Friday, December 25, 2009

Zardari vs. Pak Military

The current turmoil in Pakistan basically pitches Pakistanis and their military against a combine of Zardari-Haqqani-Malik and America.

This means the President, his Ambassador to Washington, and his Interior Minister, backed by the United States, versus the judiciary, the nation of Pakistan and the military.

If you are a keen observer, you will not miss the telltale signs.

One of them was on display today, Dec. 24, on the front page of The News International, Pakistan’s largest English-language newspaper.

My colleague Mr. Rauf Klassra ran a juicy story titled, When it comes to keeping gifts, army rulers outdo civilians’. It’s about two former military rulers of Pakistan illegally retaining state gifts presented by foreign dignitaries to Pakistani presidents and prime ministers.

The story, if accurate, is fair.

But a day earlier, the same author, my colleague Mr. Klasra, ran another juicy story titled, ‘Zardari excels in keeping foreign gifts worth millions.’


It’s a tit-for-tat. The paper publishes a story showing a greedy President Zardari gobbling up state gifts. The very next day, another story appears that accuses military rulers of ‘outdoing’ civilian rulers in greed.

What does this mean?

First, it shows the mindset in the Zardari camp. They do see the Pakistani military as their prime target. This, of course, is no longer a secret. Mr. Zardari and his closest aides had their sights on the military and specifically on ISI from the day the incumbent government seized power last year. And this is not about any domestic Pakistani political agenda. It is about fulfilling conditions in the secret deal brokered by US Department of State that brought Mr. Zardari to power in Pakistan.

Second, this tit-for-tat reveals the fight-back strategy of the Zardari government. And it’s simple:

1.       Move the focus of the Pakistani public opinion away from the massive corruption and ineptitude of the incumbent government by turning this into a civil-military dispute.

2.      Raise the specter of rebellion in Sindh against Pakistan if Zardari is no longer in power.

This is the outline of the Zardari comeback plan. There is one more card up Mr. Zardari's sleeve and that's US diplomats in Islamabad quietly lobbying other key public figures to support Mr. Zardari in exchange for a piece of America's soft power in favor of this or that politician.

As for whipping up sentiments against the Pakistani military, it probably is already obvious to Mr. Zardari and his aides that this won’t happen any time soon. His government is so inept that it succeeded in pushing Pakistanis toward the judiciary and the military in less than two years. No one except idealistic fools have any faith in politicians.

As for the so-called Sindh card, I couldn’t come up with a better and more shocking retort than the following paragraph by Ameer Bhutto, Benazir’s first cousin who wrote an eye-opening op-ed in today’s The News:

“Sindh today is a far cry from the Sindh of 27 December 2007 and if anyone expects Sindhis to react in the same way as they did back then, they are deluded. One example illustrates my point: On 31 May 2009 the chief minister Sindh and some of his ministers held an open kutchery of mostly their own party workers in Naodero. So enraged was the public at the government's failure to give any relief that they not only confronted the chief minister and his ministers with harsh words, but were becoming so physically aggressive that the police had to herd the VIPs inside a rest house to save them from their own party workers. The furious people attacked the rest house and shattered the windows. Fearing the worse, the rangers were summoned and the VIPs were piled into bullet-proof vehicles and rushed away to a safe location, but not before the people succeeded in pelting the vehicles with stones. If the People's Party workers can do this to their own government in Naodero, Benazir Bhutto's hometown and the epicenter of the People's Party, then one can imagine the situation in other areas of Sindh.”

I can only add this piece of advice to the trio of Mr. Zardari, Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Malik:

The American-protected NRO is over. The man who facilitated it in Pakistan, Mr. Musharraf, made a better judgment and fled. The Pakistani military was dragged into the deal along with the people of Pakistan because some [like me, in the interest of full disclosure] erred by retaining some faith in that Mr. Musharraf won’t blunder. Now it appears the military is not interested in protecting US interest when the US won’t reciprocate.

The writing is on the wall. Pakistani nation has been through hell in the past three years. We won’t allow you or anyone else to serve a foreign agenda using our tax money.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Pakistan

Merry Christmas to all of our Pakistani Christians, and to all of our friends worldwide. We in Pakistan need to keep reminding ourselves of the great sacrifices all Pakistanis made, including Pakistani Christians, for an independent Pakistan. I am lucky to have copies of pamphlets that Pakistani Christians spread in Quetta, Karachi and Lahore in 1947 against the Brits and the Indians and in favor of Pakistan. When a group of feudal members of Punjab Assembly refused to endose the demand for Pakistan, it was Pakistani Christians who tilted the vote in Pakistan's favor. So we're proud of all of our people.

