakistani military document highlights the revelation in the Clark report that Major General James Laster, the commander of the “battlespace” in which Operation SAYAQA was to take place, had demanded that the planners of the operation “confirm the location of Pakistan’s border checkpoints”.

The most recent map of Pakistani border positions available at the time, according to the Clark report, was dated February 2011. The obvious intent of the demand by Laster was that the planners find out if there were any new border checkpoints that needed to be added to update the map.

The Clark report reveals that “pre-mission intelligence analysis” had indicated “possible border posts North and South of the Operation SAYAQA target areas”.

That intelligence was obviously relevant to Laster’s order, but those border posts did not show up on the map produced on November 23. The planners had decided not to check on those “possible border posts” by asking a Pakistani border liaison officer or investigating unilaterally.

The Clark report tiptoes carefully around the implications of that fact, saying the operation’s planners “did not identify any known border posts in the area of Operational SAYAQA”.

The point of requiring confirmation of a new map would presumably have been to go beyond border posts that were on the available map.

Air crews planning for the operation also knew about the “possible border posts”, according to the report, but didn’t include them in their “pre-mission planning packages”, because “they were data points outside the Operation SAYAQA area.”

United States investigators showed no apparent curiosity about what appears to have been the deliberate exclusion of the two new border posts from the map given to Laster.

The Pakistani critique charges that it is “not possible” that the failure to check on the Pakistani posts was “an innocent omission”.

A second point made by the Pakistani military is that the US attack on its “Volcano” base by US helicopter gunships continued for “as long as one hour and 24 minutes” after the US side had been informed of the attack on its post.

Despite the fact that US and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials had already been informed about the assault on the Pakistani bases “at multiple levels by the Pakistan side”, the Pakistani analysis charges, “every soldier in and around the posts was individually targeted”.

The Clark report’s account of US responses to being informed by Pakistani officials that their bases were under attack does nothing to allay Pakistani suspicions about the claim that the attack was unintentional.

It confirms the earlier Pakistani claim that its border liaison officer at the ISAF Regional Command East (RC-E) had informed the US officers in charge of “deconfliction” with Pakistani positions on the border minutes after the attack had begun at 23:40 hours that Pakistani Frontier Force soldiers were being “engaged” by US-coalition forces coming from Afghanistan.

The exchange over the news from the Pakistani officer was testy. Clark recalled in his press briefing on the report on December 22 that the Pakistani liaison officer had been asked where the border posts were located, and had not given the coordinates, but had responded, “Well, you know where it is because you’re shooting at them.”

Clark suggested that there was “confusion” about where the attack was taking place, but there was only one place where US forces were firing at positions inside Pakistan that night, and RC-E’s border confliction cell could have easily identified that place quickly enough with one or two calls.

Neither the text of the report nor the detailed timeline in an annex show any effort to contact the Special Forces Task Force or Task Force BRONCO, which had approved the operation, about the report that they were attacking Pakistani border posts. The report offers no explanation for the absence of any action on that report, saying only that it “could not be immediately confirmed”.

Twenty minutes before the information had arrived, according to the Clark report, Task Force BRONCO told the Special Operations Task Force in the region it was still waiting to get confirmation from the Border Coordination Center for the area that there were no Pakistani troops near the operation. It added that RC-E was not tracking any PAKMIL border posts on its computerized map of the area.

The Special Operations Task Force then then sent out a message system saying, “PAKMIL has been notified and confirmed no positions in area”.

In yet another suspicious episode, instead of asking the Pakistani liaison to the border coordination commission whether Pakistan had any posts or troops in the area of Operation SAYAQA, RC-E give him a general location that was 14 kilometers away from that area and asked if Pakistan had troops nearby.

The misdirection of the Pakistani liaison officer, which ensured the response that there were no Pakistani troops in the area, is explained in the Clark report as having been caused by a “misconfigured electronic map overlay”.

Asked in his press briefing why the RC-E had refused to provide precise grid coordinates under circumstances in which it was supposed to be determining whether US forces were firing at Pakistani forces, Clark cited “the overarching lack of trust”.

Nearly 40 minutes after the attack on border post “Volcano” began, according to a timeline in the report, the US Liaison officer to Pakistan’s 11th Corps reported to the Special Operations Task Force that US helicopters and a drone had been firing on a Pakistani military post.

But the Task Force waited for at least 10 more minutes, according to the timeline, before informing the Special Forces Unit.

Meanwhile Pakistani troops were being hunted down one by one.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

CROSS POST FROM ASIA TIMES ONLINE.

