Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Barbarians of Swat

By Saeed Qureshi

If the Quaid-e-Azam made Pakistan for the brand of Islam that has been planted in Swat by Taliban, then it would be better to do without it. A frail, weak, defenseless and vulnerable young woman is clutched and prostrated on the ground by three bearded monsters, while one of them is mercilessly hitting her back with a baton. There is a big crowd, witnessing this gruesome spectacle in silence either with vicarious pleasure or out of sheer fright. This heart wrenching scene is reminicent of the declining days of Roman Empire when humans were thrown before the hungry beast to be torne.The crowds then would also witness such beastlty blood letting sports and hilariously clamour with frenzied shrieks and mirthful howls.

The grisly incident of whipping a helpless female before a crowd of onlookers has eliminated the time distance between what the pagan Romans had been doing and what the relgious hounds of the modern civilized world are up to. The Islam of Swat crusaders is no different from the paganism of the Roman barbarians who were obsessed with their blood curdling pursuits. If Islamic justice system is all about flooring a feeble woman in the streets and treat her like a lamb, then what message and impression would flow out from Pakistan about both the country and the relgion practiced here?

She was charged with going out for shopping with her father in law instead of her husband thus provoking the zealots’ rage to make her a horrible example for committing an un-islamic act. The words defy the apt description of this appalling tragedy and the way the humanity has been spit on the face. From among the detached or involved crowd not a single individual had to pick up the courage to stop these monsters from the detestable execution of the draconian relgious injection that in fact was negation and violation of the pristine Islamic code.

Taliban, the ignorant yet ruthless Islamists, have been perpetrating such abominable monstrosities in Afghanistan where they had established their caliphate style empire in that perennially strife plagued country. The people of Afghanistan had to suffer similar inhuman punishments every day from these latter day unlettered Islamic revivalists. They were driven out of Afghanistan by a combined effort of American and local anti Taliban armies. It was a good riddance for the people of Afghanistan.

It is now the turn of Pakistan, which is overwhelmed by these fanatics and followers of a creed that is neither Islamic nor civilized. The discredit for giving a free hand to Taliban to establish their brand of Islamic Shariah in Swat, goes to the Pakistan government that in fact by doing so has surrendered its sovereign status to these outfits in parts of Pakistan famous for their natural beauty and serene landscape. Ironically, while going out of a meek woman with an elderly kith is decreed as a violation of Islam and immoral, the seizing her and putting the male hands on her trembling body is not taken as breach of the relgious code.

Taliban have taken over Swat, Dir and Malakand. That is just the beginning of their march to the rest of Pakistan. The counterpart extremist religious groups within Pakistan are waiting in wings to receive these newborn ferocious crusaders of a distorted and vulgar version of Islam. The civil society beware: the drumbeat is of their onslaught on the remaining territories of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan will get louder as the time moves forward.

One single incident of lashing a woman in broad day light by the relgious roughnecks is enough to terrorize the whole population now placed at their whimsical disposal and quick fix justice via physical torture. The PPP government at the center and ANP in the province of NWFP should stop self complimenting themselves for bringing peace to Swat and the adjoining land. This peace is fraught with the seeds of civil disobedience or the revival of bloody militancy if the state of Pakistan reasserts itself to forestall the re-happening of such ignominious incidents.

Nevertheless , as every cloud has a silver lining, this incident should serve as a blessing in disguise because the citizens of Swat that are relatively conservative might have second thoughts about the kind of Islamic polity that the Taliban want to establish in the territories under their control. If the army once again moves into Swat, it would hopefully, have the tacit support of the people there. This incident that has come to the domestic and international limelight, paints the Taliban in most lurid colors. The myth of Taliban’s Shariah has exploded with a big bang. Though the people under the Taliban subjugation may be momentarily terrorized, such loathsome events might turn out to be strong justification for the entire civilized world to come down with heavy hands on these intimidators of humanity and recluse fanatics.

Is there a Redeemer?

By Saeed Qureshi

The agonising fact is that the Pakistani leadership either in government or in opposition seldom looked to be having scant interest in the survival of Pakistan. Presently, the party in power is in the hands of such individuals who cannot think beyond their personal ends. After the establishment of an elected government last year, the woeful saga of returning to the promised goal of a democratic order and a civil society remained suspended, on the stage of Pakistan, like a Shakespearian tragedy, for pretty one year. The revival of true democratic system after a period of 8 years of authoritarian rule should have been the most coveted and urgent agenda for all the political players who have been crying hoarse for a representative dispensation during the time, when they were out of the power arena. Now they themselves are following in the foot prints of their unworthy predecessors.

It appears as if every political party, from MQM, ANP, PPP to the religious outfits, is trying and waiting for Pakistan to further dismember or entirely disappear from the globe. Now under the pressure from the relgious lobbies, Pakistan’s early power wielders gave it the name of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Thereafter, all the successive governments had remained hostage in the hands of the rabble- rousing and riotous relgious factions and entities. Every ruler in Pakistan tried his best to woo and submit to the whims and demands of the relgious extremists who have been howling all along after the creation of Pakistan for an Islamic order.

This Islamic order was first ushered in Pakistan by a secular and socialist prime minister whose name was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Mr Bhutto, in order to save his government, went over backward to strike an abominable deal with ultra right forces of Pakistan. He was the one whose mandate was to establish a secular, liberal, democratic society, resplendent with civil liberties and egalitarianism. Notwithstanding his other master feats such as liberating captured Pakistani POWS from India and giving the first good constitution to Pakistan, the distasteful betrayal of his own revolutionary agenda nullified all the good work that he had done.

