Pakistan’s conspiracy theories stifle debate

Courtesy BBC: Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid on how the real problems facing Pakistan are being sidelined by a surge of conspiracy theories

Switch on any of the dozens of satellite news channels now available in Pakistan.

You will be bombarded with talk show hosts who are mostly obsessed with demonising the elected government, trying to convince viewers of global conspiracies against Pakistan led by India and the United States or insisting that the recent campaign of suicide bomb blasts around the country is being orchestrated by foreigners rather than local militants.

Viewers may well ask where is the passionate debate about the real issues that people face – the crumbling economy, joblessness, the rising cost of living, crime and the lack of investment in health and education or settling the long-running insurgency in Balochistan province.

The principle obsession is when and how President Asif Ali Zardari will be replaced or sacked

The answer is nowhere.

One notable channel which also owns newspapers has taken it upon itself to topple the elected government and appears to hardly ever air democratic views.

Another insists that it will never air anything that is sympathetic to India, while all of them bring on pundits – often retired hardline diplomats, bureaucrats or retired Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officers who sport Taliban-style beards and give viewers loud, angry crash courses in anti-Westernism and anti-Indianism, thereby reinforcing views already held by many.

Collapse of confidence

Pakistan is going through a multi-dimensional series of crises and a collapse of public confidence in the state.

Suicide bombers strike almost daily and the economic meltdown just seems to get worse.

But this is rarely apparent in the media, bar a handful of liberal commentators who try and give a more balanced and intellectual understanding by pulling all the problems together.

The explosion in TV channels in Urdu, English and regional languages has bought to the fore large numbers of largely untrained, semi-educated and unworldly TV talk show hosts and journalists who deem it necessary to win viewership at a time of an acute advertising crunch, by being more outrageous and sensational than the next channel.

On any given issue the public barely learns anything new nor is it presented with all sides of the argument.

Every talk show host seems to have his own agenda and their guests reflect that agenda rather than offer alternative policies.

Recently one senior retired army officer claimed that Hakimullah Mehsud – the leader of the Pakistani Taliban which is fighting the army in South Waziristan and has killed hundreds in daily suicide bombings in the past five weeks – has been whisked to safety in a US helicopter to the American-run Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.

In other words the Pakistani Taliban are American stooges, even as the same pundits admit that US-fired drone missiles are targeting the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan.

These are just the kind of blatantly contradictory and nut-case conspiracy theories that get enormous traction on TV channels and in the media – especially when voiced by such senior former officials.

The explosion in civil society and pro-democracy movements that bought the former military regime of President Pervez Musharraf to its knees over two years has become divided, dissipated and confused about its aims and intentions.

Even when such activists do appear on TV their voices are drowned out by the conspiracy theorists who insist that every one of Pakistan’s ills are there because of interference by the US, India, Israel and Afghanistan.

The army has not helped by constantly insisting that the vicious Pakistani Taliban campaign to topple the state and install an Islamic emirate is not a local campaign waged by the dozens of extremist groups, some of whom were trained by the military in the 1990s, but the result of foreign conspiracies.

Economic crisis

Such statements by the military hardly do justice to the hundreds of young soldiers who are laying down their lives to fight the Taliban extremists.

Nor has the elected government of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) tried to alter the balance, as it is mired in ineffective governance and widespread corruption while failing to tackle the economic recession, that is admittedly partly beyond its control.

Moreover the PPP has no talking pundits, sympathetic talk show hosts or a half decent media management campaign that can attempt to refute the lies and innuendo that much of the media is now spewing out.

At present the principle obsession is when and how President Asif Ali Zardari will be replaced or sacked, although there is no apparent constitutional course available to get rid of him except for a military coup, which is unlikely.

The campaign waged by some politicians and parts of the media – with underlying pressure from the army – is all about trying to build public opinion to make Mr Zardari’s tenure untenable.

Nobody discusses the failure of the education system that is now turning out hundreds of suicide bombers, rather than doctors and engineers.

Or the collapsing and corrupt national health system that forces the poorest to seek expensive private medical treatment, or the explosion in crime or suicides by failed farmers and workers who have lost their jobs.

Pakistan cannot tackle its real problems unless the country’s leaders – military and civilian – first admit that much of the present crisis is a result of long-standing mistakes, the lack of democracy, the failure to strengthen civic institutions and the lack of investment in public services like education, even as there continues to be a massive investment in nuclear weapons and the military.

Pakistan’s crisis must be first acknowledged by officialdom and the media before solutions can be found.