Cat in the Bag

Humayun Gauhar

 

Overdose of speculation lead to ‘Great Expectations’ the last maddening week. With uncertainty and speculation rife, theories became ever more bizarre. Then suddenly we got a glimpse of a funny looking cat that has been spoiling to come out of the bag – it’s wearing a judicial wig and an army uniform for God’s sake, not the usual army cap and judicial gown. That’s all that was left to make our mockery complete.

 

Newspapers tell us that a corps commanders meeting last Thursday decided that the army “would not intervene politically…[but]…if the apex court sought the army’s help for getting its decisions implemented, the request could be considered.” It means that we could be facing a judicial coup backed by the army and not the usual army coup backed by the judiciary. But it will be a coup nevertheless.

 

A military-judiciary nexus has always been there in Pakistan as it has in much of Muslim history. The Supreme Court has dutifully legitimized every military intervention. This ‘age of madness’ though calls for absurd measures. This time judicial intervention could come first and army intervention later. Legitimization will be pre-facto for a Supreme Court order will be considered legitimization, like “a revolution is its own justification”.

 

Why the desire to throw out the government so fast? It’s the ‘Ides of March’ syndrome. The month sees the retirement of the ISI chief, Senate elections, and, most importantly, the Swiss case against Zardari gets time-barred if the letter that the Supreme Court wants the executive to write to the Swiss authorities to reopen isn’t sent before March: thus the desire to send the executive packing fast and the executive’s desire for March to pass fast.

 

It is not the business of the army or judiciary to intervene under any pretext or throw out governments, form interim governments or force elections. All must go by the Constitution. So before we start chattering we should familiarize ourselves with Article 190 of the Constitution under which the Supreme Court could ask the army for ‘aid’. It says, without elaboration or explanation, “All executive and judicial authorities throughout Pakistan shall act in aid of the Supreme Court.” That’s it. It doesn’t say what kind of aid and for what. The army is part of the executive yet it could be required by the Supreme Court to act against the executive, which is like asking it to act against itself – illogicality in the extreme. How can the army enforce an order of the Supreme Court forcing the executive to do something without intervening if it doesn’t? Once the Supreme Court, fearing a physical attack on it by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s goons, asked for the army’s ‘aid’. The army didn’t comply. Sharif’s goons attacked and left a big smirch on our benighted history.

 

I would be all for early elections or even intervention if I was convinced that those waiting in the wings – political, military, judicial or even brazen US stooges – had credible solutions to our problems and realistic implementation strategies. None do. Military governments make good starts but give up to politicians because they try to become democrats. Political governments don’t even make good starts but their desire to become dictators combined with non-delivery, non-governance, nepotism and corruption enables coups. Imagining that the judges have solutions has to be the biggest joke. The only solution is the obvious: let the process continue, let this parliament complete its term (unless the prime minister dissolves it), evolve, learn and hope that things will improve. Only the people can change a government, not an army or a Supreme Court.

 

Fools are those that engender feverish speculation with hysterical statements and those that don’t look at the bigger picture and the greater good. They forget that no matter what, nothing should be done that aborts the process and destabilizes an already unstable country. They should also realize that times have changed and the world has no stomach for departures from the constitution, no matter what the excuse. Fools are those that don’t realize that much of what is happening in Pakistan is part of a greater global game and they shouldn’t become unwitting pawns in it. Problem is the enemy within: so many witting pawns who don’t work for our good.

 

The prime minister tells the Senate that if he goes they will all go too and we will not see another election in our lifetimes. Can you blame people for thinking that his government is on the brink? Then he tells the National Assembly that he will not tolerate a “state within a state”, an obvious reference to the army. The army is under him and it’s his fault if he can’t control it. He shouldn’t bleat publicly like one of Mary’s lost lambs, raising the already high temperature. Next he says in an interview to a Chinese newspaper that the army and ISI chiefs have violated the constitution. That’s a serious charge indeed, for it borders on treason.

 

So fragile is the country that it goes into a spin over an article in a foreign newspaper by one Mansur Ijaz, an odious publicity-seeking Pakistani-American with dubious credibility. It then goes into reverse spin when a retired US general gives a somewhat contrary statement. It betrays a country at war with itself. The reason for this hysteria is the allegation by Ijaz that he delivered a memo written at the behest of our former ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani through a retired US general to the former US Chairman JCSC asking for help against a possible coup in return for bringing the army and the nuclear programme to heel. If true, could it be the president that is the mastermind? If true, it also borders on treason and puts the president at the mercy of Haqqani: will he say that the memo is only a figment of Ijaz’s imagination, or that it was his own brainchild, or that the president asked him to? One noose, two necks. Will he save his own neck or will he put it around “the boss’s” neck? The whole thing will stand or fall on the testimony of Ijaz and his Blackberry. Safest place to keep Haqqani is either the president’s or prime minister’s house. Any wonder that they are hysterical and are trying everything to prevent the Supreme Court from proceeding.