Now it is all right for Jamat-e-Islami or JUI to declare Friday as closed holiday, ban races and clubs and use of alcohol. But for a person who was supposed to be the upholder of secularism, socialism and enlightenement, such drastic relgious injunctions brought forth the eloquent testimony to the bizarre realization that he was not honest or sincere about his own progressive manifesto. The PPP”s manifesto, if factually implemented, would have served as landmark for Pakistan’s glorious future as a modern state. He succumbed before the pressure and dictates of the obscurantist lobbies and turned the other way round that ultimately landed him in his tragic end. Not only that he lost power but his life as well. The trail of Bhutto family bereavements is the consequence of ZAB’s throwing to the winds, his own vision and creed.

General Ziaul Haq’s ignoble era was an era of doom for the progressive forces and votaries of civil society and indeed a boom for the relgious right who thrived under the state patronage. Gen Zia’s regime tore Pakistan from within along ethnic and religious lines. By defeating Soviet Union with the backing of western capitalist countries and their unlimited financial largesse and weaponry, he established that the Jihadis were a potent and invincible force. A complete and unchallengeable sway of the relgious militants was already established in neighboring Afghanistan and was waiting for the right time to spill over to Pakistan. That frightening doom’s day scenario has finally happened and we can witness it all over Pakistan.

The governments that followed Ziaul Haq were not motivated enough to remedy the situation and to check the swelling influence of the relgious militants. Amazingly, while Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reneged on his revolutionary charter of change, his daughter Benazir Bhutto created a Frankenstein of Taliban that is getting, pervasive, fearsome, violent, defiant and diabolic with the time passage. They are emboldened by the latest turn of events in that the PPP government has surrendered the sovereignty of the state of Pakistan to these uncultured practitioners and preachers of distorted version of Islam. Incidentally, it is once again Asif Zardari, a member of the Bhutto clan who by conceding to the demand of Taliban to establish their judicial system in swat, has pushed Pakistan into the lap of brute conservatism. A theocratic state within a sovereign nation state is in existence. The Taliban unless checked, won’t wait for long to spread their tentacles to the rest of the country. Can a patriotic head of state agree to such an absurdity?

Musharraf exhibited a complete sell out of Pakistan’s sovereignty to the foreign imperialist agenda. Had Musharraf been more democratic and had not infringed the constitution, his role as an opponent of the Taliban and other similar fundamentalist bands would have earned the support of the people. His penchant to stay in power by violation of constitution and misuse of his status landed him in trouble and leveled off his good work also.

If any one likes to suffer from the illusion that ANP and JUI and JI wish Pakistan well and want to see it stable and surviving then such a person should better read the history of Pakistan’s freedom movement. These three parties were in the forefront to block the creation of Pakistan. I don’t see any change of heart even now on their part. The only change is that they have changed their tactics.

Likewise, the impression that the MQM wants Pakistan to remain as a geographically intact state is patently far from truth and is not supported by the ever changing postures of this politically very potent and cohesive community. The reports were out in the past that they were clandestinely in favor of rejoining India and get the chunk of Urban Sindh to be under their tutelage either as part of Indian federation or as an independent state like Bangladesh.

President Zardari who joined the bandwagon of power by sheer luck and who suffers from the guilt ridden conscience, would rather see Pakistan truncated under the nagging paranoid that he will be, sooner or later, held accountable for his past convictions and crimes. The NRO that gave amnesty and immunity to his misdeeds by a dictator for self protection cannot remain effective for ever. It is a monstrous legal infringement and a national crime that cannot remain under the carpet for all time to come.

The Baluch Liberation Movement is gaining strength and momentum. That poses one of the gravest dangers to the solidarity of the federation of Pakistan. Tribal belt is in a state of exacerbating turmoil. It is beyond the competence of both provincial and federal governments to douse the flames of rebellion and insurgency in Tribal regions as well as in Swat and Dir valleys. In Punjab that was deemed as a safe haven thus far, Taliban are launching deadly forays to demonstrate their ability to strike anywhere in Pakistan.

While being unquestionably patriotic, Nawaz Sharif, in his two stints as the prime minister of Pakistan, was reckless and intolerant. There is also some good work to his credit? But by virtue of his ego-centric temperament he was an extremist in his likes and dislikes: generous to his friends and punitive to his foes. People generally were hard pressed during his governance also because he had a hatchet man like senator Saif-ur-Rehman who was as vindictive with his inquisitions as a devil. Nawaz Sharif tried to be a kind of caliph with absolute powers. But after a grueling decade of exile he seems to have settled down and now talks like a seasoned and sober politician. In all likelihood, he might desist from his past wrong doings.

Imran Khan is an emotionally charged yet sincere son of the soil. His outpourings reflect his unimpeachable character and earnestness of the purpose behind his political camapgining. He speaks with a strong conviction to see the encompassing rot and mess to be put in order by harsh and uncompromising measures. But despite his absolute sincerity and patriotic exuberance, his party has yet to go a long way to win the elections in order to sit in the government.

The army remains neutral and sits on the fence as long as politicians behave. The burecurats, the business robber barons and the feudal lords being strong pressure groups tilt with the direction of the wind and the way their interests are served. They have no interest whether Pakistan stays or not.

