Tag Archives: United States

Syrian Conflict: Should Pakistan walk into Saudi Trap once again?

7 Nov

SyriaMilitary cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia go back to many decades. Pakistan has largely been dependent on Saudi oil and Saudis have always looked towards Pakistan for military cooperation; training, deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia. Branding of Pakistan’s nuclear program by the West as “Islamic Bomb” gave Saudis a license to claim its co-ownership of Pakistan’s strategic assets being the leader of the Muslim world. Pakistan is also dependent on Saudi Arabia for foreign remittances its diaspora working in Saudi Arabia regularly sends home enabling Pakistan to meet its foreign currency needs. Pakistani leaders, both civilians and military, have been under the influence of Saudis for their domestic power tussles for economic reasons and for the reason that Saudis are American proxy on this side of the Suez.

Saudis have always played a role in domestic politics of Pakistan. Of late, they are being perceived to be the single reason of Pakistan’s present woes as all trails of terrorism in Pakistan lead to the Holy Land. Saudis have taken upon themselves to export their brand of Islam, violent Salafist, to other Muslim countries in the same manner USSR tried to make investment in exporting communism. Saudi-funded madrassas, preaching violence and their own brand of Islam, have mushroomed and Pakistanis are paying the price for being under Saudi debt with their blood.

Emboldened by the success of its Pakistan enterprise, Saudi embarked upon the project to convert Syrians to Salafism. Saudis are supporting and funding the violent movement in Syria to depose Assad regime. They had persuaded the US to attack Syria in support of their jihadis and even offered to pay all costs to the Americans. When, with shrewd diplomatic maneuvers of Russian president Putin, Americans had to back off, Saudis got disgruntled and in protest, refused to accept UN Security Council membership. They have lost all hopes of active American intervention in Syria and have started looking towards a more pliant and accommodating friend, Pakistan to their deeds in Syria.

If a recent report carried by Foreign Policy is to be believed, Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it. Both the countries, along with CIA had already undertaken such initiatives successfully in Afghanistan in 1980s. But will Pakistan fall prey to this latest imperial design of the monarchs of Saudi Arabia oblige given the fact that it has already earned notoriety in the world for failing to eliminate terrorism from its soil which threaten the peace of the world?

According to the report, Saudis have clear plans to achieve twin objectives from their Syrian enterprise; toppling the Assad regime, and weakening al Qaeda-linked groups in the country. This is another matter that al Qaeda is the major element in anti-Assad forces fighting for Saudi Arabia.

Saudis are planning to raise regular Syrian Rebel Army and they want Pakistan, known for its excellent military training institutions to the deeds for them. A regular Pakistan-trained army of rebels would be sufficient to force Assad to give in to the rebels.

Pakistan has two reasons not to walk into Saudi trap; Saudis are looking towards Pakistan after failing to elicit American support and doing the Saudi deed would involve it into controversies incurring the wrath of international community. Second reason for watching out is that Pakistan is already paying the price for getting into a similar enterprise in 1980s. Though Syria is a far away country not in Pakistan’s neighborhood, the rebels would claim their pound of flesh after the war is over. The current level of military cooperation is a lot more than what Pakistan should do for Saudi collaboration.

 

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Drone Strike on Hakeemullah Mehsud and weird reaction of Pakistani leaders

4 Nov

109437Hakimullah_MehsudPakistani government is in a real fix; civilian leaders are confused over the recent drone strike which killed Hakeemullah Mehsud, TTP commander and Pakistan’s Enemy Number One. They are unable to decide whether the drone which killed the terror prince was a blessing in disguise or an attack on their political asset. In life, the terror chief carried a bounty of Rs 50 million on his head.

In death, he has been instantly turned into a martyr by the leaders who are perceived to be coward and are trading State’s sovereignty with the terrorists in return for a peaceful tenure. The slain terrorist leader had blood of thousands of Pakistani men, women and children and security personnel on his hands. The reaction of political class has baffled everyone, including the foreigners who fail to understand that while the politicos were mysteriously silent on killing of innocent civilians and high-ranking military officials, why are they mourning the death of the chief killer?

