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How Morsi should have pre-empted a military take-over?

4 Jul

MorsiA coup or military rule may be the most detestable option in the eyes of the beneficiaries of a sham democracy, but in certain cases it is the last choice to save a country and its institutions from falling into chaos. President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, a representative of Islamists in his country, has hardly completed one year in office, but the people, in millions, are rallying against his government and asking for his resignation. He is increasingly being isolated, with his close aides and cabinet colleagues resigning after having read the writing on the wall. The military, which was subdued after former President Hosni Mubarak was removed from power, has given an ultimatum to the civilian government to put its house in order or be ready to face the eventuality of implementing military’s roadmap, which means takeover by the Egyptian military. The opposition is not in a mood to talk and, unless some miracle happens, Morsi is all set to pack, lock, stock and barrel.

The question is, when do military coups happen? The answer is simple: When the civilians fail miserably to govern and as a consequence, put the country at risk. No military can dare to take over when the public stands behind the politicians. The case in point is Pakistan, where the military has ruled during half of the country’s 66-year history.

The first military takeover was staged in 1958, nearly 11 years after the country’s establishment. The politicians were busy in the game of musical chairs with a government hardly staying in office for a year on average. The governance was not in the list of priorities of the politicians, whose attention was focused on getting into power and then surviving. The common man was sick and tired of the games being played by politicians at his cost. The army chief was invited by the president to impose martial law. When the constitution was abrogated and the civilian government sacked, the military commanders finally took over in October 1958. The military was in the saddle for more than 10 years and the country witnessed prosperity and development.

When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over in 1972 and promulgated a constitution in 1973, it was hoped that the country would see a stable democracy, but unfortunately democracy is not only about elections and powers and perks, it is also about delivery of service. Bhutto proved to be the worst dictator, in whose tenure basic rights remained suspended, the economy nosedived, and poll rigging was at its worst.

The agitation of 1977 turned violent due to police atrocities, and the country was at the brink of civil war. The people had a sigh of relief when the military commander walked in and dismissed Bhutto. The circumstances for the next coup by Musharraf in 1999 were no different; the civilian government dismissed the army chief when he was in the air and the pilot was asked not to land till the change of command effectively took place. The military commanders thwarted the civilian attempts to divert the military chief’s flight to archrival India and took over the airport, TV station and prime minister’s house. Musharraf landed safely and consolidated the coup. According to a survey, 70 percent of Pakistanis were jubilant about the military takeover.

Then there were demands for a military takeover when a wave of Hazara genocide gripped the province of Balochistan nearly six months ago because people had lost faith in the capacity of the politicians to deliver law and order.

In countries where there is true democracy, the people are treated fairly, their basic rights are ensured, their lives are comfortable and prosperous as much as those of their leaders, no military can dare attempt to take over. The situation in Egypt has many lessons for countries where the only trace of democracy is the system of elections which throws up scoundrels only. If the people are unhappy and their lives are miserable due to increasing poverty and violence, they would welcome military rule.

Pakistani leaders can learn a lesson or two from the developing situation in Egypt. If the country’s survival is at stake and people have no recourse to undo the elections, no amount of deterrence in the form of Article 6 of the Constitution can stop a coup. This country that witnessed its first smooth civilian transition after the 2013 elections can also learn lessons, not only from Egypt but also from its own history. Its present government has to focus its energies to steer the country out of financial bankruptcy, a power crisis and an unjust taxation system. Remember: A happy and prosperous majority never looks toward the military for deliverance.

Courtesy: ALLVOICES

 

Taksim Square may frustrate Erdogan’s Caliphate ambitions

4 Jun

Taksim Square protest

By: Hussain Saqib

Turkey is on fire and the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing the worst resistance from those who apparently did not like his move to build a mall at the site of Gezi Park right in the historic Taksim Square of Istanbul. But the on-going protests started against the construction of the Mall have gone viral gripping other Turkish cities and towns. The protests could have been contained with political acumen but have gone out of control because of brutal use of force. And the prime minister has not shown any signs of going soft which indicates that protests will ignite further resistance and more violence. These protests have amply demonstrated a divide between the ruling elite, president Gul and the PM. President Gul has advised the government to reconcile with protesters while the PM continues to believe that use of force is the appropriate answer to the on-going crisis.