The poor and dispossessed people of Pakistan and the country itself have remained at the mercy of these cut throat, inimical leaders and self serving power groups since independence. A politically viable and economically stable Pakistan has ever remained an elusive dream. The crisis now is at the breaking point which if not arrested might break the country as well. The military intrusion of United States in this region with an anti terrorism agenda puts an unbearable burden on Pakistan. As a result, the very survival and stability of Pakistan is in grave jeopardy. The Indians are waiting for the curtain to fall. Is there some one from among the Pakistani leaders who can stop this calamitous down slide and reverse the dreadful drift?

Obama’s Anti -terrorism Strategy

By Saeed Qureshi

United States under the new administration of President Barack Obama is on the threshold of a new strategy to defeat the resurgent Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The strategy puts Pakistan at the heart of the fight in its nearly a decade old war against Al-Qaida and Taliban.

As the focus is entirely riveted on the lawless tribal belt between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Iraq war no more prominently figures in the US offensive against the international terrorist bands. America, of late, has concluded that the hub of all terrorist activities emanate from the FATA regions of Pakistan that provide safe haven and sanctuaries to the insurgents and terrorist groups to operate against both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Clearly perceiving that war on terror in Afghanistan is being lost, the United States has drastically revamped her policy of dealing with the menace of terrorism. The plan incorporates increase in the ground forces for combat and advisory roles. The new strategy looks more pragmatic and realistic as compared to that of Bush era when only use of force and mere killing of the suspected terrorists was in vogue. But understandably that one sided strategy did not pay off as Al-Qaida and also Taliban have, of late, emereged more defiant than ever before.

It appears that the United States wants to relinquish most of its anti terrorism war baggage that it has been carrying for years now after the 9/11 tragedy. NATO and other allies’ participation by way of contribution of troops has been only token and symbolic. It is only United States that has been bearing the major burden both militarily and financially.

Realising that war in Afghanistan cannot be won alone by military means, Obama administration has decided to adopt a strategy of wooing those factions of Taliban that would be prepared for reconciliation and thus drop or cease fighting against the foreign troops. This would lessen the burden on the allied forces in Afghanistan to exclusively target Al-Qaida. America wants to close many fronts in her on going war on terrorism.

While in the tribal corridor, Pakistan army was combating Taliban and other die hard factions, the US is content that at least a proxy war was going on by a strong ally. If the new strategy of winning over the pliant Taliban makes headway, the pressure on Pakistan army would also recede considerably and therefore it would also be relatively relaxed to focus on Al-Qaida. But to muster popular support for the Pakistan army to carry on its military operations against the insurgents in the tribal areas, US has decided to increase Pakistan’s economic aid, threefold. If the fruits of US aid reflect on betterment of Pakistani people, the general trend of opposing US might diminish. It means that the US wants to win the sympathy and support of the people of Pakistan more than the army and the government.

The strategy being Pakistan friendly takes off much of the pressure from Pakistan as was being exerted by the previous Bush administration to do more. An under pressure Pakistan can falter in the war as well as become suspect before the people for playing a crony’s role. The commitment of 4000 additional troops for training betokens America’s resolve to train the domestic armies of Pakistan and Afghanistan like Iraq to fight even without American or NATO forces on their own. It also indicates that US intends to keep only a token presence in this volatile area and intimately withdraw from this region as it is doing in Iraq.

The more significant part of the new strategy is that the countries in the region are also being involved in this war that was so far confined to Pakstan and Afghanistan. Iran is being cultivated to cooperate with United States to tame and rein in the pro Iran faction within Taliban fold. Iran is decidedly against Al-Qaida and that is a plus factor for United States. India and Pakistan are being encouraged to sink their differences, defuse tension and reconcile with each at least on defeating and militating against Al-Qaida and hard core radical Islamic militants.

America is now fully aware that the NATO countries and other allies of the coalition against terrorism will not commit more troops in Afghanistan. Of late, this reality too has dawned on America that it was not possible to defeat the militants by use of military force alone. Despite an eight years intensive war, Taliban and Al-Qaida are resurging with new vigor and vitality. The policy of physical annihilation and wearing down the militants has not worked. Instead it is the coalition military contingents that are war fatigued.

America wants to build up a regional group to act against the insurgents. For this purpose America is in consultation with China, Russia, India along with Iran and Pakistan to form a coalition not for military purposes but to coordinate their efforts in order to isolate Taliban and other radical militants, now fighting in and around Afghanistan. At the same time America wants to undertake development of infrastructure and pump in aid for reconstruction into the tribal regions to gain support of the non combatant citizens. These are salutary measures that in the longer run would pay off.

It is for the first time that President Barack Obama categorically pledged that US troops would not go in hot pursuit of extremists across the Afghan border into Pakistan. He has, albeit, strongly urged Pakistan to step up and intensify the anti-terrorism struggle. It clearly signifies that America is unleashing Pakistan from an expectation and commitment that Pakistan should alone was bound to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaida. President Bush had been pressurizing Pakistan for doing what the combined military might of the NATO and US forces couldn’t do. On the contrary Obama has publicly acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices as an ally of America in the war on terrorism. Pakistan at its end is using cash and carrot policy. It is trying to elicit support from the tribal notables and at the same time fighting against the militants. If America wants to generate more goodwill of the people of Pakistan and enlarge its scope of influence in the tribal areas then it should forthwith stop Drone attacks that are fermenting lot of anti US sentiments both in Pakistan and the tribal belt.

