Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wishy-Washy With Mushy

The Pakistan Observer has, more than once, attacked former benign dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf for his intemperate remarks. Remember Musharraf admitting that Pakistan trained and sent militants into Kashmi​r? Well that was treasonous enough for a case to be filed against him in Lahore High Court. The Pakistan Observer, and other newspapers, also took him to task for his attacks on former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and calling the father of Pakistan's nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, as a "characterless" person. It's all here in the Der Spiegel interview.

Yet the Pakistan Observer made an about face-- which it does often and without reason-- when Gen. Musharraf claimed that India was responsible for unrest in Balochistan. Finally, the good general said something worth printing. And the lovefest does not stop there, the Pakistan Observer writes:
Pervez Musharraf has indepth perception about security and strategic issues and therefore his assertion should be taken seriously but we regret to point out that the present regime seems to have adopted an apologetic attitude vis-à-vis India.
Y​et Musharraf had no idea what he was talking about when he admitted to getting down and dirty in Kashmir, but gets kudos for stating the freaking obvious. Selective praise, indeed!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Drone Attacks Are Extremely Effective

An editorial from the Nation asking for a cessation of all drone activity within Pakistan’s borders:
One needs to welcome the government decision to ask Washington to stop violating the sovereignty of Pakistan’s airspace with drone strikes conducted with the aim of taking out operatives of militant organisations, who, the US believes, are hiding in North Waziristan Agency. The pity is that the good news has come too late for about 2000 innocent human beings, ordinary men, women and children, who would have been living today, had the political set-up rescinded, immediately on assuming power, the permission Musharraf had granted to the CIA to make these raids.
Setting aside the lie that 2000 civilians were killed by drone attacks, the drone war conducted by NATO in Pakistan’s troublesome FATA region is highly effective and, contrary to what the Nation may say, has minimized civilian casualties, not raise them. I would recommend reading Peter Bergen’s piece in the latest issue of the Atlantic.
But the drone program has drawbacks. Perhaps the most worrisome is civilian casualties. According to our survey of reliable press accounts, about 30 percent of all those killed by drones since 2004 were nonmilitants, though that proportion has been decreasing recently because of better targeting, more intelligence cooperation, and the CIA’s use of smaller missiles. This year (through September), about 8 percent of those killed by drones were reportedly nonmilitants, though U.S. officials claim the rate is more like 2 percent.
Peter Bergen, noted expert on counter-terrorism, has a compiled a count of deaths resulting from drone attacks: the number of civilian casualties compared to militant casualties is very low. And for all the hue and cry by Pakistan about drone attacks, they have given their tacit approval, and then some.
The drones are immensely unpopular in Pakistan, and Pakistani politicians routinely claim that they violate national sovereignty. But many Pakistani officials are privately supportive, and much of the intelligence used to target the strikes comes from Pakistani informants. Indeed, the attacks were almost completely halted in the tribal area of South Waziristan after the Pakistani military launched an offensive there a year ago, suggesting a high degree of Pakistani-American coordination.
There you go. The drone attacks would not be successful without Pakistan’s input. For Pakistan, drone attacks is the lesser evil because the alternative would be much worse: thousands of foreign troops operating within Pakistan’s borders. Which would the Nation prefer?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Evidence Please, Ms Mizari!

The Nation, edited by the paranoid Shireen Mizari, is again engaging in innuendo, making claims without offering a shred of evidence. This editorial is another clear-cut example:
Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s retraction of his repeated observations that the government had ample proof of the involvement of foreign hand in terrorist activity in the country is as outlandish as it is incomprehensible. Talking to reporters at the Karachi airport on Sunday, he listed the outfits that are commonly labelled as ‘terrorist organisations’ for creating trouble in Karachi and other parts of Pakistan. One is really amazed how he has come to this categorical conclusion in the face of a pile of evidence to suggest that RAW, CIA and MOSSAD are engaged in this nefarious mission. The foreign occupation of Afghanistan has been facilitating their intrusion into Pakistan through the supply of weapons and funds to disgruntled elements, and even training and encouraging them to stir up trouble. Not only has the Minister, but also other responsible officials, including sources in intelligence agencies have been pointing their fingers at outside agents provocateurs. Mr Malik is on record having said that his Ministry possessed documentary evidence of Indian involvement. [Emphasis mine]
What is this pile of evidence the Nation is talking about? What is the source? Is it credible? Answering these kinds of questions would be inconvenient and just get in the way for the Nation editorial board in rumor-mongering. In fact, according to Pakistan Media Watch, the Nation engages in baseless allegation regularly.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Musharraf: ISI Has A Role in Afghanistan

In an interview with Voice of America, former benign dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf defends the military's and ISI's role in Afghanistan. He also insists the ISI has a role to play in Afghanistan:
Asked if any talks can reach a political accommodation in Afghanistan without Pakistan's input, Musharraf said it would be difficult - and that the ISI could play a positive role.