Merry Christmas Pakistan.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

America's Intrusive Ambassador In Pakistan

While the Boston Globe advises President Obama to scale back meddling in Pakistani politics, US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson launches a covert campaign to convince politicians to support President Zardari.

The disconnect is breathtaking. Globe's position ("Show US neutrality in Pakistan") also serves to signify how much the US public opinion is unaware of the extent of the intrusive presence of the United States in Pakistan. Part of what US officials describe as rising anti-Americanism in the country is actually nothing more than Pakistani backlash for this meddling.

Mr. Zardari's team and his closest aides - especially Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Ambassador in Washington Husain Haqqani - have been on a collision course with the Pakistani military. They have permitted possibly tens of private US defense contractors - private militias, to be accurate - into Pakistan.  Moreover, Pakistanis have strong reasons to believe that Mr. Zardari and his team had consented to some conditions, or secret understandings, with Washington prior to taking charge in Pakistan last year. It is no secret that the incumbent pro-US Pakistani government is the result of a 'deal' brokered by the Bush administration in 2007. That deal imposed the current set of discredited politicians on Pakistan.  In some ways, this was the third US-led regime change, after Kabul and Baghdad. But unlike those two capitals, regime-change in Pakistan happened without the need for a full fledged military invasion. This was and continues to be an achievement for US diplomacy and military, and a moment of shame for most Pakistanis.

To be fair, Washington could not have done it without the help of Pakistani insiders. Former strongman Musharraf was under no compulsion to agree to this wild American idea. Yet for inexplicable reasons he chose to agree to a power-sharing agreement with late Benazir Bhutto, as part of the US-brokered deal.

It is encouraging to see some Americans - like the editorial writer at Boston Globe - cut through the fog of official US media manipulation and see developments in Pakistan through Pakistani perspective.  But most Americans don't know, for example, how their envoy here, Ms. Anne W. Patterson, is quietly meeting Pakistani politicians at private residences of trusted friends to strategize domestic politics. These meetings are not acknowledged by the US Embassy or by Pakistani politicians and hence do not make it to the front pages of Pakistani newspapers. 

More recently, a US defense contractor on whose behalf Ms. Patterson lobbied senior Pakistani officials for special weapon permits was found to have paid bribes to a Pakistani minister's aide to the tune of US $ 250,000. In short, the US ambassador's name came up several times during a case of bribery involving the national security of the host country.

Pakistani politicians in government are too timid to put the US government on notice about the extracurricular activities of its diplomats in Pakistan.

[This is one blatant aspect of US meddling in Pakistan. Another is the flurry of media reports in the US complaining about Pakistani harassment of US diplomats. Those leaks were stunning by all accounts because they showed the US at the receiving end of Pakistani high handedness. The reality is totally different but who cares. US government spinners released the story first and that's what counts. Pakistanis are lousy at media projection anyway. More on this later.]

So, who will stop Ms. Patterson from trying to manipulate Pakistani politics? And why such a heavy US investment in the Zardari government? And why is the US orchestrating the encirclement of the Pakistani military, from the borders of Afghanistan to the civilian pro-US government in Islamabad?

And the most important question: Is Pakistan the enemy? Every US move in the region says it is. Even the financial aid is being used as an instrument of coercive policy rather than an instrument of development, which is what US officials never tire of telling us. Here again the US official language says one thing and does another.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Assassination of Pakistani Officers

This report, titled Strategic Punishment: A Program To Assassinate Pakistani Military Officers, provides a brief and direct insight into the core of the dispute between Islamabad and Washington. It is recommended reading for those trying to understand the Pakistani perspective, which is generally ignored or misrepresented in the American and British media.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Time, Iftikhar Chaudhry Is A Hero

I never considered Iftikhar Chaudhry a hero for democracy or judiciary but more of a hero of chance and circumstance. But his verdict on NRO makes him one without a question.

There were some doubts about Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry but he laid them all to rest. This is a victory for Pakistan. It destroys a major tool of American-British interference in Pakistani politics. 

