The Filter Coffee

Foreign policy, strategic affairs, defense and governance

Pakistan’s IPL omission

The mockery should have been avoided.

When the dust settles and the highly charged oratory duels subside, perhaps there will be space for better considered analysis on the recently concluded auction of the third installment of the Indian Premier League (IPL).  Pakistan, whose 11 cricketers led the shortlist for the third IPL auction — the most representation from any one nation — failed to obtain contracts from IPL franchises.

Arguments that the decision not to select Pakistani cricketers was based purely on business and on franchises’ unwillingness to dispense with additional money for Pakistani players’ security are simply disingenuous.  Cricketers from other nations — Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa — receive the kind of security cover in India that can only be upgraded if the players are escorted in armored personnel carriers.  It is laughable that this theory finds credence.

But cricket is an interesting sport.  Unlike several other sports, international cricket — where cricketers represent their country and are contracted to a board that is at least quasi-governmental — is still more popular than league cricket.  In this respect, IPL’s cricketers are mostly selected based on their current status as international cricketers representing their country, their past status as international cricketers or their potential as future international cricketers.

As representatives of a quasi-governmental  board it is also appropriate that these international cricketers be subject to the diktats of the governments they represent.  South African cricket bore the force of government diktat when some countries refused to tour South Africa in the years of apartheid — likewise today, Zimbabwe is ostracized by some boards as an extension of their governments’ foreign policies towards the African country.

Therefore, if following the 26/11 attacks, it was the Indian government’s diktat not to commit to ties with the quasi-governmental Pakistan Cricket Board (whose chairman is still a direct appointee of the President of Pakistan and chief patron of the PCB — Asif Ali Zardari) this is also fair and consistent with India’s intention to not engage with Pakistan.

That being the case, why were Pakistani cricketers placed on the auction in the first place?  If the decision of the quasi-governmental BCCI was to maintain a suspension of ties with the PCB, then how did its subsidiary — the IPL — seemingly overrule this decision?

They say “with great power comes great responsibility”.  Yesterday’s abomination was concoction of a cricket board drunk with power, and a government  that thinks puerile jabs are to way to go when it is unable to force issues on the international political scene.

You don’t want Pakistan to play in India? Fine. You don’t want their cricketers to participate in the IPL? Fine. But this mockery could have been avoided. What was the Indian government trying to prove to Pakistan yesterday? What purpose did it serve? Why the pettiness?

Filed under: 26/11, Foreign Policy, India, Indian Premier League, Pakistan, World, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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)