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How Pakistan lets terrorism fester – by Husain Haqqani

ON the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death last week, Pakistanwas the only Muslim country in which hundreds of demonstrators gathered to show solidarity with the dead terrorist figurehead.

Yet rather than asking tough questions about how Bin Laden had managed to live unmolested in Pakistan for years, the Pakistani Supreme Court instead chose to punish the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, by charging him with contempt for failing to carry out the court’s own partisan agenda — in this case, pressuring the Swiss government to reopen a decades-old corruption investigation of President Asif Ali Zardari. (Never mind that Swiss officials say they are unlikely to revisit the charges.)

In handing down the decision, one justice chose to paraphrase the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran. He held forth in a long appeal to religious-nationalist sentiment that began with the line, “Pity the nation that achieves nationhood in the name of a religion but pays little heed to truth, righteousness and accountability, which are the essence of every religion.”

That a Supreme Court justice would cite poetry instead of law while sentencing an elected leader on questionable charges reflects Pakistan’s deep state of denial about its true national priorities at a time when the country is threatened by religious extremism and terrorism.

Today, Pakistan is polarized between those who envision a modern, pluralist country and those who condone violence against minorities and terrorism in the name of Islam. Many are caught in the middle; they support the pluralist vision but dislike the politicians espousing it.

Meanwhile, an elephant in the room remains. We still don’t know who enabled Bin Laden to live freely in Pakistan. Documents found on computers in his compound offer no direct evidence of support from Pakistan’s government, army or intelligence services. But even if Bin Laden relied on a private support network, our courts should be focused on identifying, arresting and prosecuting the individuals who helped him. Unfortunately, their priorities seem to lie elsewhere.

In Pakistan, most of the debate about Bin Laden has centered on how and why America violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by unilaterally carrying out an operation to kill him. There has been little discussion about whether the presence of the world’s most-wanted terrorist in a garrison town filled with army officers was itself a threat to the sovereignty and security of Pakistan.

Pakistanis are right to see themselves as victims of terrorism and to be offended by American unilateralism in dealing with it. Last year alone, 4,447 people were killed in 476 major terrorist attacks. Over the last decade, thousands of soldiers and law enforcement officers have died fighting terrorists — both homegrown, and those inspired by Al Qaeda’s nihilist ideology.

But if anything, the reaction should be to gear up and fight jihadist ideology and those who perpetrate terrorist acts in its name; they remain the gravest threat to Pakistan’s stability. Instead, our national discourse has been hijacked by those seeking to deflect attention from militant Islamic extremism.

The national mind-set that condones this sort of extremism was cultivated and encouraged under the military dictatorships of Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq from 1977 to 1988 and Gen. Pervez Musharraf from 1999 to 2008. A whole generation of Pakistanis has grown up with textbooks that conflate Pakistani nationalism with Islamist exclusivism.

Anti-Western sentiment and a sense of collective victimhood were cultivated as a substitute for serious debate on social or economic policy. Militant groups were given free rein, originally with American support, to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and later became an instrument of Pakistani regional influence there and in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

Pakistan’s return to democracy, after the elections of 2008, offered hope. But the elected government has since been hobbled by domestic political infighting and judicial activism on every issue except extremism and terrorism.

Before Mr. Musharraf was ousted, a populist lawyers’ movement successfully challenged his firing of Supreme Court justices. The lawyers’ willingness to confront Mr. Musharraf in his last days raised hopes of a new era. But over the last four years, the Court has spent most of its energy trying to dislodge the government by insisting on reopening cases of alleged corruption from the 1990s. During the same period, no significant terrorist leader has been convicted, and many have been set free by judges who overtly sympathize with their ideology.

This has happened because the lawyers’ movement split into two factions after Mr. Musharraf’s fall: those emphasizing the rule of law and those seeking to use the judiciary as a rival to elected leaders.

Asma Jahangir, who helped lead the lawyers’ movement, has become a critic of the courts, accusing them of overstepping their constitutional mandate and falling under the influence of the security establishment. And Aitzaz Ahsan, who represented the Supreme Court’s chief justice during the lawyers’ showdown with Mr. Musharraf, is now Prime Minister Gilani’s lawyer in the contempt-of-court case — a clear indication of the political realignment that has taken place.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s raucous media, whose hard-won freedom is crucial for the success of democracy, has done little to help generate support for eliminating extremism and fighting terrorism. The Supreme Court, conservative opposition parties and the news media insist that confronting alleged incompetence and corruption in the current government is more important than turning Pakistan away from Islamist radicalism.

While fighting Pakistan’s endemic corruption is vital, the media and judiciary have helped redirect attention away from the threat of jihadist ideology by constantly targeting the governing party — a convenient situation for the intelligence services, which would prefer to keep the spotlight on the civilian government rather than on the militant groups they have historically supported.

Convicting the dozens of terrorists released by Pakistani courts should be a greater priority for the country’s judiciary than scoring points against the elected executive branch. And the Pakistani media should be more focused on asking why those deemed terrorists internationally are celebrated as heroes at home.

Until their priorities shift, the empty pronouncements of our leaders against terrorism and the sacrifices of our soldiers in battle with militants will not suffice to change the nation’s course.

Husain Haqqani, a professor at Boston University, was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011.