Their reaction can be explained in simple words; the current lot of rulers of Pakistan owes their political power to Hakeemullah Mehsud. And this is the time to return the courtesy.

The elections which brought them into power were manipulated, if not rigged as widely believed, by Mehsud. He very generously allowed right-wing parties like PML (N), PTI, JI and JUI (F) to continue with their election campaign peacefully and threatened to bomb election rallies of ANP, MQM and PPP, the liberal parties. They attacked election rallies of these parties and forced them to stay inside giving open field to the parties of their choice. Had it not been the threats and attacks and there was a level-playing field for launching election campaign, the electoral results could have been different.

The right-wingers, immediately after coming into power, decided to pay back. They held an All Parties Conference (APC) in September and elevating the anti-state terrorists to the position of stakeholders in peace, decided to offer them an olive branch. The peace negotiations were to be held when the drone took out Mehsud on November 1, 2013. The Americans were after him as he was wanted by them with a head money of $ five million. He was their Enemy Number One too because of his attacks on American interests and close affiliation with al Qaeda.

After killing of Mehsud in the drone attack, ruling PML (N) has termed it as an attack on peace initiative and has promised to review US-Pak relations, Imran Khan has threatened to block NATO supply routes, JI has branded the slain terrorist leader as a martyr, the clerics of extremists Deobandi Islam have demanded retribution and the public is confused. The people are confused because the very same people mourning the death of one terrorist were never furious over death of tens of thousands innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

The questions is; if Mehsud was not killed in drone attack, would he cooperate the government in bringing peace to the country and give up arms to allow the State establish its writ in the area where TTP is holding the territory. The answer is, very unlikely. There are two reasons for being skeptic; one, the preconditions for peace talks like withdrawal of army from FATA and freeing of all criminals belonging to TTP without trial would be unacceptable to any honorable government, and two, it has now been established that TTP was an outfit working as proxy of Pakistan’s adversaries like India and Afghanistan. There is no reason that talks would be held to benefit Pakistan. At least five major terrorist attacks in the run up to so-called peace negotiations bear testimony to the fact that terrorists wanted such talks which could cede territories to them with the assurance that they would not be questioned on making further ingress into Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is under immense pressure to block NATO supplies passing through Pakistan’s GLOC and shoot down the drones. He has convened an extraordinary Cabinet meeting today to deliberate on the issue. The outcome of the meeting is expected to be not more than cheap political rhetoric.

Those supporting the cause of terrorists are enemies of the State

14 Sep

APCThe common perception that Pakistani politicians have surrendered to the terrorists is not without a reason. No country has so far tackled the problem of terrorism with olive branch. The very recent example of Sri Lanka’s fight against Tamil terrorists, and their victory, proves that the only way to talk to terrorists is through the barrel of guns. If the State is clear about its objectives, it can tell the spoilers, media, courts, and human rights activists, to go to hell.

Pakistani politicians defending the decision to extend olive branch to anti-Pakistan terrorists largely consist of greedy and coward; those who have no political agenda but they simply do not want to fight and risk their lives. If they have any agenda, it can be summed up very clearly; they simply want to rule, loot and plunder in peace, even if they have to cede a piece of this country to the terrorists. The other type of politicians is religious band of a particular hue. They are supporting the cause of terrorists with a clear objective; they want to finish the unfinished agenda of their spiritual forefathers to undo Pakistan which their forefathers, the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind (JUH) and Deoband had so vehemently opposed. They want to do it through defeating the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s founding father. The Taliban of all hues are foot soldiers of Deoband’s war against Pakistan.

