Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Wikileaks and our fantasies

Raza Rumi

The Wikileaks’ damning half-truths pertain to the anti-war movement within the US. This has caused embarrassment to the US war architects and stirred the military industrial complex and its cousin, the corporate and embedded media. Similarly, what has been said about the role of Pakistan and its globally famed Inter Services Agency (ISI) is not something that is really a revelation and is more or less an open secret. Three important questions need to be considered before Wikileaks can be taken seriously.

Do field reports from individual sources, especially disgruntled, anti-Pakistan Afghan nationals constitute ‘evidence’? No. Is there sufficient evidence to substantiate the startling sensational pieces of information? Perhaps not. Is the Pakistan-ISI role central in the Taliban insurgency within Afghanistan? No clear answers can be determined due to the complexity of the Taliban resistance and the involvement of multiple players.<!–more–>

The ‘leaks’ identify that Pakistan, India and Iran are fully involved in the Afghan drama and singling out the ISI is not the whole truth regardless of whatever the western media says. Afghanistan is an occupied and fragmented country, far more layered than the simplified views from Washington, Islamabad or New Delhi. Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan

Good luck, General Kayani

Raza Rumi

http://tribune.com.pk/story/30713/good-luck-general-kayani/

In a hurried non-speech, the prime minister has confirmed that the incumbent army chief will stay on for three years. Unprecedented as the decision might be, it is perhaps the best option under the current circumstances. Pakistan is battling against domestic and external terrorism. Given how the army works, it is clear that the military establishment wants a continuation of national security policy.

Lack of policy continuity has been the hallmark of Pakistan’s governance.  At least with General Kayani’s extension, the military operations in the northwest and approach to the Afghanistan imbroglio will also remain unchanged. This is good for Pakistan for three reasons. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Islamabad, Islamism, Kerry Lugar Bill, Pakistan, Politics, Power, public policy, secular Pakistan, Taliban, Terrorism, USA, violence, war, War On Terror

Daily Dawn: Failure of dictatorship and democracy

Cross Post from Daily Dawn

By Niaz Murtaza
Friday, 09 Jul, 2010

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/failure-of-dictatorship-democracy-970

HOW would you feel if you lived in a poor neighbourhood and your neighbours started getting rich while you became poorer?

Angry, envious, depressed, suspicious? Pakistanis have experienced these emotions collectively as East Asia and the Middle East developed. Now even countries down the road in South Asia are developing.

Dubai and Korea are already rich, India is moving and, to add insult to injury, unconfirmed rumor has it that even Bangladesh is on to something since the familial break-up. Thank God for Afghanistan and Nepal! We can still walk around in the neighbourhood with some semblance of self-respect.

Perceptively concluding that our failure has something to do with governance, we tried both dictatorship and democracy, but neither worked. This calls for an urgent analysis of why what works for swans does not work for us, and developing our own walk.

Sociologists say that political systems derive from social structures. Democracy works best in societies with atomistic families where sub-national identities between national and family levels, e.g., based on community and religion, are weak or do not affect people’s political choices, which are based on policies.

Continue reading

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Filed under Democracy, India, Islamabad, Pakistan

Fatal obsession

Raza Rumi

It is a matter of public record that the founder of Pakistan had stated that Indo-Pakistan relationship will resemble that of the USA and Canada. Even before the Partition, Jinnah in a 1946 press conference stated, “the two states (Pakistan and India)… will be friends and will go to each other’s rescue in case of danger and will be able to say ‘hands off’ to other nations. We shall then have a Munroe doctrine more solid than America…” This vision along with other pronouncements by Jinnah is buried in the debris of Pakistan’s national security paranoia. The spectre of India and its ‘hegemonic designs’ to use an oft-quoted phrase remain central to Pakistan’s security paradigm.

The unwavering view on India is what explains the context for the discussion paper entitled, The Sun in the Sky: The Relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan Insurgents -authored by Matt Waldman from the prestigious platform of the London School of Economics. Pakistan’s real power-centre, its security and intelligence apparatus are a self-sustaining reality. Other than the financing, of which plenty comes from the Western Capitals, there is a solid national opinion behind the xenophobic worldview carefully cultivated by a decades’ long well coordinated state policy. The centre of this argument is the ‘Indian threat’ and any conception of Pakistan’s security is linked to the evil designs of the powerful ‘enemy’ across the border. Continue reading

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Filed under India, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan, Politics, public policy, south asia, violence, war, Zardari

Acknowledging our mistakes; a step in the right direction

A small headline made its way to the newspaper today. Mian Nawaz Sharif admitted that the proxy policies that Pakistan pursued in Afghanistan during the 1990s were wrong and destructive for Afghanistan. He realizes that “’Our policy in the past has failed. Neither will such a policy work in future. We have a centuries-old relationship, and we can maintain this relationship only when we remain neutral and support the government elected there with the desire of the Afghan people.”

