The report in a leading US newspaper about links between the ISI and militants, which a CIA official reportedly showed evidence of to Pakistan government members in Islamabad recently, adds a new dimension to the much talked of government move to place the agency under the interior ministry. The same theme is reinforced by the defence minister who informed this publication that President George Bush had expressed displeasure over ISI behaviour in his meeting with the Pakistani prime minister. The Pakistan military has denied a nexus exists between the ISI and terrorists. It seems unlikely this denial has cut much ice in Washington.
While the ill-fated move to place the ISI under the interior ministry has kindled a heated controversy, the latest concerns regarding the role of the outfit, raised in the US, make it imperative that it be placed under some kind of civilian control. It is obviously unfair to expect a government to take responsibility for battling militancy while the country's premier agency backs the outfits engaged in terror. Indeed the consequences are potentially horrendous for all of us who wish to see Pakistan evolve into a modern, progressive state. The fact is that the ISI needs to be brought under check. As civilians we need to know what its role is. So far, the allegations that this role has involved conspiracies within the country, backing for militants in Kashmir and northern areas and other rather dubious policies makes it questionable whether it is working for or against the national interest. US leaders are quite openly now pressing for the agency to be brought into line. Many in the country would agree.
This having been said, the manner in which the notification regarding the change in control over the agency was issued by the government has not helped matters. Indeed it may have made things more difficult for the future. Criticism has also focused around the controversial adviser on interior, under whom the ISI would have fallen had the change gone through and the fact that he is not an elected person. The controversy rages on, with talk now of heads rolling. But all this has meant a basic principle is being completely overlooked as the rant against the government goes on. Looking beyond the issue of an individual and adopting a more institutionalized approach, the ISI, and indeed other secret agencies, need to serve the government and not act as an entity quite beyond the control of parliament. For this, the agency must be brought under the control of the civilian authorities. The suspicion that the ISI operates as a body quite outside the command of civilian set-ups is a key factor in the rumours and conspiracy theories that so often spread through the country, particularly at critical moments. This speculation in turn is often a key destabilizing factor for democratically-eldcted governments.
Over the years, the ISI has grown into an entity that is not answerable to government. As citizens, whose taxes help keep it running, we need to know more about the organization and its operations. After all, in many countries including Britain, there is today far greater transparency than ever before in the running of secret agencies. Looking beyond the ham-handed means adopted by the government, followed by a clumsy effort to present the whole fiasco as a case of misunderstanding, the fact cannot be ignored that there is an urgent need to bring the ISI under civilian control. One must hope that the attempt to do so continues and the government finds a way to achieve this goal by building greater consensus on the issue, keeping in mind the fact that Pakistan must move from a national security state to evolving as a pro-development state, where the needs of citizens take priority over other considerations.
LATE LAST year Pakistan's military rulers struck a deal allowing the former president, Nawaz Sharif, to avoid corruption charges and flee to Saudi Arabia. His departure shocked people even more than the sudden disappearance of the Sharif family from the political scene. After a year-long propaganda campaign against Sharif, the convict has been set free by government order.
The widespread anger this deal has provoked shows that the reaction from below is brewing against the military junta. Its claims that it came to power to save the country from a rogue prime minister and would cleanse a corrupt political system lie in tatters.
Sharif's exile, George W Bush's US presidential election victory, and the hurdles created to avoid the prosecution of Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, show that there is no impartial judicial system in the world. The judiciary and other state institutions are manipulated by the ruling classes for their own convenience. Sometimes, powerful sections of the world ruling classes arbitrate in the disputes of another country. In Sharif's case, they arbitrated between different feuding factions of the Pakistani ruling elite.
Sharif's exit has proved that his political philosophy was only to enrich himself and his clan. Once he had run out of political options, he tried to salvage the wealth he had accumulated abroad. One thing is clear: at the time of their departure to Saudi Arabia, the Sharifs were as unpopular as when they were ousted in October 1999. The people object to the way Sharif has been allowed to leave and ask why those who plundered the country have been let off the hook.