They hate Jinnah because he was a direct threat to the religious hegemony of clergy which they were enjoying in the Sub-Continent since the age of Muslim monarchs of nearly all dynasties. For them, the corrupt Moghul era was a model for enforcing their type of religious system. The State of Pakistan, to which they lay their claim to rule, was a secular democratic state which they despised. The clergy under JUH was resisting the idea of Pakistan and was an ally of Congress which stood for an undivided India after departure of British rulers. In Jinnah, they saw a hurdle to their rule as he had declared in clear terms that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state. They all, except for an honorable minority under Maulana Thanwi, declared creation of Pakistan as a sin. They still have not accepted Pakistan and their ideological descendants, the TTP, has unleashed their revenge on Quaid’s Pakistan through acts of terror.

What TTP is doing today is, in fact, what their religious forefathers did at the time of creation of Pakistan. The father of Pakistani Taliban, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman had once declared proudly, “Thanks God that we were not partners in the commission of the sin of making of Pakistan”. It is irony of history that the very same anti-Pakistan Mullah now dreams, and can sell his soul to the devil, to become prime minister of the very same Pakistan his forefathers so vehemently opposed.

The TTP terrorists are criminals and not the enemies of the society alone; they are enemies of the State. They are worst that extortionist, target-killers, land-grabbers, bombers and arsonist who the State is fighting in Karachi. These murders have killed, in cold blood, nearly 70,000 Pakistanis. They have the audacity to attack defense personnel and installations and destroy those precious military assets which are a cause of concern to the enemies. Their reasoning and justification for attacking Pakistan are very interesting. They claim they are against the US and drone strikes and attack Pakistan to hurt the Americans. They can find any justification to kill and destroy and yet get away with it, thanks to their sympathizers and active supporters in Pakistani politicians.

People understand, unlike their politicians, that supporter of terrorists are worst enemies of the State.

At this point in time, Pakistan has only one stakeholder, its establishment including the civil and military bureaucracy and intelligence agencies. The Establishment knows fully well that the TTP terrorists are fighting Pakistan at the behest of its enemies in India, Afghanistan and elsewhere. But unfortunately, the Establishment has been reduced to a passive spectator. They have failed to convince the opportunist politicians that the only way to fight terrorists is with full might of the State.

The careless attitude of politicians about fighting this crucial war brings home another sad fact; Pakistan is not in safe hands. Be it the ruling party or the playboy-turned-philanthropist-turned-politicians or the terrorists’ religious proxy in politics, everyone has his own agenda which is in direct conflict with national interests. The threat perception is further strengthened by the silence of those who enjoy the trust of the nation and who have a responsibility to protect the country from internal and external threats.

 

Doha Talks: Why are Karzai and his Indian handlers furious at ISI?

20 Jun

DohaAfghan president, Hamid Karzai’s frustration with, and his diatribe against, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency makes a lot of sense now with the events unfolding in Doha, Qatar where Taliban have an office to deal with the US through negotiations. The independent experts, and the US administration officials, attribute Taliban willingness to talk to Pakistan’s efforts who is believed to have some influence on Taliban through ISI. The Afghan president not only bashed ISI through an interview aired by a Pakistani channel, he suspended his government’s negotiations with the US on an agreement to leave behind a residual foreign force in Afghanistan post-2014. In a fit of rage, he declared that the High Peace Council will only participate in the Doha talks if they are “Afghan-led” — something the Afghan Taliban have showed little interest in.

By all means, this is great breakthrough for the US who wants to get out of Afghanistan mess which it created not only for itself but also for the region. Leave it will, bloody-nosed, but putting all eggs in Karzai’s, and by implication in Indian, basket would have been another blunder with far greater consequences. It seems that the Taliban and the US talking directly with ISI chipping in, Mr. Karzai’s role in the future of Afghanistan has been brought to a naught. This also keeps India out of the future Afghan calculus, something it was hoping to seize in order to keep its grip on Afghanistan. There is likelihood that Karzai and his Indian handlers will try their best to frustrate the negotiation process.

ISI received another attack from a Pakistani minister on Tuesday when a pro-India anchor made him spit his venom against a former chief of the agency. He said in that interview that army needs to be purged of generals like Pasha, referring to the ex-DG ISI who was not popular with the US and India and who has the singular distinction of receiving a bad press in Pakistan, India and the US. The said minister thinks that Gen Pasha during his time in ISI supported Imran Khan who gave tough time to him in the recent elections. The anchor, knowing the minister’s anger, conducted his show very brilliantly and extracted a strong statement from him who appeared totally clueless as to the real intentions of the anchor.

