Original Articles

A critical view on Sherry Rehman’s elitist report on Afghanistan – by Khanzada Achackzai

There are important academic and political questions about Jinnah Institute's report on AfPak

Editor’s Note: In the aftermath of the Quetta bombings that took place this morning and which have claimed over 25 lives, we are deeply disturbed that our foreign policy elite continue to have an explicit sympathy for Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura.  Are they being utterly naive or deliberately obtuse when they cannot see Mullah Omar’s  Quetta Shura as the  epicenter of the ongoing carnage in Quetta (primarily of the Shia Hazara community and the embattled law enforcement agencies going after the Taliban and Al Qaeeda mass murderers).   It is the Quetta Shura that is at the heart of the nexus of the ISI-backed  TTP-Jundullah-SSP-LeJ cooperation in committing mass murder in Baluchistan.  Along with this deconstruction by Khanzada, we recommend that our readers also take note of other excellent articles by Farhat Taj, Kamran Shafi and Pakistan Blogzine for exposing the flaws in  the JI report .  Our critical posts on Sherry, here and here are vindicated.

Sherry Rehman’s Jinnah Institute’s study of an  elite  perspective on AfPak is deeply problematic on many different levels.  Just to clarify, the elite in this case  (barring the odd exception) does not represent the best minds, the most qualified  positions or those who have undertaken rigourous research, analysed the situation objectively and published reports that would stand up to objective academic scrutiny.

In the main it represents the views of the Pro-Taliban military establishment and many of those who are sympathetic towards them.  There are the odd exceptions but their views are not reflected in this report. Here the JI presents what is known to everyone whose head is not buried in the metaphorical and pervasive desert of denial. That the Taliban have to be supported to further the goals of the Pakistani military-civilian bureaucracy is not the most well kept secret especially after the May 2 discovery of OBL in Abbottabad.

Intent:

In Sherry Rehman’s own words:

“the report’s findings are based on several discussions with a wide spectrum ofPakistan’s foreign-policy elite, retired civilian and military officials, analysts, journalists, and civil-society practitioners, …it also takes on board the views of senior politicians from all frontline parties.”

On page 10 of the report, Sherry Rehman and Dr Moeed articulate their motive: “We agreed that an exercise that would allow both sides to comprehend the other’s interests and policy choices better would be an important step in addressing some of the prevailing mistrust [between the US and Pakistani establishment].”

Clearly, this aim seeks to serve the military establishment’s interests, not that of the  people of Pakistan.  It would be outright facetious to claim that interests of the Pakistani establishment and that of its people are in alignment.  As to how this report furthers the stated goals of JI of promoting “tolerance”, “pluralism” and democracy; well we leave this connundrum to our readers to solve.

What is the intent of presenting the Elite/Establishment point of view?  Did they (the establishment) lack the channels to do this; something that is clearly  not evident from the daily uncritical recycling of this discourse via major newspapers, private TV channels and blogs both on the left and right?

If someone is presenting the elite view with a simple disclaimer, is such a disclaimer sufficient given that the researchers clearly explain their motive in the report and proudly and uncritically propagate its findings? Does the JI present any data or perspective in this report that contradicts the elite’s position?

This brings us to the most crucial element here and that is the academic standard and research methodology.

Academic Standard:

The report suffers from poor standards all around. When presenting an elite point of view on foreign policy, the report presents a minimal shoddy theoretical framework, if any at all. If the elite view represents the literature review secton, the report is completely lacking in an objective framework within which the literature and data can be couched and analysed. That such a theoretical framework is lacking within the elite is known to all. However, when no theoretical framework is presented by JI’ s academic scholarship, then their disclaimer simply lacks merit and credibility.  Actually, the disclaimer is completely worthless when viewed in the light of Sherry’s own words in her Daily Beast article:

The recent Jinnah Institute–United States Institute of Peace report, Pakistan, the United States and the End Game in Afghanistan, aims at seeking clarity and motive in Pakistan’s current outlook toward Afghanistan, its strategic interests, and the implications of how it pursues them. Given Pakistan’s centrality to peace in the region, in the context of an unstable strategic relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, the articulation of a cogent policy view that includes civil society and state representation in Pakistan bears value for anyone looking to secure a successful transition in Afghanistan.