But all said and done, It is foregone that America cannot win this war on terrorism in the battlefield. At the end of the day America will have to wrap up its military operations and withdraw from Afghanistan as well. The policy of remote control and assigning the responsibility to the regional states to weed out militants and Islamic radicals would definitely bring dividends. The war against relgious fanatics is not exclusive to America and the west alone. It is also a danger to the established democratic polities and civil societies in respective countries. Even if America leaves the region, abandons her military onslaughts, yet Pakistan and Afghanistan and all other target counties will have to purge their societies of this diabolic menace. For this they will, not only have to fight but also undertake far reaching socio-economic reforms to make their societies and the people enlightnened and progressive so as to become strong bulwark against the orthodox and obscure relgious ideologies.

President Zardari’s address to the Parliament

By Saeed Qureshi

I am glad that president Zardari possesses the necessary guts and cunning to outwit Pakistan’s unprincipled politicians. His address to the joint session of the parliament offers nothing new except the pious platitudes and a refrain of the previous unfulfilled promises. The expression of good intentions doesn’t carry weight unless translated into reality. How many times has he backed out from his given pledges and commitment is a story commonly known. About the much talked about charter of democracy, he is again back to his previous standpoint of making a committee and handing over this interminable task to it. This is the same pattern of delaying tendency that was stubbornly shown in the case of restoration of the fired judges.

The twice staged Lawyers’ long marches, like the storming of the Bastille’s notorious prison in France on July 14, 1789, would have proven to be the turning milestones for Pakistan. The Bastille was an earth shaking event that changed the course of history, paved way for the French Revolution and spearheaded a backlash against the blood sucking privileged classes of feudal, aristocracy, clergy, and monarchs.The French society, moved towards such radical changes as enlightenment, principles of citizenship and inalienable rights for the common people.

The lawyers long marches were nipped before these could have achieved results similar to those of Bastille attained over two centuries ago. Prima facie, these monumental protests were launched for reinstatement of the sacked judged. But had these been taken to their logical conclusion by the politicians, these would have served as harbingers for the radical transformation in favor of good governance, rule of law, a real democratic and constitutional order and the flowering of a civil society in Pakistan.

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan led the first long march culminating into a mammoth rally on the constitution avenue on June 14, 2008. But all of a sudden and for unknown reasons, he dismissed it without pursuing the previously decided option of sit-in till the acceptance of the demands for the restoration of judges. The huge rally dispersed without achieving the goals for which it was fostered and sustained for such a along time.

As for the second long march led by Ali Ahmed Kurd, president of Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, the PPP government, in face of impending doom, finally agreed on March 16, 2009, to restore the judges including chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. The Lawyers’ fraternity, therefore, had to call off their protest. The political parties that supported the lawyers’ movement also quit the movement. That was a mistake. The politicians should have turned the lawyers’ agitation into a political one. It was a momentous time for Nawaz Sharif and other agitating political allies to continue with the agitation to press for the acceptance of the political demands. They could have thus worked out some kind of a fresh quid pro quo with the PPP government with regard to the speedy implementation of the charter of democracy. It is for the second time that the actors or the agents working behind the curtain stymied this great movement before it could have blossomed and shaken the pillars of well entrenched, privileged and elite classes.

The restoration of judges was done at a huge financial cost to the country. The whole country looked like a battlefield and all commercial and social activity almost ceased. Due to the removal of containers from the ports, blocking the transportation and by mobilization of the entire police force, the monetary loss to the country ran into several billions rupees. And yet president Zardari, in his insipid address, unabashedly, gives credit to his government for restoration of judges. The leaders in power do not blink eye in spewing out falsehood and indulging in double speak. Why don’t they confess that they were forced to take this decision after using every possible option to suppress the lawyers’ movement until the last moment?

Now in his March 28 address to the joint session of the parliament, president Zardari has brought the Charter of Democracy back to square one. He didn’t commit anything. He has simply announced the constitution of a committee to look into the repeal of the 17th amendment containing the 58-2/B clause. It is the same announcement that he had made before becoming the president of Pakistan. Now the electronic media is repeatedly showing the clip in which Mr. Zardari promised that his first act after assuming the presidency would be to do away with the pernicious 17th amendment including 58-2/B. It is doubtful if the committee members to be drawn from both the treasury benches and the opposition would be in a position to hammer out a consensus draft. And that is the trick hidden behind the refrain of president Zardari on the formation of a committee. Otherwise the Charter of Democracy is already a consensus and comprehensive document.

Such are the devious and treacherous intentions of the rulers who otherwise never tire of promising a revolution and the people’s government in a perennially bedeviled country. Ostensibly the lawyers cannot launch a political movement for democracy, civil society and fundamental rights. This is the task of the political parties. The lawyers’ one point goal has been successfully scored.