Turkey political class, recently released from the yoke of military’s might was making efforts to turn around the country. The economy had started showing signs of improvement and the prime minister asserted his authority by prosecuting the generals. The violent protests in the infancy of the new democratic era may not be a good sign but the government could have done well to deal with the crisis in a democratic manner.

There are mounting concerns voiced by international community and the country’s secular elements that the Turkish regime under Erdogan is rapidly becoming authoritarian and distancing itself from the EU’s perspectives. Meanwhile, in Turkey’s political circles, and in the media and business world, the topic of the day is the need for an alternative to emerge to appeal to AKP’s traditionally conservative right-wing base that constitutes 60% of the population. This is particularly not good news for Erdogan who plans to contest presidential election next year. He may have to face Gul who also aspires to continue as president. His party is working on a draft of a new constitution which if comes into force will pack up the parliamentary system and replace it by the presidential system which will give him unlimited powers. Due to his party’s Islamic credentials, it is feared that Erdogan will assume the powers of the Caliphate and will run the country with decrees without sharing powers with any state institution including the parliament.

In this backdrop, the anti-Mall protests may not be as simple as they are being presented. The frustration and anger shown by Erdogan in dealing with the crisis with an iron hand evidently narrate a different story. It seems it may not be president Gul blocking the ambitions of Erdogan’s becoming a Caliph, there may be forces inimical to an Islamic order in Turkey who may be fueling violent protests to bring a change like the Arab Spring. That is the reason that Taksim Square has already been branded as Al Tehrir Square of Egypt. The power of social media, Facebook and Twitter, has been unleashed against the present regime. A recent statement of Erdogan that the demonstrations are the work of “extreme elements” and that they would likely spark a backlash against the organizers was provocative and showed that the matter would no longer be dealt with by the security forces. Erdogan plans of use his political supporters against the protesters. This would be a bad news for political stability in the country.

The protests began after plans were made to raze Gezi Park, the last green space in central Istanbul, and replace it with a replica of 19th-century Ottoman barracks. The development would contain a shopping mall. What began as a sit-in by a handful of angry residents quickly grew into a larger protest. Riot police moved in, using tear gas and pepper spray. Protesters responded by hurling bottles, setting up barricades, blocking bulldozers and burning trash in the middle of the street. Then, outraged by the behavior of security forces, demonstrators began attacking police. The protests have since morphed into larger complaints against Erdogan, whom protesters call paternalistic and authoritarian.

The demolition of Gezi Park – the issue which sparked the protests – is a part of a wider urban redevelopment project in Istanbul. The government wants to pedestrianize and ease traffic around Taksim Square. Kalyon Group, a company which has close ties with the government, has been contracted to carry out the project. The project also includes building a shopping center which PM Erdogan says would not be “a traditional mall”, but rather would include cultural centers, an opera house and a mosque. The plan also includes rebuilding an Ottoman-era military barracks near the site and demolishing the historic Ataturk Cultural Centre. The government has been making ambiguous and inconsistent statements about the project, which is causing concern among protesters who oppose replacing the green city park with grey concrete.

If Erdogan government plans to destroy Ataturk relics from the country, it would have to tread cautiously. The protests have shown that there are people in Turkey who still hold Ataturk and his memories with great respect. Any attempt to bulldoze anti-Ataturk initiatives with force will polarize the Turks.

What if Erdogan Goes (Financial Times)

Turkish union supports protesters (bbc.co.uk)

Mr Sharif is between a rock and a hard place

14 May

NSPakistan is going to have a new government in Islamabad and a third-term prime minister installed in less than two weeks. It is almost the same time that the new Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will visit Pakistan on May 22 and 23, 2013 as a part of efforts to further strengthen bilateral ties between the two nations. Li Keqiang, who became prime minister in March, will be visiting Islamabad on his first foreign trip since assuming office. The Chinese premier is expected to meet the incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, as well as President Zardari during his trip.

China and Pakistan call each other ‘all-weather friends’ and their close ties have for decades been underpinned by a desire to hedge against US influence across the region.

The incoming prime minister will face the challenging task of balancing his government’s relationship with China viz-a-viz the United States of America. He has already assured the Americans that he would work with them to rid the region of the menace of terrorism. In order to please the Americans, he has already criticized two decisions of the outgoing Zardari government; handing over management of Gwadar Deep Sea Port to China and Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline. While China may be the direct beneficiary of managing Gwadar Port to strengthen its String of Pearls strategy, it is also a potential beneficiary of the pipeline crossing Pakistani territory. It may be difficult for the new leadership to explain to its visiting friend as to how the bilateral relations would be strengthened if these two decisions were reversed.

