Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another "Our Own War" for Pakistan

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.

Another “Own War” for Pakistan

"We will know that we have succeeded when everything the public believes is false." William Casey. Director of CIA, 81-87

Walking on the lush green lawns during his first visit to the US our newly elected PM Yousaf Raza Gillani said more than once “It is our own war”. He was having difficulty articulating it probably due to inadequate command of the language despite practicing but apparently he showed his intent and compliance, a bit like homework of a schoolboy. The occasion and the timing of this pledge clearly indicated that it was meant for the American audience and probably was a prerequisite for the office he had recently assumed.

Forcing other nations into unnecessary wars is neither new nor reserved for underdeveloped and weak countries; interestingly US has been a victim of this intrigue repeatedly despite its apparent strength.

Woodrow Wilson won his reelection on the popular slogan “He kept us out of World War 1”. Within 45 days of assuming office he declared war on Germany giving a cocktail of strange reasons like drowning of a British ship Lusitania a few years back and some obscure telegram called Zimmerman’s which was reported by the British but never authenticated. It took Wilson another 10 months to formally state his reasons for jumping in the conflict he prided in avoiding with his famous 14 points making “world safe for democracy”. Propaganda cell called Committee for Public Information was created under George Creed and all those opposing the war were harassed mercilessly. In the process he got 120 thousand Americans killed and a quarter million wounded. It ended in the strange and unfair Treaty of Versailles clearing way for ultranationalists like Nazis in Germany.

Average American was manipulated into fighting a European war but never believed the stated reasons and when Europe started getting belligerent in the thirties took precautions against coercion. Nye commission was formed to look for reasons US fought the first world war and Neutrality Acts enacted in 1934, 35 and 36 to keep US out of the imminent European war. From 1934 to 1936, Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota held a series of Senate investigations into the munitions industry and how they may have used their political influence to encourage the US to enter World War I so that they could reap profits by selling war material to the US government. Nye called these industries, "merchants of death." He was especially critical of Du Pont Corporation, and other large chemical and munitions dealers, claiming they were willing to see American soldiers sacrificed in war in order to make larger profits from sales.

The American public was fully aware that despite of the fact that Roosevelt won the 1940 election of the slogan of keeping US out of war, he will ultimately heed to the demands of the hidden hand and jump into it. According to the Gallop survey held in April 41, 83% voted against US involvement and national heroes like Lindbergh fighting hard, the US had actually entered the war with passing the Lend Lease Act in April 1941 financing and supporting the British and their Allies. Fully involved in the war unofficially, now Roosevelt was just looking for an excuse to declare war making provocations of all kind against Germany and Japan including naval blockades. Nicholson Baker elaborates how Churchill coerced Roosevelt in his book “The Human Smoke”. Unable to cite any believable reason to jump in the war impression was created that the sleeping giant was forced into it, a reason no student of history even takes seriously. Later the Axis were effectively demonized, with great help from the fascists to the extent that questioning America’s involvement in the European conflict became a taboo. Another 300 thousand Americans died in this war.

Manufacturing consent has become an advanced science with the help of development of behavioral sciences and the media. It has become an effective tool in the hands of the powerful interested in manipulating people using it on us ruthlessly.

Pakistan gained independence on 14th August 1947 and immediately started fighting hot and cold wars. We started war against communism and in 1947 imprisoned and harassed many local communists and socialists. Great names like Sahir Ludhianvi and Zaheer Kashmiri fled in different ways secretly as we were fighting against the communists labeled as antistate. Then the cold war started and we became stalwarts for the democratic world while living under martial law. We joined treaties, gave bases and helped any other way we could.

Then came the First Afghan War and Gen Zia very effectively sold it to the nation as “Our own war” suppressing voices of dissent ruthlessly. Fighting the Soviets was effectively made a duty of every Muslim and still we find important people arguing that Zia used US for our war. Interestingly in this war USSR lost but we didn’t win, as the winner was the US which became the lone unchallenged superpower. We on the other hand were left to pay the debts incurred during that war along with a host of problems it created.

Despite its lack of scruples US has been honest about its foreign policy openly declaring that it is based on self interests. If we have been harboring some strange romantic friendship ideas more befitting movies then it is our own fault. I remember during the mid nineties when everyone in Pakistan was sore for being abandoned a lady member of some think tank visited Pakistan and met the media in the American centre. After she was barraged by complains of abandonment by the Lahori journalists she replied curtly, “So what? You got the price you asked for, for your service”.

Coming to the current “Our War”, we didn’t have much of terror or suicide bombings until 2003 when we started this war against terrorism. After years of fighting we managed to finally bring it to our main cities again making it a taboo to question its wisdom. Still I dare.

Thousands of our soldiers have died along with many more civilians. Our sovereignty is ridiculed everyday with foreign forces on a rampage with deadly drones. We are killing our own people every day from land and air. Terrorism has increased since we started fighting it oblivious to the fact that the actual motives of the west might not be what they declare. We started military operations in Swat and now we might do it in Waziristan again, again on American prompting. After that there are indications that we might bring these military operations to Southern Punjab also. What after South Punjab, maybe Lahore and the other parts of Punjab, well I see no end in sight.

Due to our military operations in Swat and tribal areas there were millions of refugees and displaced persons and if we comply with the demands of further increasing the operation we might have tens of millions more. It can cause a total havoc to the country. In our earlier “Our War” imposed by the imperialists, we worked hard to manufacture jehadis and are now reaping its deadly yield. We must focus on the possible results and reactions of aerial and artillery bombings on our own people with strong traditions of revenge. Bombs are brutal, killing everyone indiscriminately whoever happens to be nearby and even the occupying Indians do not use them in Kashmir, whom we never miss to criticize.

This war on terror although gifted to us by the foreign powers may have become an absolute necessity for us. In our last “Own War” we did make many Frankenstein Monsters without giving a second thought to how to handle them. This time we must fight to the minimum if at all necessary but with our objectives stated without outside interference. We must remain fully aware of the fact that they might like to entangle us with violence trying to make their occupation of Afghanistan easier. We must remain fully cognizant of the fact that occupying powers can get a thousand Pakistanis killed to save a few of their own. We have to start taking our own decisions, especially about war.

A bit of research about the techniques used by foreign powers making us fight should also be beneficial. They have absolute control over the media which they use ruthlessly. They influence the local influential groups including the media, mullah and military. Benefitting a few top people personally in different ways the consent to fight and kill is finally manufactured.

Cognizant of the risk of being labeled as conspiracy theorist, I would like to quote Charles Colton who warned that often in courts and in cabinets, there are two things going on together,--a main plot and an under-plot; and he that understands only one of them will, in all probability, be the dupe of both. A mistress may rule a monarch, but some obscure favorite may rule the mistress. We might be well advised to form a commission to investigate how we got ourselves into perpetual foreign wars and how much price we paid. At the same time figuring out individuals and institutions benefitting from these conflicts. We should also guard our interests against the media of foreign powers which they wrongly label as independent. How can any sane person trust the media which argues that by dropping nuclear bomb Japanese lives were saved. An absolute insult to intelligence.

Wars are the messiest, expensive and destructive indulgence a nation can get into and we have had more than our share. We have followed the dictates of US like speechless lackeys for too long. Naturally we got all the inevitable rewards they bring including anarchy, de stability and poverty along with others. Although we were pushed in most of these wars still we do not have any right to complain as eventually we complied. Once we understand the mechanics used to put us through all this we shall be better placed to guard against. Let us sign a no war pact not with any other nation but with ourselves committing that we will not fight anyone else’s war again. Still if someone is psychologically addicted to wars he can be given the task to wage war against poverty, war against illiteracy, war against disease, war against ignorance; the list goes on and on

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

General Zia's Legacy

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.

General Zia’s Legacy

20 years back this day we lost Gen Zia and many senior officials in a tragic plane crash. For good or bad, General Zia and his 11 years rule has done more to shape the current Pakistan than anyone else. His rule lasted roughly 20% of the life of the country directly and around the same indirectly, touching all aspects of the country and its society. Despite being an unelected ruler frequently displaying ruthlessness of the highest degree he still has a more than substantial following which speaks volumes of his skills and tactfulness although he has many critics too whose numbers are constantly increasing. His emotionally charged and highly attended funeral was spectacular befitting a national hero and not that of an autocrat. Nearly all aspects of his legacy have been enumerated and thoroughly discussed but the most important and everlasting aspect has always been somehow ignored. By overthrowing popular PM Bhutto and hanging him on foreign instigation, he sent a dreadful message to the Pakistani politicians and the civil society at large; this is what happens to those who dare to defy the US.

His admirers credit him for winning the Afghan war and breaking of the Soviet Union. Although time has proven that it was not a Pakistani war but Zia and his coterie succeeded in making Pakistanis fight and pay for an American war and still there are people equating Zia with the great Muslim Generals of history. He is also attributed for encouraging Islamic values and norms which were mostly restricted to rituals conveniently overlooking the human aspects of religion requiring efforts and sacrifices by the rulers. Still at the end of the Zia era the attendance of mosques had improved and the attire of women had certainly gained in modesty.

His critics blame him for most ills we face today. He is held responsible for the advent of drugs, crime, violence, intolerance, extremism and enormous corruption in Pakistan. These vices did exist before him but increased exponentially under his rule, which many relate to his covert patronage. He is also blamed for subverting the constitution and democracy in Pakistan but somehow he has not been openly blamed for promoting foreign interference by making an example out of a popular PM on its tutelage.

Although there are rumblings that US had a role in bringing Bhutto to power but they soon started having problems. This break became embarrassingly evident in the summer of 1974 when much trumpeted trip to US was rudely cancelled by President Nixon while Bhutto was still in Europe on his way to Washington. This breakup was caused by three events US as a world power considered against its interests. First was the revival of the Islamic Conference criticizing Israel and the second was mobilization of the third world against the imperialists and the third was the use of oil as a weapon in international relations; and Bhutto was instrumental in all. Despite enormous stress in the relations the point of no return hadn’t arrived yet.