 

Is it political bipolarity or is there a method to the prime minister’s seeming madness? Conventional wisdom has it that he is convinced that since he or his government are nearing an untimely demise, best to go as political martyrs rather than failures to ensure life after political death. Thus he is goading the army into taking over. The clever generals are hiding behind the cloaks of the judges. And Don Quixote is tilting full speed ahead. What a country.

 

What say you of the born-again democrat Nawaz Sharif who chose to move the Supreme Court knowing that a higher body, a parliamentary committee, would conduct an inquiry into the memo affair? How can you have two inquiries on the same issue? Whose findings would prevail? Obviously of the higher body, but not necessarily in Pakistan because Sharif will call the parliamentary committee’s report suspect since the opposition is a minority.

 

What say you of a Supreme Court that admits Sharif’s petition for hearing instead of waiting for the report of the higher body? How can there be parallel inquiries? And they go and form a commission to investigate it. What if their commission’s report is different from the parliamentary committee’s report? Would the Supreme Court ride roughshod over it? Best solution: no parliament, no parliamentary committee, no report. All are naked in these public baths.

NOTE:PERSONALLY SHARED BY AUTHOR

Can Pakistan Elect the “Right” Leader?

By: Yasmeen Ali

The election of the “right”  man(or woman), much as one seeks in a marriage, is the first stone to the erection of a relationship. If those contesting for representing a nation either at the provincial or federal level, lack the qualities much needed to undertake the responsibilities after being elected, nothing can be more disastrous. We have made a choice that must only lead to catastrophic results. Worse, once we’ve made our bed, we must lie on it!

What if the criteria to elect the person itself creates a hurdle?

Any Constitution, worth its salt, must be elastic, to be able to adapt to different times,  it must be timeless, it must be carefully worded so that it is not redundant, and choice of words must not be based on expressions impossible to pin down for all to agree upon. Inclusion of subjective words transcend the boundaries of legal definition and are open to misinterpretation and confusion.

Article 62 of the Constitution of Pakistan was washed, spun in the washing machine, to emerge, dressed in subjective words-a brainchild of Gen. Zia, then injected in the Constitution, alas, for it never to revert again to its original form.

It focuses on qualities, admirable no doubt, but subjective in interpretation, like a person wishful of contesting elections, must be “sagacious, righteous and non-profligate and honest and ameen”. However, how can such subjective terms be translated into a legal parameter and applied on individuals in a court of law? Different people will have different levels of measuring these qualities. But arriving on one level of measure, one context of application, one meaning of the term is virtually impossible.

These and other equally subjective treatments given to Article 62 was included via Presidential Ordinance No. 14 of 1985. The original Article was a simple piece of legislation:

Qualifications for membership of Parliament.– A person shall not be qualified to be elected or chosen as a member of Parliament unless:
(a) he is a citizen of Pakistan,
(b) he is, in the case of the National Assembly, not less than twenty-five years of age and is enrolled as a voter in any electoral roll for election to that Assembly;
(c) he is, in the case of the Senate, not less than thirty years of age and is enrolled as a voter in any area in a Province or, as the case may be, the Federal Capital or the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, from where he seeks membership; and
(d) he possess such other qualifications as may be prescribed by Act of Parliament.”

The End.

Or was it really the end? The new criteria laid down by Zia, was the beginning of an era, based on electing representatives on qualities, no doubt sought in a good human being, but neigh impossible to measure by legal standards, or any standards for that matter. He left for us a Constitution, that is confusing ,detailed and makes sure, it leaves doors wide open for all kinds of interpretations. The word subjective is defined as:

“pertaining to or characteristic of an individual; personal; individual: a subjective evaluation”.

There are many elements that need a mention in Article 62 but have somehow escaped the attention of our lawmakers. Should not a prospective contestant have onlyPakistani nationality? Should not a prospective contestant declare all his assets and have 50% minimum assets in Pakistan? Should not a prospective contestant declare his taxation paid for past immediately preceding 10 years(at least)? Should not a contestant be a minimum graduate?

How can the people of any nation elect a leader who defaults on taxation? How can the people of any nation elect a leader with no stake in a country he purports to lead? How can the people of a nation elect a leader with dual nationality thereby leading to conflict of interest? How can the people of any nation elect a leader with no education?

They can.

In Pakistan. As the Constitution lays down no such demand.

Till such time that the Constitution takes into consideration the needs of the people, Pakistan will continue failing in electing the “right” leader! For how long, Pakistan will continue electing her representatives on laws that ignore the ground realities and are based more on subjective analysis?

