Original Articles

Pakistan’s rulers or Western puppets – by Yousuf Nazar

Asif Zardari’s callous and indifferent attitude to his country’s woes has reached ”Neroic” proportions surpassing even the worst reputation of Yahya Khan during 1971. He appearance in a designer suit and pink tie with David Cameron served to reinforce the image of a hedonist completely unmindful of the misfortunes of a poor and debt-ridden country whose 51 percent people live in poverty and whose lives are nothing more than a daily struggle to survive often at the risk of their lives.

Zardari’s attitude and persona is typical of that of Pakistan’s corrupt and westernized elites who have looted the country and accumulated ill-gotten wealth locally and abroad. By going around in Paris and London like he did when around 12 million Pakistanis have been affected by the worst floods in history, he has personified the tragedy of Pakistan – its selfish elites who would sell anything to pursue their personal interests. His escapade’s to Manoir de la Reine Blanche (Manor of the White Queen) — a 16th century chateau he reportedly owns in France, before he visited UK highlighted how out of touch Zardari is with the sentiments and lives of the people. Pakistan is a hollowed state where much of the fortunes and future of its most prominent political leaders are tied to the West. Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz too own luxury apartments in London besides other interests abroad and MQM’s Altaf Hussain has been long beholden to the British for providing him a sanctuary and also their citizenship.

But let us not delude ourselves to believe that our Army leadership is any different when it comes to serving western interests and dancing to the tunes of the puppeteers in Washington and London. Zia and Musharraf were American puppets. Zia and his ISI Chief left fortunes for their families. Musharraf has been leading a comfortable life in London – the same Musharraf who mocked Benazir and Nawaz for living luxurious lives abroad.

One of Pakistan’s main causes of failure is similar to those experienced by many developing countries in the past. The nexus between corrupt local leaders and the West to serve their mutual interests at the cost of the often poor and impoverished masses and their future. Pakistanis will have to break this unholy alliance between the elites and the West if they want their country to be a self-respecting sovereign state that works to promote the interests of its people and not its Army or its corrupt and selfish elites.

The biggest mistake committed by our establishment and “moderately educated and enlightened” English-speaking chattering classes has been their refusal to see that military aggression by the US has been a major contributor to the radicalisation of public opinion in the Muslim countries, destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the destabilisation of Pakistan that could lead to its Balkanisation. Anyone who points that out is labeled as a Taliban sympathizer. This myopia will ensure that we are doomed.

Non-violent political solution means not only Pak Army should not use militants as a policy tool but also the US stops playing the Great Game in Afghanistan simply because it can no longer afford to, as it belatedly seems to be realising. US policy and Pak Army’s “wonderland” view of the strategic depth constitute the core of the problem. Both the US and Pakistani establishments are in it together.

ISI acts as an extension of the CIA at a very high level in the Great Game, notwithstanding disagreements and turf battles. In view of the long history of close ties and cooperation between the Pentagon and Pakistan Army, particularly since 1980, The ISI-CIA conflict appears to be largely a charade for the world to justify the expanded military presence in the region otherwise why would the US Congress earmark one billion dollars for “new and larger” US Embassy facilities in Islamabad. Does anyone really can believe with a clear head that a weak country like Pakistan (that is so heavily dependent on the US Aid and the IMF) can carry on this double game for nearly a decade until and unless it also is part of the bigger game of the US. Such a belief would be a silly assumption in realpolitik.

The US officials were saying not too long ago that there was no difference between al Qaeda and the Taliban. Now they seem to be eager to reach out to the Taliban for a political settlement. If that was the objective, what was the fuss about al Qaeda being the biggest threat to the global security? Or was it not really but an excuse to build a military presence in Central Asia and Pakistan?

Baitullah Mahsud of TTP was guided by Mullah Omar as there was no difference between Afghan and Pakistani Talibans, claimed many US and Pakistani officials. But was it ever a secret that Omar was part of the Quetta Shura protected by the ISI. Who is trying to fool whom? Most Pakistani and Western analysts – many fed disinformation by the officials – can’t seem to think straight and see through the huge contradictions in the official positions of US and Pakistan.

How come Kayani (ISI Chief from 2004 to 2007) who presided over the resurgence of the Talibans on both sides of the Durand line during 2004 to 2007 and the worst violence during 2008 – 2010 during his tenure as Army Chief is so close to and favored by the Pentagon and not just that; the top US officials also supported the extension in his tenure.

