Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Note-Taker In Pakistan, US Meetings

I like defense analyst Dr. Shireen M. Mazari for her blunt and direct style. But mostly I like her for her ability to offer Pakistani decision makers practical ideas to improve policy.

Take for example her advice to our politicians currently debating new terms of engagement with the United States. She suggests they add one more clause to their 30+ recommendations. This suggestion is simple: Ensure that a Pakistani note-taker is present in every meeting between Pakistani and American officials without exception.

This is a brilliant idea. Pakistan has suffered $70 billion dollars in losses, thousands killed and injured, and an unstable neighborhood thanks to helping an ungrateful Washington invade and occupy Afghanistan.

We got nothing in exchange for this help except headache. This happened because one general and several politicians failed to protect Pakistani interests while negotiating arrangements with the Americans. Former president and army chief Gen. Musharraf struck several verbal understandings with the Americans, and recently President Asif Zardari has been secretly meeting American emissaries at neutral locations like Dubai without informing the Pakistani government.

If a law is passed stipulating the presence of a note taker in all Pak-US interactions, this would help prevent the repeat of the disasters under presidents Musharraf and Zardari. This idea is standard practice in government-to-government relations. Unfortunately, it assumes an added importance in the context of our bad experience with untrustworthy allies like the Americans.

This idea is one of many that Dr. Mazari shares in her opinion piece on the story.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pakistan's Biggest Enemy Is Its Failed Political Parties

Our failed political parties will destroy our country while we keep focusing on 'saving' democracy instead of 'reforming' it. Three parties have turned Karachi into Beirut in their fight for control over extortion money. Yet we still have people claiming things will be better with repeated elections. The only thing that will happen with repeated elections is these failed parties getting stronger to take over the country.

Today I've published a piece in The News International arguing that Pakistan's political parties are destroying the country and need to be fixed.

My solution is to have a strong civilian federal govt clipping the wings of these parties with the help of the armed forces. Naturally, such a strong civilian federal government can't come through elections. Our judiciary and the military can find other means to bring quality Pakistanis to the top.

Here's a quote:

"Where in Britain or Europe can parties do what we have allowed our parties to do here? Our parties can block major roads at will and forcibly shut down entire cities. Their ugly flags and graffiti blot the face of our cities and towns. They can brandish lethal weapons in public, confiscate and burn newspapers in Karachi, cut television cables and isolate Quetta from the rest of the country. Last year, one or two parties killed my colleague Wali Khan Babur, a young television reporter, in a sad attempt to ignite linguistic riots because that’s the only way these parties can flourish."

Read the full op-ed here.

UPDATE: Just to prove my point, reports are coming in that the leadership of MQM fled to Dubai as the city was brought to a standstill thanks to the gang wars between the armed wings of MQM, ANP and PPPP. The PKKH website reported that top leaders including Sindh governor Ishrat ul Ibad, Dr. Farooq Sattar, Babar Ghouri , Kamal Mustafa and others were spotted relaxing in the executive lounge of Avari Hotel in Dubai Tuesday night.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pakistan's Wrong Debate On US Ties

Today, The News International published an opinion I wrote on resetting Pakistan-US ties, appropriately titled, Re-Engaging US.

My argument on this debate is simple. The recommendations that the Parliamentary Committee on National Security proposed are good but not enough.

We are having the wrong debate.

We are discussing reopening the US and NATO supply road. We are talking about containers, trucks, drones and money.

The real issue is that the United States has taken over Pakistani presidency. It struck a deal in 2006 and 2007 that decided who will be the next Pakistani president. Washington is pumping money into Pakistani media. It refuses to blacklist BLA as a terror group and is shielding BLA and TTP terrorists in Switzerland and Afghanistan, respectively. Washington owes Pakistan close to a billion dollars for using our bases and facilities for the Afghan war. It has been using that money to blackmail us. It wants to bring India into Afghanistan, has granted India access to civil nuclear technology and continues to blackmail our nuclear program in Geneva.

Considering all of this, the least we can do is to be honest. All of the above has to be part of the agenda of resetting Pak-US ties. Simply talking about restoring the supply road is ridiculous.

And what about the aerial corridor? Are we going to tax the goods flying through our airspace to Afghanistan? How come there's no mention of this in the parliamentary recommendations?