The alternative is a continuation of the present paralysis where people are left confused, demoralised and angry.

Ahmed Rashid is the author of the best-selling book Taliban and, most recently, of Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

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Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/8369914.stm

52 Comments

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52 responses to “Pakistan’s conspiracy theories stifle debate

  1. Steven Gardiner

    Ahmed Rashid makes good points: when conspiracy theory substitutes for policy debate confidence in even the possibility of governance dissolves. For many Pakistanis there seems to be a default aversion to believing anything supported by the current (any current) government.

    Yet I cannot help but see this conspiracism as growing from the fact that the naked reality of life in Pakistan is transparently more brutal that the details of even the most outlandish theories.

    The United States is raining bombs and missiles on remote portions of the country with and without the consent of the sovereign government in Islamabad.

    The oh-so-famous cases of “terrorism” in the country are on top of an endemic baseline of violent crime.

    Basic living conditions for the many who lack access to basic medical care, clean water and electricity, not to mention education and a baseline of being safe in their own country.

    As an American living in Abu Dhabi (previously in Lahore), my opinion on these issues may not stand up to someone more intimately familiar with the situation on the ground, but I cannot but be haunted by the man from Peshawar who recently asked me, as an American, to please to Obama to “stop the killing,” that most of his family had been killed by American and Pakistani military bombs, and that they don’t know anything about the Taliban.

  2. mohammad

    I think current instability and social issues dogging pakistan are direct result of afghan conflict and the foreign agencies led political decisions made by military junta. Everyone in pakistan seems to blames just CIA, by the way which is partially true, while saudi agencies the one who pitted relatives against each others and fragmented our society are deemed scared cows and go scath free, never mind. I am sure pakistanis are resilient lot, the sooner this militant madness is over the quicker we will find ourselves in the dawn of peace tolerance and prosperity.

  3. Milind Kher

    It is extremely unfortunate, but in operations of this scale, collateral damage does occur.

    Timely steps could have prevented this. However, all is not lost yet. Those who come up with conspiracy theories need to wake up and smell the coffee. Only a united Pakistan will be able to fight the terrorists

  4. hossp

    I just got an email from Najm sethi that he along with khalid ahmed and one more person resigned from the daily times. Any theory behind that?

  5. hossp

    The third person is Ejaz Haider. My theory is that they may be going to a new english newspaper from the daily express group. Aka the Lakhani group.

  6. Milind Kher

    I understand that the management accused them of acting against the newspaper and supporting the employees against the management.

  7. bushra naqi

    Ahmad Rashid is a shrewd and farsighted man and his political analysis is absolutely independent and not influenced and distorted by prevailing perceptions. I agree with him entirely.

    It is shameful that the media is so distant from the real issues afflicting this nation. They are doing a great disservice to this country by trying to derail democracy and unseat the government by assailing them all the time. They have sidelined the war on terror completely and instead brainwashed and confused the people with conspiracy theories at a time when this country desperately needs to be united

    The result is that people are living in fear and paranoia of the unknown.They are disillusioned for they are not being shown the brighter side of the picture. It is a pity that instead of being enlightened they are being disinformed in a conniving way.

    All this certainly does not help in fighting the war or the extremists

  8. Hayyer

    Is there a humorist among the editors of PTH. This piece follows the one by Brigadier Sharaf- one validates the other.

  9. Cent percent true.Admission of past mistakes calls for guts and statesmanship, which is absent among leaders ,if any , in Pakistan.
    Major problem in Pakistan seems to be that its people are apathetic about their country, excepting during Cricket matches against India.They project to the world a people who seem to be oblivious to the problems of Militancy, Terrorism, suicide bombings,Political skulduggery,corruption, nepotism, back door entry of people to the highest office, a military which, in its passion to hate India is more a divided house than taking care of its borders, short sighted policy of engaging India with Jingoism , when in reality it can not match India in terms of progress,poverty,illiteracy,Fundamentalism and a bankrupt Country living on the doles of US(thus hawking national Honor).
    Where are elite and educated?
    Where are people who think for the country?

  10. Pingback: Pakistan’s conspiracy theories stifle debate. « Ramanan50's Blog

  11. hossp

    Funny Ahmed Rashid is talking about the conspiracy theories without disclosing his links with President Zardari. He also fails to mention that he consults with the US army and specifically with the CENTCOM. He was Cheney’s favorite Pakistani journalist and Cheney fed him many lunches. Since Cheney and Bush never really had any Afghanistan policy (they were more concerned with Iraq), perhaps Ahmed Rashid was feeding them some of his pet conspiracy theories. For Ahmed Rashid, if you say anything against the US, the US policies in Afghanistan, and especially the Bush admin, you are a conspiracy theorist.

