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Monday, 25 August 2008

From Today's Papers - 25 Aug












Pakistan Army Continues to be a Rogue Army
by Dr. Subhash Kapila

The Pakistan Army despite the return of democracy and installation of a civilian government in Islamabad has not ceased to be a ‘Rogue Army’ and continues to be beyond the control of the civilian government which took power after the February 2008 elections. This is most exemplified by the Pakistan Army breaking the nearly four year old ceasefire along the borders with India in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. From May 2008 onwards there have been nearly thirty serious border clashes along the LOC and the International Border in which the firefights have extended for a couple of days. India had not provided any provocations for the Pakistan Army to breach the years old ceasefire and hence the Pakistan Army has once again asserted its rogue reputation when the political situation in Pakistan is fluid and uncertain.

Indian political analysts and defence experts have dismissed these incidents in simplistic terms as connected with pushing in infiltrators to disrupt the forthcoming State Assembly elections in November. Such simplistic observations are dangerous as then the Indian foreign policy planners draw wrong conclusions.

The sudden resurgence of border clashes with India by the Pakistan Army is part of a deeper design by the Pakistan Army. It is part of a wider political signaling exercise to the United States by the Pakistan Army that just because it did not interfere in the return of democracy in Pakistan it can be politically devalued in the US strategic calculus.

Pakistan Army has since June 2008 indulged in two major political signaling exercises to the United States. The first pertained to Afghanistan and Pakistan Army’s commitment to assist US in the war on terror on the Afghan-Pak frontier. In June 2008 General Kayani the Pak Army Chief asserted that he had told US& NATO Commanders that Pakistan Army would not retrain or regroup forces for the counter-insurgency operations in support of the US Forces on the Afghan Frontier. Secondly that Pakistan Army would commit the bulk of its forces on the borders with India.

Pakistan Army’s second major political signal to the United States was to escalate border clashes with India along the LOC which had witnessed relative tranquility for the last four years.

Both these major military moves by the Pakistan Army were in direct contradiction of the statements that were coming from the newly installed civilian government in Islamabad. The Pakistani Prime Minister had declared that Pakistan would continue to support and assist the United States along the Afghan frontier. Zardari as head of the political coalition in Pakistan had made some peaceful noises on solution of the Kashmir problem with India.

Pakistan Army’s military moves therefore have to be read in a number of ways which all lead to the conclusion that it is a part of its overall assertion that the Pakistan Army still continues to be an independent entity on its own and could not care less for the return of democracy to Pakistan.

By adopting independent lines in relation to the support of US operations along the Afghan frontier in not retraining or regrouping Pakistan Army to assist the US military forces there, the signal to US is clear and that is that the Pakistan Army still views Afghanistan as its own strategic backyard and would prefer that the United States pulls out of Afghanistan or it would contrive a situation where the US has no option but to quit.

In relation to escalating tensions along the borders with India in Kashmir the message to the United States is that the Kashmir issue is still a flashpoint in South Asia despite US policies to the contrary and that the United States better pressurize India to yield on this issue.

The overall message by the Pakistan Army in both cases is to send out strong signals to USA and India that as far as Pakistan’s foreign policies on Afghanistan and India with specific reference to Kashmir is concerned, the control still vests with the Pakistan Army, notwithstanding the emergence of civilian rule in Pakistan.

In such a scenario for the peace and stability of South Asia, the United States cannot adopt ambivalent attitudes towards Pakistan Army’s rogue inclinations and it must come down firmly to make the Pakistan Army submit itself to firm civilian political control.

For India the message that it has not taken in the last few years is that its Pakistan policies must be put on hold till such time firm indicators surface that the civilian government has fully established control over the Pakistan Army and that democracy has come to stay in Pakistan. India under the Congress Government and earlier too had adopted a facile argument that it is ready to do business with whosoever is in power in Pakistan. Would India do political business with a Taliban Government if it assumes power in Pakistan?

http://www.boloji.com/plainspeak/148.htm

Trainee commando and wife killed

Chandigarh, Aug. 24: A trainee National Security Guard (NSG) commando and his wife were found murdered in a field in Gurgaon early this morning.

Manoj Kumar, who was on leave, had gone out with wife Rekha last evening on his motorcycle, police said. Both were in their late-20s.