"ISI knows the environment, ISI knows the people, ISI understands the environment, much more than anyone else. So therefore ISI can contribute towards anything that we want to do," he said.

The former president dismissed the notion that the Pakistan army has not been sufficiently aggressive in trying to clear out al-Qaida and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan's tribal areas. He also accused the U.S. of failing to trust the Pakistan Army and the ISI.
It is like letting the fox into the hen house.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jinnah Wanted A Secular Pakistan

This editorial in The Nation is playing fast and loose with history:
GENERAL (retd) Musharraf seems to have lost any sense of propriety and is firing in all directions like an unguided missile. His statements not only undermine the national interests of Pakistan but are often distortions of facts...Now, in the first meeting of his party in New York, he brazenly distorted history by declaring that Islam was not the basis for the creation of Pakistan. Given how Pakistan was all about securing a homeland for the Muslims of India and how the Quaid-i-Azam referred to the principles of Islam in connection with a welfare state and the economy, Musharraf needs to revisit history.
The Nation is shamelessly distorting history to play politics, which is par for the course for its conspiratorial editor, Shireen Mizari. Musharraf is right: Jinnah never intended Pakistan to be an Islamic state. If Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be an Islamic state, as the editorial contends, he would have declared it one. One just has to read Jinnah's own words. In a speech on August 11, 1947, Jinnah said:
There is no other solution. Now what shall we do? Now, if we want to make this great State of Pakistan happy and prosperous, we should wholly and solely concentrate on the well-being of the people, and especially of the masses and the poor. If you will work in co-operation, forgetting the past, burying the hatchet, you are bound to succeed. If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make. I cannot emphasize it too much.
People have cited the following speech that Jinnah, indeed, wanted an Islamic state:
The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly. I do not know what the ultimate shape of this constitution is going to be, but I am sure that it will be of a democratic type, embodying the essential principle of Islam. Today, they are as applicable in actual life as they were 1,300 years ago. Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught equality of man, justice and fairplay to everybody. We are the inheritors of these glorious traditions and are fully alive to our responsibilities and obligations as framers of the future constitution of Pakistan. In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims — Hindus, Christians, and Parsis — but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.
Like the creators of the U.S. Constitution, who were influenced by the Judeo-Christian tradition, Jinnah believed Islam would play an influence in the creation of Pakistan's constitution. In either case, there was no intention by the founders to establish a theocracy. A close reading of Jinnah's statement makes this abundantly clear.

Pakistan only became an Islamic republic in 1956, long after Jinnah passed from the seen.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

India Wants Respect From the United States

The Hindustan Times has published India’s want list with the United States, hoping to reach some sort of accommodation on some of the items while President Obama is on an official state visit. The list is very high-level, but gives a good idea what India wants: an equatable partnership.

First, India wants the United States to unequivocally back India's demand for a permanent seat on the United Nation Security Council. This is the United States' position as well and will lend its support when the time comes, but cannot do so with the approval of other permanent members. Naturally, China will prove a hindrance. India realizes this, of course, but seems more keen on United States support in the short-term.

Second, India's demand for a role in Afghanistan is rife with issues. The first one, of course, is Pakistan. Much as I've criticized Pakistan in its imperialistic role in Afghanistan, past and present, I see no way around the fact that Pakistan must be intimately involved in creating and keeping the peace in Afghanistan. And naturally, India's role in Afghanistan will only rile Pakistan who has accused India of using Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan. This may be a no go depending on how big a role India wants in Afghanistan.

Third. Given that President Obama kicked-off his visit by speaking at the Taj Hotel, where the bloody Mumbai attacks occurred, is the most highly visible signal that the United States not only agrees that terrorism is a problem in the region, but is willing to join hands with India to fight it. I strongly believe there will be a deeper cooperation in jointly fighting terrorism.