    Leaving aside some of his own pet conspiracy theories, in this article he does make some good points but there is no way to reign in the TV anchors in Pakistan. Like there is no way to reign in anchors on US TV especially on Fox who invent a new conspiracy theory every day. Pakistani are not the only one taken in by the conspiracy theories, the Internet is full of conspiracy theorist of non Pakistani origins. Once I read Bharatrakhshik.net and boy, those guys have some outlandish theories.

    Instead of just maligning the TV anchors, Ahmed Rashid should have tried to understand why they are that way. Pakistani media was so thoroughly controlled that the common Pakistani just had no faith in what appeared in the media. In times of crises BBC was the radio people turned to get some real news. Then came the cable and along with that some international channels. The race for rating and advertising Rupees led to competition between the cable channels. Since political news is the main entertainment in Pakistan, the channels came up with many politically oriented shows. And now the anchors have turned to something people call conspiracy theories. I don’t agree with that and I will write my reasons later. One problem that leads the anchors to make up stories and invite people with some outlandish theories on their shows is simply the lake of information from the government. Pakistan media may be free but the government remains secretive. They never share information with the journalists, never have open debates in the NA and never share what their plans are with the people. On top of that the governments take an antagonistic approach when it comes to media. Before Zardari, the Musharaff regime also assumed that media was out to get them.

    Mr. Rashid is taking exactly the same line that some in the Musharaff regime used to take. Rashid hasn’t changed his position. During the Musharraf regime, he supported Musharaff–not the army general, but the president who supported the US in the area.

    Here is my take on conspiracy theories in Pakistan. I think the Pakistani rightwing is intellectually bankrupt and lacks the ability to analyze political scene in and around Pakistan. If they don’t understand something they create some fantastic stories for their followers. Pakistani anchors and most other analysts come from a rightwing Background. Never had any political training, are not educated enough to separate facts from fiction and finally they are in Pakistan where the government deliberately hides facts and discourages debate in any forum.

    This happens in the US too. Why is it that people like Ann Coulter, Michele Malkin and many who write on NRO emerge from the ranks of rightwing world of idiocracy? There is now a whole industry in the US which is thriving on in search of Obama’s birth certificate. The birther movement is supported by almost 30% Americans.

    People like Ahmed Rashid are incapable of an honest assessment. They will blame the media for Mr. Zardari’s woes as if it was the media that asked him to agree to the K-L bill without first clearing it from the army and many other such actions in the last two years. You make stupid mistakes you take the ownership. Why should media let you off the hook?

    .

  12. Gorki

    …as if it was the media that asked him (Zardari) to agree to the K-L bill without first clearing it from the army……
    …………………

    The above reminds me of a particularly witty tongue in cheek bumper sticker sold in the US which says:
    ‘I am the boss of my house and I have my wife’s permission to say so’

    Is’nt that a part of the problem still; that while there is a constitutionaly elected civilian government yet it is expected to genyflect to an extra constititional authority of the army?

    IMHO, perhaps it may be better in the long run if the army was given a constitutional role in the government setup; complete with clearly defined and transparent powers but also with responsibilities. At least that way the army would be answerable to the people.

    In the absence of a respect for the constitution where even the highest institutions function (or are allowed to function) at the mercy of extra constitutional power (that literally flows from the barrel of the gun) is it any surprise that the government has no credibility, that the conspiracy theories abound and that the only thing that is envied and respected is brute force?
    Regards.

  13. JarriMirza

    [Edited – Please see below]

  14. Mr Sandhu

    [Edited – Dear Mr Sandhu, this is far too much stuff and a bit annoying for others. you could post the weblink instead. thanks]

  15. huma ali

    great analyzes by Ahmed Rashid , i totally agree with him , the kind of conspiracy theories are spreading through electron media is a very dangerous trend . and he hit the nail on the head when he says PP has no talking pundits, sympathetic talk show hosts or a half decent media management campaign that can attempt to refute the lies and innuendo that much of the media is now spewing out.

  16. hossp

    Gorki,
    I don’t know if there is any constitutional issue involved in prior consultation with the army.

    Let us take a hypothetical situation:

    India is ready to sign a major deal with the US but the agreement says the Indian Army has to do a few things to complete the process.