This brings me to the application of this very law by the Supreme Court, to the person of Prime Minister Gilani in the NRO judgment, announced on 10th January 2012. The order stated,’ Prima Facie the prime minister is not an honest man and violated his oath.’ http://www.pkcolumns.com/2012/01/10/supreme-court-reserves-judgement-in-nro-implementation-case/

This does not mean to say, any one flouting Supreme Court directive not be questioned. What it does mean is, we must continue scrutinize our laws to evaluate their applicability to a living society. Laws are for people, people are not for laws.

Lao-tzu in “The Way of Lao-tzu”  states, ”The more law and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be”.

I think I am talking about a 2oth Amendment-or something!

NOTE: The article is drawn from a paper submitted to PESA(Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association) by the author in January 2012. Only reference to Supreme Court judgment declared on 10th Jan. 2012 is added in.

The writer is a lawyer, teaching in a University in Lahore. She may be reached at:yasmeen.a.9@gmail.com

Does “The” Super Power Understand Limits of National Power?

This article is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive offered to us for exclusive running in Pakistan

By:Brig Shaukat Qadir(R)

During the Cold War era, the limits of national power between the two global powers was defined by the need to stay short of the threshold of nuclear tolerance of the other power i.e. while fighting ‘proxy wars’, never pose a threat that could escalate to a nuclear exchange which could end up destroying the world.

The disintegration of the USSR left the US as the sole super power and there seemed to be no limits to the extent to which it could exert national power. Slowly, the US began to flex its muscles and each time it went unchallenged, emboldened it further and further, till it was convinced that it could get away with anything. And in this fond belief, the US began to make the very same error made by the erstwhile USSR, which had caused its implosion; the US also began to stretch itself militarily, beyond its economic capabilities.

Now all this was not sheer idiocy; the US had expectations of economic gains. In Afghanistan; apart from Afghanistan’s store of untapped resources, the opening of a “Silk Route” from Central Asia, via Afghanistan-Pakistan would have more than made up for the expenses incurred during the war. In Iran, cheap oil could have resulted in the same.

Of course, both ventures would have only made the rich in the US richer and ordinary Americans might still have found it necessary to occupy Wall Street; but books could have been balanced. However, as they say, ‘the best laid plans…’. 

Iraq refused to extend the period of US forces on their soil and US forces left without gaining anything financially substantial for their enormous expense incurred.

In Afghanistan, the US is again facing defeat while China and India seem to be walking away with mineral rights! It was generally accepted by the US that, when it came to a negotiated settlement on Afghanistan, Pakistan could be relied upon to use its relations with the Taliban; and, of course, Pakistan was a faithful pet dog that could always be brought to heel!

But then the unbelievable began to happen. In March 2010, the US President was very politely told by Pakistan’s army chief that he would not “obey” US demands that ran contrary to Pakistani interests. The Raymond Davis fiasco was turned into a “priceless opportunity” by the Pakistan army and ISI to oust the hundreds of CIA agents operating in Pakistan.

Operation Geronimo killed Osama bin Laden and embarrassed the military/ISI but they still survived. Memogate and the massacre of 26 Pakistani soldiers, including two officers at Salala were also embarrassments but merely seemed to strengthen Pakistan’s resolve. As I wrote in an earlier article, “this dog refused to come to heel again” and, while the domestic political scene in Pakistan is fraught with uncertainty and insecurity, the US has played all its cards and lost. 

Gen Clark, on behalf of NATO has completed his investigation; a report that Pakistan has rejected. How far relations between the two countries will be restored is something time alone will tell; both countries are fully aware that relations will never again return to the pre-2011 level, nor will Pakistan facilitate talks with Afghans if they run contrary to its own interests.

Consequently, the US is looking at other options to strengthen its position by helping to open offices for Taliban in Qatar. Further, they are contemplating the release of Mullah Muhammed Fazl as a gesture of goodwill.

Mullah Fazl has been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay for just over a decade. He was a very trusted general in Mullah Omer’s regime despite the fact that he was renowned for his cruelty. Apart from being personally responsible for the death of hundreds (some say many thousands) of Shia Hazarvis, he is accused of executing seven Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e-Sharif.

The US is under tremendous pressure to be seen as being in control. With Europe caught in its economic crisis, none of US’ European partners are prepared to commit to an open ended term in Afghanistan. President Obama, coming up for re-election will look very silly if he is deserted by NATO. Consequently, he cannot afford to let the Chicago summit meet the same fate as the Istanbul and Bonn Conferences in November/December last year; thus the urgency accelerated pace of “talking to Taliban”.

While Mullah Fazl’s release and dispatch to Qatar could turn out to be a master-stroke to bring Mullah Omer to the table, but the gamble smacks of desperation. Fazl has been absent for a decade; new centers of power have emerged among the Taliban, most noteworthy being the Haqqani Network. Will the Haqqanis accept Fazl as their superior? Can Mulla Omer risk even asking them to do so?