This is nothing new or a conspiracy theory. Kayani has been favoured by the US for a long time. The Startfor, an influential US global intelligence company, reported on October 2, 2007 that “with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf due to step down as army chief by Nov. 15, Kayani will emerge as his successor, and given Kayani’s strong leadership credentials, Musharraf as a civilian president will be forced to share power with him.”

The New York Times ran a story “US is Looking past Musharraf in Case He Falls” on November 15, 2007 concluding that “at the top of that cadre is Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, General Musharraf’s designated successor as army chief. General Kayani is a moderate, pro-American infantry commander who is widely seen as commanding respect within the army and, within Western circles, as a potential alternative to General Musharraf.”

Given that Kayani’s rise had been well anticipated and he was the ISI Chief and Vice Chief of Army Staff during 2004-2007 before he became the Army Cheif, it is difficult and almost incredible to believe that he had no hand in Zardari’s rise to power. He must therefore share part if not the whole blame on thrusting upon Pakistan someone who is nothing but an embarassment to the country. If he did it under American pressure, that is even worse.

The crux of the matter is that we must disengage ourselves from fighting US’s proxy wars and battles in the region, which have cost us more than the all the aid that we received. We need a national debate on a fundamental shift in our foreign policy.

I have tried to provide a framework for a basic and fundamental shift in our strategic and defense priorities in articles written for DAWN since 2006. This shift will have to start from the foreign policy. We are heavily dependent on the West and this must change in recognition of the reality that it is not a unipolar world and China is financially the strongest country in the world.

We cannot afford to pursue policies that cause tensions with all of our immediate neighbours – India, Afghanistan, and Iran – and are viewed with skepticism and unease by the Chinese. They support us and put up with our “too close for comfort” relationship with Washington because they also need us, but they never liked our support for the Islamic militants nor our very close ties with Washington. Hence, while they gave us a token amount during the financial crunch in 2008, they in effect told us to get the money from the West (US/IMF) because that’s how Pakistan is perceived in Beijing; an old friend who is sleeping with a global adversary – America.

We can no longer afford to fancy that we have a role to play in the “Great Game” or that we need to control Afghanistan to protect our strategic interests from Indian designs. Let us face it. We cannot fight a war for even a short while – few weeks at best – because we will go bankrupt and we would have to accept humiliating cease-fire conditions dictated by Delhi and Washington. Kargil provided a miniature sample of this scenario.

Most of the arguments advanced by our so-called strategic and military analysts, who support the establishment, are based on ill-informed and short-sighted considerations and half-baked notions about security threats. Indian hawks may talk tough sometimes but there is no question, whatsoever, of a military aggression from India because she is a rising global economic power and would never jeopardize its economic growth and billions of dollars in investment flows to have a fight with Pakistan – which is a small but troublesome neighbour.

Given the periodic episodes of Pakistan-linked terrorist attacks in India, it does play games in Afghanistan – with the full US support – and along the border but their significance is overplayed by our establishment to justify wasteful spending on F-16s. In any event, F-16s or nuclear bombs do not provide security but economic development does and that we must learn from China. The Army must re-evaluate the balance between our relations with the US and China. For starters, its leadership should try to have as close a relationship with the top Chinese leaders as it has developed with Admiral Mullen.

More seriously, there are six articles that I wrote for DAWN during the last four years that you may wish to read in the above context:

First one was “The gathering storm and its implications” in August 2006, http://www.dawn.com/weekly/encounter/20060819/encounter3.htm

Second was “Setting the record straight” in November 2006, http://www.dawn.com/weekly/encounter/20061125/encounter3.htm

Third was “Musharraf must face an open trial” in August 2008, http://www.dawn.com/2008/08/19/ed.htm#3

Fourth was “Need for a new era of strategic ties with China”, in October 2008, http://www.dawn.com/2008/10/15/top9.htm

Fifth was the “Axis of trouble” in December 2009, http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/12-the+axis+of+trouble–bi-07

and the last was “Limits of military power” in March 2010, http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/editorial/limits-of-military-power-230

About the author

Laila Ebadi


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  • ‘ they gave us a token amount during the financial crunch in 2008, they in effect told us to get the money from the West (US/IMF) because that’s how Pakistan is perceived in Beijing; an old friend who is sleeping with a global adversary – America.’

