LUBP Exclusive: A critical interview with Nadeem F. Paracha
LUBP is pleased to publish an exclusive interview with Kamran Shafi, one of the boldest voices in Pakistani media particularly because of his courage to write against the Dark Lords of Pakistan, ‘Those Who Must Not Be Named.’
Mr Shafi is a leading political analyst and a freelance columnist who writes a weekly column in Dawn. He hosted a current affairs program on DawnNews TV in 2008-09. He served as an officer in the Pakistan Army for eleven years before resigning his commission in 1976. He served as late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s Press Secretary from 1988-89, and as Press Minister for the Pakistan High Commission in London from 1994-96. Mr Shafi writes extensively on Pakistan’s security apparatus and is a leading advocate of democratic governance and civilian control over all institutions of the state, especially the military and intelligence services.
Q: How exactly would you define this Deep State?
K.S. The term is borrowed from the Turks who named the alliance between the intelligence services; the army, and the civil bureaucracy, which is beholden to the former two.
Q: What, in your opinion, set PPP apart from other political movements in the country? Why has PPP outlasted so many parties?
K.S. It is the party that first gave VOICE to the poor. A quick example: when I had resigned my commission in the Army as a direct result of the heart-break of the East Pakistan Tragedy, and was going to farm, we had trouble with our contractors vacating the land. The year was 1973; Bhutto had promised lands to the tenants of absentee landlords and so on. One day, I was sitting on the ground with one of our contractors, Mauli by name, trying to convince him to vacate the land he was occupying. I happened to ask him why he supported Bhutto? “Mian Saab” Mauli said, “kyun keh Bhutto nain tanoon merey naal zamin tey bathaa dittay. “Because Bhutto has made you sit on the ground with me, sir”! It is not difficult to understand why Mauli’s grand-children and great grand-children vote for the PPP even today.
Q: A few months ago (April/May 2010) you participated in Dr Shahid Masood’s Mere Mutabiq, a Geo TV talk show. You wrote: “I made the mistake of my life when I appeared, against better counsel, on Dr Shahid Masood’s Meray Mutabiq which was recorded and then edited”. Can you share with us what exactly was edited and why?
K.S. Ansar Abbasi and Tariq Butt, both of the virulently anti-Zardari News/Jang/Geo Group were as usual politician-bashing when I said why they didn’t also ask for accountability of army generals; why didn’t they ask what a Lieutenant General costs when they trumpeted every day what an MNA costs. Almost all of these remarks were edited. In addition what I had said at the beginning of the programme was moved to the end changing the whole meaning of what I had said. It was disgusting, which is why I have refused to go to any of Dr. Sahib’s shows since.
Q: Why is “mainstream Pakistan” so reluctant to speak up when journalists such as yourself, Umar Cheema, Marvi Sirmed, and more recently Lala Hameed Baloch of Balochistan are harassed and attacked?
K.S. Because large parts of the media are in the pay of the ‘agencies’; the chattering classes are in awe of the army and hate politicians, and the poor are too scared.
Q: How do you see the ongoing evolution of the PML-N?
K.S. It is painful to see the PML(N) – and the PPP too – being hijacked by hawks. Mr. Nawaz Sharif is a good man but many times seems to be caught in a trap set by the hard-liners.
Q: What is your prediction for the next few years in Pakistan?
K.S. It will go from bad to worse to far worse – I fear greatly for our country, bless it. There is no way anything can improve so long as the army and its agencies call the shots.
Q: What, in your opinion, will be the impact of the end of the Afghan war on the already fragile domestic political situation in Pakistan?
K.S. There is no “end” of the Afghan war in sight. Forget domestic politics, it is the geographical integrity of the country that I am worried sick about. The Taliban are not going to go all peaceful if and when the war ends as Taliban apologists like Imran Khan and Hamid Gul suggest. Far from it. As I have said earlier, this is a creeping coup with the aim of establishing an Islamic Emirate of Pakistan, with all the obscurantism that goes with it.