    Would the Indian government not check with the Indian army before signing the deal?

    Does the constitution stop the President from seeking the army’s advice on matters that will impact the army or would require the army to adhere to those conditions?
    Pakistani constitution has no such clause, the last time I looked at the Indian constitution, it has no restrictions either.

    Basically, you are not thinking through the issue.

  17. humza ikram

    the kind of discussion we are witnessing on media these days will not stop after achieving media assassination and killing PPP as there are doing currently but it will kill infant democracy which has come to Pakistan after a great sacrifice of BB shaheed and recent Baluchistan package, Giligit -Baltistan Internal Empowerment and amendment in FCR for the tribal region will become irrelevant.

  18. Vajra

    @Hossp

    India is ready to sign a major deal with the US but the agreement says the Indian Army has to do a few things to complete the process.

    Would the Indian government not check with the Indian army before signing the deal?

    No.

    There is a Defence Minister who is supposed to have figured out all these things in consultation with the COAS and the principal staff officers if necessary (assuming it is an Army-related issue, say, the chain of command and the structure and organisation of ‘strategic forces’). Only the Defence Minister will be asked by the External Affairs Ministry, more typically in a Cabinet meeting, what commitments India should make which will be binding on the Army. Once he states his opinion, that’s that.

    Does the constitution stop the President from seeking the army’s advice on matters that will impact the army or would require the army to adhere to those conditions?

    Yes.

    The President is titular Commander-in-Chief, and cannot presume to address the army, or the navy or the air force direct. He/she would be impeached, and the military personnel concerned cashiered.

    The only communication with the military can be through the defence ministry.

    More authentic answers can be provided by Hayyer, in case he chooses to respond. In case his views contradict mine, his should be adopted.

    I could elaborate, but am not sure that it will serve of any purpose. It is thought-provoking that you should think it reasonable to ask these questions.

  19. xeno greek

    media is dominated by right wing jihadis .. and to counter them we need good liberal speakers on mainstream television.

  20. Gorki

    Vajra made some very specific, valid points and I don’t have much more to add on those.
    I especially liked his observation below:

    ‘It is thought-provoking that you should think it reasonable to ask these questions.’

    Please understand that I am in no way trying to advocate how Pakistan should arrange its civilian-military relationship but since you brought up a comparsion with India, I must point out that the civilian-military relationship is viewed very differently by the population East of the Radcliff line.

    In New Delhi, any general who publicly opposed a civilian government in matter of a policy would be expected to be fired.
    Ditto for the expectations in the US (remember MacArthur?)

    Of course, any general is free to disagree with the government but only after he does the legal (and honorable) thing first; resign.

    Regards.

  21. Hossp

    Vajra
    November 25, 2009 at 3:38 am
    “There is a Defence Minister who is supposed to have figured out all these things in consultation with the COAS
    No.”

    You are arguing for the sake of it only. You are saying that the Indian PM only speaks to the COAS through the Defense Minister alone? I can point you to several national security meetings where both Indian COAS and the Defense minister were present. Was only indirect communication going on there?

    In my hypothetical situation I should have said Indian PM instead of the President.

    “The President is titular Commander-in-Chief, and cannot presume to address the army, or the navy or the air force direct.”

    Replace that with PM because of the Indian situation, would your statement still hold true.
    The confusion is because the President in Pakistan actually has more executive powers and operationally, it was the President who discussed the agreement with the US.

    Gorki,
    “Please understand that I am in no way trying to advocate how Pakistan should arrange its civilian-military relationship but since you brought up a comparsion with India, I must point out that the civilian-military relationship is viewed very differently by the population East of the Radcliff line.”

    That is much better.
    My question was not about taking it literary.

  22. Vajra

    @Hossp

    “There is a Defence Minister who is supposed to have figured out all these things in consultation with the COAS
    No.”

    You are arguing for the sake of it only. You are saying that the Indian PM only speaks to the COAS through the Defense Minister alone? I can point you to several national security meetings where both Indian COAS and the Defense minister were present. Was only indirect communication going on there?

    Of course I was.

    You asked a silly question, got a silly answer. Do you think that the entire process of governance can be covered, or be answered by a slick, clever-correspondent press-conference-oriented sound-byte seeking question? That was a display of some considerable naivete.

    Recall your original hypothetical situation and your hypothetical question.

    India is ready to sign a major deal with the US but the agreement says the Indian Army has to do a few things to complete the process.

    Would the Indian government not check with the Indian army before signing the deal?