And fourth, the United States and India are on the same page, for the most part, in the need to contain China's increasing hegemonic designs in the region. India's "look East" policy, combined with United States "look West" policy will enhance collective security in the region. .

All in all, it will be fruitful trip for both countries. Relations between the two countries will only deepen, in my opinion

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pakistan Not Getting Any Love

The Pakistani commentariat is extremely upset over two key points regarding President Obama's forthcoming trip to India. First, he's not visiting Pakistan, a major non-NATO ally mind you, on this trip, which was standard practice in the past. And second, President Obama will not intervene with India on the issue of Kashmir, reneging on an election promise.

A recent Washington Post article sums up Pakistani concerns rather nicely. An excerpt:
Among the Pakistanis' chief concerns are the Obama administration's apparent unwillingness to get involved in the long-standing dispute over Kashmir; the blossoming U.S.-India civil nuclear partnership; and the symbolism of Obama starting his visit at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, site of the 2008 siege that killed 173 people and has been blamed on Pakistani militants.
I have discussed before about Pakistan's credibility gap over Kashmir. It plays a factor why President Obama is not visiting Pakistan in November. As the commentariat correctly states, President Obama is going to India to cement economic deals, including selling defense equipment, airplanes, things a growing economy needs. The United States also sees India has a regional bulwark against an increasingly hegemonic China. Everyone knows Pakistan is China's stooge and a wishy-washy partner in the war on terror.

In essence, what I'm saying is that the United States sees a fruitful relationship with India. Like a married couple, they see a future together. Pakistan, on the other hand, the relationship is mostly a short-term affair. There's no future with an economic basket case like Pakistan. Once the war on terror ends (or, most likely, shift) and the money spigot is turned off, Pakistan will be left in the cold like a jilted lover.

The short version: The United States is not going to divorce India to marry Pakistan.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Morning After...

The mid-term elections are over and the results are finally in:

Source: CNN

The results, as we can see, were not all that surprising, the Republicans were expected to do well, but not this well. The margin was simply huge. Republicans control the House, the Democrats retain control of the Senate but only by a slim majority.

How do I feel about the results? I have mixed emotions about it.

I'm happy that gridlock will make its return to Washington. As we've seen under President Bush, one party controlling everything is a recipe for disaster. If anything, President Obama's profligate ways will be checked. I hope the fights are bloody. For me bipartisanship is a dirty word. And I eagerly await the return of the filibuster in the Senate.

I'm disappointed by the results in my state of Massachusetts. It seems voters were not keen to see the incumbents go and voted them all back in. Yes, Massachusetts voters are mostly sheep, but there's little organized opposition against Democrats in one of the bluest states in the country. The Republicans, for the most part, are brain dead and ineffectual. They couldn't get elected dog catcher if they tried.

The Tea Party candidates did well. I supported them for the most parts, especially those keen on smaller governments, free markets, and more personal liberty. On the other hand, I'm glad Christine O'Donnell, who vigorously opposes masturbation, lost her bid for a U.S. Senate seat. Her winning would make her the second-coming of Rick Santorum, the former gay-bashing senator from Pennsylvania. She's a faux small governmental anyway, the type of person who would like government to intrude on the private lives of citizens and curtail civil liberties.

All in all, a good election.

Coups Are Part of Pakistan's Nature

Only in Pakistan does a standing Prime Minister has to constantly downplay talks of a military coup. Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani addressed the National Assembly on this score:
The Prime Minister on hand some people are talking about Charter of Pakistan while on the other hand they are talking of martial law. He made it clear that those who desire for a martial law will never succeed in their designs as Pakistan Army is pro-democracy and will never impose martial law. He said the people having thought of martial law should keep in mind that Pakistan Army will never indulge in conspiracies to impose martial law. He said those who desire dissolution of national assembly are not sincere with the nation and the country they are in fact conspiring to dismantle the country.
All due respect to the Prime Minister, he would be the last to know if there was a coup afoot. The coup often happens late at night, while the Prime Minister is sleeping, when he is suddenly jostled from his bed by soldiers and told he’s longer Prime Minister, and promptly put under house arrest. The generals then go on television announcing that they are in charge. There’s a hue and cry, but life, for the most part, moves on.