The final break in Bhutto's relations with the US occurred when his nuclear ambitions were exposed. US just could not allow nuclear weapons in the hands of a Muslim country so labeled it “Islamic Bomb” although the Indian bomb was not branded Hindu and the Israeli not called Jewish. French were forced to break the nuclear deal with Pakistan and Kissinger visited Pakistan in 1976 persuading Bhutto to drop his nuclear ambitions. When he failed to convince Bhutto, Kissinger openly in a curt undiplomatic language threatened him of dire consequences. Despite his strengths Bhutto was certainly not a modest person and he presented the guest with a model resembling a bomb further infuriating him. According to many observers Bhutto’s fate was sealed that day.

Strange things started happening after that; sworn rivals united for elections, easily winnable elections were rigged and caught and then an effective protest with dubious financing was launched. Still Bhutto reached an agreement with the opposition but Zia took over at the last moment with the help of known CIA sympathizers. A strange legal battle occurred which even the perpetuators try to distance from and Bhutto was hanged by Zia fulfilling Kissinger’s prophecy, making him an example. Interestingly all his was done in the name of Islamic government with the help of institutions created to defend the constitution and sovereignty of the country.

This tragic death of Bhutto in the hands of Gen Zia has totally changed the direction of Pakistani politics. The days of romance of David defying the strong Goliath ended. Now no one even imagines disobeying or resisting US even at the expense of Pakistan. Musharraf's acceptance of all American demands on one call is a clear example of it. They weren’t expecting such pliability because probably they don’t adequately comprehend the fear a popular PMs murder has instilled in the Pakistani polity and society. It has effectively caused a race among the politicians and institutions in Pakistan to outdo each other serving the US interests. In today’s political wisdom, defying US is rated stupid and immature and hoping to achieve political offices without acquiring foreign approval naiveté. The complete political horizon is more pliable to foreign interests than any other country in the world; occasionally more than even the occupied ones which sporadically express displeasure upon political compulsions. Nothing of this sort has been witnessed here lately resulting in US interfering in political and other appointments regularly reaching the lowest inconsequential matters. In our current political government at least 4 federal ministers and 2 diplomats are known to be direct appointees of foreign powers.

Unfortunately the story of foreign interference in our matters doesn’t end with major powers as a host of smaller nations routinely and openly meddle in our domestic matters. Our politicians and other political players routinely go abroad to solve local problems with their help without caring to conceal it. This has certainly affected Pakistan’s standing and respect across the world and our eternal wish to be treated equal with the Indians has become a joke. This trend is certainly undesirable but understandable as countries that cant stand for themselves always find themselves rolling.

It must be appreciated that other countries always keep their interests foremost in international relations. Whenever they interfere in our matters it is never out of love for us but for their own interests and by allowing them to meddle in our matters basically we are compromising Pakistan’s interests. Lets accept the hard fact that the ministers appointed by the foreign powers will naturally serve them mostly at the expense of Pakistan. Having ambassadors appointed by others leaves Pakistan absolutely defenseless in today’s callous world where no one is protecting the interests of poor Pakistanis. This sorry state of affairs has left Pakistan in the only condition it can lead to, a very pathetic one. And Gen Zia lives on if not physically at least spiritually.

This most lasting and damaging legacy of Gen Zia must be curtailed. Blaming foreign powers for our problems wont solve the issue so we must avoid it solving our tribulations ourselves. For this we will have to take our reins in our own hands. We must never let any usurper capture our country and its future at any pretext whatsoever and put us in intractable problems. To ensure it, we might have to make an example of a few collaborators like Zia made of Bhutto and bring our institutions back to Pakistani control. We cant bring Bhutto back, or right the wrong done to him, but we can certainly make him more comfortable in his grave by achieving what he strived hard for by making Pakistan a real sovereign country like most of the world by freeing it from the unhealthy and uncontrolled foreign interference. Only then we will be able to free our rulers to serve us and not foreign masters. We must achieve it, as anything else is absolutely unaffordable. Lets finally burry Gen Zia in spirit by becoming our own masters.

Zardari's "Political Statements"

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.

Zardari’s options and the “Political statement”

Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Monday went back on his word about judges’ restoration in 30 days, agreed in the Murree Declaration. Talking to a private TV channel, he said what he along with Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif announced in Murree was just a political statement and it could be interpreted in different ways. He might be suggesting that political statements are based on political expediencies and conveniences, and are disposable. Putting it simply his statement might be construed as the kind of confession about conducting politics that borders on dishonesty or outright deceit. The aspiring future military dictators must be delighted to read the statement as Mr. Zardari might be disseminating the message and image of politics and politicians generals always do, i.e., maligning the politicians and politics.

This is not the first time Mr. Zardari has tried to evade the issue of reinstatement of the judges deposed on that fateful night of 3rd November when the constitution of Pakistan was desecrated by a government servant under oath to protect it. That night Pakistan was ridiculed throughout the world and it lost much of the goodwill it earned after 9/11. The public reaction to this unlawful act was so intense that all politicians had to support the deposed judges including Zardari but they are finding fulfillment of their promises difficult. Some PPP sympathizers remind us about the past of some deposed judges and their oath taking under another PCO and at other times they find hard to forgive them for Zardari’s long stay in jail without bail. Surprisingly they are ready to forgive judges taking 2 oaths under PCOs but not one. They are ready to forgive the people who put him in jail but not the judges who were working with a loaded gun pointing on their heads. In the name of reconciliation he is again ready to forgive people implicated in a series of massacres, even the very recent ones, but not the deposed judges. At times he appears to be defending the indefensible and appear like supporting usurpers at all costs.

To understand these obvious discrepancies in the attitude of Mr. Zardari we have to analyze the situation rationally taking a detached view to really comprehend the options available to him and his limitations.

The actual issue is that Gen Musharraf well aware of his inability to contest Presidential elections legally committed a blatant unconstitutional act. Fearing the non-pliability of the CJ and other judges he sacked them en masse. Now the PPP made a political deal with the General who promised to share power with the party. So here the major beneficiary is the PPP, which also has the most to lose. The fee it demanded for providing public support to a very unpopular General was immunity from the dozens of cases some of which were close to being decided. This also explains why our military dictators are quick to send cases against politicians to the courts but reluctant to get decisions, as pending cases with proof’s make the politicians pliable and hence useful for them. General Musharraf provided this immunity in the name of National Reconciliation Ordinance and then helped in letting him contest elections despite being a non-graduate.

The major issue here is that if the illegal and seditious actions of 3rd November are reversed it will cause 2 major problems; 1. Presidential election of Musharraf would be annulled, as it is too obvious and 2. The NRO might be negated exposing Mr. Zardari who can afford neither. This makes it quite understandable why he is avoiding the judge’s issue despite the enormous public pressure. Sometimes he wants to reduce the term, at other times he wants to curtail the powers of the CJ to constitute benches and wants to keep the PCO judges to create a split. Apparently he is trying to protect the general president from the law of the country. Chances are that he will continue to sabotage the struggle for the restoration of judiciary without declaring it.

Although the above-mentioned pressures are enough to explain his reluctance about reinstatement of the judiciary, the matter gets even more complicated with the obvious foreign involvement. The simple fact that our politicians are traveling so much and holding discussions abroad is a clear sign that our matters are decided there. US was the guarantor of the deal between the PPP and Musharraf and it still finds him useful. Then there are a host of other smaller countries enjoying considerable power in Pakistani politics playing their role making the people of Pakistan the most unimportant factor. So much for our national sovereignty.

Can we realistically expect from a politician carrying a heavy baggage of his past to defy the powers? Can he stand up to the people who have the proofs against him for corruption? Can he disregard the demands of foreign powers well aware of his bank accounts and assets? The answers are certainly not simple.

Maybe Zardari just doesn’t have the options the nation is expecting from him as his hands appear to be tied mercilessly. Despite this apparently bleak situation the prospects aren’t that desolate and the brightest ray of hope is the recent public awakening and the ending of chronic apathy of the civil society. This might be the most hopeful thing to happen to Pakistan since a long time. The relatively fair elections of 2008, or the recent retreat of Gen Musharraf weren’t due to someone’s benevolence but the direct consequence of the check on the dictator created by the lawyers, media and the civil society. We don’t need to be grateful to anyone except Allah for these gains as we earned them and paid a heavy price for them. Our hope lies in creating sufficient public pressure on Zardari, which neutralizes the different opposing pressures.

Leaders unlike intellectuals don’t initiate change rather ride the waves of public opinion. Zardari must be convinced of the political dangers associated with siding with a constitution breaking general. If he is sufficiently persuaded of the resolve of the civil society not to surrender to the usurpers again, he might free himself of the numerous shackles around him. After all even the foreign players deal with him because they perceive he can affect the public opinion in Pakistan due to the Bhutto name he has somehow inherited. If he loses the public support, he will lose his utility for the foreign powers making him irrelevant and vulnerable. The nation should provide him the indemnity the General did freeing him of the worries of his past. Pakistanis are very magnanimous and forgiving and they have shown their support for the PPP and its leadership on February 18th. By reinstating the deposed judge’s side Zardari might be risking his government and even his personal liberty and reputation. We must emancipate him by supporting and protecting him to enable him to make independent judgments. By doing this we would be protecting our liberty the dictators stole a long time back with the help of foreign powers.