At first, the US ambassador denied his government played any role. Now the US administration has confirmed that it was involved. Considering that Sharif signed the Washington statement of July 1999 agreeing to the withdrawal of troops in the Kashmir conflict with India - under pressure from Bill Clinton - the US president could not remain indifferent to his fate. The involvement of the Saudi royal family, with whom Sharif has close personal and business relations, comes as no surprise either.
The power exerted by the US and Saudi Arabia is mainly financial. The primary concern of the military government, on the other hand, is to preserve its rule, so it is prepared to accept the most humiliating deals, indifferent to the feelings of the masses. The people only ever figure in the establishment's considerations when they take to streets and attempts to suppress them fail.
What moves the establishment are its own interests. The ruling class reacts to the pressure exerted by Middle Eastern elites because they support Pakistan's establishment at a time when it is targeted by the West for its nuclear weapons programme, its support for the Afghanistan Taliban, and its confrontations with India. The Middle East supplies oil to Pakistan at cheap prices with deferred payments. These advantageous terms do not benefit the poor masses, of course. They are exclusively used by the ruling classes.
Instead of holding free and fair elections, the establishment always intervenes in the interests of the ruling classes to bring in the leadership of its own liking. This seems to be happening again. The military regime's effort to create a 'moral legitimacy' has come crashing to earth.
Another consequence of Sharif's release is to feed the discontent of the peoples of the smaller nationalities once again. What is the justification behind releasing one set of politicians while keeping those from the smaller provinces in jail? The nationalist parties of the smaller provinces have already started exploiting the ruling military establishment's discriminatory attitude. The Sindhis argue that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Mohammad Khan Junejo and Benazir Bhutto (three Sindhi former prime ministers), all fell victim to conspiracies hatched by the Punjabi-dominated military establishment. They also point out that the first elected prime minister from Sindh, Zulfikar Bhutto, was sent to the gallows despite repeated calls for clemency by the entire Muslim world. On the other hand, a convicted prime minister from Punjab has been provided a safe exit.
The masses of the smaller provinces think of themselves as a deprived lot and see the 'federation' as taking unjust decisions against them, be it with regard to financial resources or water allocations. The military government's so-called devolution plan has added to their fear that it will further reduce provincial autonomy.
The BBC has linked the decision on Sharif to Pakistan's economic predicament. The military government does not admit this but, given the deteriorating financial situation of the country and the threat of default as a result of the post-nuclear sanctions, it is facing an economic impasse. The junta is increasingly worried of an explosion from below.
It is pertinent to recall the report of the State Bank of Pakistan (July-September 2000), which indicates that inflation has risen and price hikes are inevitable in utilities and petroleum. Efforts to increase tax revenues have fallen significantly short of their targets. The compulsion to rely on Western financial institutions remains. This means the International Monetary Fund dictating low public spending, fewer new jobs (if any), job cuts in sectors being prepared for privatisation, and a higher rate of unemployment which is compounding the already bad job situation, especially for young people.
With the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader, Benazir Bhutto, already in exile, Sharif's flight to Saudi Arabia means that the leaders of the two main 'liberal' parties are now banished from the country. This is a major boost for the religious parties. The political landscape has been cleared exclusively for those who have the support of reactionary Muslim fundamentalist forces. This is a dangerous development for the poor.
The military government will try to install a prime minister of its own choice. The ban on all political activity and the exile of the PPP and Muslim League leaders is a good opportunity for the army to get the desired result because it is easier for them to bargain with the weaker liberal groups and religious parties.
Though it seems that the junta has manoeuvered well to take hold of the political process, it is also the biggest loser in this game. Not all of its problems have been resolved by the Sharif case. The more serious problems are rooted in the feudal-capitalist state structure upheld by the military. The army is an instrument for safeguarding the interests of national and international big business. It makes no real difference who is on the scene, whether that is Sharif, Bhutto or General Musharraf. All of these represent feudal-capitalist class rule.
Sharif's exit has created a political vacuum. The masses are burdened by price hikes and feel betrayed by Sharif's exile but are not taking to the streets because they also distrust the old political leadership. The religious parties will try to exploit this opportunity with the help of their like-minded generals.