    First, the diplomats would never have agreed to such military points being included without consulting the concerned experts. The mistake you make is due entirely to your unfortunate position as the body that is being wagged by the tail. This is true not merely of the military but of every different branch of the administration covered by such hypothetical foreign agreements. Including a municipality required to segregate its waste into three different kinds before disposal. Not just the COAS. When the nuclear deal was being signed with the US, a practical, recent example, who was most consulted, shuttling most busily in and out of the offices of the MEA, most often brought in to see the PM and give advice, most often buttonholed at dinners and taken off to a quiet corner, most often bundled into interminable meetings with a salad-bowl full of bureaucrats, some invited for reasons not known to man or God? the scientific bods from DAE. Not the military.

    The process of consultation goes on constantly, formally and informally. Sometimes remarks made to Shekhar Gupta take on national importance. It used to be remarks made to Inder Malhotra. But you are asking about the military, so let me respond to you specifically about the military.

    The Indian military have a long-standing feeling that they are the least-consulted in the world. Apart from accusingly refraining from mentioning Pakistan, they point out the role the PLA has; they pointed out – at the level of one particular service – what a major role the Soviet military had; they pointed out that even in tiny countries to left and right, the military were part of the decision-making. It was only in India, they felt, that because of the horrible example next door (try to recollect that there are two difficult, trouble-making neighbours, not merely one), they had been singled out for special treatment by the politicians and the bureaucracy.

    Is that clear enough for you or would you like to read several excellent books written by officers of general rank who have explicated what I have written in unmistakable and plain detail?

    I repeat again: the Indian military does not tell the Indian government what to do. It is consulted, like other expert departments, and gives its inputs, long before a decision is to be taken. A decision is taken by the Minister, NOT by the COAS, not even by a strong personality like Manekshaw.

    This is an essential difference between two neighbouring countries; no amount of tap-dancing is going to wish it away, or make one look like the other.

    Since you have made it clear that there is only one approved answer for your questions, and the correct answer is not necessarily the approved answer, the point of answering your second question is not clear. I shall confine myself to saying that the Prime Minister is the first among equals, and his (or her) role depends on the personalities involved. Indira would have been amazed by the presumption if Jagjivan Ram had tried to interpose himself between her and Manekshaw, Manmohan would be frankly uncomfortable if Anthony said, “I don’t know, I’m not a soldier, why don’t you ask Kapoor yourself?” He would prefer a reply through Anthony.

    This is not an entirely uninformed opinion.

  23. YLH

    That Sethi news is very interesting…

  24. hi.
    i am amused by the above discussion. frankly nothing new.

    paks have a such convoluted and negative image of India, even the simplest, strightforward things about india are unbelievable to them.

    this comes from the militaristic and undemocratic mindset of all paks! that’s why the accusation or belief system pakistan army is the root cause of all of pakistan’s problems is a hilarious myth.

    pakistan army and its conduct for 62 years is merely the manifestation of militaristic mindset of the entire population.

  25. Archaeo

    @indian visitor

    You have summed it up accurately. Nothing new, just the same old same old. It will be boring to read the tired old slogans and rhetoric recycled again and again. I thoroughly endorse your decision to rush away and to stay away.

    Personally I will miss your keen analysis and sharp brain, but it is probably best for you to conserve your wit and ability and never return.

  26. Gorki

    At the the risk of perpetuating the unfortunate turn for the worse that the above discussion is taking, I am writing again because I happen to be the one who started this particular thread and want to make my position clear.

    First, I want to dissociate myself from the kind of tone that indian visitor’s posts seems to adopt.
    That kind of blanket accusation was not my intent.
    In fact I feel the Pakistani population in general, has been a victim of some brutally unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond the control of an average citizen. It now deserves a break.

    Second, I must make it clear, I am also not insisting that a clear seperation of civilian and military administeration is the only way to govern.
    While it works for India and the United States, there are examples (Vajra mentioned a few with his usual eloquence) of other countries that have found their own balance. China is a good example; Turkey is another.

    The difference is that in the above mentioned countries, the role of the men in uniform has been institutionalised to some extent. This instills a sense of shared responsibility as well purpose. It also helps curb arbitrary use of brute force by the army to hijack the national agenda to suit narrow interests.

    Besides, I think I was discussing the role of the army perhaps from a different angle than Hossp.
    No one would deny that armed forces should be consulted by governments when making treaties affecting national interests.
    In the recent controversy, however the noises coming out of the GHQ were less in the nature of advice and more in the nature of a warning.
    It is this last that sounded so ominous to us outsiders (and the defense of such warnings from responsible people) sounds so surprising especially since the current fledgling civilian government came into being as a result of a democratic struggle and sacrifice by the Pakistani people not too long ago.