Liberty is not a gift of God alone but a hard won achievement with the help of God, after all He helps only those who help themselves. The condition upon which God has given liberty to man is eternal vigilance and we must guard our hard earned liberty very jealously. We cannot afford to be complacent about it. No constitution, no court, no law can save liberty when it dies in the hearts and minds of men and women and we must never allow it to happen. We have been repeatedly used and abused by foreign powers with the help of local collaborating dictators and suffered very badly for it. The recent awakening of our civil society can and should be the strongest guard against this dreadful risk. The simple message of the civil society prevailing over the status quo forces representing the foreigners can solve most of our problems. We must continue our struggle and help Mr. Zardari fulfill his promise. If he still doesn’t, he runs the risk of Qleaging the PPP, ZABs party, the party representing the poor, the party that could not be destroyed by the atrocities of Zia. If that happens, it would be another tragedy of 16th December and 3rd November scale.

Who will pay for this national uncertainty?

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 22-09-07

Who will pay for this national uncertainty?

Pakistan is going through very uncertain times where people are unsure of what future holds for them and their nation. Matters that can be predicted decades in advance in the civilized world are undecided and uncertain here. When will the presidential elections be held? Would government servants be allowed to contest? Which assemblies will vote? Will the opposition resign? How will the lawyers react? Will they succeed in holding big protests against the election commission? Will Gen Musharraf fulfill his promise of retiring his uniform? Will there be another emergency or martial law as repeatedly threatened? Will the civil society again tolerate it? Are we heading towards dangerous confrontation between the state and the civil society? Are we doomed towards a full-fledged civil war? These are some of the more troubling questions causing this confusion.

This uncertainty has resulted in a strange kind of anxiety evident on the faces of most Pakistanis. People seem frustrated and ready to fight on small pretexts we witness everyday on the roads. The nation as a whole seems to be unsure of its future and destiny again giving rise to depression and insecurity. People have stopped planning for their future and are mostly focusing on their day-to-day survival that has become an uphill struggle due to the shortages of wheat and other basic food items. Conspiracy theorists, who enjoy a certain amount of credibility in our society, are having a heyday with the latest theory that the government started the flour fiasco basically to distract the people from its plans of the upcoming presidential elections.

Uncertainty and unpredictability is a dangerous thing to have for a nation as it breeds insecurity of all kinds, personal and collective. It causes personal stress leading to depression on individual level and also on the collective level. Local investment is affected leading to stagnation of economy and foreign investors too stay away from uncertain and unpredictable countries. Capital, the shyest animal known runs away from uncertainty further sealing the fate of countries where uncertainty is rampant. All this results in a stale economy not creating new jobs further fueling the depression that further causes economic slow down. The capable people of a society, its most valuable asset, prefer not to raise its future generations in insecure environment and tend to migrate further spoiling the situation. This also damages the reputation of a country worldwide. Nations issue travel advisories against traveling to these countries and make travel from such country more and more difficult. The importers avoid placing orders and the shippers charge extra all at the cost of the nation. Unfortunately sounds a bit too familiar to the hapless Pakistanis.

Ultimately nations find getting out of this vicious cycle of uncertainty and economic depression extremely difficult. No wonder they take special pains to avoid such dangerous situations for the sake of their country and its future. So should we. What causes all uncertainty is all too obvious. We tolerated unelected regimes that got reckless with the nation for their own petty interests and left us to do the cleaning work.

The main issue exposing Pakistan to these dreadful risks is the wish of the rulers to keep Gen. Musharraf in power for another (at least) 5 years at any and all costs. Any and all excuses are being used. Constitution has been made a bit too pliable making it kind of a joke; the courts have been put under tremendous pressures of all kind, subtle and not so subtle. Strange legal experts are manipulating Law and internal cohesion of the country is at risk. All this is being done to let a serving Gen, Musharraf contest in the presidential elections, something unheard of in the civilized democratic world and that also from 5 years old assemblies who had elected him for one term previously also. No matter how many complicated arguments legal experts might give but no one in the whole world would be convinced of such an obvious anomaly.

After all why is he so much insistent on contesting in uniform and that also by the old assemblies? There must be something very attractive attached to it? Certainly one does not have to be a genius to see it. It is the force of the gun attached to the uniform, which makes getting votes easier. In such a scenario “free and fair” is the first causality as use of force converts free choice into coercion. Rulers seem to be convinced of their unpopularity so do not want to take a chance by letting the new assemblies vote. If the same privilege of contesting general elections in armed service is given to police, I am sure we will see an assembly consisting mostly of SHOs. Only the strongest and the most resolute would dare contest or vote against them.

According to most historians one of the major reasons for the Mughal decline was the uncertainty it caused after the deaths of emperors which was always followed by series of battles plunging the country into serious uncertainties and insecurity. Ultimately it became so weak that a trading company of a small nation far away conquered all of it. We have made a mockery of our country by playing strange cruel jokes repeatedly. No one in the world is convinced of the tricks we are trying to play. Modern world cant be persuaded that 2 and 2 makes 5 as no one would call a uniformed elections credible or democracy. Still if some foreign powers tolerate all this it would be for a very high price, again to be paid by the nation. It is far easier for the ruling generals to act than to think, but it might be prudent for Gen Musharraf to consider the problems his insistence on getting reelected in uniform might cause to the nation, his institution and himself. If still insistent, he might consider dropping the slogan “Pakistan first” and convert it to “Musharraf first”. At least it would be honest.

Churchill said 63 years back, “When a nation has allowed itself to fall under a tyrannical regime, it cannot be absolved from the faults due to the guilt of the regime” we are all responsible for this mess. All autocracies are mild in the beginning and gradually get worse and we are witnessing a great leap towards that unfortunate direction. The 160 million people of Pakistan would be paying the price for any misadventures so it is their responsibility to resist it. Otherwise cynics might find their connivance as no one can be abused without his consent, which is mostly silent.

The Uniform Dilemma

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 21-6-07
The Uniform dilemma

The future of Gen Musharraf’s uniform has become the most debated and divisive question. People across the social and political strata are commenting on it, keeping themselves busy making predictions of all sorts. Our ex prime minister Jamali innocently called the uniform a form of a dress or attire and found it strange why people made an issue out of Musharraf’s uniform. Even more interestingly Gen Musharraf himself went on TV and promised the nation to quit his uniform and then reneged on his open promise, which he now claims, did not come easy to him. Now talking to foreign media he declared his uniform like his skin, sort of an integral part of his personality and existence probably suggesting that like his predecessor Gen. Zia, he will never remove it, at least voluntarily.

What makes uniform so important that people do not want to remove it despite embarrassments? Why self-respecting people find ways to renege on their promises of removing uniform made to millions? Opt to keep it despite very obvious risks to the nation? There must be something extremely attractive and valuable that it creates a kind of dependence usually seen with narcotics or drugs. Let us explore the advantages and privileges’ wearing of uniform guarantees the ruling generals making them hinge on to it at any and all costs.

Let us face it, there is some thing more than an attractive dress that tempts ruling generals to stick to their uniforms after all it is not a benign school uniform. This uniform guarantees availability of power, raw brute power, and lots of it. This power when used for political purposes usually ensures success easily, at least within the country. This enormous power lies in the command structure of our army, which traces its roots to the Royal British Indian Army. This colonial army was purposefully created to help the colonial powers rule natives. Our army is still proud of its colonial heritage and openly prides in fighting colonial battles like Mysore and Mecca. This command structure lays tremendous importance on discipline, which is translated as absolute obedience to the immediate senior and not to written law. This system ultimately transfers all the power to a single man, the COAS whose uniform is being discussed. His uniform makes the over half million strong, heavily armed, army subservient to him instead of any law, assembly or nation. Now that is too much power for any individual to have and relinquish voluntarily.

Gen Musharraf owes much of his privileges and status to the compliance of the half million men to him individually which he owes to his uniform. Expecting him to jeopardize his position by voluntarily giving up his position might be too much to ask. He knows first hand the temptations this enormous power brings. He had himself succumbed to these temptations, which brought him immense laurels and hardly any repentance. No wonder he can’t find a single general he can trust with such enormous unchecked power. Gen Musharraf has some company in the list of untrusting Chiefs as no ruling general after Ayub Khan trusted any of his subordinates with this kind of power.

So it comes out that wearing of uniform means unrestrained availability of enormous brute force that can be used for political and other ends. This situation might have advantages for an individual but grave consequences for the nation. Unfortunately it also means many other things, the foremost being use of force and gun for political purposes. It certainly lends enormous convenience and a certain amount of predictability as not many people can face a man with a loaded gun with confidence. It basically means doing politics and dealing with people while visibly holding a loaded gun in the hand adding violence to politics which ultimately trickles down to all corners of society.

The simple realization of the relation of uniform and the loaded gun raises many troubling questions. Can there be a legitimate fair business deal while one party is holding a loaded gun? Can the judges give impartial judgments with pointing guns at their heads? Can there be a constitutional amendment while the parliament is kept at gunpoint. Does this explain the creative coining of terms by our judiciary like “doctrine of necessity”? And then does this explain certain apparently elected assemblies begging the ruling General not to relinquish his uniform? Does this not explain the decay in society where rule of brute force takes precedence over rule of law?

Once this is realized it raises many serious but pertinent questions the foremost being why this counter productive practice has been tolerated for so long? It also makes all the constitutional amendments passed under uniformed Presidents questionable suggesting of armed coercion. Just like the inadmissibility of evidence taken during duress, judgments of the courts given during uniformed rulers also lose its sanctity. No wonder son of a military dictator ridiculed the judges for giving posthumous judgment against his father and a retired CJ confessed that generals can fire the judges.