The most disappointing aspect is that the old 'left' has abandoned the politics of raising any alternative and have either become part of the bourgeois parties or have sunk into the oblivion of the NGOs (non-governmental organisations). There is a desperate need to build a genuine socialist alternative to the present political and social chaos, the imminent threat of reactionary fundamentalist forces and the danger of the break up of society. That requires building support for a programme aimed at the social, economic and national problems, all of which are intertwined.
A socialist alternative would start from the fact that the junta, religious groups and other feudal-capitalist leaders, like Sharif and Bhutto, have consistently betrayed the Pakistani masses, and convincing the workers and poor that capitalism means unemployment, poverty and wars. The real choice is between the struggle to overthrow capitalism and feudalism or continued poverty and talibanisation (brutal state repression).
A socialist federation of Pakistan would release the resources needed to wipe out social deprivation and poverty. It would create the basis for fulfilling the national aspirations of the smaller nationalities and protecting the rights of all nationalities. Only a genuine socialist alternative with a democratically-elected and accountable leadership can put forward such a programme.
An elite gone berserk !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I think its already too late for failed politicians of Pakistan to save this country for which so many sacrificed, I been saying for years that Pakistan will become another SOMALIA, lets face reality that Army Generals, Politicians, bureaucrats, Mullahs, bourgeois and elite is responsible for destroying Pakistan. Pakistani politicians never had any agenda for developing the country, in this country elite is responsible for keeping people of this country backward and illiterate, where over 40 million people have no education, Islam has never been an issue in Pakistan. The cry of 'Islam in danger' is a powerful weapon and slogan of Pakistani politicians and Army generals. General Zia fully utilized the process of Islamization to achieve his political ends. The whole sprit of Qur’an is dynamic as pointed out by so many great Islamic thinkers like Jamaluddin Afghani, Muhammad Abduh, Sir Syed and Muhammad Iqbal. They waged real jihad against stagnation, dogmatism, ignorance and superstition in the name of Islam. It is highly necessary to revive the spirit of these great Islamic thinkers and activists. Their jihad was real jihad. Their main weapons were knowledge, understanding and constant efforts to change. Iqbal represented this spirit in his much quoted verse which says Firm conviction, constant efforts and overpowering universal love are the weapons of men in jihad of life. This is a challenge for us all Muslims. We must turn into a great opportunity and change the image of Islam in the modern world. Mullhas tell you what happens after death but they never told you how to live in this world, no one cared about education of people, selfish leaders of this country go to USA and WEST and ask for charity and then steal all aid money. Elite use name of Islam for their benefits, Cruel dictator Zia did not hesitate to introduce religious fanaticism for keeping himself in power. Nawaz sharif will do anything to get power, It was democratic government of Pakistan that created Taliban movement and installed Taliban government in Afghanistan. Nawaz Sharif, after meeting Osama bin Laden personally at least three times in Saudi Arabia and receiving a huge donation for reelection campaign, democratically elected government of Pakistan under Nawaz Sharif facilitated relocation of Osama bin Laden from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996 to prove his (Sharif’s) own confides as a ‘true jehadi’ because Osama had taunted Sharif not being a ‘true jehadi’ in one of the meetings. The existing situations or expansions of Taliban in the regions were due to previous Mulla's govt in Pukhtoon land. It is a shame that Pakistani Army only takes action against criminal Taliban and their leaders when Washington force them, otherwise they have no will and sincerity to shoot these criminals who are involve in crimes against humanity. Pakistan seems to have a majority of moderate Muslims and a minority of crazed, religious fundamentals. Who will prevail??? Hard to say, but the religious wack-jobs definitely seem to operate as they wish. As a result, it's a problem. When extremist distort and totally misinterpret the Prophet Mohammad's teachings, they act like a bunch of crazed teen-agers high on Ecstasy with loaded weapons. It's a shame . But then again people like QAZI HUSSAIN whose son got educated in States, wants sons of poor to take part in his senseless marches and dharnas creates fanatics. Pir Pagara who loves to predict political events keeping his followers without education. All these so called failed politicians wants to be Prime Minister but no one talks about the miseries of people living in Pakistan. None of these so called ignorant politicians talk about education, health, poverty, terrorism, they don’t care about people