    Then again, we are only outside observers and well wishers, it is upto you guys to decide what works best for you. As long as Pakistan progresses peacefully and is not a nation that is used by NGOs (Hayyer’s term) to issue terror threats to others’ citizens, it is none of India’s or America’s business. We wish it best of luck.

    Regards.

  27. Hossp

    Vajra
    I think romanticism drives your thoughts about India and how the Indian government works.

    “I shall confine myself to saying that the Prime Minister is the first among equals, and his (or her) role depends on the personalities involved.”

    It is not about personalities. Indian constitution has defined a certain role for the PM and he is just not first amongst the equals. He/she can hire and fire ministers on his/her will. The difference is in how people manage people under them. Some act Like Mrs. Gandhi and others like Manmohan Singh.(But I don’t really know his style of management.)
    Anyway, India is irrelevant to this debate.

    Gorki,
    You are correct. In Pakistani situation Zardari needed to discuss and should have gotten the army’s consent first before he gave his agreement to the conditions in the bill. The army acted foolishly and they were publicly reprimanded by both the PPP and PML(n). They deserved more and I hope someday they will be punished. In Urdu they say, “Bakray ki maan kab tuk Khair manaye gi, kabhi tu churri kay neechay aiyegi.”

    That day is not far in Pakistan.

  28. Milind Kher

    Inspite of the independence and immense power that the army has in Pakistan, the Waziristan initiative was not taken while Musharraf was in power.

    There was insurgency in his time, and an attempt (whether stage managed or authentic is difficult to determine) on his life too. However, he was not resolute enough to curb the terrorist menace.

    Today, the terrorist menace is making Pakistan rapidly approach the final stages. The situation can yet be saved by radical surgery, but if not sustained by the probiotic of a healthy mindset amongst one and all, can head for a relapse.

  29. Vajra

    @Hossp

    I would rather that Indians were romantic than cynical, especially in the context that we are discussing. You are perfectly correct in asserting that India is irrelevant to this debate. What a pity that this did not occur to you before you found yourself compelled to say the following:

    Let us take a hypothetical situation:

    India is ready to sign a major deal with the US but the agreement says the Indian Army has to do a few things to complete the process.

    Would the Indian government not check with the Indian army before signing the deal?

    Does the constitution stop the President from seeking the army’s advice on matters that will impact the army or would require the army to adhere to those conditions?
    Pakistani constitution has no such clause, the last time I looked at the Indian constitution, it has no restrictions either.

    Basically, you are not thinking through the issue.

    There is a moral to the story: there is always a moral to the story. It is that, as for a country, so for an individual, howsoever important and weighty in the counsels of the powerful, do not start something you cannot finish.

  30. Hayyer

    Hossp:
    It is of-course about Pakistan,not India, but if I may add just a little bit to Vajra’s point.
    The pictures you see of the Indian PM at the Army or Air Force Commander’s annual conferences are merely photo-ops. The PM arrives, speaks in generalities and departs, leaving the Commanders to whatever technicalities they are wont to discuss.
    Normally, unless there was a war on or one was being discussed, the Indian PM and the Cabinet of Ministers would have no interaction with the Service Chiefs. Ceremonial occasions apart such as Army day dinners or Republic day parades the relationship is through the Defence Minister. If the Sevice Chief need to bring something to the official notice of the PM they would have to have the Defence Ministers approval, and even then it is the Cabinet Secretary who would mediate the meeting. There is of course a Cabinet Committee on Defence matters which would discuss the larger issues of the defence of the country through the intermediation of the Cabinet Secretary. It would be most unusual for the PM to involve himself with Defence matters without the Defence Minister asking for it.
    And that is true for Maneckshaw as well. He couldn’t get time from Bansi Lal his Minister, as often as he wanted. Maneckshaw was a great media manipulator. When Indira made him Field Marshall and he stepped out of line during a UK visit he was quickly and effectively chastised.
    Pakistan’s situation is different; we understand that; but about the KL Bill prior consultation would have exposed the government and the army to ridicule. Could the Pakistani government really have sought assurances from its army on whether it would lay off supporting terror groups, or let the civilian government function without hindrance?

  31. Vajra

    @Hossp

    I regret very deeply not having deferred to Hayyer on these matters, as his word is authentic and based on foundations far stronger than any other among us. Please consider my post withdrawn and read his instead.