Passers-by spotted the bodies this morning and informed the nearby Faraknagar police station.

“Both bodies bear bullet wounds. Investigations are on,” Faraknagar station house officer Jitender Singh Rana said.

No arrests were made till late this evening.

Gurgaon police commissioner Mahinder Lal said the murders could be the fallout of a property dispute.

Kumar’s father had received threats earlier and was allegedly attacked by a group a couple of days ago, Lal added. But he did not give any other details.

“We are investigating the matter. But it has nothing to do with anyone from the NSG. It is a plain case of murder in cold blood,” the commissioner said.

The NSG is a force raised to handle anti-hijack operations, rescue of hostages and to provide support to the central paramilitary forces,whenever required, in anti-terrorist operations. It also handles the security of high-risk VIPs.

The police are questioning relatives and close friends of the couple and expect a breakthrough in a couple of days.

“Both seem to have been shot in close range by someone who possibly knew them well,” Rana said.

The police have set up teams to investigate the murders. “We have sent the teams to Delhi and states adjoining the capital,” Rana said.

Indo-Bangla relations: A new perspective

Ahmed Khaled Rashid

THE assumption of power by the present caretaker government ushered in a fresh dimension in the foreign policy of the country. One of the main features of the policy priorities was improving relationships with neighbouring countries, particularly India.

India-Bangladesh relations suffered a lot in the last few years, due to mistrust and lack of political will. There was no improvement in the critical areas of cross-border violence, water sharing, trade deficit and cooperation in countering terrorism.

The previous government adopted a "Look East" policy, apparently to negate India's economic and political influence over Bangladesh. However, the policy failed to achieve any meaningful result in terms of boosting trade or forging strategic cooperation with eastern countries.

The only important outcome was an elevated level of cooperation with China in the area of trade and commerce, defence, and culture. There were a number of high-level visits between China and Bangladesh, whereas significant Indo-Bangla exchanges were rare.

These friendly overtures from Bangladesh towards China only contributed to alienating India further. This single-minded and myopic approach had dangerous consequences for India-locked Bangladesh.

Instead of making progress in dealing with the urgent and thorny issues between Bangladesh and India, this policy held back the development of the relations for a significant period, particularly with regard to finding solutions to issues that are important from the Bangladesh perspective.

Relations with India is a sensitive, as well as highly political, issue. Being non-partisan, the present caretaker government has certain advantages in this regard. The first step of this government was to reinitiate regular dialogue with the Indian government at various levels in important areas.

India also took the opportunity of befriending the new Bangladeshi government. The first meeting of the head of the caretaker government, Fakhruddin Ahmed, with Indian premier Manmohan Singh took place on the sidelines of the 14th Saarc Summit in Delhi in April 2007.

This was followed by several reciprocal visits by Indian and Bangladeshi foreign ministers and secretaries, which boosted mutual understanding, giving a firm footing for improved relations.

There has also been a revitalisation of military cooperation, with visits of top military officials from the two countries. Bangladeshi army chief General Moeen U. Ahmed's visit to India in February was followed by the visit of Indian army chief General Deepak Kapoor in July.

The last visit by an Indian army chief to Bangladesh was way back in 2000. Indian war veterans, who fought during Bangladesh's Liberation War in 1971, were invited to participate in the Bangladesh Independence Day celebrations in March this year. The renewed exchanges and gestures of goodwill will go a long way in forming strategic cooperation between the two armed forces.

The most tangible result of the recent cooperation was the re-establishment of the passenger train service between Kolkata and Dhaka after 43 years. Measures have been undertaken to reduce the $2 billion trade gap, which is heavily tilted towards India. India allowed duty-free import of 8 million pieces of RMGs from Bangladesh last year.

More Bangladeshi products are expected to enter the Indian market at reduced tariff rates. India also agreed to consider relaxing standardisation requirements for Bangladeshi products.

In the aftermath of devastating Cyclone Sidr that hit Bangladesh in November 2007, the Indian government showed sincere empathy, providing emergency relief as well as rehabilitation support.

The Indian government also announced that it would export 500,000 tons of rice at a reduced price to Bangladesh, in spite of a ban on rice export. However, until now, only a small part has been delivered. India also pledged to rebuild 10 affected coastal villages.