Interestingly, following the address of president Zardari, the statements of the PML (N) are couched in supporting nuances for the sitting government. There is nothing tangible in Zardari March 28 address that could have signaled a positive certitude in implementing the charter of democracy, so precious to PML (N). Yet PML leaders have welcomed it and are expressing a great deal of satisfaction and delight as if the charter was on its way of being implemented sooner than later. Who knows that this visible expression of approbation may be a cover up on the part of PML) N) for some hidden agenda that the leading opposition party might unfold after their government in Punjab is resorted and their cases are quashed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Presumably, thereafter, they can effectively and with peace of mind form a coalition of political parties to press for the implementation of the Charter like the lawyers did vigorously for their exclusive demand of restoration of judges. It is possible that once legally exonerated, Sharif brothers will come out openly to strive for the enforcement of the charter of democracy and other three pacts inked between them and president Zardari. But it should be understood that Mr. Zardari is capable of springing unbelievable tricks to outflank his political rivals and thwart their anti government onslaught. Guess who will suffer and who will be the casualty in this ignoble and unworthy war of power politics? The answer is: As ever the poor people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

A New America is in the Making

By Saeed Qureshi

Under President Barack Obama a definite change in the foreign policy of the United States is underway. It’s a change from conflict to reconciliation and from belligerency and arm twisting to diplomacy and peace around the world. Who could imagine that a few months ago that the USA would be ready to talk to Iran for sweetening of the soured relations on new foundations of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence? It was certainly inconceivable that a time would arrive when it would be the United States to take the initiative for dismantling the barriers of mistrust and bitterness accumulated over almost three decades since the clerical Islamic regime assumed stewardship of the country.

Israel and its lobbies in America are against building such a friendly relationship with a country whose atomic installations it wants to destroy. The initiative of the new American administration to outreach Iran treated till recently as an evil state is stunning. In his address on the Nauroz, the first day of Iranian calendar, president Obama said, “My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community."

For American and Israel, the resistance against the allied forces in Iraq had the support of Iran. Indeed there is nothing final or ultimate in politics. The magnanimous offer of president Obama to mend fences with Iran speaks for the radical tilt in the foreign policy of the United States. United States under the new administration is even ready to start a constructive rapport with all countries that are red marked or are treated as hostile countries.

President Obama is visiting Turkey in April another Islamic country that has been half way with US on its military incursion in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite its stake of entering the European Union and for that matter not to antagonize America and the Western countries, it has taken a principled and more honorable stance by not allowing US to use its territory in its war against two Muslim countries namely Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey under President Abdullah Gul and prime-minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is emerging as an important country that has a significant role to play to help United States, disengage and withdraw from the fruitless war in Iraq. Turkey has also brokered negotiations for better relations between Israel and Syria.

Obama’s friendly moves towards the Islamic countries of Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and Syria clearly indicate a distinctive change in American foreign policy and its relationship with the Islamic bloc. For Pakistan, Obama administration is increasing both economic and military aid, which signals a more enduring or pragmatic pattern of relationship with Pakistan. These policy changes are ostensibly aimed at repairing the damage that America has suffered in various manners during the senior and junior Bush eras. It is also meant to isolate the radical Islamists like Taliban and Al-Qaida in respective Islamic countries from where these outfits operate. Unlike his hard-line predecessor, Obama’s strategy is to prop up liberal and moderate Islamic polities that can go along with the enlightened, democratic and open systems of Europe and America. In this effort Obama is not only helping America itself by taking it away from bellicosity to nurturing goodwill, but also the Islamic countries to shed their orthodox baggage and join the liberal societies and modern states.

While under the burden of delivering America from the ongoing predicament of futile wars, Obama seems to have a soft corner in his heart for the Muslims around the world and as such doesn’t want them to suffer any more at the hands of America. Obama is wary and opposed to dubbing the Muslims as terrorists and opponents of western civilizations. With the withdrawal of military from Iraq, Obama’s administration heralds the beginning of a process of winding up of America’s perpetual involvement in wars since the Second World War. It is a giant step and a monumental shift in America’s global outlook with had remained focused first on browbeating the communism and socialism and later on bludgeoning the Islamic bloc. In case of communism it succeeded: in case of Islam it flopped.

With a switch of policy from war to peace and conflict to reconciliation Obama has disarmed and disabled the strong war lobbies within America. Equally, his fast and punitive actions on domestic fiscal indiscipline and scams have earned him more esteem and trust of the American people. His stimulus package aimed at resuscitating the ailing US economy is also having its salutary effects and there are positive signs of slight recovery at the moment, which might pick up pace and momentum in due course. His swift remedial move against the giant Insurance Company AIG for squandering stimulus money on payment of bonuses to the bigwigs of the company has emitted an unmistakable message that the era of misuse of tax payers money was over.

If president Obama remains at the helm for his entire constitutional term and even for the second term then, hopefully, much of the economic meltdown, to a large degree, would be contained. The accountability and strict financial oversight that has been put in place by Obama administration might even in shorter period of time offset the tide of economic tsunami that America is passing through. Besides, following the withdrawal of forces from Iraq and later from Afghanistan, along with the peace offensive that the Obama administration plans to gear up, the huge savings in the coming years cannot be ruled out.

America is essentially a good country thanks to the essential goodness of its constitution and system based on strictly guarded equality, liberty, liberalism, fundamental rights and a marvelous social welfare system. America is one country that takes lead in immigration from all parts of the world. It is a country that gives the aid and assistance more than other donors to the poor and backward countries for development and for humanitarian causes. The only misplaced penchant that overshadowed its good side since the Korean War was its attempts to tame the entire world through military muscle and dubious covert operations. It was a strategy that backfired and instead of achieving the goodwill and the perceived objectives, made it look like an imperialist power. Obama administration seems to remove the duplicity and deceit in America’s foreign policy and in her past dictating pattern of dealing with the world at large. The aid with strings attached has always been counterproductive for promoting American interests around the world.