This practice of conducting politics while wielding a loaded gun has being going on for too long. It has seriously harmed Pakistan mostly through,
Harming the respect for written law substituting it with brute force. This single fact brought untold violence in our society and established it as a legitimate means of solving issues. Rule of law was replaced by rule of force.
Hurting the internal cohesion of the country by weakening its democratic institutions. This has already broken the country once and appears to be working again.
Pakistan became a perfect breeding ground for extremist and intolerant elements. In today’s world Pakistan is suspected whenever anything goes wrong anywhere.
Devastating the image of Pakistan as a lawless country. It is considered a near failed state, its democratic claims are not taken serious, and everyone associated with Pakistan is considered a suspect.

A pretty sad commentary indeed. Defaming of the army and the judiciary is against our constitution and if that is undesirable and intolerable, how can defaming the country be acceptable. This uniformed politics has defamed us a lot, maybe more than extremism.

Our society has tolerated this harmful anomaly for too long and paid a very stiff price for this weakness, which needs immediate correction. Advantages and privileges associated with armed interventions must be curtailed and risks increased. The military should be made subservient to the nation and constitution instead of the chief alone. The command structure might be reviewed and the pride in its colonial heritage discouraged.

Importance of the constitution and the need of not breaking the oath must be inculcated vigorously. History teaches us that simple trainings do not work sufficiently so grave consequences must be credibly associated with breaking of the oath. Punishing a few prominent oath breakers might help along with rewriting our history with oath breakers placed where they deserve. Renaming a few colleges and parks might be needed. And then the most important thing let it be known that any attempt at breaking of oath won’t work. For this the civil society will have to be stimulated to ensure unconstitutional steps will not be tolerated in future. Then we must review the dubious constitutional amendments and judgments of the superior courts made under duress while facing loaded guns.

The Pakistani civil society owes it to its future generations to vacate the politics and society of guns and violence. The past cannot be changed but the future can certainly be shaped. The nation rather than individuals should determine the tenure of uniformed posts. These decisions should be based on law rather than whims or individual conveniences. There is no third or half way, the civil society has to prevail over usurpers if we want to survive as a respectable nation in the new century. If we have to do it then it might be prudent to do it at the earliest and control the further damages violent politics might cause.

The new rebels

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 06-7-07

The new rebels

Dr. Amir Liaqat Hussain, the man with golden voice and face resigned from national assembly while his place in cabinet will go automatically. Although he claims personal reasons for the resignation, but this appears to be a polite way of registering his dissatisfaction with the government. He belongs to MQM and also holds the cabinet portfolio of religious affairs. He anchors a popular religious TV program on a private channel, which was very popular with the president’s family too.

He is not the only one to discover serious flaws with the government lately, so serious that he wants to distance himself. Ishaq Khakwani another cabinet member along with Mushahid Hussain the Secretary of the ruling party also openly expressed their dissatisfaction with the party and its actual leadership. We are routinely hearing comments from the ranks of the ruling party sounding suspiciously like oppositions, which could not have been imagined just a few months back. This list of new rebels in the ruling party and coalition is on the increase.

This dissatisfaction with the government is not limited to individuals alone as coalition partners are also expressing their discontent with the ruling alliance. MQM after being part of the government for nearly five years enjoying juicy portfolios on the federal and provincial level, is now repeatedly articulating conditions in which it would leave the government, rather never to support a military ruler. And then the MMA, although it always did maintain a kind of rhetoric against the government while enjoying two provincial governments and the official leader of opposition status, is also talking louder against the government. This anti government rhetoric by the MMA has become so prominent that Maulana Fazal Rehman is sounding like a proper opposition leader while Qazi Hussein’s attitude can convince even the most cynical of his opposition credentials despite repeatedly bailing out the government in the recent past.

These fresh resignations and attempts to distance from the government are very interesting. The elected assemblies have nearly finished their terms and are about to be dissolved. In a country like Pakistan where playing opposition against a government, specially a uniformed government can be dangerous to say the least, these politicians played allies to the uniformed government reaping all the benefits that come with it which are plenty. They also protected themselves from NAB and their doings of past by joining the government. And now when the new elections are due, they feel the government is unpopular and would not be able to get them enough votes to make them win. To make matters worse, the government’s ability to manipulate the results also seem to be reduced along with the authority of the uniformed president making his association more of a liability. In short these smart politicians do not want to be associated with political forces that are unable to get people elected. Much of the ruling coalition seems to have lost hope and is looking for other options.

The benefits that come from belonging to the government are as numerous and substantial as the risks involved in opposing it can be serious. Pakistan is an overgrown state with a very weak judiciary. Over here to be successful in any endeavor whether business, professional or service, government support can have the final say in the outcome. Now after reaping all the benefits evading the responsibility might be unfair. Politicians voluntarily being part of the ruling coalition owe it to themselves and the nation to take the responsibilities of their actions for the last five years. If they cannot find sufficient reasons to be proud of, they should certainly find reasons to apologize or promise to do things differently again. Anyway trying to escape the responsibility might put them in a position like that of Maulana Aziz evading in a burqa, not a very desirable scenario.

Although the attempt of these politicians to distance themselves from the government is understandable but not justifiable. They have seen people playing over smart in Pakistani politics and getting away with it. After all the popularity of Musharraf’s government is at it’s lowest in the last eight years and people don’t want to share this burden with him. Still it is not reasonable and should not be attempted. First because one must face the consequences of his actions and take full responsibility. Secondly it appears that these politicians consider voters fools and themselves too smart. This has been a big mistake of our privileged classes to underestimate our common voters as uneducated masses or ignorant and foolish whereas the evidence is different. Whenever these people were given a chance they proved that their collective wisdom was certainly better than many of the privileged. The simple fact that our voters always rejected the intolerant religious elements in elections speaks volumes about their wisdom. They rejected the extremists when extremism was fashionable and enlightened moderation was unheard of. When religious extremism could fetch votes in USA as neo cons or in India as BJP our voters routinely rejected them. Trying to fool this group of enlightened, wise voters would never work so should not be attempted. After all this awful attempt might be construed as an insult to the intelligence of the voters to which they might not take kindly.

The Bajaur tragedy

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Umar heads a Lahore based Think Tank

The Bajaur tragedy

Eighty three seminary students died in an aerial missile attack in Bajaur, a remote part of NWFP. Parts of the western media and most locals suspect that it was an American attack but our government and forces vigorously deny any American involvement and insist that the attack was carried out by Pakistani forces. Locals say that young students died but the government claims that the dead were 20-30 years old extremists. Despite these differences there is consensus that eighty three human beings, Pakistanis and Muslims were killed. I wonder what is so noble about killing of so many humans and countrymen that is forcing our government to get credit for this act?

The world over the security agencies use force as a necessary but undesirable tool to maintain the writ of the state. Usually it takes the shape of arresting the rebellious elements and then putting them through the legal process. The form of force used in most civilized countries is guns and not missiles. It is the more desired form of lethal force because it can be made discriminating and used only when absolutely unavoidable. In comparison missiles or other explosives cannot be that discrete. They are highly destructive and kill anyone and everyone who comes their way. No wonder respectable countries reserve the use of explosives and missiles only for the foreign enemies. Then the use of such excessive force against own people on some flimsy US intelligence report is absolutely incomprehensible. Such strange and distorted intelligence reports have already started many wars with lakhs of casualties. Use of lethal force on such reports have already caused major troubles to the countries acting on it and must be avoided.

This internal use of missiles by the local forces killed 83 Pakistanis but these were not the only casualties. The list of the casualties is unending. To enumerate a few,

The first serious associated casualty is the old Pakistani stance that we are free of extremists and we do not export terrorists. This attack is a clear confessional statement that we do harbor terrorists training camps in Pakistan although not with the official support.

The second casualty is our de facto official statement that there is no democracy in Pakistan. The apparently elected government was not consulted before this episode nor any of its functionaries allowed commenting about it later. The world might find it amusing that killing of 83 Pakistanis by security forces is not enough for the elected government to bother about.

The third major casualty is our statement made by this action that we do not trust our judiciary and cannot expect it to deal with the suspected extremists sufficiently. Here one person acts as a prosecutor, judge and the executor with impunity.

The fourth major casualty is our long standing stand on Kashmir and the claim that Indian security forces are using excessive force against the locals. As far as I know they never dropped missiles on the occupied Kashmiris neither did they kill 83 people in one episode. Now we are left with no credible argument to pursue our old Kashmir policy. We might have lost our most potent weapon with this missile attack, our moral superiority.

Then the most important casualty of this unfortunate attack might be the most difficult to get over with. A pact with the locals was scheduled later the same day and the government attacked and killed 83 people killing with it the credibility of the government and that also with its own people. Credibility of a person and a nation is its most valuable asset that allows it to deal with its people. It is the credibility that instills confidence in the parties trying to come out at a mutually acceptable solution. The loss of credibility of either party makes the compromises difficult and only the guarantee of a third credible party can manage it. This loss of credibility might have negative consequences with the other pacts the government of Pakistan has made with different groups like Waziristan and the Balochi factions. Cracks in the mutual understandings are already visible which can deteriorate further. The Indian credibility problem in Kashmir was the key factor in the held Kashmir uprising as our credibility problem caused the East Pakistan debacle. No nation can afford to lose its credibility any where especially with its own people and we jeopardized our credibility on a foreign intelligence report. It was certainly not very prudent.

Firing of missiles at our own people has seriously worsened the situation but it is still manageable. Sensible confidence building steps can control the situation and mend the dented credibility of the government. An apology by the government would help. A neutral parliamentary committee might be formed to investigate this episode freely and come out with recommendations. Posthumous trials of the deceased may be conducted and the names of the miscreants along with their mischief established but the innocent must be compensated. And then we must devise a system in which using lethal force against our own people becomes nearly impossible. In most of the western democracies any policeman using firearms is automatically suspended until it is established that his act was justifiable mostly on the self defense grounds. We should also follow this policy. Only this action can assure us discontinuation of such tragedies seriously harming the nation. We must realize that no matter how bad the situation it can always be made worse, something we can’t afford.