Meantime, Pakistan hasn’t sat idle either. While stating that Iran has legitimate interests in Afghanistan is merely stating the obvious, but Pakistan has spent so long in the US’ pocket that the foreign office spokesman, Abdul Basit’s statement, “Establishing sustainable security and stability in Afghanistan is impossible without Iran’s role. To establish security and reinvigorate Afghanistan, Iran must be given due attention and must be trusted, because pushing the trend of peace and establishing durable security and stability without Iran’s partnership is impossible” was a very refreshing change.

A clarion warning, not only to US/NATO but also to the Taliban seeking Pakistani support; this statement made it clear that Afghanistan too has to live with its neighbors.

Fazl’s return is viewed uneasily, not only in Tehran, but also in Moscow and Central Asia. Fazl used to be responsible for the province of Kunduz and assisted all Islamist movements in Central Asia.

Nor has Moscow been inactive. Since it began its modest economic recovery in 2004/5, it has been mending fences with China, to their mutual benefit and, with Chinese approval; it has begun to re-exert its influence in Central Asia. Not only do we now have the SCO, but Russia has also created the Collective Security Treaty Organization, CSTO. Its members include:  Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

December last year, CSTO came up with an astonishing resolution which said, “The most important outcome of our meeting was an agreement on the coordination of military infrastructure deployment by non-members of CSTO on the territory of CSTO member states. Now, in order to deploy a military base of a third country on the territory of a CSTO member state, it will be necessary to obtain official approval of all CSTO member states. I think this is a clear sign of the organization’s unity and its members’ utmost loyalty to allied relations.”

Thus, in one fell blow putting to rest US’ and Indian aspirations of military bases in the region.

Commenting on this, former Indian diplomat, M K Bhadrakumar notes that: 

“The last sentence was dripping with irony since the Obama administration had just recently taken a decision to provide military assistance to Uzbekistan in a policy turnaround with the intent to hijack the key Central Asian country to undermine the CSTO. To Washington’s dismay, Uzbek President Islam Karimov not only attended the CSTO summit in Moscow, but went on to voice his support of the alliance’s decision.

With this, Moscow signaled to Washington that its monopoly of conflict-resolution in Afghanistan has to end. The US has a choice to crawl back into Pakistan’s favor and persuade Islamabad to reopen the transit routes that have been shut down for a month already or, alternatively, fall back on the Northern Distribution Network for supplying NATO troops and for taking the men and materials out as the troop drawdown picks momentum through 2011.

The CSTO decision hangs like a sword of Damocles on the US base in Manas near Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, which is a strategic hub for air transportation.”  

And let’s not forget that apart from the expense and difficulties being faced by US/NATO by being forced to rely exclusively on the “Northern Route”, due to which NATO spokesman admits that “we have supplies for only a few months”; Russia has also put the use of that supply route under threat by linking it to US’ decision to deploy the strategic nuclear defense shield in Europe.

While there are no indications that Russia and Pakistan are acting in unison, it is obvious that Russia also wants to mend fences with Pakistan, having lost India to the US. With Russu-Chinese cooperation on the one hand, the strengthened CSTO on the other; coupled with Pakistan playing its cards cleverly, balancing Iran and the Taliban, the US options in Afghanistan seem to have become increasingly limited and, as Bhadrakumar also notes, Pakistan’s role resumes its critical importance.

And so, the New Great Game, NGG, with the resources of Central Asia and Afghanistan, and containment of US vs Russia, China, and Iran goes on; but not without counter moves by emerging and re-emerging centers of power, along with the relatively insignificant countries like Pakistan.

China has followed the Russian example of announcing itself ready for another World War. Iran is threatening US’ oil supplies in the Straits of Hormuz.

It seems that intentionally or unintentionally, international compulsions and maneuvers are driving home to the US that its powers are not unlimited. A difficult lesson for the (still) sole super power to learn; but the sooner it learns it, the better off the world will be.      

The writer is a retired brigadier from the armed forces of Pakistan & a known political commentator based in Rawalpindi.

Banishing memogeist

By: Eyaz Haider

One thing we can all be sure of: the memogate episode has become the most interesting civil-military battle in Pakistan’s history. The battle may be unfolding in the legal-constitutional terrain — which is good — but it is essentially a politico-normative contest. Asma Jahangir’s public riposte to the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision has, therefore, to be seen not in legal but political terms.