With a clean image and in the backdrop of bitter lessons learnt in the past several decades, the Obama administration intends to embark upon a friendly course and adopt the time tested strategy of winning the hearts and minds of the global community and not physical annihilation of the foes. Equipped with the unbounded confidence, unshakeable faith in hope and profuse vision and truthfulness of his new role of rescuing America and restoring its grandeur, Obama would prevail in the final count. It is expected that despite the unremitting opposition from domestic hostile lobbies and rival politicians and other hurdles, he would take America out of the troubled waters.

How long could he hold the Avalanche?

By Saeed Qureshi

How long could Zardari and his handful cohorts hold on against the lawyers’ unrelenting avalanche of protest, rolling for two years now. The state’s coercive apparatus had been copiously mobilized to suppress the public outcry on the baneful policies and the regal style of governance of the president of Pakistan. With heavy hearts, the discerning citizens helplessly watched the sheer contrast between the utterances of the slain chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party( Parliamentarians) and her ignoble spouse who jumped over the throne of the presidency because Benazir wrote so in her will. Look at the grossly ungrateful husband to be wary and indifferent to the calls of registering an FIR of her wife’s brutal murder and mounting an investigation to catch the culprits. By following in the footprints of those rulers who had brought untold miseries upon the adherents of Bhutto and their party, he has stubbornly and impudently distanced himself from the philosophy and mission of Bhutto family.

To thwart the lawyers’ long march, he and his band had cordoned the entire country and brought it to a standstill merely to suppress the long standing protest of legal fraternity that was instrumental in the removal of Musharraf and paving way for the PPP to step into the portals of power. There were a plethora of promises that were made to recast Pakistan into the mould of a veritable successful democratic state. The cherished expectations of the people were as genuine as these were long overdue to be realized. People and the political forces both in power and out vehemently supported president Zardari and his pliant prime minister to feel comfortable with the absolute majority.

But no one had the slightest inkling that a fox was being given charge of protecting a henhouse. Whatever semblance of modest governance was left by president Musharraf has been unabashedly cast away. A civilian president has been trying to be as powerful as a military head of government. He refused to listen to neither public clamour nor the refrain of the politicians to honor the pledges that he had made to the nation. He refused to purge the constitution of the objectionable clauses that bar Pakistan from having a true parliamentary democratic edifice. He has engaged himself in throwing high profile offices and perks to his close friends without going into the intricacies, merit and laid down procedures. He bypasses his ministers and prime minister in issuing direct, dubious orders to the departments and government servants for compliances. He behaves like a monarch of the Middle Ages.

Benazir Bhutto’s footages repeatedly telecast on the Geo Television and other electronic channels show her vehemently calling for the reinstatement of the deposed members of superior judiciary with specific mention of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. She had also emphasized expunging the so called odious 17th amendment from the constitution that empowers the president, to defy the spirit of the true parliamentary democracy. These categorical enunciations by their very chairperson did not cut much ice with the PPPP cadres from the president down to the lower rank and file. It’s a sheer shame that they prefer to tread the path of a dictator than their own chairperson who besides her other sacrifices such as long exile, finally lost her life for the sake of the country. It is because of her that Asif Zardari is now the president of Pakistan.

The fact is that former president Gen Musharraf was considerably diminished after the refusal of Iftikhar to resign under pressure. The protest of the lawyers that later gathered momentum in due course, emboldened the people and the political parties to openly come out and raise the ante of protests against the Musharraf. The lawyers along with the political and civil society activists remained in a state of agitation for two years.

Ironically the promise by PPPP about restoring the deposed judges had remained unfulfilled from March 25, 2008 when the PPPP formed the government at the center with Yusuf Raza Gilani as the Prime Minister, through September 9, 2008 when Asif Zardari became president, till the D-Day of March 15, 2009. During all this period, it was expected that the party in power, would waste no time in making its promises good. But president Zardari chose to sail in the same boat which was previously occupied by the former president.

Until the deadline of March 16 given by the lawyers for reinstatement of fired judges, Asif Zardari had been offering a very intriguing logic to not restore the judges. He was not even prepared to give any credit to the agitating judges’ decisive role in the exit of the former president and restoring power to the genuine political forces. In blatant contrast to his previous promise and stark betrayal to Benazir Bhutto’s unequivocal declarations, he argued that the PPPP got power because of the backdoor arrangements for a quid pro quo and mutual accommodations with the former president. That questionable pact might have also contained the commitment not to restore the deposed judges. He further said that the mandate given to him was not for the restoration of the judges but for Roti, Kapra and Makan (bread, clothing, shelter)

The proclamation of emergency on November 3, 2007, was a response of the former president to the reinstatement of Chaudhry by an order of the Supreme Court on July 20, 2007 and to pre-empt an impending court decision against his re-election. But this move, instead of silencing the agitating lawyers proved to be the fuel to the fire of protests and his position viz a viz lawyers and civil society protesters further weakened. Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, thereafter, promptly, convened a seven-member bench which issued an interim order against this action.

The alliance between PPPP and Musharraf was unholy and unethical because it was based on partisan aggrandizement of both the contracting parties. The PPPP leaders wanted amnesty for their misdeeds while Musharraf wanted legitimacy for his illegal acts and to remain in power with the support of a political force. It was a classic example of opportunism and self interest on both the sides. It was not meant for democracy or was in the interest of the people of Pakistan.

