The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Urdunama: “Foreign Hand”

The Filter Coffee is happy to announce a new regular segment, Urdunama, dedicated to coverage of news and analysis from Pakistan’s Urdu media.  As reports ( 2.86 MB) on Pakistan’s media landscape will tell you, Pakistan’s vernacular press dominates English and local language publications and comprises almost 70% of total newspaper distribution.

Yet, while the Internet has provided us the opportunity to read and absorb opinions from Pakistan’s English newspapers, their tone, message and impact on audiences (and indeed on political action) differs greatly from that of the vernacular media.  An eye on Pakistan’s Urdu media therefore helps us see what the awam sees and assists us in understanding what informs popular opinion in Pakistan. This is critical, in the opinion of this blogger, in helping India better understand its western neighbor.

As always, comments and suggestions on what readers like about the segment, or would like to see improved are appreciated.

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The fires may have died down in India, but as far as Pakistan’s vernacular media is concerned, all Sharm el-Sheikh did was to provide fuel to an incantation summoned by Pakistan’s most imaginative minds.

There is pressure on the Pakistani Army to see Operation Rah-e-Nijat through and to turn a blind eye to US Predator assaults in North Waziristan and elsewhere.  A section of Pakistan’s media and intelligentsia wants to know why three Infantry Divisions were moved away from the Indian border and redeployed to assist with NWFP operations.

All these questions cannot be explained without pointing fingers at the Pakistani Army, which is riding a wave of goodwill not seen since the years immediately after the 1999 coup d’état.  The simplest solution therefore is to attack the hapless civilian administration, particularly Asif Ali Zardari and those close to him, including Rehman Malik and Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Rafiq Dogar’s op-edJhoota kaun hai?”, is a rhetorical masterpiece on the subject of India’s involvement in Balochistan.  Dogar’s issue in the op-ed isn’t focused so much on the factual accuracy of India’s involvement in Balochistan (this is taken for granted), but on why the “proof” of India’s interference wasn’t presented to Hillary Clinton and the people of Pakistan.

Who does one trust? On 13th October, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry informed the media that proof of India’s involvement in Balochistan would be presented to the people at the appropriate time. Prior to Hillary Clinton’s visit, the Interior Minister had informed Hamid Karzai that India was interfering in Balochistan, via Afghanistan.

The same day, the president of the Balochistan People’s Party, Mir Lashkari Raisani, informed the media that Education Minister, Shafeeq Ahmed Khan had been murdered because he tried to raise awareness of India’s meddling in Balochistan.   India’s meddling in Balochistan was also corroborated by IG, FC, Maj Gen Salim Nawaz.

Prior to Hillary Clinton’s visit, Interior Minister informed the media that a “foreign hand” existed in supporting the Pakistani Taliban against the army, and had asked the US to ensure that this interference is stopped.  Surprisingly, after Hillary’s visit, the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry announced that no such evidence was presented to the US.

If this was indeed the case, why didn’t the Foreign Ministry — whose spokesperson earlier stated as having proof of external interference in Balochistan — provide the evidence to the US? Ayatollah Durrani is also one of Asif Ali Zardari’s ministers who on 18th October stated that the US wanted Balochistan to secede and that Pakistan’s agencies must work to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

But Pakistan’s agencies operate under the same Interior Minister who announced prior to Hillary’s visit that the proof had been handed over to the Americans.  Who does one believe?

We cannot accept the notion that those suggesting India’s involvement in Balochistan are lying. It is the word of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) that a Muslim can neither lie nor present false witness.  Our Foreign Minister is a descendant of Muslim makhdooms — are we to now believe that his ministry’s spokesperson was lying?

Even if we are to assume that the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry and the Interior Minister himself were speaking the truth, then why wasn’t (India’s interference) brought up with Hillary Clinton? Were they that scared of her and Richard Halbrooke?

The Interior Minister, Foreign Minister, Zardari and Gilani didn’t have the courage to present the facts to Hillary; but do they have the will to present the facts to the people?

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Filed under: asif ali zardari, Balochistan, India, NWFP, Politics in Pakistan, PPP, Urdunama, World, Yousaf Raza Gilani, zardari, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Ignominious Climbdown

The joint statement issued by Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani talks of de-linking action on terrorism from progress on the composite dialog process between India and Pakistan.  After months of belligerence and posturing, this is how it all ends.  In a climbdown most ignominious.  From no dialog without action against 26/11 perpetrators, to a mandate to only discuss state sponsored terrorism, to a surrender so meek, it would make the Saddam that emerged from the hole look like Samson.

The sharm in Sharm el-Sheikh means “bay” in Arabic; perhaps, in their enthusiasm to renew composite dialog with Pakistan, India’s diplomats were remiss in accurately translating the term, taking it instead for its literal meaning in Hindi.  Pakistan no longer has any reason to do anything substantive with regard to bringing the handlers of the 26/11 carnage to justice.  The Hafiz Saeed drama will continue, and Pakistan will weave such a tangled web of contradictory statements on any potential point of progress, that it will have India and its media in coils for long enough for any resolution of the issue to be meaningless.