Intellectual capital on foreign policy is not hard to generate in Pakistan. The challenge lies in connecting the dots and obtaining big-tent representation. The report’s findings are based on several discussions with a wide spectrum of Pakistan’s foreign-policy elite—retired civilian and military officials, analysts, journalists, and civil-society practitioners—with established expertise on Afghanistan and knowledge of the modalities of policymaking in the U.S. It also takes on board the views of senior politicians from all frontline parties as well as the military’s official spokesperson.

When presenting the aggregate views, there are no explict notes of dissent. Having provided the names of all the participants and discussants, why are there no specific notes of dissent so the reader would know exactly who amongst the elite panel is not in conformity with the Pro-Taliban policy of the military establishment.

This brings us to the question of methodology. The criteria for defining  experts is very suspect. If published writings were the case then why is it that Farhat Taj and Dr. Taqi were missing.  Given that the JI report was simply meant to rehash the Strategic Depth doctrine, then the airtime commanded by the likes of Imran Khan, Gen. Hamid Gul and Zaid Hamid and their proximity to the military establishment’s point of view would probably qualifty them as  better candidates for  for the elite category than, lets say, the probable dissenters like Ahmed Rashid.

The report also suffers from a lack of critical analysis. When presenting an elite view, the report presents no other study that would represent an alternate thereby deceptively presenting this report as the only viable option. There is no mention of the Peshawar Declaration, the writings of those not considered good enough to be the “elite”  (like Kamran Shafi, Arif Jamal and Dr. Siddiqa) or the work of FP experts onPakistan like Prof. Christine Fair, Jonathan Landey and Sadanath Dhume.  Leaving out the current Pakistani ambassador to the US, Mr. Hussain Haqqani is another serious error in judgement by JI given his understanding of and engagement with US policy as it affects Pakistan. This is a fundamental problem where a deceptively unified elite view is presented as the only view and the reader is provided no other options but to accept this propaganda.

Content:

As for the content of this report, it is the same disastrous policy of Strategic Depth that Pakistan’s India-centric military establishment has been following for the last 3 decades and which it intends to continue following, with the blessing of civilian cover provided by reports such as this.  The elite views are nothing more than  the rehashed aggregation of the military establishment’s position on Afghanistan. It has just the right amount of double speak and ambiguity thrown in to fool civil society types whose preferences for elitism this report caters to.

Contrary to proper research standards, the report doesn’t even bother to cite those who disagree with the morally repugnant position that the Taliban represented by the Haqqani network and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura need to be accomodated into a future Afghan set up.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this report is the anti-Pushtun bias that was pointed out by an authority on this subject, Farhat Taj. Essentially the elite perspective inPakistan, as presented by the JI report, is a racist reductionist view that ignores a diverse Pashtun ethos.  This report makes no reference to the sacrifices made by the political (ANP, PPP) and tribal leadership of the Pushtuns in confronting the Taliban menace inPakistan. Primarily, this elite perspective that the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan are somehow different is laughable if it was not tragic. The logical inconsistency that the transnational (Arab, Punjabi, Chechan, Uzbek, Uighir) “Afghan” Taliban are operating out of Pakistan, goes completely unquestioned by the JI!

Pushtuns have a rich tradition of left-secular politics and the poetry of Ghani Baba, Khushal Khan Khattak and Rehman Baba.  To falsely position Mullah Omar and the Haqqanis as symbols of Pakistani and Afghani Pushtun nationalist aspirations is an insult to Pushtuns.

How can one be opposed to the 1990’s policy of supporting the Taliban as an instrument of strategic depth while supporting the eerily similar 2014 proposal of accommodating Mullah Omar and the Haqqani network!

Is there really a difference??

This false opposition to the pro-Taliban policy of the 1990s  is fooling no one and ultimately discredits the JI which, through shoddy, unethical and poor academic standards, ends up sounding as a mouth piece for  Mullah Omar.

With this report, Ms. Rehman’s “liberal” credentials stand discredited and provide substance to the growing criticism that her “activism” against the Blasphemy Law was not based on tangible achievable goals but was in reality political posturing to further her own agenda at the cost of the minorities and her embattled party.

In the aftermath of the brutal public execution style killing of Shaheed Taseer, it was Sherry Rehman who, along with some known anti-people urban opportunists, hijacked the CFD platform to attack the very  party that had lost one of its main leaders in the Punjab and who was to lose another valued minister just weeks later.  How can one oppose the Blasphemy law but support the Taliban! It is also on the record that Sherry Rehman and her urban “liberal” colleagues are consistently silent on the ongoing massacre of the Baloch, Pushtun and Shia by the army and its Jihadi proxies like the TTP-LeJ-Jundullah nexus. Selective morality any one?