Despite the progress made in these areas, border management and water sharing, both critical from the Bangladesh perspective, remain problematic. Innocent civilians continue to be killed by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF), creating tension in the border areas.

Several incidents of BDR-BSF clashes took place in the last two years, the latest being in July, when two BDR personnel were shot dead by BSF. Smuggling, push-in, human trafficking, and illegal movements add on to the already long list of issues that border forces have to deal with.

India is also building a fence along the Indo-Bangla border, spanning over 2,500 miles. In the area of combating terrorism, the level of cooperation is far from satisfactory. Investigation in several bombings in Indian soil has led to links in Bangladesh. However, no concrete evidence in this regard has been found so far.

India recently handed over a few listed Bangladeshi criminals to our authorities. However, there is still no headway in signing the crucial extradition treaty. Bangladesh has consistently denied that Indian insurgents operate from within its territory and has vowed to cooperate in this matter, particularly in sharing information.

In August, Indian giant Tata declared withdrawal of its $3 billion investment proposal due to Bangladesh government's delay in taking a final decision and reluctance to ensure uninterrupted gas supply for a 20-year period. This does not bode well for attracting such investments from India in the future.

Connectivity is an important regional issue, and the Saarc leaders in the 14th Summit pledged to improve the air, rail and road transportation with easier visa regime. India has been pushing for a corridor to connect with its north-eastern states through Bangladesh for many years.

However, the transit issue cannot be easily dealt with in Bangladesh because of strong resistance from various quarters. There are many arguments for and against this, and the political, infrastructural and economic implications must be carefully assessed before any decisions are made. It is highly unlikely that the present caretaker government will take a position in this regard.

The issues must also be dealt in a package with the issue of granting Bangladesh transit to Nepal. India has also urged Bangladesh to allow use of the Chittagong port, particularly for its north-eastern states. However, this also cannot be decided upon without a thorough assessment.

India is rapidly emerging as an economic powerhouse, and in the next 50 years will have one of the world's biggest economies. Bangladesh remains at the threshold of this economic boom, with the opportunity to cash in on the Indian as well as Chinese economic boom.

This can only be achieved with far-sighted strategic outlook and sound policies. It is time to look beyond the narrow political views in coming up with pragmatic polices befitting the new world order.

For Bangladesh, good relations with India are crucial in terms of strategic, economic, and geopolitical perspectives. It is an undeniable fact that the sooner we realise and work towards this the better it will be for the country's future.

On the other hand, India must avoid its hegemonistic approach to Bangladesh, and accord due significance to its neighbour in the interest of regional stability, balanced growth and the shared vision of a resurgent new south Asia.

Ahmed Khaled Rashid is Research and Communication Officer in the Embassy of Switzerland in Dhaka. The opinions expressed in this article do not represent the views of the Embassy. The author can be reached at: ahmedkrashid@yahoo.com.

From Pakistan

Tirade against the army

Sun, 2008-08-24 01:48

By Asif Haroon Raja

One may recall that till 18 February the army was blamed for all the ills of the society. Each time an army chief usurped power through a coup, the army as a whole was unfairly held responsible. The army’s high image that had been built over a period of time was first soiled in 1971, due to wrong policies of Gen Yahya Khan. Indo-western media played a lead role in tarnishing the army’s image. After him, retired Gen Musharraf lowered the esteem of the army in the eyes of the public by engaging it in a futile war on terror against its own people and clinging to power. He is solely responsible for bringing the proud and honourable institution to such a sorry pass. Foreign media is again playing its negative role.

One cannot deny that while democracy suffered, economy upturned and governance improved during the military rules of Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Musharraf. During civilian rule, democracy, economy and governance suffered badly and all popular civilian rulers became autocratic. The politicians have played a major role in failing democracy because of their inept and corrupt practices and infighting.

Those in opposition have always been pressing the army chief to capture power and whenever he did so after toppling an elected government, the coup was hailed. However, once the army ruler strengthened his position and refused to abdicate power, the army as a whole was subjected to intense criticism. While all the four martial laws were acclaimed, it was only 3 November mini-martial law which was condemned.

It may also be noted that the civil governments have tended to misuse the army by employing it on non-professional projects. Wherever there is an element of risk or physical work of strenuous nature, the responsibility is quickly palmed off to the army.