The American visitors

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank.
The American visitors

Quite a few American officials visited Islamabad lately creating noise and ripples in the political and government circles. People across the political divide were excited and waited patiently for an opportunity to meet them, reminding of the Raj days. The government tried to use these visits for its advantage claiming so many simultaneous visits a clear indication of the American approval and support for General Musharraf and his government. On the contrary the people on the other side of the political divide considered these visits a kind of pressure on the Musharraf government to hold the next elections fairly. They also hoped that the Americans would coerce Musharraf to share power with the liberal elements. In short the opposition and the civil society has attached much of its hopes on Americans. Is this hopefulness realistic or naiveté, let us explore.

The hopes and disappointments such visits generate are based on two assumptions, the first being that everything happening in Pakistan is caused by the Americans and the other, any change for the better or worse, has to come from America. In other words our fate is decided in Washington and we are helpless about affecting our future. Taking this route, many politicians have spent decades trying to convince Americans of their utility as our other contestants of power have been doing the same thing more effectively. Most of our hopes appear to be tied to their doings. Like most hopes originating from foreign lands, these seldom materialize and we have become used to dashed hopes and disappointments. To improve chances of materializing our hopes we will have to base them in our lands, we will have to take things in our hands and stop looking at others for our issues. We must make our own decisions and shape our future instead of looking towards others.

Americans have never tried to make a secret of their foreign policies being based on national interests and they can get ruthless achieving them. They do not believe in emotional relations or the type of romantic friendships we habitually expect. They are friends as long as the other nation is useful and don’t waste a moment walking away after achieving their interests. Who would know it better than Pakistanis, after all within months following Russians left Afghanistan; the Americans abandoned every one and left. We were left alone to deal with a bunch of serious problems. As if this was not enough they even stopped supplying us arms they had promised some time back.

There is nothing wrong in having a foreign policy of national interests as every country does so. Probably the only country in the modern world conducting foreign policy with interests of other nations in mind mostly at our own cost seems to be Pakistan. Pinning hopes at the Americans cannot be reasonable and might be the major reason for the sorry state of affairs we routinely find ourselves in.

How far the Americans can influence our political scene is not certain but the common perception is that they decide the final outcome. There is no way of confirming this but one thing is for sure that foreign influence is positively affected by the perception of the people. In other words if we as a nation believe Americans can influence us, well they can. This cannot be good news for us. They say in America that there is no free lunch, so we cannot expect good coming out of Washington without a price tag attached. Historically we have seen that the price tag can be very steep, so steep that it might neutralize much of the associated benefits. It is now clear that the old American slogans of democracy and human rights were also means of achieving their political goals and economic interests.

No wonder apparent good news coming from Washington produces a kind of anxiety about the cost it would carry making it not so good news. To really initiate changes and developments capable of bringing healthy transformations in Pakistan we will have to ensure that these are initiated here. They are locally commenced. Only changes and developments with focus on Pakistani interests can be useful. We must become masters of our destiny and stop looking at others for our concerns. Relying on others has never worked for any individual or nation nor can it work here. We have to take our destiny in our own hands for the sake of our country and the future generations. It might not be easy initially but ultimately it paves its own ways.

If we take a bird’s eye view of the world we can easily differentiate between countries that master their destiny and the ones that do not. Countries in control of their destiny are prosperous, respected and stable whereas those looking at others are not. Emperor Babar admired elephants but jumped from it the moment he realized he could not control it and had to rely on some one else for that. The British started taking their destiny in their own hands centuries ago at the time of Magna Carta and made a place for themselves in the society of nations. The French did it on the Bastille; the Chinese under chairman Mao and so on. Is the latest indigenous extempore movement of the civil society for free judiciary our Magna Carta or Bastille? Let us hope it is.

The Akbar Bugti tragedy

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Umar Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank
The Akbar Bugti Tragedy

A satellite phone call was intercepted by the Americans and reported. In response a helicopter gunship took to air and fired a very accurate guided missile, again supplied by the Americans, towards a cave which collapsed killing an eighty years old man, popular with his people but rebellious towards the authorities. On the success of this mission the head of the state congratulated the forces for the successful killing of eighty years old and the state controlled media started demonizing him. Sounds like a plot of a high tech war movie or Israelis firing at the occupied Palestinians, something we never miss to criticize. But wait a minute, it was not Palestine but Pakistan and the Pakistan army carried out this operation against a Pakistani, Akbar Bugti, the chief of his tribe. The analogy ends here.

Akbar Bugti was one of the few living men of the Jirga that voted for Balochistan’s accession to Pakistan. He held most responsible positions at the federal and provincial levels. Was considered an establishment’s man by the more extremist elements as he was always ready to talk and deal. Even during the present crisis he nearly worked out a deal with the political wing of the government comprising of Chaudry Shujaat and Mushahid Hussain which could not succeed due to the lack of mandate and powers of the government representatives. Later when the situation worsened, he invited the countries senior most respected journalists to give their judgment on his behalf which he promised to accept but to no avail. The inevitable had to happen which he could not avoid.

He was a feudal and bragged about killing many people. He felt proud of committing his first murder at the age of twelve along with many other things the civilized world might consider unacceptable. But is he the only feudal in Pakistan or did he become a feudal just now or did we discover these vices lately. The deplorable habits feudalism imparts are found in nearly all the feudals to some extent and it is a known fact that many feudals are worse. You reap what you sow, and a feudal system can only produce feudals with all the vices associated with it. That is why the world has rejected the feudal and tribal system and embraced democracy. But let us face it he did not become a feudal lately and we did not abolish feudalism. He was perfectly acceptable as a feudal along with all the vices that come with it then why was he killed now?

There seem to be two major reasons for his elimination. First, he had lately started asking for more rights for Balochistan. While I was in Iran in 1989 I was told that the revolutionary government was spending heavily in Balochistan and a few other backward provinces because Imam Khomeini had declared that the state had been dishonest with these provinces. He actually used the word “Khiyanat”. To compensate for this “Khiyanat” public education and health facilities were taken to the far off places at huge expense and infrastructure was being developed at great speed. All this was being done despite Iran being in a terrible 10 years war. Upon entering Pakistan and traveling from Taftan to Quetta I was sorry to see the state of Pakistani Balochistan wondering if Iranis had committed “Khiyanat” then what are we doing to our Balochistan? It was not living in the twentieth century by any means. So it seems asking for rights became an unpardonable offence. The second reason was that our President had accurate lethal weapons at his disposal which according to him “they would not know what hit them”. Fancy toys in the hands of military tend to get used on one pretext or others. The President fulfilled his promise of hitting him along with his second promise that the matter will be dealt by force and not negotiations.

Propensity to use force in the presence of other options has caused us many problems. We used it in East Pakistan and spoiled our history along with the Muslim military history. Then we used it in Balochistan, Sind and NWFP on different occasions. It was only in Punjab that the attempt to use force was resisted by the state institutions despite clear orders from above. Within the nation this policy apparently worked temporarily which encouraged us to use it internationally. This got us in trouble with all our neighbors and the only super power resulting in a real threat of taking us to the cave age in 2001. Only our absolute U turn leaving our allies helpless including many Pakistanis saved us from the dire consequences this policy could fetch. Many people might label this policy blatant with some reason. We still do not seem to be learning from these disastrous experiences and follow it whenever possible. Akbar Bugti is the latest casualty of this policy and more may be on the way.

Where will this unfortunate incidence take us is open to discussion and envisaging. The simple thought that the Balochistan problem basically is a problem of few individuals is naiveté and too simplistic, so his elimination would not solve any mess rather magnify it. Akbar Bugti has become a martyr and the disgruntled element of Balochistan might rally around his followers and resist the forces resulting in use of more force. They might be labeled terrorists or Indian agents and demonized justifying even more force. This cycle of violence would be too attractive for the foreign forces with whom Bugti was alleged to be associated. They would certainly try to get their share by encouraging violence. Once this cycle of violence starts (God forbid) then it will not be in anyone’s control and might take its own course. By using violence against our own people we might be helping our enemies making their jobs easier.

Using force against genuine grievances of people has been tried by arguably the world’s best fighting machine; Israeli army, for decades but all its victories have been temporary generating worse opposition and violence. This is despite the fact that IDF possesses top weaponry and intelligence along with very effective diplomatic machinery. They could not get the required compliance in Gaza or the West Bank. Their latest adventure in Lebanon has forced them to modify their strategy and even their hawks have started talking about a negotiated settlement. Americans could not achieve much using this strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Russian experience was nearly the same. Unnecessary use of force is not only immoral but also bad strategy. It might win battles but never the war, especially when used against own people. It is about time we reconsider our ways of doing things and control the damage we have already caused.

To start with we must renounce use of force against Pakistanis. The government’s posture of a benevolent big brother can go along way in healing wounds. This might require amnesty for all. Grievances must be corrected and steps taken to ensure that such difficult and painful situations do not arise, Pakistan is not repeatedly caught in dangerous situations. The rights given to the provinces in the 73 constitution which were delayed for 10 years must be given immediately. Socio-economically Balochistan should be brought at par with the rest of the country. Presently Balochistan is a sort of Wild West for the unscrupulous bureaucrats who waste most of its allocated meager resources. This must stop as it is the responsibility of the federation to ensure the parity of the federating units. All this should not be done as a favor but as a right and a truly representative provincial government might be in the best position to do it. Any thought of manipulating or controlling the next elections must be discarded as Pakistan would not be able to afford any other such misadventure. And then we must not forget what the only super power might be contemplating when it gave us the intelligence, helicopters and the accurate missiles. A look at the map proposed by one of American think tanks explains much. After all the myth of independence of American media and think tanks has been adequately exposed and it might be the first feeler and more might be coming. An independent Balochistan might be on someone’s agenda and we might have taken the bait and served their purpose by killing Bugti. The situation might be bad but not hopeless, but we have to change our strategies and way of thinking. If God forbid we are not able to do the required, we will have to find many scapegoats to blame for our mistakes. Unfortunately our history shows that we are bad at learning but better at finding scapegoats. We hope and prey this time we would be different.