  32. Milind Kher

    @Hayyer,

    What you have written is absolutely accurate. The answer to the last question you have posed at the end of your post is no.

    Even today, a civilian government in Pakistan does not have that kind of control over the army. Very clearly, India and Pakistan are in different situations. Very well put.

  33. Vajra

    MODERATORS

    I would be obliged if you would delete my post of 10:42 am, as it is rendered superfluous by following posts.

  34. Bloody Civilian

    hossp

    you started off with what sounded like criticism of the govt in failing to follow best practice. then you tried to give it some sort of legal/constituional authority.

    the comparison with india was quite unnecessary. despite’s its other weaknesses, the present constituion of pak explicitly spells out the subservience of the armed forces even in parts where other constituitons are happy to leave it at just clearly implied.

    whatever the failures in terms of best practice, the COAS keeps his mouth shout as long as he wishes to keep the uniform on. that was about the whole point. the rest of the discussion has been interesting, nevertheless.

  35. Bloody Civilian

    Hayyer

    Could the Pakistani government really have sought assurances from its army on whether it would lay off supporting terror groups, or let the civilian government function without hindrance?

    it didn’t need to, precisely, for the reason you’ve given, albeit based on rather different assumptions. it would have been ridiculous to do so.

  36. Mr Sandhu

    I agree with Ahmad Rashid that media is being a real problem for democratic setup, these conspiracy theorists should be thrown out frm electronic media and media should knw how to do journalism. they have to be the mirror of government not the spokespersons of TALIBAN .

  37. Irum Khan

    Pakistan Taliban Union Of Journalists(PTUJ) is showing efforts to drail the democratic system. this is unbearable and we wont tolerate this anymore, not only shahid manhoos but there are many more to be banned. democracy had survived alot from the day of Independence till nw though we have to give our support and encourage PPP government . PAKISTAN PAYENDABAD!

  38. Saria Benazir

    This time , these critical situations have always been faced by PPP and who knows better than that..The world still remembers the jails and courts of Pakistan where people who spoke for democracy and human rights were punished,…The world still knows the dark nights in which democracy was hanged and those afternoons and those roads , filled with Pakistan Peoples Party’s blood…..!!!! President Zardari faced much greater troubles and yet patiently bore all persecutions for the sake of Pakistan and democracy and we are still ready to face any further confrontation…..There has always been a high price for democracy…PPP paid it!!! People of Pakistan have faith in the leadership of President Zardari and all the propagandas against him are nothing , merely a buch of malarkey,…lying through teeth to kill the hopes of people ,,…but INSHALLAH , President Zardari will be successful and will again bring an era of prosperity in Pakistan…cuz we didn’t suffer that much , we have not come that far to fail.
    JEAY BHUTTO
    JEAY ZARDARI
    PAKISTAN KHAPPAY!!!!!!

  39. gv

    why i’m feeling a little teary eyed after that little presidential paean …..

    Poor little Mr. Zardari… all those nasty nasty people with their ‘marlakey’ and their toothsome lies….

    Such a tragedy really… when we should be wishing him more and more palaces and successes and necklaces and successes and palaces!!!!!

    pakistan khappay indeed!

  40. Ali Abbas

    @gv,

    How could you wish President Zardari more palaces and necklaces!! Don’t you know thats reserved for the security establishment that rules Pakistan! Its the civil society “elites”, the Urdu/Punjabi/trader group that deserves to loot Pakistan and keep its “necklaces” and “necklaces”, not the wretched Sindhis/Baluchis/Pushtoons who are just rif-raf and serve as the butt of racist jokes for our “civil society” elite types. How dare one of them becomes a democratically elected President! We elites believe in a Caliphate because a democracy is still inclined towards a merit-based society. We Pakistanis are Arabs and have to differentiate are selves from those Hindus across the border; they with their silly democracy and stupid high economic growth rates and emphasis on technology. We have Jihad! In order to increase their influence in Afghanistan, they invested in expensive infrastructure; we are so much smarter, we invested in creating cheap frankensteins who have secured the “strategic depth” in some parts of Afghanistan and who are now helping us rid ourselves of such Zionist conspiracies like industry, trade, human rights, education, womens and minority rights. They have also helped us in ridding ourselves of billions of dollars worth of destroyed and lost investment. See, that just shows we are so much smarter than Hindu India. So you are right gv, we should snatch back all those palaces and necklaces from Zardari and save it for our future Islamic Emirate of Pakistan.

