Famous quotes

"Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually" - Stephen Covey

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Will Pakistan breakup

Read a nice article in SAAG(South Asia Analysis Group)
The title of the essay is the question posed by Selig S Harrison, Director Asia Program of Center for International Policy to an assembly of people at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in June this year.

For South Asia it is a disturbing question and as it is for global security. Bruce Riedel, ex-chair of President Obama's AfPak study group, describes Pakistan as a complex and combustible society undergoing a severe crisis. "America helped create that crisis over a long period of time. If we don't help Pakistan now, we may have to deal with a jihadist Pakistan later?"

Whether the nationalists want to accept or refuse to accept the fundamental reality of international relations today is the overwhelming reach of the US in global politico-economic affairs. UN Charter, characterized by John Foster Dulles as a 'pre-atomic document' and various international covenants cannot undo the reality of American hegemony over global affairs.

From time to time various countries do try to assert their Westphalian sovereignty in national/regional affairs. But at the end of the day both developed and developing countries have to ask for American lead to steer out of the global complexity despite American culpability in the current global meltdown. Fidel Castro has all but vanished and his 'arrogance' in the eyes of the Americans has little value. Venezuelan Chavez and left leaders of Brazil, Chile, El Salvador and Nicaragua can have little influence beyond their borders and the inflaming of socialist spirit in Latin America does not appear to be the solution of the financial woes afflicting the region. One must, however, admit the change in the conduct of foreign policy with the change of guard from "wrecking ball approach to foreign affairs" doggedly pursued by George W Bush to a more accommodative and consultative approach of Barak Obama.

The change, the detractors would say, is more confined to the US willingness to listen to the views of her Atlantic allies and perhaps, giving some weightage to those of emerging economies but is yet to be seen as a credible interlocutor in the Palestinian issue, for example, breaking the shackles of Jewish influence at home. But in the eyes of many Barak Obama's Cairo speech heralded a new beginning that brought a breath of fresh air. His words were soothing and promised justice to the long suffering Palestinians in bondage. "There is so much fear, so much mistrust" Obama said that has built up over the years. "But if we choose to bind by the past, we will never move forward." He disagreed with the thesis "that we are bound to disagree and civilizations are doomed to clash" .

Journalist William Galston ( The New Republic- 4thJanuary 2009) thinks that if Obama is right in his assessment that now is the time ripe for change then he will be a "transformative President of historic stature". But then the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israeli Prime Minister and the appointment of a Jewish extremist as Foreign Minister may mar the prospect of George Mitchell as Barak Obama's point man in the Middle East echoing John Cavanaugh's (Institute of Policy Studies) observation that "so far what you are seeing is rhetoric that we cam make bold changes in our foreign policy. But when he lays out specifics it is not as transformational as the rhetoric"

But the developing world has expectations of the first African-American President of the US partly because, remarks Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation-July 21, 2008), "with his Kenyan and Indonesian roots Obama can credibly claim that he has an inherent understanding of the crushing burden that poverty, disease and lack of clean water and education taking place on the Third World population. And he has said that such abysmal conditions can make angry, oppressed population susceptible to the appeal of violent extremism"

The violent extremism found expression in the destructive activities of al-Qaeda, its terrorist acts of 9/11, and in many parts of the world before and after the 9/11 atrocities. The problem has now been centered in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though Islamic extremism was basically given its power by the US and Pakistan in their desire to end the Soviets occupation of Afghanistan by installing the Taliban in Afghanistan, the al-Qaeda installed themselves in that country under the patronage of the Taliban.

Professor John Mueller ( Foreign Affairs-April 15, 2009) observes that the Taliban was a reluctant host to the al-Qaeda in the 1990s and felt betrayed when the al-Qaeda started to issue inflammatory statements and finally sponsored the 9/11 attacks "which the Taliban had nothing to do with" but led to the expulsion of Taliban from Afghanistan's seat of power. Mueller argues that the Taliban has very little interest in areas beyond AfPak region and should they come to power the Taliban are unlikely to sponsor any terrorist acts against the US that would inevitably lead to outside military intervention. But the activities of the Taliban in disrupting the recent Presidential election in Afghanistan and the virtual occupation of Swat till recently, declaration of Sharia law in Swat and adjoining areas belie the assessment of many about the strength of Taliban in the two countries.