Our fight against terrorism

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 9-09-07

Our fight against terrorism

Six years is more than enough time to reassess national policies. We joined the war against terrorism led by the neo-con dominated US government 6 years back which is now showing very definite results and trends further necessitating the urgent need to reexamine our policies and tactics. Our achievements in these 6 years can be summarized as follows; lost over 1000 soldiers, killed hundreds mostly civilians, arrested and sold at a handsome price many wanted suspects (no one knows who pocketed the prize money}, imported dreadful concepts like suicide bombings in the heart of our capital, surrendered most of our claims about Kashmir and earned a few billion dollars in the process. In short we could not achieve our prime stated objective to control terrorism we are fighting for the last six years as it is increasing and that also by leaps and bounds.

Terrorism, use of violence for political ends is a strategy and not a state or entity that can be identified and destroyed. Terrorists look like ordinary people and live among them. Using violence and bombs against a policy can never work nor is it working here. Bombs dropped from the B52s or Cobra helicopters cannot distinguish between terrorists or innocent civilians (collateral damage) who are routinely harmed creating anger against the government and this fight. The dominant powers of the world have devised strange techniques using semantics callously trying to diffuse the reactions some of its brutal actions can elicit. Soft and benign terms like “collateral damage” or “softening up” are used to describe great human calamities which can not reduce the pain of the victims nor can it change the violent response such tragedies can elicit. A human death is a death whether by the terrorists or regular armies. Israel with its most well trained and equipped army could not be successful using these tactics against Palestinians for 40 years and our efforts also appear to be doomed. Terrorism is wrong and cannot be condoned, there are no two rational opinions about it but we will have to accept that killing innocent civilians in the name of fight against terrorism is equally evil.

If this war is not winnable then why is US the world’s strongest and most advanced nation fighting it? It comes out that most wars are not fought for the reasons stated by the governments as in the First World War the US gave its reasons for fighting the war years after the war ended. On close scrutiny it comes out that US as a nation and specially the ruling elite and the power brokers might be benefiting hugely from this war. These can be enumerated as follows,
Historically no war president ever lost elections, as the voters seem to be more accommodating towards them in emergencies. George Bush found it very convenient to start this war declaring himself a war president getting reelected easily.
This war gave a very suitable opportunity to the US to encircle China, its potential rival in the world politics. Now US has military bases surrounding China in Afghanistan and many central Asian states.
US has ended up with armies in most of the oil rich areas in the world, all with the excuse of fight against terrorism.
And then the military industrial complex we were warned against by Eisenhower, seems to be the biggest beneficiary of this war by making hundreds of billions with this apparently futile exercise. This group was an active backer of President Bush and now it is benefiting.

All this makes sense for the US government to fight this war. Despite apparent interests connected with this war, 6 years of setbacks have forced the US to reconsider its policy as the price turned out to be much more than what they had envisioned.

While the US is reaping benefits Pakistan is paying the price as usual. There is a strange irony about Pakistan’s role in this war against terror. While the US and Israel are fighting this war in foreign lands killing (collaterally) mostly Palestinians or Iraqis, we are carrying all the fighting in our own country killing our own people. A single innocent person killed in this fight whether intentionally or collaterally, serves as a recruiting bonanza for the labeled terrorists while making the fighting forces unpopular. We in Pakistan cannot afford to risk the popularity of our armed forces by putting them in a no win situation like this by making them fire at their own people where collateral damage is bound to far exceed the intended target. Hundreds of soldiers taken as hostages, bombings of security agencies busses and other suicide bombings in a single week are a clear proof that we are not winning and with our actions we might be further fuelling terrorism. During this process we have made all of Pakistan unsafe while damaging the basic fabric of our society. Whatever we are doing is not working and this calls for urgent need for reassessment of our strategies and policies and take corrective measures.

It must be realized that because it is impossible to identify the terrorist from others, it is not possible to win this war with brute force alone. The most effective weapon in this fight would be human intelligence, which needs good public relationing and support. Big bombs or missiles dropped from air killing indiscriminatingly do not help public relationing and can harm the cause immensely. A single bomb dropped on a school in Bajaur killing many young students put us back a great distance. Local support must be protected rather built and we cannot afford such tragedies if we are serious about winning this war. Force must only be used as the last resort and that also with utmost care.

To understand our current situation it might be helpful to figure out how we got into this mess. Why is it that roots of every terrorist incidence anywhere in the world can be traced to Pakistan? This has seriously damaged Pakistan’s image the world over. We got in this mess because we happily fought other nations wars for a few dollars. 25 years ago we fought a war against Soviet Union that was named Jihad and now we have labeled it war against terrorism fighting people we earlier supported and trained. We risked our country and its people then for peanuts without protecting our interests. And now we are doing the same folly repeating the past mistakes fighting other’s war in our country with our people. Pakistanis are dying on both sides. We have lost more soldiers in NWFP than NATO or US in Afghanistan.

All this happened during the tenures of unelected governments not answerable to the Pakistani public. Governments that could not standup to the foreign powers due to their lack of legitimacy and public support. Once started, jihad and now this war became an industry creating its own momentum. A whole class of influential beneficiaries came up locally and internationally, whose enormous interests are related to this war. This created a whole set of dynamics in operation supporting the war as the beneficiaries leave no stone unturned to prolong it irrespective of the cost. In short it happens basically due to the complacency of our people allowing unrepresentative governments take them for a ride serving other governments at the cost of Pakistanis. This has harmed Pakistan tremendously and this unhealthy practice must be stopped immediately because Pakistan cannot afford more blunders of this scale.

We must accept that terrorism is a problem gifted to us by foreign powers and must be fought against but it should not be with force alone. Our strategy must be scrutinized and for this we must ensure that individuals do not take important decisions. Issues should be thoroughly deliberated in the elected assemblies and all options considered. We must empower our elected assemblies providing them the powers and sovereignty they deserve and enjoy everywhere in the world. The civil society should never allow anyone to desecrate our elected bodies ever for any reason as this always damages the country harming the Pakistanis. The elected assemblies, which represent the power and wisdom of millions, must have the final say in determining our policies and no individual irrespective of his stated noble aims. Lets say final good-bye to the Bonapartists as we have had more than enough of them.

If we fail to fulfill our obligations towards our country and the future generations we would keep on suffering. The civil society must rise to protect its rights and privileges. It should not be pliable enough to be used or abused by foreign powers with the help of their local collaborators. If we fail in this responsibility of ours we might face the fate predicted by the American scholar who visited Pakistan in 1987, after 10 years of Zia’s rule commenting “a nation that tolerates 10 years of martial law and that also Islamic martial law, deserves no clemency.”

The over protected Sugar Industry

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank

The over protected Sugar Industry

We are regularly reminded by the All Pakistan Sugar Mills Association that the sugar industry in Pakistan is in dire trouble. They think that the poor quality and high price of sugar cane has harmed the industry which is on the brink of collapse. To make matters worse the government has imported large quantity of sugar reducing its price. This can have detrimental effects the national economy, as the industry will shut down harming the farmers and the already weak banks with billions invested in the industry. The government must act immediately and bail it out. APSMA recommends increase of the price of sugar, lowering of the price of sugar cane and heavy taxes on imported sugar as the necessary steps. In additions it recommends fixing the price of sugar at Rs. 40 per kg if the price of sugar cane is fixed at Rs. 60 per kg.

The farmers think that sugar mill owners are inefficient and are in a habit of making exorbitant profits with the help of a captive market. They do not want to pay the farmers and want to have it all.

Sugar is a major industry of the country with a substantial amount of its meager savings invested in it. This is an alarming situation and must be taken seriously as millions of lives are dependant on it. It requires a careful study of the situation, weighing all arguments rationally and taking appropriate steps immediately. This leads us to some very interesting findings.

Price of sugar in Pakistan is the highest in the world.
There were only two small sugar units in Pakistan in 1947. now the number has risen to 77 with an excess installed capacity of over 45%. Although we are the fifth largest producer of sugar in the world we are also the costliest. The world price of sugar is around R. 18 per kg as compared to Rs. 28 in Pakistan. The total production is over 3.5 million tons resulting in excess cost of Rs. 28 billion annually.
Sugar is very expensive in Pakistan. The price of sugar cane is high with the average sugar content of 8.64% as compared to the world average of 9.9%. The sugarcane produced in Sind is better than the cane produced in Punjab. With this recovery rate the cost of sugar cane for production of 1 kg of sugar bought at Rs. 40 per 40 kgs comes to Rs.11.57. With the current prices it leaves Rs. 16.43 per kg with the mill owners for expenses, taxes and profits. This fact leaves us with a very interesting but painful observation that even our cost of production minus cost of sugar cane is also the highest in the world. If the price of sugar cane is fixed at Rs. 60 per 40 kg and the price of sugar at Rs. 40 per kg, as demanded by the APSMA this will leave Rs. 23 per kg with the producers. This is much more than the cost and profits of the sugar mills of the world and would be unfair rather cruel to the consumers.