Later with the help of PML (N) Zardari, also ousted the former president. Thereafter, he went back on his pledge of revoking the 17th amendment and the restoration of the judges. Thus by doing so he trapped himself in a situation he was now trying to get out by mercilessly using the state machinery as the dictators do. He had been stalling the reinstement of the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar under the fear that he would nullify the NRO thus reopening the money laundering and other criminal cases against him. While the PML (N) broke ranks as the coalition partner with the PPPP at the center and joined the lawyers’ movement with renewed vigor, president Zardari got the Sharif brothers disqualified from a pliant Supreme Court panel. Immediately thereafter, the Punjab government led by Shahbaz Sharif was dissolved by imposing the governor rule.

In this nerve shattering political battles first against the former president and now against president Zardari, the lawyers have emerged victorious consequently. By losing against his arch rival Nawaz Sharif and lawyers, the powerful position of president despite 58-2/B has been considerably whittled down. In a bid to marginalize his political rivals and lawyers and also to save him from the overturning of NRO, as well as to protect his mentor Musharraf, he has instead isolated himself.

With Chief Justice Chaudhry back in his hard won seat in the Supreme Court chamber, one can only conjecture that he would arraign former president Musharraf for imposition of November 3, 2007 state of emergency. This case along with the reelection of president Musharraf is still pending before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. With that, the NRO might also come under the purview of the Supreme Court. Thus the October 2007 election of Pervez Musharraf and that of Asif Zardari last year might become invalid. But one redeeming feature expected of the revival of the deposed judiciary could be overhauling and refurbishing the flawed and debased judicial system in Pakistan and removing its distortions and deformities.

Mend or Await Military Take-Over

By Saeed Qureshi

In the prevailing pervasive nationwide crisis in Pakistan, the most overriding issue for the PPPP government is to hunt and punish those individuals who vandalized the memorial posters of Benazir at the venue of her assassination at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Garden. While the country is exploding with agitations and rallies by politicians, judiciary and other segments of civil society, the PPPP is riveted on posters’ issue. Perhaps the stress on Benazir’s posters is aimed at sentimentally exploiting the PPPP supporters and activists to demonstrate in equal measure as a counterpoise to the unrelenting anti government countrywide resentment. While there is so much focus on the non-issue of posters, no one from the ruling party talks, even in whispers, about the assassins of Benazir Bhutto, which in fact ought to be the prime priority with the PPPP, especially with her spouse Asif Ali Zardari who by sheer convergence of favorable circumstances is now the occupant of the Presidential Palace in Islamabad.

Asif Zardari is publicly on record of stating that he knew the murderers of BB but would divulge their names at an opportune moment. Now what can be an opportune moment than the present one for a disclosure that would entail justice to the callous criminals? In this case, evidently, Benazir is being denied the justice and her murderers are being covered and protected.

In face of mounting public uproar, the incumbent PPP government has fallen back upon the oppressive dictatorial tactics and odious machinations to curb the prevailing popular discontent. The capture of freight forwarding containers and placing them on roads to hamper and block the lawyers’ march and rallies is reminiscent of the darks days of military dictatorships in Pakistan. After unjustifiably removing a functional and popularly elected government, the enforcement of section 144, a loathsome colonial caveat, is in vogue in the largest province of Punjab.

The Governor’s Rule is imposed in extraordinary circumstances such as the political impasse, class war and in the eventuality of government getting totally dysfunctional. None of these conditions were visible in Punjab. On the contrary, the government of Shahbaz Sharif was doing exceedingly well. The Punjab’s government’s aversion to the Nazims’ system of local government implemented by Former president Musharraf could have been one of the reasons for imposition of the Governor Rule. Another could be the self-engineered hostility of the PPPP’s cavalier governor of Punjab. But these reasons are far from being cogent. It is the prerogative of the provincial government to dismantle, quash or reorder a system of local bodies that hampers its smooth functioning.

It could have been an ideal situation for Pakistan, if in line with their mutual understanding worked out over a period of two years; the two leading political parties would have continued sharing the government at the center. The coalition set up at the center stayed for a few weeks and then PML had to part company due to non-compliance of the agreements on undoing some of the controversial decisions of the former regime under President Musharraf. But while leaving the government, the PML (N) still pledged to keep supporting the PPPP’s federal government from outside. Perhaps PML (L) wanted to have a tacit coexistence with the PPPP at the center with its own in Punjab. But President Zardari, true to his nature, dropped, all of a sudden, the hatchet of Governor’s Rule on the PML government in Punjab. That queer and uncalled for action led to the complete and unbridgeable rift between the former coalitions partners who were signatories to the revival of true democracy and a splendid change in the soci economic milieu of Pakistan.

The PPPP ministers and ideologues are, unwisely, straining their energies to prove right the glaring grave wrongs committed by the higher echelons of the party most notably by the president who doesn’t even bat his eyes in breaking the covenants he reaches out with his political compatriots. But the flood of public disenchantment cannot be blocked or turned away by mere inane statements, chicanery, duplicity, by fraudulent antics such as lying, bluffing and by outwitting others with dirty intrigues.

This was the time of making a new Pakistan. The destiny had placed this onerous yet glorious responsibility on the shoulders of political leaders after a stifling lull of a decade of de-facto authoritarianism. Woefully, the leaders have failed miserably in dispensing a historic role that would have earned them the nation’s abiding gratitude and admiration. The nobility of character and high moral standards that are hallmarks of gentlemen and norms of decent governments, geared to serve the masses, are at a minimal level in Pakistan’s ruling cabal. They are not honest and sincere in their personal or official conduct of affairs.