who are committing suicide because of poverty, people who are selling their kids and kidneys for money. Most of the Politicians lack qualifications, experience and even commitment to tackle the problems of the Country. Politics and power dominates their agenda and real issues of poverty, illiteracy and disease do not fare in their book. Anyone who expects them to lead the country to peace and prosperity must be dreaming. The representatives of the people need to pass certain tests of eligibility. Character, ability, a sense of responsibility and experience are necessary ingredients of that eligibility, but in Pakistani Politics we don’t see that, a lot of these politicians, even can’t sign their names in English or Urdu. Typical Pakistani politicians thinks this following way. 1. They consider themselves higher than their institutions. 2. They believe - or at least that is what they claim - that only they can save the country. 3. Only they know what is right for their parties and for the country. 4. They make “temporary” compromises for their own personal interest. 5. They try to maintain a vacuum of leadership so that the party is identified with them - and no-one else. Where is the discussion about the higher education in Pakistan? How are the top notch scientists, engineers and doctors going to be trained? When will govt start pouring funds into these fields? I don’t really understand whether Pakistan and Pakistanis wants to become a peaceful and hopeful country or not. India, China and Iran are surging ahead in research and development. Pakistan is caught up in political and ideological quagmire. India and China will be super powers by year 2050. Leader means visionary personality who can lead others to achieve certain vision. Pakistan’s condition in over 60 year of its ‘independence is one of tragedy; it is a country which has lost its way and whose politicians care little for its reputation. It is not sufficient to change from military leaders to political leaders without changing the underlying political system. It will not work now, nor has it ever worked in the past. There is no check and balance in Pakistan. What Pakistan therefore needs is clear, a comprehensive change of system not a return to the failed politics of the past and another set of cosmetic leadership changes. Retired General Pervez Musharraf would be most remembered for his failure to change the political landscape of the country. In this he would share the fate of other three generals who attempted to remake the political structure of the country and who failed miserably, all three generals failed to establish a new political order in the country, they did achieve a certain degree of success in destroying Pakistan’s social, economic, and cultural landscape. Ayub Khan’s long reign fortified feudal culture, provided new opportunities to the rich to become richer, and gave unprecedented leverage to the notorious thirty-two families who controlled most of the industrial and agricultural holdings of Pakistan. This concentration of wealth in a few hands deprived the poor and middle classes of any genuine role in the country’s political and social structure. General Zia’s failure to bring any substantial changes in the political culture of Pakistan was primarily due to the fact that he was not really interested in this task; his own survival was his greatest concern. During his long reign, he presided over a process of rapid deterioration of the social fabric of the country and allowed a handful of military generals to amass huge amounts of money. The new power mafia which emerged during his reign brought a culture of drugs and violence even to those segments of Pakistani society where such things were unimaginable until then. General Musharraf has done to Pakistan what no other man has before him: his draconian measures have produced a total break down of Pakistani society in a manner never seen before. It may seem premature to pronounce the final verdict, yet it is absolutely clear that Musharraf’s ruthlessness is responsible for the emergence of unprecedented violence in Pakistan. He also allowed plunder of state resources at a level and of an order not seen before. His attempts to restructure Pakistani politics through exiling political leaders have been an utter failure. He relied on turn coats, just as his predecessors had, but it is a truism that one can only rent the loyalties of Pakistan’s corrupt politicians, they cannot be bought permanently. The rented loyalties are always available for anyone ready to pay higher rents. It cannot be denied that political power and authority were snatched away by the bureaucrats and generals after the assassination of the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, in October 1951.The former US national security advisor, Robert C. McFarlane rightly observed that the democratic system in Pakistan is comprised of "a few families struggling with one another to achieve absolute power and are inevitably, in Lord Acton's phrase, corrupted absolutely." The feudal controllers of the government appear to have a long-term strategy to maintain the status quo by ignoring human resources development and keeping the masses illiterate. Even before