    @Saria,

    In Pakistan, there is the urban bourgeoise who suck up to the elite and the rest of the country. For the urban bourgeoise and the elites, the rest of the country is like serfs who are to be perpetually kept down; even better if it is via the Islamofacism that was imported in this country after Partition. So when an imperfect party like the PPP comes along and starts giving these serfs a voice, the urban bourgeoise and their elitest masters go bonkers. You can see them foaming rabidly at the mouth in the media and you can see them everytime someone makes a cheap unsubstantiated corruption, parlour-gossip-based allegation against Zardari but stays silent when the MQM/PML/JI loot and destroy the country

  41. Milind Kher

    Whatever negatives people may have against Zardari:

    1 > He has initiated action against the Taliban

    2 > He is democratically elected

    3 > He is following a pragmatic approach in terms of relations with India.

    Having said all that, whatever misgivings people may have, it seems that at the moment, he is the best bet Pakistan has.

  42. gv

    @ali abbas

    my that’s quite a quantum leap in logical deduction there…

    so essentially anyone who criticises the PPP and its leadership must be an ‘elitist pro taliban social reactionary’ !!!!!

    wow that’s rich even by my depraved standards…

    yessir its us damned hindu hating, taliban loving upper class (or toadying bourgeois? ) reactionaries that ceaselessly attack that saviour of the people…that modern day robin of locksley with our baseless slander and libel!!!!

    oh and sorry we’re all just urdu/punjabi … no nasty little pakthuns or sindhis allowed… nor those other people you mentioned… keep forgetting their name….the ones who are so angry all the time……

    so let me see…. those serfs with their new found voice… would that be Rehman Arif or Jehangir Badar????

  43. Ali Abbas

    @gv,

    The PPP lead Govt. has made mistakes; however, much of the criticism, especially on the financial misdeeds, is highly selective and baseless. Most (if not all) the cases against Zardari were politically motivated and came from our famed “intelligence sources”. None were proven while the guy spent nearly a decade in Jail. Can you tell me if the same applies to any other party leaders?

    So when you talk of “palaces and necklaces” do you have any substantial proof aside from the gossip that goes around in elitest circles.

    IMO, the hounding of Zardari and PPP is motivated by the fact that they have mostly fallen on the wrong side of the security establishment and its various proxies and enablers. Zardari’s initiatives to make peace with India, call out religious extremists and re-engage with the rest of the world towards improving Pakistan’s current economic woes have elicited these howls of protests and these unfounded snide remarks that are the hallmarks of elitest drawing room gossip and rumour mongering! The “debate” on the KLB was a seminal point, in that it highlighted exactly how warped the urban bourgeoise mindset has become in Pakistan. I suppose I should concede that that when I wrote “So you are right gv, we should snatch back all those palaces and necklaces from Zardari and save it for our future Islamic Emirate of Pakistan” in my previous comment, I did extrapolate incorrectly on our preceding comment. However, I found your comment very typical to the unsubstantiated gossip that I keep hearing amongst the elites and the “media” of Pakistan.

  44. Ali Abbas

    @gv,

    I have seen very little informed criticism of Zardari and mostly gossip masquerading as informed critique. Similarly, I have seen the same sections barely raise a peep when other political leaders and groups do far worse. Ofcourse, there is a near defeaning silence in condemning the security establishment and their Islamist proxies. Unfortunately, all these observations are the hallmarks of the groups I have described above.

  45. gv

    i’m in moderation????

  46. gv

    @ali

    i posted some links to support my unsubstantiated claims but it appears the pak tea house is imposing some form of censorship rights on my post …

  47. PMA

    hossp: I agree with your November 25, 2009 (at 12:24 am) comment; most of it. Ahmad Rashid earns his living and more by working for western think tanks. He has his own masters to serve to.

  48. AZW

    @ gv:

    Relax. Your comments were in purgatory as they had web links in them. Any comment with links is automatically put in “Pending” mode that needs to be cleared by the moderators.

    All your comments have been published now.

    Adnann (Moderator)

  49. gv

    @azw

    very kind of you – could you do the same for my moderated and links containing post on the stop bombing pakistan thread please

  50. Ummi

    There are many left wing fanatics in media who use same tone which is used by right wing Jihadis. Some of them are:

    1)Nazir Naji
    2)Kishwar Naheed
    3)Ejaz Haider
    4)NFP et all

    So don’t worry. Your version of Talibans also whine here and there.