As part of a warped tribal patriotism, many of our civil society hypocrites will cheer up the report, willing to accept no opposition as opposition! And if the JI had actually done the job that they were paid Rs. 50 million for out of our tax monies, they might have succeeded in proving that the elite perspective has serious moral, political and intellectual flaws. By doing nothing of the sort, they are exposed as the soft supporters of the Taliban and the supporters and reinforcers of  the noxious narratives that once again seek to prop up the destructive, medieval Taliban.

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Nighat

28 Comments

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  • What a dry article. Arey LUDPoos what happened, you all ran out of mirch masala. How will my PTI comrade, These Long Wars and I bark at this. Please go back to your fiery style or are you all becoming the same FCS you rail against.

    @TLW, LUDPoos are attacking the future fashion minister of PTI. Give it to them my son. Lets blackmail them like you did in the earlier post.

  • As Ayesha Siddiqua once said, advocate a liberal issue & then switch sides. Thats precisely what Sherry Rehman has done unfortunately. She’s damaged her credibility

  • I am missing my friend TLW as he boldly stood up to the anti-army, anti-taliban screeds of this silly blog. We all know that in Pakistan today, everybody is scared to defend the army and the taliban this job is left to a few patriots like TLW and Imran Khan. I took the inspiration for my name TTW (These Tedious Wars) from TLW although you can call me TT instead of the long version, TTW.

  • Shame on you LUBP for going after a Pro-Taliban liberal of Pakistan. I never see you writting in defense of true PPP leaders like Mumtaz Bhutto, Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Sharifudin Peerzada, Kasuri, Faisal Saleh Hayat, Shah Mahmood Qureishi, Aitzaz Ahsan, Enver Baig, Zafar Hallaly and Irfan Hussain (Mazdak). Just because Sherry Rehman resigned as she wanted to support Chief Justice, now you are going after her.

  • Excellent report by sherry rehman’s JI (eerie resonance to Ichra wali JI). The rs 50 million granted to the JI have been well spent on the “Foreign Policy Elite”.

    Was Maria Sultan part of the elite?

  • One of the most disturbing aspects of this report is the anti-Pushtun bias that was pointed out by an authority on this subject, Farhat Taj.

    ********

    Since when Farhat Taj is an authority on this subject? No one had heard of her name and her letterhead NGO Aryan institute some three years ago. She is a plant.

  • Hoss, so to be an expert on Pashtun subjects, you need to be part of the anti-drone noises and pro-PTI?

  • @Hoss,

    Ok, take Farhat out and simply evaluate the arguement. Aside from the ISI-PTI rhetoric, do the Taliban and Al-Qaeeda reflect Pushtun sentiments?

  • sherry was always closed 2 ISI,thats why she was kicked out by president zardari 4m the cabinet.” her liberal credentials stand discredited.she

  • sherry was always close 2 ISI,thats why she was kicked out by president zardari 4m the cabinet.” her liberal credentials stand discredited.

  • Ahmed Iqbalabadi amd Maula Bux

    Who cares about PTI? its a joke and would remain a joke for a long time. Why would I waste my time checking up on PTI policies?

    Regarding Taliban. It requires a serious discussion rather than a few lines here and there. No nation, nationality, sect or a linguistic group present one voice and one thought so saying that either the Taliban or the unkowns like Farhat Taj represent the Pathan would be ridiculous. We have seen for the last 30 years the religious mindset controls the politics in KP, FATA and Afghanistan and by that token, whether we like to hear it or not, the Taliban hold the majority voice in pashtun majority areas today. At this particular moment in time,unfortunately for us, we have to accept the reality and we have to recognize that. The US recognizes that and the Afghan and the Pakistan governments recognize that. It hurts me to admit it but we cannot overlook a political reality no matter how painful and bitter that might be.

    Farhat Taj represents an elitist pov which does not hold much currency in the PK or FATA. in fact, she represents a certain group whose financial support is unknown and mostly gets projection in a media group that has been running in losses for the last ten years but still has supporters with deep, real deep pockets. I have serious doubts about any folks affiliated with that media group in Lahore and someday we will find out when chips start to fall and that day is not very far off in Pakistan.