One thing to remember here is this: This verdict was possible ONLY because an army chief intervened in March this year and because the military was willing to quietly support the judiciary against possible political pressure. These corrupt and inept politicians would have NEVER restored the chief justice. This tells you something about how deformed our political system is.

[The point is not that the army deserves credit. It doesn't. The point is that the corrupt Pakistani system is so entrenched that despite popular demand by the media and the people, politicians weren’t interested in restoring the CJ or in annulling a US- and UK-brokered law that legalized corruption in Pakistan.]

Now let’s hope the verdict is implemented to the fullest and the politicians and bureaucracy don’t create hurdles. Pakistani nation is thirsty for the blood of those members of this pro-US government who have sold Pakistan for cheap.

[More analysis on this coming shortly.]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Latest From US & Indian Ambassadors In Pakistan

US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson has launched a series of covert meetings with Pakistani politicians seeking support for President Zardari, and her Indian counterpart has just organized a music and booze party on the very day as hundreds of Pakistani families, four Pakistanis cities, and at least one large political party observed a day of mourning. Pakistan is open to foreign meddling like never before, probably the only nuclear power in the world exposed to outside powers in this manner, thanks to sold-out ruling elite.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Pakistan's Killer Hospitals

Thanks to Imanae’s parents, one aspect of Pakistan’s sick national life has come to light. What about the rot in the entire system?

Early this year, an elderly man was admitted to Al Shifa International, an elite hospital in the Pakistani capital and one of the most expensive in Pakistan.

The man had a heart attack and his age -- approximately 90 -- did not permit a bypass surgery. Yet the hospital management tried to initiate surgery. At one point, the management tried to do it behind his family's back, moving him to the operation theater. He was saved when a family friend on the staff telephoned the elderly man's family at midnight to warn them. They lived a couple of blocks away and rushed to save him.

The hospital was trying to inflate the bill.

Two of of the old patient's children were practicing doctors, one serving in the United States and the other one in Saudi Arabia, in addition to a son in law, a Dutch citizen, who was also a doctor. All of them agreed their elderly patient did not require a bypass. They couldn’t believe the highly paid doctors employed by the elite hospital did not know what they knew.

In 2007, an 80-year-old man and a heart patient came to the same hospital's outdoor patient's department for a minor checkup. He was supposed to leave in a couple of hours but left the hospital dead three days later because a nurse mistakenly gave him a high potency sedative. The old man's heart couldn't take it.

The suspicion is that he was deliberately administered the sedative to prolong his hospital stay and eventually the final bill. Otherwise, who gives a sedative overdose to an 85-year-old heart patient?

Such blunders are common and there is no law to protect patients. Every month or so there is a story on TV about relatives of a dead patient protesting fatal treatment on the part of doctors. These incidents are more common in privately-owned hospitals, and especially in the few elitist ones owned and operated by groups of investors.

For example, Al Shifa International in Islamabad is well known as ‘The Killer Hospital … where your loved ones can be killed for money!’. This is not an exaggeration. There is a website dedicated for this [Check].

The latest is the case of 3-year-old Imanae Malik [], an only child who was taken to another elitist hospital, Doctor's Hospital, in Lahore for a minor hand burn but she died because of a tranquilizer overdose. The doctor on duty was not even a full children's doctor but a trainee.

For-profit hospitals are common worldwide. But in Pakistan, the for-profit part trumps everything else, literally.

‘Cheap’ doctors and nurses are hired because money is the number one consideration because the management is answerable to a group of investors who in turn are answerable to no one.

Health department officials in the federal and provincial government are corrupt and easily bribed.

The politicians are corrupt, untrained, uneducated and uninterested. Pakistan is afflicted by a failed form of democracy that has been taken over by ethnic and religious politics where nothing of public good can be done. The political elite keeps its money and homes outside Pakistan, mostly UK and Dubai, and sees Pakistan as a place to make easy money through corruption.

Recently, documents released by the government show that almost the entire ruling elite - politicians, feudal lords, businessmen, bureaucrats and some military officers -- have been jointly stealing from Pakistani banks with impunity over the years.

Thanks to the courageous parents of Imanae, one aspect of the sick Pakistani national life has come to light.

But no one is expected to touch the rich owners of these hospitals. This is one of those things that will linger until there is a bloody revolution here, or a benevolent dictator who will sort out the mess while executing the corrupt. You see, Pakistan stands at a point where it can learn more from Iran and China and Putin’s Russia than from the US and the UK or Europe.