    You speak of the perception in China – for a nation that is known for its secrecy, I am intrigued by this statement, as it implies that you know something that is not known in the public domain, care to share with us

  • What Michael Burleigh has written here is the tip of the iceberg of the corruption,crimes,plundering Pakistan to not only benefit financially but to take revenge from Pakistan for murdering PPP founder Z.Z.B

    Why Cameron should count his fingers after shaking hands with Pakistan’s Mr Ten Per Cent
    Last updated at 2:12 PM on 5th August 2010
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    Fairly or not, Pakistan is synonymous with angry men who bomb people or take to the streets in protest.
    An effigy labelled ‘Cameroon’ was burned in response to the Prime Minister’s comments about the country ‘looking both ways’ when it comes to fighting the Taliban.
    Nonetheless, Pakistanis have a good sense of humour. There are many jokes about President Asif Ali Zardari, who this weekend plans to tackle Cameron about his comments when the pair meet at Chequers.

    Handshake: David Cameron with Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari last year
    Here’s a typical example: Pakistani robber: ‘Give me all your money!’
    Zardari: ‘Don’t you know who I am? I’m the president.’
    Robber: ‘OK. Give me all my money.’
    Such a quip illustrates perfectly how the Pakistani leader is viewed by his people: corrupt, venal and materialistic.

    ANDREW ALEXANDER: Anti-Semitic? No, Cameron just told truth
    Pakistan president snubs Cameron’s invitation to Chequers
    Imran Khan attacks Pakistan president’s ‘lavish’ trip to meet Cameron (and launch career of his and Benazir Bhutto’s son)
    However, the joke runs thin when you realise censorship laws ban anyone from emailing or texting jokes about the President (with the threat of 14 months in jail) and, as part of a crackdown on opposition groups, 500 websites including YouTube, Facebook and Google have been outlawed.
    Zardari has been nicknamed Mr Ten Per Cent (and more recently, Mr Hundred and Ten Per Cent) for his rumoured habit of skimming off millions in kickbacks.
    Indeed, before winning power he spent more than a decade in jail following corruption charges.
    A typical story about Zardari relates how a businessman who owed him money was allegedly seized by thugs, who strapped his leg to a remote-controlled bomb and forced him to go to a bank to withdraw the cash.
    Zardari’s powerbase derives from the political reputation of his wife Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December 2007.
    She had carried the torch for her father Zulfikar, the one-time prime minister who was hanged in 1979 for authorising the murder of a political opponent.
    Benazir was a charismatic figure who championed Pakistan’s poor, becoming prime minister in 1988 and 1993.
    In much of the Third World, political power is about dynastic entitlement, and the Bhutto-Zardari alliance was no exception.

    Jet set: Mr Ten Per Cent arrives at Heathrow accompanied by his son Bilawal, seen scratching his head, and daughter Aseefa, who’s holding his hand
    Indeed, the Pakistan Peoples Party, which Zardari took over after his wife’s death, is referred to as the Permanent Plunder Party. Not only dogged by a reputation
    for corruption, the president faces accusations of gross insensitivity for failing to return home to help tackle Pakistan’sworst floods in its history, which have so far killed up to 1,200 people and forced two million to flee their homes.
    Critics understandably say he should be ‘trying to support his people, not swanning around in the UK and France’.
    But the truth is that Zardari seems more concerned with self-aggrandising meetings with Cameron and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and advancing his family’s political future rather than tackling homegrowntragedies.
    Indeed, it seems that a priority on his trip to Britain is to attend a rally in Birmingham to further his 22-year-old son Bilawal’s fledgling political career.
    This mummy’s boy Oxford graduate, often seen in jeans and nautical themed T-shirts, is being groomed as his parents’ successor.
    With opportunistic filial piety, Bilawal bears the Bhutto as well as the Zardari name.
    At least there is proof Bilawal did graduate from Oxford — unlike his father, who claims to have studied at the non-existent London School of Economics and Business (a claim made just after a college degree became mandatory for Pakistani MPs.)
    Another mystery is how the ruler of a country with desperate poverty and rampant illiteracy seems to be worth a rumoured £1.2 billion, despite having spent 1997 to 2004 in jail while corruptionand murder charges against him were investigated — and then dropped.
    And there were the unsavoury episodes when one of his wife’s brothers was poisoned and another murdered after prolongedrows with Benazir and Zardari about hidden assets.
    Originally from a minor landowningfamily, Zardari’s boat came in through an arranged marriage in 1987 with the Bhutto political clan, who have huge landholdings in Pakistan.
    Though they occupied a £30 million official residence in Islamabad, with 110 acres, money was immediately diverted from funding urban parks to acquire a further 11½ acres of protected woodlands for a private polo park and parking for Zardari’s friends.
    At this point, it’s worth pointing out that most Pakistanis live on just £1.25 a day.