  • @Hoss, have you see the 2010 PEW stats. Pashtun support for Taliban and Al Qaeeda is 7% while in the Punjab, it is more than 3 times higher at 22%. Sorry, I do not agree with your sentiment that the Taliban hold the majority voice amongst Pashtuns. What you say about Farhat hold far more weight for the media and their backers whose discourse is far, far more suspect.

  • PEW stats also claims that Imran Khan is supported by 63% Pakistanis. These reports have no standing and are produced to support a certain pov. With 7% support, the taliban would have been crushed a longtime ago by the US. It hasn’t happened yet.

  • Awww, you guys missed me? I’m so touched!

    Glad to know I struck a chord somewhere if people are reacting so viscerally to me by setting up mock accounts. But the original problem stands; the PPP doesn’t show policy leadership and lets the rightwing take the lead to dictate the way.

  • @TLW, can we stick to the topic at hand. Why did Sherry and her JI publish this rubbish report? No deflections, no excuses, just answer the question

  • Ansari sahib, have you seen TLW’s blog? His views are the typical views of chic urbans who pretend to be politically neutral; short hand for bashing PPP at any cost. Can’t you see his intellectual dishonesty when he is trying to shift the topic of the Pro-Taliban report written by Sherry’s JI and blaming the PPP who Sherry has backstabbed again and again. Now he is playing the typical game of blaming the victim. The PPP has lost Benazir, Taseer and Bhatti to the Taliban and we are to believe the deceptive TLW’s that this is because the PPP’s policies are not clear. If they were not clear, how is it that the Taliban hate them and ANP??

  • Why did Sherry and her JI publish this rubbish report

    Because there is a vacuum where the Pakistani perspective should be. And nature abhors a vacuum. So the conservative elitist view on Afghanistan by the Pakistani elite, refined itself and rushed in to fill the void.

    There is a vacuum on what the Pakistani view on Afghanistan should be. The PPP can fill it with something more substantial than platitudes about neighbourly relations and eliminating terrorism. Maybe call the Pakistan military for eventual disenagement with the Afghan Taliban.

    Say something policy wise; come up with some ideas of their own otherwise whatever is in the ether will be glommed on to.

  • Dear Hoss
    I dont know what is the basis for your assumption that Taliban still have Pashtuns support as well.

    Even in the peak of Taliban rise in Afghanistan the level of support they enjoyed in religious circles of Karachi, ethnically heterogenous entities is never seen in KPK.

    The religious parties like JUI had welcomed them but JUI is not confined to Pashtuns, they had their influence in punjab and sindh as well. Their splinter groups like SSP/LeJ have their footprints in southern Punjab and rural districts of Sindh, even in city of Ladkana, (a city with very diverse religious environment having almost 20% hindu populations)The flag of SSP is too larger and higher than that of PPP and sindhi nationalists parties.

  • @TLW
    We have published your posts and articles, some of of our readers may have disagreements with you as well.

    The policy vacuum arguments is a bit shallow as the policy making authorities never existed with the elected leadership.

    It were the elected representatives who were on the forefront of any regional solutions of the issues like Afghanistan and relations with India and the world.

    And its the politacal leadership which has the vision to go beyond the oft. repeated policy lines but they were always undermined by the security establishment, their religious and liberal proxies and some jokers like Zaid Hamid, Ghulam Mujtaba, Imran K etc.

    There is no such policy vacuum, actually their is no political space in these areas.

  • @TLW, stop being an apologist for Sherry. It would be disengenuous to claim that foreign policy is in the hands of an elected government, unless like many urban upper-middle class, you too have your head buried in the sand! Furthermore, you are also being dishonest. The PPP elected government has made statements opposing the Taliban and asking for peace in Afghanistan. Zardari made the no-first strike proposal at the highest level just a week before the Mumbai attacks. Even Nawaz Sharif attacked the India-centric policy of the establishment. Please stop lying and answer the question: Why did Sherry’s JI have to publish this Pro-Taliban report. Your shifty attempts to avoid this question are only making you look worst. All of remember the times when PPP government tried to bring ISI under control and to engage in peace with Afghanistan only to be undermined at many levels including the Judiciary which released Hafiz Saeed.

  • Asma Jehanghir on polical awareness & training of Pakhtuns . Yes , its not provincial capital Peshwar . she is addressing in remote Malakand .

    she will not feel comfortable discussing these issues in front of Lahore , Karachi and Isalamad Lawyers .

    Shame on those who seterotyping Pashtun as terrorist sympathizers .