It is no secret that the US wanted India to handle Afghanistan post-2014 putting Pakistan’s security into serious jeopardy. India is trying very hard to get an access to Central Asia through Afghanistan and had invested in Pakistan’s political elite to get the status of MFN (most favorite nation) in order to use Pakistan as a transit route to Central Asian States through Afghanistan. This move has so far been resisted by security establishment further frustrating India’s designs. Indian presence in Afghanistan would mean Pakistan’s encirclement, a top-priority strategic objective of India and extending trade concessions through MFN status would hurt Pakistan, though it would surely benefit the traders’ community.

Pakistan and its ISI have so far played it cards very brilliantly but it has invited the ire of pro-India lobbies in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Original article appeared at: ALLVOICES

 

Auditor-General of Pakistan and the contempt of Federal Tax Ombudsman

12 Jun

FTO

Hussain Saqib

A ridiculous situation has emerged in Pakistan whereby holders of two constitutional offices, the Auditor-General (AGP) and the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO), have locked horns over a trivial matter. The AGP had observed that the FTO was not entitled to claim a certain allowance meant for members of judiciary. The FTO, armed with the powers of punishing anybody for contempt of his office, took exception to it and issued a contempt notice under section 16 of the governing statute of his office. Not only that, the honorable FTO ordered the police to arrest AGP and produce him before the FTO.

Before we deliberate on the issue, let us look at section 16 of FTO Ordinance, 2000. Under this provision, the FTO shall have the same powers, mutatis mutandis, as the Supreme Court has to punish any person for its contempt who abuses, interferes with, impedes, imperils, or obstructs the process of the Federal Tax Ombudsman in any way or disobeys any order of the Federal Tax Ombudsman. These powers also includes to prosecute someone for contempt of the FTO who scandalizes the FTO or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the Federal Tax Ombudsman, Staff Members, nominees of the Office, or any person authorized by the Federal Tax Ombudsman in relation to his Office into hatred, ridicule or contempt. There is a proviso to this provision under which fair comments made in good faith and in public interest on the working of the Federal Tax Ombudsman or any Staff Member, or on the final report of the Federal Tax Ombudsman after the completion of the investigation shall not constitute contempt of the Federal Tax Ombudsman or his Office.

Obviously, these powers have been given to the FTO to ensure that he performs his functions without fear or favor. His core functions, according to preamble of the law, are to diagnose, investigate, redress and rectify any injustice done to a person through maladministration by functionaries administering tax laws. It seems that the objection of the AGP to the claim of FTO for a certain allowance does not come under scandalizing. The AGP, or the officer authorized by him, discharges his functions under the Constitution and his audit teams raise thousands of objections everyday which hardly draw the ire of concerned quarters as to use the powers unfairly given to them to perform their respective functions.

AGP and the FTO are two respectable constitutional offices irrespective of the fact who holds the office. Unfortunately, the media had successfully made the office of AGP controversial the day present incumbent, being the senior-most in his department was tipped to hold this office. Irrespective of his personal connections with the political leadership, the fact remains that he heads a highly respected constitutional office. To settle the score of his perceived nearness with the prime minister of the day, the entire office of AGP was scandalized and held in disrepute. He has to perform his functions without fear or favor. The best course of action would be to seek advice of the concerned quarters and settle the matter. As of today, the functionaries of the AGP office feel coerced and would be deprived of their right to work objectively.

The situation can be termed as ridiculous to say the least. Imagine, if the AGP was also equipped with the powers to prosecute for contempt of his office. Moreover, objecting to drawl of certain allowance is something very personal to the holder of the office of FTO and objection to this does not, prima facie, constitute scandalizing or hatred or even ridicule of FTO as an institution. This is a sorry state of affairs and has to be addresses to mitigate the damages caused to two state institutions.