Purely legally speaking, she is wrong. Politically, she is right. That’s the dilemma. What she asked the Court to do is to look at the issue beyond the strictly legal. The Court wants to remain grounded in the legal. There is a memo, prima facie; its contents are quite explosive; it was also delivered. There is no dispute on these counts. The issues of contention are who wrote this memo, or on whose direction it was written and whether it was delivered to a foreign government for the purposes for which it was created/drafted.

The SC thinks it is important to “ascertain the origin, authenticity and purpose” of this memo because if it is accepted that its origin from the presidency, given the contents, could plausibly lead to impeachment proceedings against the president then the petition before the SC is not only maintainable but the Court is right in ordering the formation of a three-member commission to get to the bottom of this.

The problem is that if this memo can actually be traced back to the presidency then that is a major setback to the civilians. Those who do not like President Asif Ali Zardari may find that satisfying but the problem with that approach is that this issue goes beyond personal likes and dislikes. If he gets nailed, the civilians lose. None of us should want that.

Ms Jahangir, in her criticism of the SC, has taken no prisoners. But she has asked the Court to do something more than legal, which it cannot. The SC knows that the other party, the military, is relying on the legal — so far. Of course that is not because the military is suddenly headed by Mother Teresa but because it realises the limitations of exercising the nuclear option. Even so, its no-first-use policy doesn’t mean it cannot ride out a first strike and launch its own second strike.

So, if the military is relying on the legal, the Court shall stick to the legal too instead of going up the escalation ladder as Ms Jahangir clearly wanted the judges to do. The petition was not filed by the military but the government’s political opposition, and while the government is agitated, the military says the issue is sub judice and it is satisfied with the legal-constitutional route.

The question at this stage is: if the memo is the product of Mansoor Ijaz’s heat-oppressed brain, why should the government be so nervous about the formation of this commission? In fact, far from opposing the decision, it should welcome it so the issue can be rested.

But what if the memo did happen in the way that Mr Ijaz says it did and the judicial commission ends up corroborating his account?

Then we have a problem. And the problem is not just that this government would be tarnished but we will have the bigger problem of the civilians losing out to the military without the latter having mounted a coup.

Not only that, and this is where the biggest irony of this issue resides, the initiator of all this, through his petition, would have been Mian Nawaz Sharif, the man who opposed the military to the point where the military deemed him a bigger threat and opted for holding its nose and working with the current government. Mian Sahib, in trying to pull his political opponent down, will have ended up strengthening the very organisation that he never tires of holding responsible for derailing democracy. His assertion that he will oppose with all his might any extra-constitutional attempt by the military is naive because the military has no plans of doing that.

That civilians are superior is the normative belief. But while civilians have the absolute right to be wrong, they don’t have the right to be stupid. Reality never overlaps a normative belief. How superior the civilians are depends on how effective they are and effectiveness is a function of taking responsibility, not Byzantine intrigue.

And the military? One waits for the day when they will begin to think strategically — i.e., that the biggest threat to Pakistan is the civil-military fault line. That while they may bludgeon this government with the memo hammer, their victory will lead to strategic defeat for this country. They need to find out ‘why’ this has happened (if it did), not who did it. And the why will lead them to themselves.

The writer is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institutions’s Foreign Policies Studies Programme. This is a cross post from Express Tribune.

US-UK Collusion in Memogate Conspiracy

By: General Mirza Aslam Beg 

The Secret Memo was initiated in Washington, by Hussain Haqqani, the Pakistani Ambassador, who dictated the ‘text matter’ to Mansoor Ijaz, the American Businessman, and both flew to London on 10th May, where they met UK Chief of Staff, Sir David Richards and the Secretary Minister of Defence, obtained the seal of approval, and flew back to Washington, where the Memo was handed-over to General James Jones, the National Security advisor, who delivered it to Admiral Mike Mullen. The memo contained the ‘Hybrid Plan’ for Regime Change in Pakistan. In this sordid game of conspiracy, the very important link of New Delhi is missing, to complete the ‘Triangle of conspiracy.’

 

In order to implement the plan, the findings of the Abbottabad Commission, were to be manipulated, in the same manner as 9/11 enquiry commission promptly gave its findings, putting the blame on Osama and Al-Qaeda, who were punished by launching a full scale invasion of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was also punished for giving refuge to Osama and his followers and the punishment continues with no end, in sight. The Abbottabad Commission, therefore, was expected to blame the Army High Command and ISI for their failure to intercept the intruding Americans, who allegedly killed Osama on Pakistani soil. Thus, under the cover of the findings of the commission, it would have been easy to remove both, the Army Chief and the DGISI, who in any case are on extended terms of service. And then the new National Security Team would have taken-over and placed their ‘loyalists’ at all the important assignments, creating harmony between the civil and military leadership, which is now lacking. If the plan succeeded, it would support the New Af-Pak policy and would facilitate American and NATO troops withdrawal from Afghanistan, under a ‘Safe Exit’ guarantee.