Source: NYT

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Abdul Nishapuri


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  • The merry-go-round
    By Kamran Shafi
    Published: May 10, 2012

    The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

    Or shall we say NOT a very merry merry-go-round. For there we go again: halos around our heads, shock and hurt on our faces, and anger in our protestations against the newest American accusations that not only is Pakistan providing ‘a launching pad’ to terrorists, the terrorist chief Ayman al Zawahiri is hiding somewhere in this country. Exact same statements are coming out of the government as came out at the time that allegations were made about the presence of Osama bin Laden and the Quetta Shura of the Taliban in our country some years ago, variously: “If you have proof show it to us”; “Quetta Shura? What Quetta Shura?” “Osama? Osama who?”

    The Commando and his spin quacks went several better, thinking it was a boy’s game in the park. “Give us the addresses and telephone numbers of Mullah Omar and his Shura in Quetta and we will go after them, snigger, snigger.”

    We were soon sniggering on the other side of our faces for, in the event, the Quetta Shura was not only shown to have been present in Quetta over many, many years through statements on record by respected Baloch parliamentarians (who actually gave their exact locations in the city), none other than Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar actually said that military action had “degraded” the Shura.

    As for Bin Laden, May 2, 2011 when that terrorist was taken out, is too recent; the layers of egg spread all over the arrogant faces of the senior commanders of our Deep State too thick to have been washed away; the indignant screams and squeals of the TV anchors of the Ghairat Brigades too loud for us to forget in just one year. Yes, the Americans (and the Afghans let us not forget them!) were spot-on, and yes we got our just deserts.

    Let me here repeat something I always say when writing about the shenanigans/the ineptness and the incompetence of our Deep State: even though, I and lay people like I, have nothing whatever to do with what it does or does not do, going its mad way despite our protestations; and even though any Pakistani with an iota of sense would be appalled at its antics, I have to, sadly, use the collective pronouns ‘we’ and ‘us’ for we are all Pakistanis. Would that the Deep State cease and desist immediately if not sooner.

    There is no hope of that anytime soon as Pakistan sinks deeper into the mire engineered by the boys: witness the mounting acrimoniousness in the relationship between our country and the United States upon which we depend for all of our sophisticated weapons, and money to oil the wheels of our military, and which quite literally keeps our skewed economy, in which the major part of our budget is allocated to defence and to debt-servicing, afloat.
    As evidence, even a cursory glance at the Salala incident in which American helicopter gunships attacked the outpost and killed 24 Pakistani servicemen, and its aftermath, will tell you just who calls the shots and how clumsily. I was in Washington DC at the time and remember well the first Pakistani reaction in which we admitted in so many words that it was possible the Americans were fired on first from a position lower than Salala but abutting it, by terrorists/insurgents/whoever.

    Witness: On PBS’s flagship programme, Judy Woodruff asks questions of the well-known author Shuja Nawaz who is considered ‘close’ to Pakistan’s security establishment: “Shuja Nawaz, to you first: There is a late report, late this afternoon the Associated Press reported that — quoting defence officials as saying perhaps, this was a case of mistaken identity. What is known at this point?
    “Shuja Nawaz, The Atlantic Council: At this point, all that we know is that there was a firefight, perhaps in the border region, and that the Afghan forces asked for support. And it was US air support that came in and went and hit the targets, two of them. Both were Pakistan military posts.” For details please go to:

    Then the Ghairat Brigades and their handmaidens barged in and took over what was a delicate situation at a most fraught time. From the then shooting-from-the-hip ‘spymaster’ (why, oh why do we call these people ‘masters’ of anything at all when all they can do is stomp into a situation that requires delicate and gentle and diplomatic handling?), to the paid propagandists of the Deep State, Paknationalists and their ill-read ilk who feed on people’s fears, we were regaled to much self-righteous indignation and Ghairat-laden diatribes.

    Which deteriorated into the present most serious stand-off, not only with the United States but also with Nato and soon with the United Nations itself. Despite which, I have to add, we don’t know whether we are coming or going, our great strategists saying one thing one moment and then contradicting themselves and falling over themselves the very next.

    Consider the most recent statement of the Peshawar corps commander as printed in this newspaper of record: “Why do they raise their fingers toward Pakistan? It is shifting the blame on to others”, talking about the United States project in Afghanistan. He then defends “the government’s dealings with North Waziristan-based militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur who has signed a nonaggression pact with the government”, and in the very next breath says:

    “Something has to be done, and it’s in the offing, North Waziristan is the only region we haven’t cleared. It should be done as early as possible”.

    Leaves you cross-eyed and gasping for breath, doesn’t it reader?

    Mark my words: If the Secretary of State has herself signalled that Zawahiri is in Pakistan the Americans have a bead on him already, and they will take him out whenever it is politically expedient. Remember, this is an election year.

    Let us accept that our country is now caught in a most serious, almost existential crisis. Let us accept that we are virtually the pariahs of the world, our country known as the ‘Ground Zero’ of terrorism; let us accept that we are some of the most hated people in the world. Let me, therefore, make a call I have often made to all the stakeholders: the people; politicians; the Deep State and its commanders; to each and every Pakistani, that there is no way but one.

    And that is that we cleanse ourselves of the poison that is terrorism; of the cruelty that is religious and ethnic intolerance, and of the abomination that is covetousness of another’s territory. More than anything, let us rid ourselves of jingoism.

    Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2012.

  • Appriciated, though prof Haqqani should not forget he was on forefront of defending ISI during this episode and Mr Gilani still needs concrete evidence against Hafiz Saeed! Its time PPP should stop defending those who are attacking not only people of Pakistan but also them. No matter how hard PPP try to prove to them her patriotic credentials, PPP will remain traitor in their eyes. So its better to fight them , because even if you dont fight them you are being attacked and killed