Associations determining purchase and selling price are illegal
Our constitution guarantees every citizen right to form associations. But our law like the US, the EU and probably all other countries of the world does not allow producers of the essential commodities to determine the buying and selling prices. This is cartelization; unfair trade practice and is considered a felony punishable by law. Here I would like the famous case of the CEO of American Airlines who forced to resign for just making a phone call to the CEO of its competitor, Braniff. He claimed that it was just a courtesy call and price fixing or anticompetitive behavior was not proved, the simple doubt of such behavior was sufficient for his disgraceful exit. Interestingly the same owners who form associations and openly fix the buying and selling prices do not allow their employees to do the same and form unions. Recently the top officials of DeBeers, GE and Hoffman LaRoche were tried and punished by law but our sugar mill owners have been able to evade this law.
This behavior is against the law and must be discouraged. We may put a condition that the members of such associations should allow their workers to form trade unions. This will encourage competition resulting in increased efficiency and productivity. Nobody, no matter how resourceful should be allowed to openly break the law.

Local banks are hostages to the Sugar cartel
The government is regularly threatened that if demands of APSMA are not met they will default on the bank loans. I am not sure how this notion was conceived that the borrower has the right to unilaterally decide when to default on loan payments. It also leaves the impression that the borrower is not obliged to return the loan and is doing some kind of favor doing so. No where in the world is such behavior acceptable. Legally the borrowers take the responsibility to return the loan with interest in the stipulated period. This behavior is giving the message that because we have borrowed a lot from you and if we delay returning it, you will be in trouble, borders on blackmailing. This has effectively made banks hostage to industrial associations. We must keep in mind the money involved here belongs to the poor people of Pakistan.
Unfortunately because of our wrong policies and parochial interests we financed lots of big projects at the cost of small and medium enterprises and later got in the habit of bailing them out regularly. Our national savings rate is one of the lowest in the world leaving us with very limited resources to invest. This little should have been made to perform the most and directed towards productive projects but we made it nearly impossible for the small but competitive businesses to get any finances from the banks causing lot of harm to the national economy.
It must be made clear that hostage taking and blackmailing is unacceptable. The loan has to be repaid and for that the industry run efficiently otherwise the sponsors should be held personally responsible, as written in the contracts. This law must be implemented if the economy is to be improved. Allowing the borrowers to default at will, can ruin any economy.

Uncontested use of the mass media
The sugar cartel by forming association and charging high prices has lots of resources at its hands and uses them for its interests. For the last many years, expensive eye catching ads by them for some kind of government support has become a routine. A couple of years back when due to certain reasons the world price of sugar increased above the local price they forgot the local market and forced the government to let them export. The very next year the excess production was exported to a hostile country with a hefty subsidy. Every time it needs just a few expensive ads in the mass media to reap great monetary benefits. Interestingly either there is no institution to counter these campaigns or lacks resources to do it. Consumer groups should contest these but our consumers have no protection of any kind, as there are hardly any organized, resourceful consumer groups. The other group capable of challenging these campaigns is the farmer’s but it is weak and lacks cohesion. The farmers are short of liquidity and cannot afford to challenge the enormous power of APSMA which on the other hand has resources to employ a full fledge team of professionals that keep a close liaison with the opinion and decision makers.
Consumer organizations with the state support are badly needed. They are the only organs that can keep the balance and check the producers charging exorbitant prices and making big profits undeservingly.

Pakistan has over 45% excess sugar producing capacity
Here the situation is even stranger. We have been repeatedly informed about the weak financial health of the sugar industry and its lack of profitability; rather losses, but strangely new sugar mills mushroomed mostly by the same sponsors. I have failed to understand why some companies are so fond of losses that they work hard to increase them. With only two small units in 1947, we have 77 today, 29 in the last decade at an exponential cost. With the installed capacity of 10,000 metric tons we have increased the capacity to millions of tons. There is no known method of making an industry viable, lest profitable having over 45% excess capacity and not being able to compete in the export market because of much higher cost of production.
This simple mushrooming of the sugar industry by very influential and resourceful people suggests that the poor health of the industry may be an exaggeration to say the least.

Competition the essence of free market is absent in our sugar industry
We are living in the times of free market. Recent history taught us that planned economy and nationalized industry breeds inefficiency and produces flab that is detrimental to the health of the industry and the economy. The way out recommended is that the industry should be managed by the private sector competing with each other and responding to the market demands increasing efficiency and productivity. The catchword here is competition, the essence of free market economy.
When the producers sit together and ensure profitability for everyone, they are acting against the interests of the consumers and the ultimate health of the industry as a whole. This leads to inefficiency and wastage. It is not surprising that hardly any sugar mill has changed hands, something so important to the concept of free market. This has resulted in lack of motivation and need to improve productivity producing even more flab and wastage of resources.

At times limited support may be temporarily needed
Still at times protection of the local industry may be from foreign competition. The Japanese protected their industry at times and even the leader US protected its industry from competition temporarily in the name of “retooling”. When done carefully and judiciously, it can yield good results. But there is no known case where the industry has not competed within itself, formed cartels and achieved good health, something we are doing here.
Even protection from the foreign producers must be temporary with clearly spelt time frame and gradually it should be removed. The industry demanding protection must spell out how it plans to improve productivity and make itself competitive. Unfortunately we have been rendering unlimited protection against local and foreign competition. This has made our sugar industry uncompetitive and a drain on the already weak economy. We must stop it.

Sugar industry must stop looking at Govt. for bail outs
It seems APSMA has gotten a misconceived notion that it is the responsibility of the government to bail it out and ensure profitability. For some reasons they have been successful in this campaign with the help of a few well placed expensive ads causing grave harm to the health of the industry and the national economy.
Nowhere in the world the governments have been able to do it neither can the poor Pakistani government achieve it. The responsibility to make the industry competitive lies with the people running it by increasing its productivity and cutting costs. It is absolutely against the word and spirit of the free market concept. If competitiveness is not required, then what is the need of having industry in private hands? With captive markets and exaggerated prices, even the state owned industries could be made profitable.
In this scenario with cartelization of an industry of a basic food item fixing prices we have gotten the worst of both worlds. High prices the state owned industries deliver with the inequality, the free market causes. Rather than supporting the industry in incompetent hands the state may do it itself.

Convergence of economic and political power
Looking at the list of the owners of our sugar mills one finds that there are a few families who own a substantial chunk of the industry. Leaving apart a few old business families, most of them have been part of the previous governments. This may be because due to exorbitant prices this industry was so profitable that successful governments doled out sugar mills as political favors. Both political sides are equally involved in it. The Zardaris, Chaudhries, Mians and Shariffs control more than substantial part of the sugar industry. This happened in the 14 years of civil rule between 1985-99 when political corruption prevailed. Probably this was the reason why APSMA enjoys such unparalleled political clout. This also explains the generous subsidies and terms were repeatedly given to the sugar mills owners. This has led to stories of lavishness of the sugar mill owners not much different from the stories of the Arab Sheikhs with many of them owning lavish cars and aero planes in a poor country like ours.
This concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few led to a host of other problems. Because they enjoy a lot of economic clout over the local farmers this gets converted into votes with a little coercion. Political power is used to increase the personal wealth which in turns further increases political power ultimately resulting in grave social in equalities and unhealthy concentration of wealth and influence. This concentration in a few unscrupulous hands leads to blackmailing of the banks, governments, consumers and the farmers.

Limited supply of water
We have limited supply of water and it is worsening. Intellectuals tell us that the future wars will be fought over water not land, and we are already witnessing differences over the use of water between provinces causing serious misunderstandings. Because of different geographical factors precipitation over Pakistan has gone down resulting in reduced supply of water for agricultural purposes. Building more dams to store water and using the water judiciously in the most productive manner can solve this problem. We cannot build more dams because we cannot risk annoying the small provinces but we can certainly use the available water more productively
The sugar cane crop needs 3-4 times more water than cotton, which is sowed at the same time. Our cost of production of cotton is less than the world price. Using the water so generously to support sugar mills in the cotton belt, we can irrigate and develop much more wasted land. The potential cotton crop that we can substitute with sugar cane would be worth many times the price in the world market and that also in hard currency.

Industry must improve productivity and produce bye products
It is about time APSMA stops looking for the government support and starts working hard and improve its productivity, something badly neglected so far. In the rest of the world, valuable by products play a substantial role in making the industry productive. Molasses can be used for making industrial alcohol and the residue can and should be used to make building material instead of burning, as is the routine here. Substantial amount of theft occurring at the time of purchase by the mill employees should not be hard to eliminate.
All over the world sugar mills invest a lot in research and constantly develop new and improved seeds, something we again fail to do. Educating and supporting the local farmers is beneficial to the mills and should be invested in, but over here a kind of hostility exists between them. APSMA is also partially responsible for the poor quality of the sugarcane crop. Despite its resources it has not setup any research institutions of any stature or given any scholarships.
These are just a few steps that are practiced in the world but ignored here that can help the ailing sugar industry.

Hence we see that facts and reasons paint a picture different from the scenario painted by the APSMA. It is over protected, cartelized, heavily financed and inefficient using lots of resources of the state. Actually it is reducing rather than producing value. It is artificially kept alive with the state support at the expense of the poor tax payers and the consumers. This policy of wrong pricing causes wrong allocation of resources and further damages the economy. The major cause of this inefficiency is cartel formation and lack of competition, which must be taken care of for the sake of the industry and the national economy. In our present system the mill owners have absolutely no incentive to increase efficiency. We must make the industry compete within itself and gradually make it competitive in the international market. The cost would be more than recovered by the increased cotton production. Let the sugar mills increase their efficiency or get into more efficient hands using the limited national resources in the most productive manner. Price fixing must be abolished and the government should not allow uncompetitive practices.
If members of APSMA work as hard of increasing efficiency as they work on influence peddling and cartelizing, they can become much more competitive. Industries should help and support the economies rather than being a burden as our sugar industry is. It is ironic that we are spending more on supporting our sugar industry than on education and health. Does this make any sense?