The text of the joint statement also mentions Baluchistan in name, a reference to Pakistani allegations on India’s involvement in secessionist movements in that province.  Clearly, full marks for thinking outside the box.  Why stop there — India should have acquiesced to a blurb about the Indian mission in Jalalabad and to insinuations about anti-national movements in Sindh, and the humiliation would have been complete.

To be clear, the resumption of dialog between India and Pakistan is important.  Not only is it important, it is the only available course of action to India, as The Filter Coffee has previously pointed out.  After the months of inertia that plagued India’s initial demand for no-strings-attached action on 26/11,  there could have been but one outcome on the composite dialog at Sharm el-Sheikh.

A resolution on this could have been achieved pragmatically and honorably, without the need to strike such a mind boggling compromise.  Vague cases will be made that this issue will be quietly addressed through backroom diplomacy.  But backroom diplomacy on an issue as critical as this, if not backed up by public pressure to act will yield nothing.  Sustainable pressure to act on the issue, both on the UPA and on the Pakistani government will be absent.

De-linking terrorism from composite dialog creates two isuses.  One, it raises questions on the credibility of the composite dialog process itself, when the issue that is front-and-center of India-Pakistani relations is specifically excluded from it.  And second, it will comfort the terrorists and their sponsors in Islamabad that India’s capacity for punitive diplomatic/military action against them in the event of mounting terror attacks on Indian soil is effectively zero.  Deterrence is about inducing the fear of retribution in response to an attack.  In the case of India, our deterrence capability on the issue of terrorism, whose credibility was low to begin with, is now null and void.

It is time Manmohan Singh came clean with the Indian public on how his government will address Pakistan’s propensity to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy against India.  190 civilians from 10 countries, including India, died on November 26, 2008 at the hands of terrorists who were recruited and trained in Pakistan.  What we expected at Sharm el-Sheikh was a reiteration of commitment from Pakistan (to act against terror aimed at India) and from India (to ensure that Pakistan’s committment is carried through).  What we saw instead was India’s abject, quivering surrender.

Filed under: 26/11, Composite Dialog, Foreign Policy, India, indo-pak peace, Mumbai Terrorist Attack, Terrorism, World, Yousaf Raza Gilani, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In a false quarrel, there is no true valor

The “Long March” is at an end.  A banner in the The Dawn proclaims “Mission Accomplished“, in Bush 43-esque vein.  The International Herald Tribune announces a victory to “Justice”.  “It’s a people’s victory”, The Nation declares. People blogged about it on the internet.  Protesters tweeted live as  they marched towards Islamabad.  Others like Tahira Abdullah wept on national television, imploring the (former) Minister for Information to “Save Pakistan”.  On the other side of the Wagah, journalists were at their ignorant, amateur best.  The Hindustan Times called the PML-N leader “Sure shot Sharif”.  Barkah Dutt exalted him as the “Sher-e-Punjab”.

Thankfully, not everyone drank the Rooh Afzah.

This was no battle for democracy.  This was a protest launched by a shrewd politician who saw an opportunity to capitalize on the misdeeds of a bumbling President.  Nawaz Sharif doesn’t care about democracy any more than did Stalin.  Those who took to the streets and endured police assaults only succeeded in supplanting one set of cronies with another.  This should become painfully obvious to the delirious intelligentsia fairly soon.  The issue isn’t whether Sharif can do a better job than Zardari.  Or if Iftikar Chaudhry can bring back the rule of law in Pakistan.  There is something rotten in the State.  Politicians in Pakistan have proven that they are incapable of governance.  Or maybe they just don’t care.  The sense of elation from yesterday’s “victory” is similar to popular sentiments that prevailed when Benazir returned to Pakistan in 2007, and when Musharraf was given his marching orders last year.  However, so monumental was the task of rebuilding the country, and so incompetent were its politicians, that the jubilation quickly turned into despair.  This time will be no different.

Political inertia is already crippling Pakistan socially and economically.  Inflation is close to 20%.  Throw in a projected GDP growth of 3% and the math doesn’t add up.  The issue that should be patently obvious is that at this precarious point in Pakistan’s history, the quarrel shouldn’t be about which Chief Justice serves party interests better or how to settle personal vendettas by launching impromptu uprisings that cripple the state.  Instead, Pakistani politicians should be working to reconstruct the parameters of engagement within the nation in a manner that will allow them to effectively govern, if and when elected.  In addition to common maladies such as poverty, illiteracy and unemployment that plague the subcontinent, Pakistan has to contend with two serious challenges to the writ of State — Talibanization of the frontier provinces and the scourge of terrorism in the heartland.   Nawaz Sharif has already proven, on two separate occasions, that he is incapable of  governing the country.  Zardari and Gilani have done little over the past few months to prove that they are any better.  Unless citizens are able to hold politicians’ feet to the fire and make them accountable for the larger issues of the state, this farce will continue.

Barely a day the “Long March” concluded, a suicide bomber attacked a crowded bus stand in Rawalpindi, killing 15 and injuring several more.  Unless the gravity of the situation in Pakistan is comprehended by politicians and citizens alike, very little will change.

Filed under: asif ali zardari, Iftikar Chaudhry, Long March, Nawaz Sharif, NWFP, Pakistan, PML-N, Politics, Politics in Pakistan, PPP, Terrorism, World, Yousaf Raza Gilani, , , , , , , , , , ,

By-two Kaapi (Twitter)

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