The presidency in Islamabad remains infested with a galore of private parties while the governor house in Lahore is a hub of carnal amusements. Such is the degree of moral decay of our leaders. The majority of people in Pakistan yearn for a morsel of bread and clean drinking water, affordable medicines and food, shelter to live and security to their life and property. This spectacle presents a dreadful contrast between the lifestyles of the rulers and the ruled in a country that keeps alternating between dictatorships and corrupt and inefficient political dispensations.

Obviously the present grossly flawed political set up cannot last long. There should be fresh elections under an independent election commission and a neutral interim government. The present government must resign and come back with a fresh mandate from the people of Pakistan. Otherwise, the level of crises would keep on ballooning exponentially, in both vertical and horizontal directions. With things going beyond control, this time too, no one can stop another military take-over: if not by COAS General Kiani then by some one else.

“Pakistan Khappey”

By Saeed Qureshi

Pakistan Khappey was the slogan that incumbent chairman of the PPP (P) and the president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, raised at a time when, in the aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the country was up in flames and the public outrage and gloom was at its peak. Despite colossal destruction of infrastructure and horrendous hooliganism, the country eventually returned to normalcy. People listened to the message of Pakistan Khappey( we want Pakistan) with obligation and turned to empowering the PPP leadership via their ballot with the firm hope that finally despite loss of an invaluably precious life, the country was set to revert to a genuine yet hardly won democratic rule and henceforth all would be fine.

The people’s glee knew no bounds when the colliding political forces joined hands before and after the elections to reinforce and move towards the representative government. The elections were held, the former president left the power arena, and Mr Zardari became the president of Pakistan. Before assuming the presidency, he held out a categorical public pledge that his first order, after he took over the reins of the presidency, would be to remove 58-2/B. At least four written agreement were inked between Late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari on one side and an equally popular leader Nawaz Sharif, on the other, to usher Pakistan into a long sought after era of democratization and civil society.

After taking the highest office, Mr Zardari has shown his true side of the character. He has amply and irrefutably demonstrated that his commitments to transfer power to the prime minister for parliamentary form of government, unfetter judiciary and media, strengthen institutions, get rid of the mercenary role of Pakistan viz a viz imperial powers and stop killing their own people by using national army were mere tricks and hollow promises that he never meant seriously. He believes in the much debased adage that “all was fair in love and war”. But he does not understand that this should not be applied in relation to a nation that he is presiding over. He may do so in his love affairs and with the enemies that he would like to fight. But the power belongs to the people and the people can throw him out in the same fashion that they voted him and his party into power. Thus he has made him and his party a laughing stock and its power base is fast being eroded with growing public discontent and unrest.

Mr Zardari seems to be under the illusion that he can fool all the people all the times and still would remain safe and sound. This is not the style how statecraft is conducted even by the worst of non-challant. He seems to be unmindful of ten years of party’s tribulations including the innervating exile of their late chairperson that was longer than that one of Nawaz Sharif’s. Knowing fully well that he personally was not the rightful recipient of the powerful office of the president, he should have behaved as to earn it by an exemplary pattern of governance. If it were all a matter of continuing the past policies then president Musharraf was far better than the ruling cabal of the current politicians.

Musharraf was still better because he was not as deceitful, ham-handed and with feet of clay as Mr.Zardari with his retina of elite looking ministers is. PPP should have trumpeted a clean break with the past regime’s policies. It should have moved fast, decisively and with sincerity to salvage the country from the deepening and stultifying quagmire of decay and moribund system of governance. Woefully the country called Pakistan is more fragmented; more problems ridden and more unstable than what it was before the advent of the ruling Don Quixotes. Since Mr. Zardari and a bunch of his close pals got the jackpot of power like a windfall and since they are prone to using politics for personal gains, they have messed a country already reeling under the countless wounds from the power elite.

Zardari and his band seem to take the politics and the governance as a garden party where they can jest, laugh, make fun and romanticize. Instead of improving the situation, the impulsive and whimsical decisions that shoot out of the presidency, further worsen the state of affairs. From, parting company with PML (N) despite a carte blanche given by the latter to go together, to appointing a pinheaded, dare devil, impudent, saber rattler as the governor of Punjab, the unseating of Nawaz brothers via a dubious court ruling, the sudden prostration before the ultra right relgious militants of Swat; to sputtering contentious statements are actions as questionable as these are myopic.

The PPP”s ruling oligarchy is audaciously proving as deaf, dumb and blind to the myriad problems such as poverty, education, health care lawlessness, unemployment, ransoms, abductions, water and power outrages, spiraling cost of living, bribery et el, It speaks of a derelict mindset on their part. Instead of addressing the appalling socio-economic and civic problems and reconstruction of the country, they are busy in palace intrigues and dismantling of whatever good or bad already exists. Pakistan’s foreign policy looks like a stack of hay that can be thrashed by any one at any time. The PPP government at the center is critically dysfunctional.

These people lack vision, the will and sincerity to put things in order. Have the ministers and their cronies at every level of either the party or the government been given the mandate to inflict wounds on the body politic of the country and then rub salt on these by issuing misleading, erroneous statements and perfunctory explanations to justify their hold or perpetuation in power? But perhaps the day of reckoning is not far away. The soul of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto must be restless over the party’s rudderless role in saving the country from shipwreck. Benazir Bhutto must be turning in her grave for writing a will that gave powers to a person, to rule the country and the party, who least deserved it. Alas! Mr. Zardari has thrown his noble slogan of “Pakistan Khappey” to the winds.