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Monday, June 1, 2009

Will Pakistan Survive?

By Farooq Hassan
Law & Int'l Affairs Professor — Harvard

Lahore city witnessed a bombing attack that killed tens of people in what the government said was revenge for an offensive against the Taliban (Reuters photo) I have been in Cairo where I had arrived to talk to the Arab intellectuals of strategic and Islamic affairs. Regrettably then on May 27, the third major terrorist attack in Lahore occurred.Recent hostilities in the country concerning the war events in Swat have already initiated a debate in many influential media quarters if Pakistan could survive this newly created reality, in which serious questions about the policies and decisions of the Zardari government were involved.
There has been a debate evoked around the survival of the country, which is of tremendous significance for the entire Muslim world as was evidenced by my live dialogue for that very day of Lahore bombing attack.Such an inquiry, not merely semantically, but in terms of fundamental realities of contemporary transnational political facts, entails two connected but separate and clearly distinct matters.
I would have thought that it is really being melodramatic to even raise the question if a nuclear armed nation possessing about the fifth largest military can just collapse as a result of domestic skirmishes. A Possible Scenario of Collapse?
Firstly, we have to see if this eventuality is theoretically possible and not raised just rhetorically; secondly, we have to determine and evaluate the relevant circumstances to see if a collapse on the basis of the identified criteria could happen.
The first question is whether it be considered a rationally justifiable inquiry that should be examined, I would have thought that it is really being melodramatic to even raise the question that a nuclear armed nation possessing about the fifth largest military can just collapse as a result of domestic skirmishes.
However, that such a scenario that has been now circulating for months at least raises the concerns to a level in which the matter needs to be objectively analyzed.
In a series, three composite factors need to be listed in the causation of this particular phenomenon dealing with the government of Pakistan. This examination must begin with analyzing the role of Zardari as President.
(1) The over-excessive tours abroad have exposed President Zardari to world's media, where manifestly he is at a loss for ideas, his body language is most damaging to the head of a country position as important as Pakistan. His choice of his key advisors and ambassadors in such places like Washington is perceived to be unwise with elements not known for their patriotic zeal; it is also simply disturbing that in taking stock of the country's woes, more than the majority of them are lumped up with the current incumbent of presidency.
(2) The continued touting of the now worn-out mantra, which is really embarrassing for any sovereign state, particularly one of a nuclear capacity, that seeks and accepts getting more and more money, presumably for the country, for fighting this current war against terrorism. Many in Pakistan are now alarmed that it has effectively become a mercenary establishment.
(3) Whether or not these wars are of Pakistan's choice or if it is simply the inability of the current leadership of Islamabad to speak up to the powers that may be external or internal. I have yet to find any credible evidence which might suggest that people in the country are convinced that it is not Washington's war that the army is fighting for a heavy and pricey interest.I find that with exception of Imran Khan, no one has the courage to speak the truth for fear of alienating some perceived US support.
This last point is really reaching scandalous proportions when one sees the articulations of several key members of the US Congress; it is maintained by leading Congressional Members, particularly of the Republican Party that it is naive for Washington to hand over a billion plus dollars to Zardari whose reputation in this respect is hardly enviable.No wonder the conditions attached to the current Aid package, which the Congress debated, included strange and unheard of oversight provisions. In sum, Zardari has had a ruin of poor rating by his recent hosting by the US Presidency.
It was only the Lawyer's long march which turned the tables on his relentless acquisition drive for greater power.Unlimited Presidential Powers Simultaneously, the Pakistani government is really not operational. It is said the Swat operation is for maintaining the writ of the government in tact. Whatever was its efficacy, it was in taters after the Lawyers long March which saw the final retreat of Zardari vis-a-vis Nawaz Sharif and the Chief Justice.What is more perplexing to me as constitutional jurist is that the Office of the President is not expected, by conventional norms or indeed by the letter of the Constitution, to do any such a thing. It is the country's government and the Prime Minster who is supposed to carry such negotiations.
By reckless abandoning of such criteria, the President is showing more than necessary to friends and foes alike that he is losing his real inner confidence. By adhering to the pretense that he alone should be seen as running the country's power show and the holder of the its greatest influence shows that there are complex matters which people would not like to be associated with.
In addition, there is scant evidence of successfully negotiating the domestic political issues with composure. After acquiring the country's presidency, and ousting his own benefactor General Musharraf, he made serious efforts to acquire Punjab and to keep Iftikar Muhammad Chaudry from becoming the Chief Justice. It was only the Lawyer's movement that turned the tables on his relentless acquisition drive for greater power.
Then, be it the Army’s war or that of Zardari, he has nevertheless to own it as being the President of the country, and there in lies the real difficulty. To begin a war, the natural consequences can hardly be avoided. The US had announced amongst huge fanfare and glittering buntings through the American President on May 1, 2002 the “Mission accomplished!” How wrong he was he proved to be! Many winters since that statement emanated, the US still trying to get out of that war having suffered enormously.
In the process of this current wave of fighting the insurgency, the army has been definitely put in a position to gain nothing except political ascendancy in national affairs at huge cost to its well being.I was thus really bewildered when recently the entirety of national column writers of any note were citing with tremendous appreciation the briefing given by the COAS to the Prime Minister and then to other leaders of the nation! May I ask what is the purpose of such pretense when it is trite knowledge that if the army is genuinely under the civil leadership as proclaimed by the Constitution. This kind of charade would hardly be necessary.
Clearly, the civil government must initially order the action by the army and then get its reports of what it is doing or have done. In the most recent of such briefings, a number of political leaders in the government coalition protested publicly, albeit somewhat timidly, that this briefing was simply in the nature of being told that this is what we have done and you better endorse it!