    Flood horror: Soldiers assist a boy out of a boat after he was rescued from heavy floods in a village of Deira Din Panah, in Pakistan’s Punjab province
    Though Zardari had no official position other than as consort to his imperiously liberal wife, he was always at hand whenever government defence contracts, broadcast licences, projects to build power stations and sugar mills, or export licences for textiles were up for grabs.
    Among the reported scams is one in which a Swiss company paid 9 per cent commission into offshore accounts linked to Zardari in return for inspecting the Customs duty of all imports to Pakistan.
    In a country where just one in 100 people pays income tax because of poverty, duty receipts are critical to maintaining the government’s income. This move is alleged to have netted Zardari nearly £7.5 million.
    Another arrangement allegedly involved giving a Dubai merchant a monopoly of the gold imported from the Gulf into Pakistan.
    According to a New York Times investigation shortly before the monopoly came into effect, £6 million was allegedly sent from the gold dealer’s company in two tranches to Citibank deposit accounts linked to Zardari.
    Money is said to have been recycled via front companies in the tax-friendly British Virgin Islands into numerous overseas properties and many more in Pakistan, as well as a string of Pakistani sugar mills.
    Land deals seemed to involve controversial valuations. For example, one plot worth two billion rupees was acquired for a bargain 62 million rupees.
    The Bhutto-Zardari property portfolio includes a country club and polo ranch in Florida; a country estate called The House of the White Queen in France (where he stayed this week); and luxury apartments in London’s chic Pont Street in Belgravia.
    Part of the portfolio is a 355-acre estate in Surrey called R Rockwood, which is up for sale for £7.5 million, though when he bought it, Zardari’s declared wealth was just £300,000.
    Lavish home improvements have been made to the property. Tiny LED lights over the four- poster bed in the master suite mimic the stars in the night sky.
    Bizarrely, Zardari has recreated the interior of the local Dog and Pheasant pub in the house after he tried to buy it, but the publican refused to sell. The house’s 30ft Lalique glass dining table alone cost £120,000, not to speak of the tiger-skin rugs and crystal chandeliers.
    Such opulence is grotesque, particularly in light of the questionable circumstances surrounding the way the president obtained his wealth.
    Now this controversial figure has arrived in Britain, apparently to lecture Cameron about how serious his government is about combating the nests of terrorists who lurk all over Pakistan.

    Karachi in turmoil: Pakistani men queuing to buy fuel after the second night of violence in the capitali yesterday
    By refusing to cancel the trip and return home to his flood-ravaged nation, he’s clearly made the decision that his presence in Europe will guarantee that the West will continue to pour huge amounts of aid into his venal swamp.
    And, no doubt, much of this financial support will be diverted to the country’s powerful army — which is rumoured to be even more corrupt than Zardari.
    All British governments have had to deal with unsavoury characters.
    Apparently, this is the price we must pay for preventing any other Pakistani-related bombers, like those who stalked our transport system on 7/7, from hitting Britain.
    Indeed, Pakistan is fast becoming the breeding ground for much terrorism and when we do eventually pull out of Afghanistan, ensuring Pakistan’s support will be vital to the stability of the region.
    Not that he needs me to tell him, but when Mr Cameron entertains this dreadful fraud at Chequers, he should sup with a very long spoon.
    MICHAEL BURLEIGH is author of Blood And Rage: A Cultural History of Terrorism

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1300498/Cameron-count-fingers-shaking-hands-Pakistans-Zardari.html#ixzz0w0XuQVZa

  • A well made point indeed! (He appearance in a designer suit and pink tie with David Cameron served to reinforce the image of a hedonist completely unmindful of the misfortunes of a poor and debt-ridden country whose 51 percent people live in poverty and whose lives are nothing more than a daily struggle to survive often at the risk of their lives.) Better if The President of Pakistan would have called on Cameron in dirty torn off Jeans, scruffy polo shirt and sneakers borrowed from some homeless busker camped around Piccadilly underground station. Still better to dress in a regional outfit (preferably Punjabi.What about Dhoti Kurta?) That truly would have suited the occasion.

  • Kaleem, Manmohan Singh and his top canbinet members dress simply and they are treated with more respect. If you don’t get the point about dressing in obscenely expensive clothes, so out of line with your countrymen’s suffering, then you have lost it.

  • Your article is just the kind of writing I enjoy the most. It’s thought-provoking, straightforward and sensible content. I’m thrilled to find viewpoints in an informative article that make sense.