Mr Sharif has openly criticized Pakistan Army’s Kargil adventure and promised to constitute an Inquiry Commission. He has also promised to share the findings of this Commission with India, a potential move which has already been severely criticized. People believe that Mr Sharif has gone “too far” to appease Indians, perceived in Pakistan as enemy number one. It would be difficult for the PM to face his Chinese counterpart and support a similar recent adventure of PLA in Ladakh. Chinese forces have not only encamped inside the LAC in Indian territory (read: occupied Indian territory), it has no plans to withdraw from this location. The Kargil was almost similar to Ladakh and if Mr Sharif does not approve of Kargil, he should also condemn or at least disapprove of Chinese adventure.

There are going to be interesting developments. It would not be possible to appease Americans and Indians and simultaneously strengthen Sino-Pak relationship.

Courtesy: ALLVOICES 

 

Can Pakistan reach out to India’s estranged ally, Russia?

25 Apr

russiaRussia, the largest arms supplier to India has reportedly decided not to supply arms to India in future questioning the transparency of deals. These deals, according to Russia are, not transparent and fair and the Indian officials manipulate the multi-billion dollars tenders in such a way as to keep Russia out of competition. Indian daily Hindustan Times has quoted Russian ambassador as saying that gimmicks are used to manipulate deals and sometimes terms of tenders are crafted specifically to get the required results. Russia has questioned New Delhi’s fairness and transparency in awarding multi-billion dollar military contracts, and warned that it may have to reconsider doing business with India.

Russia, heretofore the number one defense supplier to India is losing its business to Israel and the US. In order to keep pace with the requirements of modern warfare, India is forced to go for a superior technology which is obviously available in the US. Russia may be losing its business more on the quality of its products than manipulation. But this gives a clear picture of how India is dumping its long-time friendship for realpolitik. India needs state-of-the-art modern fighter jets, mid-air re-fuellers, heavy-lift helicopters and attack choppers for its military.

Russia’s frustration at losing business in India is quite understandable as it reportedly wanted to bypass the tendering process and sell its military equipment through government-to-government deals. This is not an innovation as India has already ordered American equipment worth $8 billion though foreign military sales (FMS) program which does not go through the process of tendering. According to statistics, Russia’s current defence portfolio in India is worth $20 billion.

Russia’s reaction shows that rejection of its equipment through tenders renders its technology as inferior which creates an adverse perception. This hurts Russia which stood by India in its testing times when it was facing sanctions after its nuclear tests and never stopped its sensitive equipment from export to India. The US normally does not allow all its equipment to be exported and each and every deal is subjected to export controls.  Russia even leased its nuclear submarine to India which no country would dare to do.

Russia’s frustration with India has created many a ripples in the emerging diplomatic scenario. A long-time ally getting estranged is real-life lesson in realpolitik but with Russia’s efforts to regain its international status and converting the world back to bipolarity; this loss of economic and diplomatic space in South Asia would be very dear. Will Pakistan fill the vacuum created by India in Indo-Russian relations is a question agitating the minds of those watching the development with interest and with fingers crossed.

Courtesy: ALLVOICES

 

China’s Ladakh incursion vindicates Kargil operation

24 Apr

The elements of Peoples Liberation Army (PLA), the official name for armed forces of China have crossed the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and have encamped in what India calls Indian Territory. A Chinese border guards’ platoon (40 soldiers) has pitched tents ten kilometers inside Indian territory overlooking Daulet Beg Oldie (DBO) in Ladakh in the Western sector. The last time they did a similar thing was in 1986 in Sumdorong Chu in the Eastern sector (Arunachal Pradesh). Both times, the Chinese forces had blessings from the highest quarters: then Deng Xiaoping and now the President and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Xi Jinping. The Chinese finally left Sumdorong Chu of their own accord in 1995, with India calling it a historic win-win situation. This time around, the Chinese forces are unlikely to withdraw. I this incursion, first in 21st century, a well-crafted act of an unfolding grand strategy, only the time will tell. Chinese assert that their incursion 10 kilometers into LAC is technically correct because India has done more transgressions into the Eastern sector than the other way round. China further says that it has refrained from making noises because it wants good neighborly relations, but it will act in self-defense if the need arises.