 

A safe exit could be possible only, with the permission of the new government for the American troops to conduct sweeping operations in North Waziristan and dismantle Haqqani network and terrorist bases. America would then be able to talk to the Taliban from a position of strength and establish ‘loyalists governments’ in Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The conditions would then be conducive to gaining “legitimate access to Pakistan’s nuclear assets”, and handing over of the Pakistanis to India, blamed for the Mumbai terror attack, and “a policy shift in Pakistan’s relations with India”, that is, Pakistan to accept Indian hegemony in the region and shift the bulk of its forces from the eastern borders to the North Western borders with Afghanistan. Develop good neighbourly relations, trade and commerce, by granting the Most Favoured Nations Status, to India. The ‘Utopian Regime’, thus established, could find a person, no better than Hussain Haqqani, as the Prime Minister, to maintain best of relations between Pakistan, India and the United States.

 

In fact, the process of Regime Change in Pakistan was initiated in September 2011 with MQM splitting with the government and the opposition getting activated to form a grand alliance, for a political movement, but the government of Pakistan, moved-fast and pre-empted the move, striking hard at the MQM. This episode, I had described in my article, titled Pakistan’s Politics and Proxy War, saying that “Zardari has won, conspiracy for regime change has failed and MQM has been cut to size, badly beaten and bruised.” Thus, the first round was won by Zardari but the real trouble begins now with the blowing-up of the Washington-London Memogate conspiracy. The UK Chief of Staff Sir Richards arrived in Islamabad on 22nd Nov and met PM Gillani, to lobby for Hussain Haqqani, who is in the dock. Haqqani has rendered his resignation to the President, saying that Memogate scandal was “a conspiracy against Pakistan and demanded full investigation into the matter, to find the real culprits.”

 

The Imran Khan phenomenon is developing into “a third political force for a future political dispensation.” The apex court is determined to ensure implementation of its verdicts, which so far have been side-tracked, avoiding prosecution. The Armed Forces are maintaining their cool, ready to play their historic role, destiny has bestowed on them. An atmosphere of fear of the unknown prevails, as the conspiracy spirals, into an International Game.

 

The frustration of the Pakistanis is increasing under the pressure of bad governance and has turned into ‘a popular demand for change’, earlier than 2013. And the worst that could happen to the government, is the increasing distrust between the civil and military establishments, particularly after the revelations made by Mansoor Ijaz, about the Washington-London Memogate. A very sensitive issue indeed, to be handled carefully by the civil and military leadership. The sensitivity of the matter, relates mainly to the following issues:

 

·         There is no proof of involvement of President Zardari, in this game, except the statement by Mansoor Ijaz that, Haqqani had assured him ‘Zardari was on- board’, which may not be true. In this context, Mansoor Ijaz also warned of the consequences, if the plan was exposed, as in 1996, when Benazir Bhutto, a very good friend of Haqqani, was the Prime Minister, a similar plan was hatched, but got exposed and Benazir lost her government. The intriguing aspect is, ‘the linkage’ between the events of 1996 and 2011, by the same two operatives, i.e. Mansoor Ijaz and Hussain Haqqani.

·         That, there is a National Security Team, comprising civil, military personnel and technocrats, ready to take charge and “ensure harmony, in the new set-up” through replacements and adjustments. It is a dangerous conspiracy, as it divides the loyalties of important government functionaries and the politicians.

·         The intent and purpose of the change, through these means is, to grant big concessions to America and India, which would result into compromises on very important and critical national security interests of Pakistan. The conspiracy over-rides Pakistan’s sovereignty, as part of an international conspiracy against Pakistan, who has the right to approach the United Nation for action against the perpetrators of this crime.

 

These are the very hot issues which will be discussed and debated, in the coming months, heating-up the political atmosphere to a boiling point. At this juncture, it would be the responsibility of the Government, the Opposition and the Civil Society, the Courts of Law and the Armed Forces, to steer the movement in the right direction. Destiny beckons them, to be positive and pragmatic, to play their historic role.