A country led by cowards has no sovereignty

1 Jun

By Hussain Saqib

ttp-and-nawazTehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the terror outfit fighting Pakistani State has withdrawn its talks offer and has threatened to avenge the death of its Second-in-Command. Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, the number-two in TTP hierarchy, was killed in drone strike on Wednesday. TTP has vowed to extract revenge from Pakistan, though the drone was controlled and operated by the Americans. The newly-elected leadership is in a state of panic. All those elected to power had promised end of drone strikes, and the newest among them had even gone to the extent of promising shooting down of drone. They also extended olive branch to these deadly terrorists and a chief minister had even declared the terrorists as brothers.

Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud is the second notable target of American drone; the first being TTP’s chief Baitullah Mehsud. The Americans have generally avoided targeting TTP because this outfit fights only Pakistan; it has so far killed around 50,000 Pakistanis including 5,000 security personnel. The drones target Afghan Taliban who attack Western targets in Afghanistan. Total casualties in drones so far number at 3,000 which include terrorists and civilians who happen to be in the killing range of intended target. The Americans dismiss the concerns and grief by calling these casualties as collateral damage.

Over the years, the narrative of drone deaths in public discourse has dominated the narrative of deaths in terror attacks. All those who wish to appease the deadly terrorists, including media and politicians, have helped to distract public attention from 50,000 casualties to 3,000. The number one problem is not bomb blasts and killing of innocents, it is drone attacks. The drone is the problem of terrorists, the bomb blasts and terrorist attacks is the problem of common man. The problem disturbing the terrorists has taken precedent over common man’s problem. Such are political expediencies.

The question is; why drone strikes? The answer is simple; Americans want to eliminate their enemies without sending on ground their troops. It saves them from un-necessary political questions and also keeps the human elements of their military out of the harm’s way. The drones, in nutshell, are the most cost-effective military means in terms of human cost.

Are these drone strikes a violation of national sovereignty?

Of course, the drone strikes mean military attack on another country and the worst kind of violation of territorial integrity and national sovereignty. But equally violative of national sovereignty is the forced presence of foreign militants on a country’s soil and their armed fight against the constitutionally established social order. The killing of civilians at the hands of these militants and their war against the armed forces is the biggest challenge to the writ of the state. No politician has accepted so far that the biggest threat to national sovereignty and security is not the drones alone; the militants are equally enemies of the State.

How can countries like Pakistan stop drones strikes? The answer is very simple; deprive the Americans of the excuse to operate drones. The State should purge its territory of the militants who attack foreign countries from its soil. And purge the terrorists who fight Pakistan and its people. The COAS has rightly described these militants as a major threat to national security, graver than the traditional threat; India.

There are reasons for the security establishment to believe that the militants, particularly those attacking Pakistan’s interests are fighting proxy war of foreign powers against the State of Pakistan. The recent drone strike killing Mehsud may be an attempt to keep TTP terrorists from talking to Pakistan. The intended objective has been achieved. The terrorists will avenge the death of Mehsud at the hands of US drone from the hapless people of Pakistan. The country will continue to reap the benefits of being on the wrong side of history.

The emergence of TTP terrorists and their modes operandi clearly shows that they are not mere criminals. They are fighting with a purpose and are following a well-written script. Akbar Ahmed, in his article, The Drone War is far from Over has described how TTP destroyed the tribal social fabric and killed the elders who were guarantors of peace and order in the tribal region; so much so that Pakistan never felt to deploy appropriate number of troops on its border with Afghanistan. But the Taliban unleashed a reign of terror and as the pace of the violence in the tribal areas increased, the Pakistani Taliban sought to strike the central government. They kidnapped Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, stormed Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, and assaulted a naval base in Karachi. In 2009, fighters attacked a military mosque, killing 36 people, including 17 children. Taking hold of children’s hair and shooting them point-blank, they yelled “Now you know how it feels when other people are killed.”

A country which is taken hostage by terrorists and a country which is being led by cowards cannot ask others to respect its sovereignty.

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