The death of Baitullah Meshud by US drone attack from across the border and the announcement that Hakimullah Meshud is the new leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan demonstrate that the TTP has "consolidated" its fighting force that was thought to be in disarray after the onslaught by the Pakistan army in Swat and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Though the selection of Hakimullah Meshud has momentarily stopped the tide of factionalism in TTP the very fact that his rival has been made the Taliban chief in South Waziristan displays factionalism in the movement because South Waziristan is reportedly the center of TTP's strength.

This does not mean that the jihadists no longer constitute a threat. They are and will remain a significant threat in the foreseeable future? (Kamran Bokhari & Fred Burton-The counterinsurgency in Pakistan-August 2009-Stratfor Global Intelligence). Pakistan army's long held love with the Islamic extremists had to end due to continuous US pressure on the Pak authorities to break up with the Islamists, not as a strategic manoeuvre as General Musharraf had done after being faced with "for us or against us" threat by Bush administration, but among others by Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Admiral Mullen's public chastisement that Pakistan's spy machinery-ISI-was riddled with Taliban sympathizers. Added was the Mumbai massacre that brought the two countries to the brink of war, an economy on the verge of collapse, and finally the terrorism unleashed by TTP and al-Qaeda elements who are reportedly hosted by Beluch Pashtuns and FATA tribals angered by the killings of innocent women and children in US drone attacks on Pakistan territory. Change of ISI chief in September 2008 by Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani and replacement of scores of intelligence officials were dictated by the factors enumerated above.

As mentioned earlier in June this year (2009) Selig Harrison of Center for International Policy raised the question: WILL PAKISTAN BREAK UP? In answering this question Harrison delves into the UNTOLD STORY OF INDIA'S PARTITION (Narindra Singh Sarila, a retired Indian diplomat and ADC to Lord Mountbatten) that as early as March 1945 Winston Churchill and British General Staff were promised by Mohammed Ali Jinnah military facilities that were refused by Pandit Nehru. As a reward they deliberately set out to create Pakistan. This version contradicts former Indian Minister Jaswant Singh's assertion that Nehru and Patel were primarily responsible for the partition and Jinnah was a great Indian, a "sacrilege" for which Jaswant Singh has been expelled from BJP. Harrison argues that from the beginning Pakistan being an artificial entity that put together different ethnic groups was bound to be dysfunctional. The independence of Bangladesh is a testimony to the artificiality of the making of Pakistan because religion alone cannot be the binding force of nationalism as is evident in the existence of many Arab Muslim countries and of the Western world professing Christianity.

Even after the liberation of Bangladesh Pakistan today consists of Punjabi, Baluch, Pashtuns and Sindhis where the Punjabis dominate while the rest account for 33% of the population but 72% of the territory. Apart from the Baluch grievance that their natural gas is being sent out of Baluchistan by the Punjabis on unfair terms, Harrison reminds us that "prior to the British rule the Pashtuns had been politically unified since 1747 under the banner of an Afghan empire that stretched eastward into the Punjabi heartland up to the Indus River. It was traumatic for them when the British seized 40000 square miles of ancestral Pashtun territory between the Indus and the Khyber Pass, embracing half the Pashtun population, and then imposed the Durand line formalizing the conquest.

The British subsequently handed over the territory to Pakistan in 1947 after a controversial referendum in NWFP". The referendum was largely boycotted by the Pashtuns because their demand for an independent Pashtunistan was not included in the referendum. Till today Afghanistan does not recognize Durand Line as the international border between the two countries. Dr.Hasan Abbas, a research fellow at Harvard ( Solving FATA-The National Interest) points out Pashtun domination of more than 27000 kilometers of mountains terrain of FATA along with adjoining NWFP and the influence straddles Pak-Afghan border areas as well. This influence is rooted in ethnic affinity and tribal ethos.