Someone also needs to ask the Zardari government why he quietly decided to reopen the aerial corridor for Americans on 'humanitarian grounds'? And is it possible for his compassion to extend to the seven Pakistani widows and the sixteen Pakistani orphans left behind by the deliberate American attack on 26/11?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Kandahar Massacre: Afghanistan's 3/11 & The Pakistani Young Man Who Coined It

Imagine this: a group of women and children are sound asleep in the dead of night in a village. Suddenly, a group of deranged men barge in, carrying machine guns. They spray bullets, pick surviving children and then shoot them on their foreheads. Then they burn the bodies. Then they walk out of the house and walk several kilometers for several minutes. They reach another house where they carry out a similar carnage.

A total of 16 Afghans, mostly women and children, are executed and burned.

Would this shake your conscience?

It did shake Tabish.

Tabish Qayyum is a young Pakistani from Karachi. He is one of the founders of a monthly magazine called The Fortress.

The tragedy in Kandahar moved him deeply. So he coined the term, 'Afghanistan's 3/11.'

He also wrote a great piece: Afghanistan's 3/11: We Will Never Forget.

One reason Qayyum's article is important is the eyewitness account. He wrote the following description of what happened from information given by multiple credible Afghan witnesses. Take this chilling sample:
"The houses attacked are at least two miles apart. It is not possible for a single gunman to kill and burn people in one house and then run several kilometers to do the same thing again without being resisted and overpowered. Eleven of the dead Afghans belonged to the same family and nine of the victims were children, including infants found soaked in blood close to the bodies of their mothers. Afghan sources in Pajwayi claim to have photographs of half-burned bodies of women and children. The media has already shown blood-spattered walls and floors of the two houses where American soldiers committed the massacre. Some local villagers have reported seeing two groups of soldiers. The Afghan defense ministry also believes in its initial assessment that there is a possibility of more than one soldier being involved. Afghan President Hamid Karzai believes in the possibility that more than one US soldier was involved. In his statement after the massacre, Karzai quotes a 15-year old survivor Rafiullah as telling him in a phone call that American ‘soldiers’ raided the house and woke up his family members before shooting them."
Qayyum is being farsighted when he tries to make this incident a watershed in America's occupation of Afghanistan, a 3/11 for the Afghans, equivalent to what 9/11 was to the Americans.

Why is this incident a watershed?

To get a brief and a stunning answer, read what the Afghanistan Analysis Team at PakNationalists PAC has written in a report titled, Are US Soldiers Turning Against Their Commanders In Afghanistan?

Here's a quote from this stunning report:
"The fact that US soldiers chose to kill Pashtun women and children in Kandahar is not accidental. This is happening because of irresponsible official American statements that blamed Pashtun Taliban ‘infiltrators’ for killing American military trainers. The truth is that Afghans from all backgrounds have participated in riots against occupying US army. The Afghan intelligence officer who killed a US Army colonel and major inside the secured interior ministry building in Kabul on Jan. 25 was not a Pashtun but a Tajik.  Despite this, US officials blamed the Pashtuns to hide the fact that the US-trained Afghan army, which is largely non-Pashtun, is now turning its weapons on American trainers."
While at it, you might want to see the video by AP at the top [or click here to see it]. It focuses on one of the largest US army bases inside the United States and why soldiers trained their often end up committing atrocities like the one in Kandahar on 3/11.

Our region has seen a lot of bloodshed. The American occupation of Afghanistan continues only because the CIA and US military's special-ops teams don't want to let go of this playground. Bad allies, like India, are advising the Americans not to leave so that India could continue using Afghan soil to foment terrorism inside Pakistan in the guise of religious terrorists. India is also linked to two fictional terrorist groups that it uses to carry out terrorism inside Pakistan. One is Balochistan Liberation Army and the other one is Sindh Liberation Army. The CIA is known to be helping the Indians with the first one, but the second one appears to be an exclusively Indian venture.

We, Pakistanis and Afghans, count on the good American people to counter the disinformation by Pentagon, CIA and their allies in mainstream media who are advising 'perseverance and patience' to camouflage their intention of never leaving Afghanistan.

An Afghanistan free of American, NATO and Indian occupation is good for the region and good for America and the world.