For all man-made or natural calamities, the army has been called in aid of civil power and this practice is still in vogue despite the fact that the civil administration has huge resources in terms of dedicated manpower, funds and equipment to deal with suchlike emergency situations. It was used for locating “ghost schools”, reformation of Wapda, locust killing, checking smuggling, wheat hoarding, floods, earthquakes, and what have you. ZA Bhutto used the army to quell insurgency in Baluchistan and to restore law and order in major cities in 1977. The army undertakes all these thankless jobs without foregoing its primary duty of training and operational preparedness, which indeed becomes very taxing.

Notwithstanding the damage done to the democracy during military rule, it is unfortunate that the democratic governments have caused greater harm to democracy. Corruption touches new heights; rules are bent with impunity and merit not given credence. They have always given preference to party loyalists out of political expediency to serve party interests rather than national interests.

Zardari has gone a step further by giving preference to those who have a tainted history and are his loyalists. The top key posts have already been handed over to unelected and NRO cleared fugitives, while defeated PPP candidates are also given important slots and Jayalas fitted into PIA, railways and such like organisations at a large scale.

PM Gilani is a mere dummy while all decisions are taken in Zardari House. Zardari spends most of his time abroad and has adopted a cavalier attitude and is no mood to restore deposed judges unless NRO is constitutionally indemnified. Within five months the PPP run government has lost its sense of direction and is lurching forward like a rudderless ship. Talk of big financial scams and underhand deals involving huge kickbacks is making rounds.

Under a planned conspiracy hatched by our adversaries the army has come under scathing disparagement. They realised that Pakistan could only be brought to its knees if its military was discredited from within. Coordinated media snipes are being fired to weaken this trunk. During the Kargil conflict, US media named the army as “rogue army”.

The disgruntled politicians, paid writers, journalists and intellectuals embarked upon a vitriolic campaign to undermine the institution of army. It was projected as a white elephant eating into the vitals of the country at the cost of development of the nation. The detractors smirked at the growing economic power of the army because of its superior financial management and creating alternative financial sources to make the military machine robust.

The detractors maligned the army sponsored organisations such as self-financed and self-managed Fauji Foundation and others running in huge profits and described them as “Milbus”. US based Ayesha Siddiqa’s book “Military Inc.” became popular. Acquisition of conventional weapons and nuclear technology by Pakistan to maintain respectable regional balance was also presented in a twisted form.

The army generals became the butt of ridicule and referred to as “Crore Commanders”. Self-generating defence housing schemes and policy of allotment of plots and agriculture land to officers were also grudged. Musharraf was criticised for appointing serving and retired army officers in each and every civil department, asserting that he had obliged the army officers at the cost of deserving civilians. It was suggested that the guzzling monster must be cut to size before it reduced the country into a carcass.

Army’s role on “war on terror” was subjected to severe censure and scorn. Army was accused of selling its soul in return for dollars. Any setback in the tribal belt or peace deal was blown up and portrayed as army’s nerviness to confront the tribal. Some writers like Ejaz Haider portrayed the army as ?”ainti-Belcha army”. Indian columnist retired Col Harish Puri whose articles are published in “The News” referred to this remark with a sadistic pleasure. He demonises the Taliban but makes no mention of RAW, which is behind all gruesome beheadings and fomenting trouble in Baluchistan and FATA. He suggests military option to be the only solution to militancy in FATA. Cooked up stories are regularly pasted in US and western newspapers that the army is in collusion with the Taliban and is deliberately not eliminating terrorism in FATA. The ISI is accused of providing assistance to the Taliban. It is alleged that the army has pocketed $10 billion US assistance without rendering desired services.

Denigration of army by our print media at the behest of foreign interests is unfair and unwarranted. Out of ten army chiefs, only four got tempted and usurped political power. Gens Mirza Beg, Asif Nawaz, Waheed Kakar and Jahangir Karamat resisted the bait offered by the politicians. Sins of four power hungry army chiefs must not be lumped on the army as an institution. Each coup was planned and executed by the army chief and general officers only. The army as a whole was never taken into confidence but was ordered to obey their commands at the nick of the time.