The Pashtuns, according to Hasan Abbas, are proud of the fact that they provided space to Pakistan army, ISI, and the US to train and arm fighters to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. Bruce Riedel was told by a senior ISI commander at that time that ISI had trained eighty thousand fighters from forty three countries After the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 many of these fighters drifted back to Pakistan as did the Taliban after their defeat at the hands of the Americans and now the al-Qaeda leaders have reportedly taken refuge in Pakistan-a charge the Pak government denies. Many analysts are not optimistic about the secularization of Pakistan. They trace the "Islamization" process of the Pakistan society, in particular the of the tribal areas to the regime of General Zia-ul- Huq who saw Soviet invasion of Afghanistan as an Indo-Soviet plot to destroy Pakistan and hence his determination to form a force to defeat this 'plan'. In the process General Zia encouraged in the army devotion to Islamic ideals and practices and was blind to the growing religious extremism in Pakistani society. The policy was followed by General Musharraf who saw his interest in dominating Afghanistan and fighting India being served by the religious extremists both in the armed forces and outside.

The present army chief General Kayani was ISI head under Musharraf. The difficulties now being faced by the civilian government in their control of the army is nothing new. In addition to its enormous fire power the army has wide ranging business interests estimated at $38 billion. Mumbai terrorist attack proves that Pakistan?s banning of Laskar-e-Toiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad are more a matter of form and the rogue elements either cannot be controlled or are being patronized by the authorities. Even US pressure does not appear to be effective or Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's envoy to AfPak may be convinced of the earnestness of the Pak authorities claim that fighting al-Qaeda is no less necessary for the country?s survival as it is for global security.

One has to remind oneself of Leon Haader's (of Cato Institute) warning to Washington to view Pakistan "as a reluctant supporter of US goals at best and as a potential long term problem at worst" He did not see former President Musharraf''s decision to join the US on its "war on terror" as reflecting a structural transformation in Pakistan's policy but a tactical move to cut losses resulting from the demolition of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Besides, the reported choice given to President Musharraf by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage of either to cooperate or be bombed to stone age helped to expedite Pakistan's decision to join the US in the war on terror.

Owen Bennet-Jones of BBC quoted political analyst Frederic Grare's recommendation that Pakistan be treated as a rogue state. Grare wrote in 2007 that "Pakistan state bears responsibility for the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Taliban, terrorism in Kashmir, and the growth of jihadi ideology and capabilities internationally". South Asian expert Stephen Cohen writes in his book THE IDEA OF PAKISTAN that the Taliban grew out of a generation of leaders who had received their education in Pakistan's religious schools in NWFP and Beluchistan who sought to gain power in Afghanistan and then purify it of contaminating elements. Their success was due in part to support received from Pakistani intelligence and various Pakistani military groups, especially JUI. Unfortunately for Pakistan the Taliban began to see Pakistan itself as a ripe fruit to be plucked. The defeat of the Taliban at the hands of the Western powers had a blow back effect on Pakistan in the form of sectarian violence, appearance of drug culture, easy availability of guns and general social breakdown that came with a big cost to the socio-political structure of the country.