Although the Chines authorities have refused to accept this allegation, the tension is developing between the two countries and there is no immediate let up in sight in spite of mutual interaction through flag meetings. The Chinese were critical of India’s infrastructural development in the area like roads and bridges and its provocative patrolling. It has been learnt that India has upgraded old airfields along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. These are the airfields at Daulat Beg Oldi and further south at Fuk Che and Nyoma. All these airfields can take transport aircraft and helicopters.

According to sources, India has deployed 70,000 troops including artillery regiments in Siachen and the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh. Also the Air Force deploys fighter jets in Srinagar and elsewhere in the valley. But Indians insist that they had not developed any physical infrastructure in the area. As compared to India, China deploys more than 200,000 troops along its border with India in Ladakh. That includes mechanized infantry units, the artillery and tank formations. China has reportedly built 14 major air bases in Tibet, 8 missile bases and 17 secret radar stations. It also has a highway network running all along the Line of Actual Control.

China’s claim to the area as their own is not out of blue; it has consistent been asserting its position. China believes that its disputed border with India is merely 2000 km long and they said it publically when their Premier Wen Jiabao’s visited India in December 2010. China’s stance has been simple; they think they border with India on the Middle Sector, Sikkim and Eastern Sector. They refuse to accept having any border with India in the Western sector or the state of Jammu and Kashmir. According to this assertion, China has no border with India in Ladakh. By implication, China has not accepted that they have encamped in India Territory because J&K belongs to Pakistan.

This is a major development as far as Pakistan is concerned. China has done what it has been talking about in the past. According to Indian media, China had already discreetly made its intentions clear in four choreographed moves:

  • In 2006, the Chinese ambassador in India claimed the entire 90,000 sq km Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh (Eastern sector) as its territory, calling it, for the first time, as Zang Nan or South Tibet. Following Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 2003 visit to China when India formally accepted Tibet as a part of China, the Chinese started hinting at the Indian army presence in South Tibet as intrusions in their territory. It is obvious as the Indian army increases its numbers by raising a new strike corps that the PLA will react in what they call self-defense.
  • The second Chinese move was in 2009 when they started issuing stapled visas to Kashmiris visiting China. Beijing refused a visa to Lt General B S Jaswal, head of the Indian army’s northern command responsible for J&K, in July 2010. This was because the general was posted in Kashmir (disputed area with Pakistan) and Chinese had to keep Pakistan’s sensitivity in mind.
  • The third Chinese move was in December 2010 when they publicly announced that the disputed border was a mere 2,000 km. This made the need for stapled visas for Kashmiris unnecessary; India immediately claimed to have resolved the visas issue amicably. Moreover, the Chinese announcement ended the need for further Special Representatives talks; once a side discloses its position openly, the give-and-take option for resolution is not possible. For this reason, during the 15th round of talks, it was decided that the Special Representatives need not work on border resolution. Instead, they will devise and execute a ‘Mechanism on Coordination and Consultation on Border Affairs’.
  • The fourth Chinese step regarding the Western sector was the moving of PLA forces in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The Indian chief of army staff, General V K Singh had, in 2011, repeatedly spoken of about 3,500 to 4,000 PLA troops in Northern Kashmir, something denied by Beijing and downplayed by India.

The present incursion of PLA elements into LAC is not something unprecedented. India did it in 1984 by incursion into Pakistani side in Siachen. The Indian army had the total support of Indian government. Pakistan made attempts to wrest back the area in 1987 when Pakistani commandos under Brig Pervez Musharraf launched an offensive. In 1999, Pakistan army’s para-military troops crossed into Line of Control (LoC) and occupied unmanned positions in the Kargil sector to use it as a bargaining chip to assert its position on Siachen issue. This move, a tactical in nature, was frustrated by Pakistani politicians for petty politics; to look as good boys in the eyes of Americans and Indians. This was the reason that politicians conspired to sack Musharraf and teach generals a lesson but the move was frustrated when army took over on October 12, 1999.

The latest development in Ladakh is not a venture of PLA alone; they have full support from their political leadership. India has its strategic doctrine of encircling its neighbors but China seems to have checkmated. They have declared that they do not recognize Indian claim on Kashmir and are standing with Pakistani people. It is ironic, though, that Pakistani leadership is not enthusiastic about it.