The fruits of usurpation of power were also enjoyed by the top leadership of the army. The wrongs of Musharraf, seen as lapdog of Bush, must not be put in the lap of the army. Being a highly disciplined organisation, there is no scope for the junior ranks to disobey the given command. It jumps into the burning inferno of war whenever ordered without any argument. It has undergone the rigours of low intensity guerrilla war since 2003 and lost over 1200 combat soldiers and hundreds critically injured and has never shirked its duties. Families of over 150,000 troops engaged in counter insurgency operations for the last so many years are living a disturbed life. Hardly a day passes when they don’t hear sad news about the bread earners getting killed, injured or taken hostage in a senseless war of attrition. Education of the children is suffering since they are getting neglected.

On taking over as army chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has taken some meaningful steps to bolster the sagging image of the army by way of distancing it from politics and civilian bodies. He categorically announced that the army would only provide security cover outside the polling stations and in no way will meddle into the elections. This distancing act helped a great deal in preventing rigging on the polling day. With only one hat to wear, he is devoting his entire energies towards army matters and is routinely visiting troops in forward areas. To put an end to barrage of criticism against army meddling in civil affairs, he withdrew all serving officers. He has made the selection to senior ranks tougher by vowing to personally see every senior officer in promotion zone.

His welfare package for the lower ranks of the army to the tune of Rs. 11 billion is indeed the best gift he could bestow upon the army. While every army chief has been talking about troop welfare, but in practical terms the benefits doled out were cosmetic and an eye wash. The cake was always grabbed by the officers, particularly the general’s club, leaving crumbs for the other ranks, which form the backbone of the army. The order of priority seems to have been reversed for the first time which needed a big heart since the senior officers think it their right to enjoy all the perks and privileges under the anomalous plea that they have worked hard to deserve them.

While most married officers get official accommodation, only 10% of the lower ranks are entitled to this facility and that too in rotation. The married accommodation of lower ranks in dilapidated condition has been renovated and numbers multiplied. A comprehensive plan is underway to provide houses on 5 and 8 marlas plots in DHA to retiring lower ranks as in the case of officers.

There is also a plan to comprehensively insure the life of each soldier in view of growing number of fatalities under prevalent warlike conditions. Ration scale has been doubled and now meat and chicken is served to soldiers in proper dining rooms on almost daily basis. Uniform allowance has been provided to allow the soldiers to stitch uniforms fitting their size rather than wearing free size issued by Ordnance Depots. Apart from the welfare measures, he is making the army train on low intensity warfare concept and has already achieved remarkable results. These and many other steps are bound to restore the bruised ego and pride of a soldier and will have a lasting impact on the wilting morale of the army as a whole.

Notwithstanding his well-meaning measures the biggest challenge Kayani faces is the worsening security situation in the northwest. It is not getting controlled because of meddlesome role of USA and machinations of RAW-RAM-CIA. USA does not want Pakistan to negotiate with the militants. Pakistan has come under increased pressure to do more or let the US forces deal with the militants in FATA. USA is keen to be given a licence to operate in FATA and hunt the so-called terrorists. ISI has become the chief target of our adversaries and they are hell-bent to take the steam out of this potent organisation. US troops also do not feel comfortable to enter FATA with unbridled ISI which in their jaundiced view is linked with militants. Instead of protecting it, our weak-kneed leaders have assured them that the ISI would be brought to heel.

Rather than renewing the old policy of Musharraf, Kayani should work out a strategy by which he is able to disengage the army from the inferno of FATA and let the Frontier Corps and other second line forces to take up frontline duties as effectively as the regular army. The manpower of FC being from the same stock as that of the militants is more suited to fight the militants. It will be to his great credit if he succeeds in winning the hearts and minds of the extremist forces and dousing the fire of militancy. It will however, require Herculean efforts to reverse the surging tide of antipathy against the army among the people of FATA and to once again restore its image. He must take effective measures to eliminate presence of RAW agents in Baluchistan and mollify the hurt sentiments of the Baloch against the army. Gen Ziaul Haq was successful in winning them over in 1978.

Kayani should contribute towards getting the nation rid of perverse influence of Americans and restore sovereignty of Pakistan. It is high time that CIA?s access to our military bases in Baluchistan and along coastal belt should be denied since these are being used to destabilise Baluchistan and to export terrorism in Iran. He needs to bridle the generals, chiefly responsible for bringing bad name to the army because of their insatiable love for worldly comforts and feudal mindset. Sycophancy that had peaked during Musharraf era must be curbed and God fearing seniors with steel in their backs should be preferred over robots. He will be remembered with good words if he makes the army a symbol of austerity and simple living.