In between bleak and despondent atmosphere that comes from reading Pakistani news, we tend to forget our land is still governed by a working democracy, free press and free judiciary. While we never cease to malign the very leaders that we elect (and they do leave a lot to desire at times with their short sighted actions), we have two major parties that have worked together on charter of democracy, NFC accord, and are in general agreement against the scourge of religious based extremism that has morphed into a existential threat for Pakistan itself.

For the first sixty three years of our existence, we are still in the process of finding our footings. Our geographic location is a mixed blessing as we found ourselves right in the midst of the great conflict that raged between the Red Russia and the ascendant West. The Muslim nationalism that formed the basis of our existence did include our religion as one of the major influences. As the twentieth century rolled on and more Muslim countries gained independence from the colonial rules, Islam-as-a-political-system ideology started finding proponents in the Middle East and the Indian Sub Continent. Pakistan as a new state gained for Muslims fell progressively to the vague and undefined relationship that Muslim nationalism and Islamic theocracy engenders. In the absence of a prescient leadership, Pakistan never was able to segregate the role of religion from its political system. The confusion morphed into a full blown infection as decades rolled on.

Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Army, Islam, Islamabad, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan

Peshawar Youth Plan Their Future Amid Violence

National Public Radio’s The GT Road Blog

In an area of Pakistan that has become synonymous with Islamist militants, a mural on a wall speaks of the other side of ethnic Pashtun culture: “Welcome to the Northwest Frontier Province, the home of hospitality.”

The mural is out of date — the province was just renamed Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa. And while the snarl of traffic at the entrance of Peshawar gives the impression of life humming normally, this thousand-year-old city is under siege.

It is the capital of the restive province and gateway to Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt. Suicide bombers have attacked the city nearly 40 times in the past 14 months. The famous market of the Old City is a favorite target — and is considered too dangerous to visit.  Continue reading

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Filed under Islamism, Pakistan, Peshawar, psychology, Religion, Terrorism, violence, War On Terror, youth

From the Frying Pan into the Fire

They say in Africa that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. To this Julius Nyerere had once added  that when elephants make love, the grass still suffers. Nyerere had made this witty remark at a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in the 1970’s. The organisation had been formed to extricate as much of the world from suffering the same fate as the grass in this African proverb, during the Cold War. Yet, it failed Afghanistan as most of NAM’s members were anything but non-aligned. Unfortunately, this included its leading lights.

The US decided to give the USSR a bloody nose in Afghanistan. It seemed no one cared for the poor country caught in the crossfire. Washington found Gen Zia ul Haq’s Pakistan to be a more than willing partner. For the Pakistani dictator, this was an unbelievably lucky opportunity to gain international ‘legitimacy’, even recognition. But for Afghanistan and her people this superpower showdown meant the worst misfortune, misery, death and destruction in the country’s history. The misery continues even two decades after one of the superpowers is no more.

The following article is a short trip down memory lane by an Afghan expat, Muhammad Qayoumi, for Foreign Policy (May 27, 2010). It is one glimpse, through  a particular little window, of how three decades of war can push a country six centuries back in time. It is not claimed that Afghanistan did not have large areas which were, as it were, centuries behind parts of Kabul, Herat and Mazar e Sharif, even 30 years ago. But what is most saddening about this little window on the past is the realisation of the damage that has been done to the psyche of the Afghan people, regardless of who they were, where they lived and in which ‘century’. To regain self-confidence, and to let go of anxieties of more than one sort, would perhaps be the most difficult task faced by the Afghans in their efforts to try and rebuild their country. They will have to relearn to be Afghans, rediscover their own history and not only find hope and security, but once again get used to feeling hopeful and secure. They will have to learn to smile again. (bciv)

Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan…

Record stores, Mad Men furniture, and pencil skirts — when Kabul had rock ‘n’ roll, not rockets

On a recent trip to Afghanistan, British Defense Secretary Liam Fox drew fire for calling it “a broken 13th-century country.” The most common objection was not that he was wrong, but that he was overly blunt. He’s hardly the first Westerner to label Afghanistan as medieval. Former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince recently described the country as inhabited by “barbarians” with “a 1200 A.D. mentality.” Many assume that’s all Afghanistan has ever been — an ungovernable land where chaos is carved into the hills. Given the images people see on TV and the headlines written about Afghanistan over the past three decades of war, many conclude the country never made it out of the Middle Ages. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Books, Citizens, History, Images, Photos, war, War On Terror