We are reassured to see that at least some writers in the mainstream media are taking a stance which is consistent with LUBP’s pioneering stance on Pakistan’s pro-establishment urban elites. We are cross-posting a thought provoking post by Dr. Muhammad Taqi which highlights how it is not only visibly right-wing leaning journalists in Urdu media but also ostensibly liberal-leaning journalists in English language media who are serving as willing affiliates and propagandists of Pakistan’s Deep State.
If the Pakistani media persons giving high fives to each other were anything to go by, it seemed the greatest thing since sliced bread had hit the news last week. And no, it was not the Amazon’s Kindle Fire book reader. What was being welcomed with an equivalent of celebratory gunfire on the social media was Ms. Sherry Rehman’s appointment as Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States.
Some media personalities were jubilant that a ‘liberal’ has been appointed to Washington while others were ecstatic at the ‘historical first’ that two women would serve as Indian and Pakistani envoys to the US. But priceless was a TV anchor, Mr Nusrat Javeed, appropriating bragging rights for being the only one who correctly foretold Ambassador Husain Haqqani’s replacement. Little surprise that fortune-tellers (I kid you not) are featured on the gentleman’s television show on current affairs. Trumped thus, another anchor, Mr. Najam Sethi, chirped that his otherwise reliable birdie had been a disappointment in this case.
Mr Nusrat Javeed went on to write a laudatory piece about how Ms Rehman ‘emerged out of nowhere’ to become the Pakistan People’s Party’s choice and how stellar has her work been through her Jinnah Institute (JI) venture to “seek a doable strategy to deal with Afghanistan”. Of course, all information was based on the authority of omnipresent sources. The celebration lasted till some of us mean-types rained on the parade and pointed to Ms Rehman’s track record on civil-military relations and her views on pursuing foreign policy.
The new ambassador must be welcomed and supported — especially in the face of the Sunni Tehrik bigots ganging up against her — but the second coming of the inimitable liberal Justice Dorab Patel she is not. She has neither ‘emerged out of nowhere’ nor goes to Washington with a foreign policy agenda of the civilian government. Ambassadors to the most critical capitals are not appointed on the spur of the moment. Neither was Husain Haqqani designated the ambassador in a hurry nor has Ms Rehman’s appointment been without premeditation.
Benazir Bhutto had worked with Husain Haqqani for over a decade before his appointment eventually materialized. The man has been much maligned in the recent weeks for precisely what endeared him to Benazir: his documented views clearly favouring the civilian supremacy in the civil-military power equation. Ms Rehman’s views vis-à-vis the Pakistani security establishment’s role in formulating and prosecuting foreign policy are also not hidden from the public view and form the basis of her appointment.
The controversial JI-United State Institute of Peace report has been much debated. But long before that report or even the JI came along, I wrote a column ‘The Slanted Truth’ (Daily Times, June 17,2010) in response to an op-ed ‘North Waziristan — the final frontier’, which Ms Rehman had penned for the Pakistani paper The News. I had noted then:
“Upon a cursory read, both [the other article had been written by Mr Naeem Tahir in Daily Times] pieces might come across as opinions by liberal writers who are concerned about the curse of Talibanization afflicting Pakistan and trying to float an indigenous plan to fight it. A slightly deeper look, however, would reveal that, clad in a liberal cloak, the authors may be peddling the Pakistani security establishment’s view, i.e. that despite the clear and present danger that the Taliban and al Qaeda portend, we are not able to do much about it, especially in North Waziristan (NW) … The apologetics put forth by these two authors blend seamlessly with the collaboration between the Pakistani intelligence apparatus and the jihadist outfits, highlighted yet again by the recent London School of Economics (LSE) report. This partnership was never hidden and neither are the attempts by the security establishment to force even democratically elected leaders to toe their line.”
Quoting a senior Pakistani editor Muhammad Ziauddin (who heads Mr Javeed’s paper The Express Tribune), the New York Times wrote last week: “The military had been cultivating her (Ms. Rehman) since she stepped down as information minister in 2009 over differences with President Zardari”. In this post-2009 trajectory, the JI report has clearly been very successful in padding up the new ambassador’s resume, which previously boasted a volume on Kashmiri shawls as against Husain Haqqani’s seminal work Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. With that book on civil-military relations, Ambassador Haqqani had burnt many bridges and made enemies in the high heavens of Pakistani power structures.
While Husain Haqqani did survive the attempts to cut him to size via the military-sponsored ‘anger’ at the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, perhaps the more ominous sign was when President Asif Zardari’s op-ed “Talk to, not at, Pakistan” appeared in the Washington Post on September 30,2011. The belligerent line taken in the op-ed smacked of military influence and was a give away that Haqqani had not penned the piece. And as it turned out, none other than Husain Haqqani’s successor had, ostensibly, authored the op-ed.
The Pakistani security establishment — to its dubious credit — has thus been gradually getting its ducks in a row while the US planners remained frazzled and chaotic. As the series of unfortunate events since the NATO attack in Mohmand Agency shows, the digging in and openly confrontational approach by Pakistan are not a knee-jerk response.
No condolences are enough for the loss of life in the Mohmand attack and as professional military outfits, the NATO and US forces must investigate it to the fullest. But it is also not lost on observers that it was the same Pakistani army, which has now gone hoarse in protests, that had disowned its martyrs in the Kargil debacle. A moving column by Abbas Nasir last week on the subject and Owen Bennett Jones’ 2002 account of how the Indian army recommended Captain Karnal Sher Khan for highest military order, are an eye-opener.
Shutting down the NATO supply lines, demands to vacate the Shamsi airbase, boycotting the Bonn conference on Afghanistan’s future and demands by the usual suspects, including by Ms Rehman’s successor at the JI, Mr Ejaz Haider, to sever the partnership with the US, all consolidate the view that Pakistan is part of the problem – not the solution- in Afghanistan. Pakistanis claim that their red lines have been crossed twice since the OBL raid. They appear to be itching for a break with the US. Whether they have something more in mind like ratcheting up the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan is not publicly known.
Taken together all these moves would pretty much be the extent of Pakistan’s ability to play diplomatic hardball. The underperforming doves in the US State Department notwithstanding, there are significant sections of US government and public opinion that would like to grant Pakistan its wish. It remains to be seen whether the new Pakistani ambassador and her supporters in the country’s security establishment are up for the next level, where hardball stops and hard power comes into play.
Dr Mohammad Taqi is a regular columnist for the Daily Times, Pakistan, where an abridged version of this column appeared. He tweets at http://twitter.com/mazdaki