I do not think that Taliban can militarily be ousted from the region. The US has to keep in mind that unless there is real rapprochement, the timely winning of war is neither here nor there.
Ignored Lessons of War
In Afghanistan too, after wiping out the Taliban by use of massive air power at its disposal, in the early phase of the war in October and November 2001, now the Taliban are back in control of most of that country.
It is a lesson of the classic variety. I may be the only one to point out that, but I do not think that the Taliban can militarily be ousted from the region. The US has to keep in mind that unless there is real rapprochement, the timely winning of war is neither coming here nor there.
The locals, whether they be contemporary Taliban or the erstwhile Mujahideen of the eighties decade of the last century, are more than likely to prevail knowing in the end it is their land and outsiders would have to leave one day some time. Great Britain learnt this lesson a long time ago when it fought the two Afghanistan wars in 1842 and 1844.
For those who still adhere to the fiction of democracy in Pakistan, there are ominous signs that not only this war is being conceived and carried on by the forces, at least on the same pattern as we did in 1971, when the first PPP government was eventually installed; but also there is a dedicated public dissemination every day, especailly by news briefings conducted by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) itself.
The armed forces are thus now committed, one hopes, to the elimination of a military threat to the civilian authority of the country. But in this process, it is civil society that has to erode and then eliminate the ideological threat that has been allowed to grow.
Few questions however must be raised. One cannot cite many illustrations when the country’s army launched a war against its own people and territory and then created over two million refugees within the country?
Topping it further is the enigma about the rest of the people of this impoverished land rising to offer the displaced people of Swat war shelters and food. It is very difficult not to fault the Government in this operation as their own forces are responsible for this terrible and messy calamity. It may be sheer coincidence but I must also point out that in the international field, the matter of internally displaced people (IDPs) has been taken quite seriously since the last year!
Is it a mere coincidence that the international community's key humanitarian agencies had already done some basic number crunching for how they would deal with the Internally Displaced Persons crises towards the end of 2008. Or is it a conspiracy of giant international proportions seen through by others but not by Pakistanis?
With Pakistan in view, I have seen some startling figures! The international donor community had already estimated that the armed conflict in Bazaar and Mohamed agencies would likely drive the numbers of these Pakistanis who are refugees in their own country to about 600,000.
To cater to those folks, it was estimated that roughly $36 million would be required to provide the shelter, water and sanitation, food, basic health care, and schooling needs for the IDPs. As I write these words, and the long overdue military operation to eliminate Taliban from Swat, Bunker, and Dir scorches more and more of the earth, it is becoming a reality that original estimate of 600,000 is exploding into ever larger numbers.
The end result looks very uncomfortable to me from any perspective; indeed Zardari's undoing may well begin this crisis, but with it that of the country too seems possible.Despite the fact that there is a functioning Parliament, the action against the Taliban has been undertaken on the consultation of the All Parties Conference (APC) and other non permanently constitutional institutions. Why may I ask?
The All Parties Conference (APC), held here recently, remained divided on the issue of endorsing the ongoing military operation in Swat, but was unanimous in condemning the US drone attacks. Zardari & US: Essential Questions
Would the Parliament debate and review the commitments and statements made by Zardari in the USA during his recent visit? Will he recall what President Obama told him in the brief one-on-one meeting? Will the members of Cabinet be apprised of the discussion that took place between the two and whether the question of drone attacks was addressed?
Was Zardari authorized to endorse the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on transit trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan and "beyond?"
Why was the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, so very keen about this MOU and so very concerned that she literally presided over the meeting attended by the two presidents? Why did she call it a "historic event" and "an important milestone?" Why were the two presidents practically downgraded to the level of a foreign minister, Hillary herself being one?
The All Parties Conference (APC), held here recently, remained divided on the issue of endorsing the ongoing military operation in Swat, but was unanimous in condemning the US drone attacks. The PM reluctantly agreed that this is the case and tried in vain to convince these three big parties JI, JU and Tehriq Insfak to drop their campaign against this government policy.
It was the government that had proposed a draft resolution, which was clearly endorsing the ongoing military operation, but it was later rewritten in view of certain political leaders’ clear stance that they would not support the military operation.So, it remains to see how far these matters get resolved to enable Pakistan to survive this present crisis. Last but not least, two important points should be mentioned: First is the impact eventually of international conspiracies to which reference is made above. In this context, inter alia, the political intentions of regional parties such as the MQM would require constant oversight.
Secondly is the stark fact ignored by everyone that there still remains the continued matter of Durand Line and its efficacy as a boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan after 1993 when the Treaty of 1893 expired. Last but not least in the same context is the legal status of the Northern areas itself which under the circumstances could be used against Pakistan's continued existence in its current formation.
Farooq Hassan is a Pakistani political expert with several distinguished credentials: DPhil; BA Juris; MA; MLitt (Oxon); DCL (Columbia); DIA (Harvard); Of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister at Law, UK; Attorney at Law, US; Senior Advocate Supreme Court (QC) of Pakistan; David M. Kennedy Visiting Scholar and Professor of International Studies, Kennedy Center; Visiting Professor, Fellow, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University. The author has been adviser to four Pakistani prime ministers on foreign affairs and law. He is also the President of the American Institute of South Asian Strategic Studies, Boston. In 2006, he received the London World Islamic International Award.

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