Asif Haroon Raja a retired Brigadier, is a defence and political analyst.

- Asian Tribune -

ANALYSIS: Musharraf’s mistakes — Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi

Pakistan’s state and society were fully overwhelmed by the military, leaving little space for autonomous functioning of civilian institutions and processes. Political and commercial advancement was no longer possible without being co-opted by the Musharraf government

Pervez Musharraf’s spirited defence of his policies in his last address to the nation as president did not alter the fact that he represented yet another failure of a military ruler to create viable civilian institutions and processes. Having lost all political support, he left the presidency as a lone man with an uncertain future. It is not clear if he will live in Pakistan or join his favourite prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, abroad.

Many had welcomed Musharraf’s assumption of power on October 12, 1999, because the civilian government led by Nawaz Sharif had mistreated its political adversaries and attempted to subdue all state institutions, including the army, to his partisan agenda.

Musharraf’s departure was equally celebrated in the streets of the main cities. Whereas the supporters of the ruling coalition distributed sweets, others expressed relief and hope for a better future. There was hardly anyone who regretted Musharraf’s departure with the exception of his close associates, especially the top leadership of the PMLQ.

Had Musharraf resigned immediately after the February elections, he would have gone home with some goodwill, which would have set him apart from Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-ul Haq. However, like his predecessors, he did not quit until he was fully discredited and had lost all other options. Zia also had no plans to quit and was planning another carefully managed election when he died in an air crash in 1988. Therefore, history’s judgement on Musharraf will be as negative as its judgement on earlier military rulers.

Pakistan’s experience suggests that the top generals can rely on a disciplined and professional army to overthrow divided and weak political leaders and establish a government that is able to show some effectiveness in the beginning. However, when it comes to addressing socio-economic and political problems that cause fragility and inefficacy of civilian institutions and processes, military rulers fail miserably.

A military government can show some specific and individual successes but these “achievements” neither pull in one direction nor do these create an alternative political and economic order that can sustain itself without the backing of its founder. The military-tailored political and economic system reflects the military ethos of hierarchy, discipline and management from above. It cannot cope with the pressures of political participation and socio-economic justice. A military government falters in promoting a broad-based political consensus and continuity because of its aversion to open competitive politics.

Rulers like Musharraf have a tendency to develop a ‘messiah’ complex and tend to view themselves as indispensable. This is a self-created illusion that makes it difficult for military rulers to consider voluntary surrender of power. Musharraf’s downfall was expedited by his refusal to recognise that he had lost much of his political support, making it difficult for him to get re-elected. His sycophants in and around the presidency, especially ex-PM Aziz and the PMLQ leadership ill-advised him on ways to overcome constitutional and legal obstacles to his re-election to a second presidential term. His over-ambitious and blatant actions in 2007 cost him his office.

Musharraf created an authoritarian and centralised political order that was based on the military principle of centrality of command and concentration of power in the presidency. He carefully tailored the system to civilianise his military rule by constitutional and political engineering, co-option of a section of the political elite who agreed to play politics on his terms and exclusion of those who questioned his legitimacy. He carefully managed an uncontested referendum to ensure his continued rule and held a dubious election to ensure the success of the co-opted leadership. When this method did not achieve all objectives, he used the intelligence agencies to divide and weaken political adversaries and installed his favourites in powerful positions.

Naturally, a parliament and prime minister created though such manipulation could not acquire an autonomous role. The three prime ministers who served under him were appointed or removed by him in his exclusive discretion. The ruling PMLQ and the parliament gave formal approval only. During the Shaukat Aziz years, major policy decisions were taken in special meetings presided over by the president; the federal cabinet had fewer meetings in which it dealt with routine matters.

Musharraf strengthened his rule by inducting a large number of serving and retired military (mainly army) officers to key posts in government departments and semi-government institutions. He inducted more army officers to civilian institutions than any previous military ruler.

Musharraf strengthened his position by allowing the military to expand its business and commercial activities at a phenomenal pace. By 2007 the military had penetrated all major sectors of Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan’s state and society were fully overwhelmed by the military, leaving little space for autonomous functioning of civilian institutions and processes. Political and commercial advancement was no longer possible without being co-opted by the Musharraf government.