Baloch solutions in 2012

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

 

BY Hamid Waheed

The joint conference of Atta Ullah Mangel and  Nawaz Sharif on 19 Dec has once again heated up the debate on Baloch deprivation. There is no denying the fact that there is a significant substance in the theme that a common Baloch has been deprived of the basic rights throughout. There is also no denying  the fact that for at least last two decades same slogan has been raised by all governments and leaders  who have been promising a change in Balochistan. The question remains that despite the awareness, is this the difficult environment  or the duplicity in the will of governments and leadership which is not delivering ? Economy , security, more autonomy, more royalties and in some case  secession are the main issues which are and have been under discussion in Balochistan .  The wave of present instability started in 2002, and reached its climax after the death of Akbar Bugti.  The media reports converged on moulding ideas, building perceptions, and convincing people that the security apparatus is the main coercive tool being used against the natives to deprive them of their livelihood. Now people like Brahamdagh Bugti are openly demanding Azad or greater Balochistan. Such groups blame the Pakistani media for not reporting on the brutal realities of Balochistan in any meaningful manner. The Human Rights Watch gives verdict by saying “indisputable” evidence points to the hand of the FC, the ISI and its sister agency, military intelligence, behind the killings and kidnapping. However, they fail to convince the general public on issues like the killings of 11 people by unidentified armed men at a Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) camp in Palari area of Balochistan’s Gwadar district, targeting “settlers” educationists and government officials. The responsibility of all such incidents though has been publicly accepted by insurgent groups like BLA or BRA. The closing days of 2011 again find BLA claiming responsibility for attack on Shafiq Mangel’s house who is son of Naseer Mangel a former Balochistan minister killing 11 in Quetta . Shafiq denounces the act and calls it an act by Sardars of the area who are playing in foreign hands. Surprisingly when the lists of a thousand missing persons produced by interested groups is reduced in court to less than half a century no one questions. The local leaders prefer to remain silent as the 2011 clicks away.

 

 

The recognition of Baloch deprivation and the remedial measures to address the issue in the last decade do show strong footprints of efforts at different levels. The seventh NFC award gave increased share to Bln from 5.1% to 9.09%. The royalty and distribution formula for gas was revised. The federal government also agreed to pay the arrears of gas development surcharge to Balochistan.   The other achievements include the creation of 5000 jobs in provincial government funded by the federal government. Furthermore, approximately 15000 people will be inducted under internship program. The proposals made by the government were named as the ‘Agaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan’, which was presented in the Parliament on 24th November 2009. This is a comprehensive package which covers four areas, including     Constitutional issues,     Economic matters and natural resources,   Political  and    Administrative issues . The other provinces have sacrificed their share to support Balochistan.

Contributions by security institutions included   Induction of Baloch in Pak Army on special quota by relaxing induction standards. Many  Schools have been renovated / refurbished by Army.  23,000 Balochistan Students are being educated in  Army / FC Public School and Colleges and technical institutes. The educational projects like    National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC) ,Balochistan Institute of Technical Education (BITE) and economic projects like   Chamalang Coal Mines and    Kasa Hills Project are reality which a local Baloch realizes. Military efforts for reconciliation in Chamalang succeeded in Dec 2006 and later land mines were lifted by Pakistan Army to clear area. What Baloch of the area got was, a free education scholarship for 2000 students, about two thousand Baloch men got employment in Chamalong Guard and the area got uplift package worth 1.5 crore packed with necessary humanitarian aid.

On other hand the most criticized Frontier Corps (FC) has helped in maintaining peace in tribal feuds and sectarian clashes. There are 2 major gas compression plants of PPL and OGDCL, 162 wells and 367 kms of pipeline of PPL, OGDCL and SNGPL, which remain threatened due to the situation in the area. FC runs a large network of schools in interior of Balochistan to educate local Baloch children and conducts free medical camps. The inputs by Frontier Works Organization include Const of   New Gwadar International Airport and large network of roads and dams like   Construction of Gwadar-Pleri-Jiwani Sector and design and Constuction of Mangi Dam and Water Conveyance System.

 

However, all endeavours have failed to deliver till the end of 2011. This  is the sad reality with which Baluchistan enters 2012. Bad governance, tribal system, ethnic diversity, corruption and issue of missing people have worsened the situation of peace and stability. Truth is what we have failed to face and talk uptill now. The money has come the efforts have been made but all has been diluted due to no checks and control. Absence of monitoring mechanism have made the mafia from strong to stronger.  The mafia has raised their private armies by using government incentives. They have never approved development projects in their areas. They know that better communication, transportation, education and health system would loosen their hold on their people. The mafia  themselves live in the posh areas of Quetta and Karachi let the poor wallow in the pains and sufferings. The mafia have their own vested interests which have hindered the development in the region. The local mafia  who have exercised a non-questioned-asked say over their tribes for years cannot withstand any measure of the government that could bring prosperity in the region and develop awakening among the masses that would lead to erosion of their draconian authority’. The private armies of local warlords need to be tackled. More than anything Balochistan requires a system of deliverance in tangible terms without political games. Leadership which can stand with them , speak for them and confront  the mafia. Someone who can question the killers who so boldly accept the terrorist acts and terrorise the Baloch society.

 

The writer is a political commentator based in Rawalpindi.