Neo-conservative Robert Kagan dismisses the possibility of cataclysmic effect of "the struggle between modernization and Islamic radicalism" on international affairs because "Islamic resistance to Westernization is not a new phenomenon" and "in the struggle between traditionalism and modernity, tradition cannot win". The contrary view is expressed by Historian Bernard Lewis that democracy is peculiarly a Western concept devised to conduct public affairs which may or may not be suitable for other people. Lewis mired in his belief of eternal clash of civilizations between Islamic vs. Christians and post-Christians, rigid theocratic hierarchy vs. permissive secular modernism argues that the millennial rivalry between the two great religions has been caused by Muslim humiliation over being defeated by the "inferior Christians and Jews". He further argues that while democracy requires democrats, "even when in power to give freedom and rights to Islamist opposition. The Islamists when in power are under no such obligation. For Islamists, democracy, expressing the will of the people, is the road to power on which there is no return". Francis Fukuyama differs in that the Islamic countries cannot practice democracy because often they do not separate the mosque and the state and therefore can not sustain a true liberal democracy and may use "one man, one vote, one time as a route to establishing theocracy of the sort that exist in Iran today" is necessarily reflective of the situation prevailing in the entire Islamic world. Fukuyama cites the examples of untiring efforts by the Islamist party ruling Turkey to change its laws in order to get into the European Union (now all the more uncertain after the French and Dutch referendum on the European Constitution), Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai and post-Suharto Indonesia of countries sustaining democracy.

In the case of Pakistan it is possible that because of the lack of practice of democracy that the people of Pakistan was denied for the better part of its existence by the military-industrial-landed aristocracy combine who wanted to hold on to power aided by the existence of low literacy among the landless peasants, and the tradition of obedience to the Tribal elders/Maliks that democracy will remain fledgling for the near future. The reluctance of President Zardari to cede the powers usurped by Musharraf back to the Parliament has forced Prime Minister Gilani to shake the hands of the military and thereby halt the transformation of the country to democracy as it is universally understood.

Bruce Riedel paints a black picture that the terrorists may be able to tap into the deep anger of the landless peasants in the India-- bordering provinces of Punjab and Sindh where the extremists already have considerable support to mobilize a mass movement similar in some respect to the one that toppled the Shah of Iran. His thesis is supported by reports that anti-landlord agitation partly contributed to the Islamist's victory in Swat. It is, however, difficult to accept that Pakistanis who are largely not wedded to Islamist ideology and more particularly the army would let it happen. It is possible that given the structure of Pakistani society and the fact that the country was born to be a homeland for the Indian Muslims a degree of Talibinization of the country is almost inevitable. The opposing factors will include a large segment of the armed forces and the civilian population, albeit deeply religious, but unwilling to accept the strict dictates of the Taliban. The greatest opponent will be the Pakistani women who would not accept Taliban edicts on education, dress and pursuing independent professions of their own.

Given the immigration barriers put up by the developed countries to keep themselves away from the contagion of suspected terrorism and forcing the Third world people to remain in badly governed countries, a form of historian Nial Ferguson's global division between islands of affluence in the midst of sea of poverty, the failing states have to be given assistance to bring themselves up to a level of economic development that Francis Fukuyama, Joseph Stglitz and Milton Friedman will be comfortable with, taking these countries on an irreversible course of democratization. But given the Indo-Pak tension in the subcontinent mainly due to Pakistan's notion of India as the primary threat to her sovereignty it will be necessary to engage India for constructive talks with Pakistan (the composite talks were suspended after Mumbai terrorist attacks) on all issues including the intractable issue of Kashmir. The main global players and the US in particular will have to continue their efforts to ease the Indo-Pak tension and free South Asia from the stigma of being called "the most dangerous place in the world?"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Donnie Darko Amazing movie

I have just seen this not very popular movie "Donnie Darko" This is one of the best movies i have seen in the past few months.The complexity of emotions along with the highly imaginative personality who i can relate to in the form of "Donnie" has really fascinated me.The science element of time travel is only a backdrop for the wonderfully created an emotional movie with avenues for alternative theories for the storyline.This must be a creation of a genius and that is Richard Kelly(Director)
Here is the video on the ending of the movie with a commentary by Richard Kelly and Jake(the protagonist)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bowling to Colombine

Just watched the documentary yesterday an interesting documentary about gun control in America and also delves in the racial and financial Crisis over the years and how they are related to each other

Monday, August 10, 2009

2Movies on the weekend

2 Movies on the weekend "White Chicks" a funny movie with the Wayan Brothers and Street Fighter 4(Anime)