His centralised governance was also marked by duality of policy. The government subscribed to a declared policy on a particular issue but the people within the official civilian and military circles were allowed to pursue a different approach that conflicted with the declared official policy. This duality reflected in all major policies, including counter-terrorism, treatment of the smaller provinces and economic development.

Counter-terrorism was the most publicised feature of Musharraf’s government but elements in official civilian and army circles continued to sympathise with, if not support, the Taliban and other militants.

Musharraf vowed to reduce inter-provincial tension but his effort to force development projects on Balochistan without taking into account the concerns of Baloch leaders increased political tension in Balochistan. The situation worsened with the initiation of military operation in parts of Balochistan and the killing of Sardar Akbar Khan Bugti. Today, the federal-provincial interaction is more troubled than it was when he assumed power.

Similarly, economic development also suffered from duality. The government publicised its economic strides and down-played the contribution of foreign economic assistance since September 2001, arguing that the key to economic strides was the inherent strength of the economy under Musharraf.

However, the fruits of foreign economic assistance did not reach the common people and the gap increased between the rich and the poor. The government fabricated data on economic development to show that Pakistan would soon become an economic miracle. Had there been genuine economic development Pakistan would not have faced the current economic crisis so soon after the collapse of the Musharraf system.

The duality in Musharraf’s policies alienated most sections of Pakistani society but the fa├žade of Musharraf’s invincibility sustained until he overplayed his hand by attempting to remove the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the lawyers launched the movement for an independent judiciary. They were joined by other societal groups and political parties, setting the stage for Musharraf’s downfall. How the lawyers were able to sustain their autonomy and launched a movement that mobilised the society is discussion that warrants another article altogether.

Hopefully, the military top brass in Pakistan recognises its limits in directly handling political power. The experience of effectively managing a corps or a regimental centre does not qualify a general to run state affairs. These are two different domains and a task-oriented institution like the military is not suited to directly handling socio-economic and political problems in a diversified society.

Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi is a political and defence analyst

Will the Pak army fight Taliban?

No, says the New York Times. The Pak army is more interested in preserving its own institutional interests rather than playing the game for the United States in the region.

After glowing initial reviews by the Americans, General Kayani has appeared less interested in how to deal with the Taliban than with the sagging morale of his undertrained, underequipped troops.

“In my view they won’t do aggressive counterinsurgency because they can’t,” said Christine Fair, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, of the Pakistani Army.

In the post-Musharraf era, she said, the army wants to concentrate on rehabilitating its morale and reputation, which were sullied by Mr. Musharraf’s unpopular political decisions. “This means they are less likely to cooperate, not more,” she added. “Right now, they care about what’s in their own institution’s interests.”

That does not include getting their noses bloodied in a fight with the Taliban. But more important, perhaps, over the longer term, the Taliban remain an important tool for Pakistan to influence events over the border if the Americans leave Afghanistan, as they did after the departure of the Soviets, she said.

That should firmly shut many commentators [Daniel Larison, Gen. Barry McCaffrey (retd.), Nirav Patel etc.] in the US who have been harping on addressing the Pakistani concerns over India while US seeks Pakistan’s military support in the region.

There have been suggestions by the French military (even before they lost 10 soldiers in an ambush in Afghanistan) that the West cannot sustain Hamid Karzai for long and an agreement will have to be reached with certain moderate sections of the Taliban. That course of action would be playing into Pakistani hands and fulfilling the Pakistani game plan of having their cake and eating it too — Keep the US involved in Afghanistan for continued financial aid, while securing strategic depth against India through a favourable dispensation in Kabul, that will allow Pakistan to again raise the militancy levels in Kashmir.

The US intelligentsia needs to recognise that there is a distinct alignment between the Indian and US interests in Afghanistan. The Pakistani interests, in fact, run counter to the US aims and policies in the region. So, which country should the new US administration be really courting - India or Pakistan? Moreover, should India still continue to dither from military deployment in Afghanistan, while having nearly 9000 soldiers deployed under the UN flag in Congo, Sudan and Lebanon?

It boils down to two related policy decisions: the US should not pander to the Pakistani army; and the Indian government should seriously consider military deployment in Afghanistan.

However, going by the discourses at various thinktanks in the US, The Acorn put it rather well the other day- God save the US from its pundits.

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