Strange official truths

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based Think Tank. 9-7-07

Strange Official truths

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates taught his students that the pursuit of truth could only begin once they start questioning and analyzing beliefs they ever held dear. If a certain belief passes the tests of evidence, deduction, and logic, it should be kept. If it doesn't, the belief should not only be discarded, but the thinker must also then question why he was led to believe the erroneous information in the first place. Whose purposes it would serve? We are routinely given information and facts of all kinds by the government which we are expected to believe but believing them can be difficult. These strange unbelievable facts released by the government resulted in the popular saying that there are lies, white lies and then the government figures.

If we judge the official facts we are told by our governments by Socrates standards we risk getting bewildered and cynical. No wonder we have become a nation of skeptics and apathetics because we are expected to believe outright lies. Let us analyses a few recently announced official facts, which are hard to comprehend,

Ø An Army that takes hours to take over an entire country has not been able to take over a seminary and girls school for over 6 months.
Ø A government that doesn’t hesitate bombing schools full of children killing 100s is soft enough not to interrupt even the power supply, water or gas of the rebellious school.
Ø A seminary openly challenging the writ of the government for months isn’t even cordoned off. It is allowed to arm itself and kidnap people openly without any retribution.
Ø The President working hard to persuade the journalists not to report undesirable news about the country for the sake of its image openly exaggerates the threat of fundamentalism and terrorism in the heart of our capital.
Ø The 2 rebellious mullah brothers were allowed to become kind of celebrities attending social functions and media events without being disturbed whereas the ex Prime Ministers are exiled after spending time in solitary confinement.
Ø MNAs are jailed for years but these rebel Mullahs keep on enjoying freedom, telephones and other facilities.
Ø Firing in Lal Masjid commenced without attempting attrition as if bloodshed is sought. As if some pagan deity is calling for human blood.

There is nothing new about our government feeding us dubious information as facts as this destructive policy has been followed ever since the early days of independence. To enumerate a few past official truths,

Ø In 1971 the country broke into two due to politicians whereas the military ruled uninterruptedly for 13 years.
Ø Desecrating the constitution and breaking of the oath serves national interests.
Ø Education is our priority whereas the international agencies confirm that we are spending the least on education.
Ø Pakistan is prospering despite phenomenal increase in suicides and mental stress due to poverty.
Ø Pakistan is a strong sovereign country with nuclear bombs, but foreign powers can attack it, kill or kidnap its people without any fear of reprisal.

The above mentioned facts are repeatedly forced onto us by the people in power but are difficult to believe. They stand no chance to pass the Socrates test of truth. Then the question arises who wants us to believe these lies and why? The possibilities of benefits people might get by convincing of absolute deceit can be very bothersome if not outright shocking.

I request all my readers to help me understand what is going on. Should we believe all this is called the official truth but intelligence forbids us to believe? Or is the truth as painful as the facts suggests? Should believe it and keep on fooling ourselves by apparently conceding to the men in power?
But then if we could believe in parting of River Nile, believing this should not be that difficult.

Six lakh Iraqis killed!

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan heads a Lahore based think tank “National Issues”
Six lakh Iraqis killed

Over six lakh Iraqis have been killed violently due to the American military invasion of 2003. This has been reported in Lancet by a highly respected team of researchers of Johns Hopkins University. They realized that actual counting of bodies is never possible in the presence of occupational forces specially when the occupiers are extremely media conscience and go to any extreme to prevent the unfavorable news including firing at the journalists, so interview technique was used. These figures might be shocking for people fed on the daily dose of the western media but in the Middle East it did not come as a surprise. Stories were abounding about indiscriminate killing and humiliations of Iraqis and the effectiveness of hiding their count. In response to this horrific report the innocent messenger of democracy and liberator of Iraq, George Bush, concedes that dead number thirty thousand only.

Surprisingly the people responsible but indifferent to six lakh Iraqi deaths are the same people who rightly and strongly criticize the deaths of three thousand innocent Americans by terrorists. Killing of innocent civilians is terrorism and so is killing if Iraqi civilians but this is confused with semantic arguments and labeled collateral damage instead of simple terrorism. The dead cannot differentiate between the two; a loss of life is a loss of life irrespective of the twisted logic. This particular thought might suggest that current world power categorizes people according to nationalities and other factors. It effectively rates some people more valuable than others, a worse form of discrimination and bigotry. Three thousand Americans are more important to them than six lakh Iraqis. Even now President Bush and his colleagues are more concerned about the 2700 American killed and 20000 injured rather than the lakhs of Iraqis. Maybe they were perceived as sons of lesser Gods.

Initially military action was proposed and lakhs of lives were put in danger because of some dubious intelligence reports about Saddam Hussain building weapons of mass destruction. When the WMDs not found the stated aims turned into fight against terrorism and Al Qaida which was again proven wrong. Only as the last resort the noble aims of human rights and democracy were employed whereas it was a known secret that Bush had decided to invade because Iraq sits on vast reserves of oil. This is not an isolated incidence rather part of a pattern. Afghanistan was invaded by the same regime because Al Qaida was there. Later in turned into a war against Taliban against whom America had no apparent problem.

It is strange to see how even in the twenty first century history can be distorted by the strong and crimes turned into noble acts. After all it is still taught in many schools that by dropping atomic bombs on Japan, America actually saved lives or America was a sleeping giant in the Second World War and Japanese forced it to join by bombing the Pearl Harbor. No wonder all the losers of the war had to apologize and are still under pressure whereas the only user of atomic bomb feels no need of it. We can be assured that all these massacres will also go down in history as noble acts.

George Bush and Don Rumsfeld, his trusted deputy, thought that because of their enormous firepower they could get away with anything and everything. They assessed that by being ruthless they could get the compliance they need and for this purpose they coined some interesting but callous and cruel terms like “softening” meaning burning or destroying of humans. They used this strategy ruthlessly to create fear and trepidation and succeeded to some extend until their atrocities generated the expected reaction. They did not realize that killing people in bulk and destroying their assets including their self esteem makes the people desperate enough to fight at any cost. You might be able to subjugate nations for some time but not without a price irrespective of your firepower. Now the odd couple is stuck looking for face-saving withdrawal without much hope.

Despite the enormous suffering and bloodshed this war did serve one important purpose, it exposed the callousness of the only super power. It showed their lack of respect for the international law, the UN and even the Geneva conventions. It also exposed an even more worrisome tendency i.e. lack of trust on even their own judiciary. President Bush repeatedly declared that by allowing the Guantanamo Bay prisoners to go to the US courts his fight against terrorism would be hindered. This is plain disregard for the rule and process of law. These actions by Bush and Rumsfeld damaged rather obliterated the moral authority US earned after decades of hard work. Super power with bombs but lacking moral authority is destined to get into trouble and take the rest of the world along. Unchecked Bush can really do it.

These tragedies also exposed another painful fact that the American electorate which appears very kindly and compassionate can allow and finance such massacres. The first election of George Bush might be called a fluke but the second term was won clearly despite starting two bloody wars. Had Bush been able to crush the Iraqi rebellion irrespective of the number of Iraqis killed, he might have been a hero somewhat like Harry Truman who killed millions by dropping atomic bombs and is regarded as a near great president by most. Actually Bush’s apparent success in the two unnecessary wars at the time of his reelection might have been his most significant achievement winning him outright majority. It was only after years of resistance and the rising American body count and the injured that prompted the American public to discover flaws in Bush’s designs.

Then the most worrisome exposure of America has been the brutality and lack of discipline of its forces. Inhuman torture and unacceptable humiliations have been reported and proved repeatedly. They American media was so effective in demonizing the adversaries that the average soldier lost all inhibitions every decent person is expected to posses. Abu Gharaib or the Afghan atrocities were not isolated incidences if word of mouth circulating is to be trusted. Zaeef, the Afghan envoy to Pakistan, has mentioned ghastly stories about the torture by US forces. It is surprising that the world considers the Third Reich and the WW II Germans terrible, but even their most vocal critics did not blame the army which was considered professional. It was the SS and other agencies which were involved in atrocities. The regular German army maintained its dignity to quite an extent whereas it is the regular American army which has been repeatedly caught indulging in extreme form of torture and abuse.

To be fare, despite exposing the weaknesses of the American society its tremendous strengths are commendable. Although five years late, it is the society and the system that has started confronting the erratic leaders. The Supreme Court has started passing judgments and even the old stalwarts like James Baker are criticizing. Interestingly the study reporting killing of over half a million Iraqis is also compiled by Americans. It is the fear of the reaction of the people that is sending shivers to Bush and company forcing them to be more conforming to the international laws. Still it would make a fascinating study to guess how the American electorate might have responded with as many Iraqis dead but secure occupation. Over here my guess is the same as your fear.

It is time the world is reminded of the old proverb, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Now we have discovered that this saying applies as much to the nations as individuals. The feeling of the Neocons that they can shower death and destruction anywhere with impunity has been checked by the Afghans and Iraqis at a very high cost but still its power needs to be checked. For the immediate future America will be the only superpower but it has shown to be dangerous if unchecked. As DeGaulle said, “America is everyone’s neighbor”, it has to accommodated but very carefully. The civilized world must join to counter the weight and might of America for its own sake as we are living in a global village. Poodles like Blair or some East Europeans trying to benefit by getting close to the bully, must be rejected by their people. The new world has learnt everything from our old world, and these lessons must continue specially about benefits of adherence to law and equality of human life. Most effective way of influencing America appears to be by influencing its elections, so organizing the different immigrant groups can go a long way along with working on the neglected American groups like the Blacks and Chicanos. Individually the Americans are decent people but deliberately kept ignorant and their opinions are routinely maneuvered, so working on the American media to give them balanced and fair views can also be very helpful. In the end let me quote a great American intellectual and statesman, Henry Kissinger who said, “The only thing worse than United State’s hostility is its friendship”. I hope President Musharraf has heard this saying.