independence, the feudal lords blocked spread of education in their respective areas for selfish reasons. Since independence, all governments have without exception, deliberately curbed the spread of literacy. Education has never been a priority with any form of government whether it was a democratic or a military one. Since all governments, including the martial law regimes, solely depended on feudal support, they intentionally suppressed education, a potential threat to the status quo. Ironically, the billionaire club of our ruling elite, that enjoys all the privileges and political clout, does not pay any taxes. Generally, everyone who is some one in Pakistan does not like to pay his or her tax. Despite having declared assets of Rs 676.8 million of the Sharif family, , Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, filed a zero income tax and deficit wealth tax returns, in1998. According to the tax statements of June 30, 1998, total income tax paid by the 11-member Sharif family was just Rs 0.25 million. The family also paid Rs 0.55 million as wealth tax and 0.13 million as agriculture tax raising the total tax payment of the family to Rs 0.94 million and Nawaz family is not the only political family, there is a long list of other politicians and elite who does not pay tax. One can write thousand of books on selfish, failed Pakistani Generals and politicians, corrupt elite, bourgeois, cruel feudal lords, selfish bureaucratic system, but how to get rid of this selfish group of elite in Pakistan?, The Chinese revolution came about with the collapse of the Manchu dynasty, a result of increasing internal disorders, pressure from foreign governments, and the weakness of central government, that’s what we see in Pakistan today. I think we need a true revolutionary in Pakistan before this country breaks up.
“A great revolution is never the fault of the people, but of the government.” Goethe
What else do you expect if you have pumpkins as your rulers and elite? At this point in time, vicious storms are gathering threateningly on the country’s western borders. After years of calm, the LoC is becoming uncomfortably live too, with the Indians pointing finger at us for the recent spate of bomb blasts in their country and accusing the ISI of the terrorist attack on their Kabul embassy as well. In the tribal belt and the settled areas in the vicinity, the extremists are becoming increasingly aggressive and a law unto themselves, behaving like a sovereign power, dictating terms to the state authorities for peace, and even projecting themselves as the alternative leadership for the Islamabad throne. But how are these elites reacting to all these threats and dangers? By setting deadlines, by announcing long marches, by threatening sit-ins, isn’t it? But what for? For their own self-driven agendas and for their own maddening pursuits of settling personal scores; isn’t it? Have you ever heard any of them ever making some sensible proposal or mooting some wise idea in detail for facing up to these threats? Isn’t it that you hear of only silly noises and populists slogans coming forth from their loud mouths? To cope with all these challenges, a visionary gracing the ranks of the opposition-in-wilderness has a gem of wisdom. Just redraw a new constitution, is his magic recipe. But the sage doesn’t tell how his magic formula would bring about his touted miracle when these challenges are immediate needing instantaneous remedial actions, while framing a constitution anew needs months upon months, if not years, in spite of the best intents and efforts of its framers. And that unbeatable intellectual light and unsurpassable political wizard who has anointed himself as this nation’s spiritual guru and its political guide, Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif, the head honcho of the PML (N), he has only a plaintive refrain to make to address all these existential threats to us. The ruling PPP leadership, he complains, has not taken him and his party into confidence on the moves taken to come to grips with these challenges. And that is it that he has all on this score. What do you make of it if not that his heart is not in these issues, even though of so fundamental import to this country’s existence and its security and stability? He is all obsessed with his blinding madness to avenge his ouster by the retired general and somehow get him and drag him to the gallows. Ludicrously, he has catapulted his obsession into the people’s mandate in the February poll, whereas the people had rejected him outright in Sindh and Balochistan, even in the subsequent bye-elections, and it is only in the NWFP where he could muster up a sprinkling of public vote and in Punjab where his party was though the largest but not even in simple majority. The PPP says, and rightly, that it holds a countrywide people’s mandate, which it secured not for the judges’ reinstatement but for its promise of roti, kapra aur makan. Yes, it did. But where is roti? Has not the runaway food inflation on its watch snatched roti from many more mouths? Has indeed anyone any idea what a piece of roti now costs, what rate a cup of tea sells in a shabby roadside eatery, and what price a plate of pulse is sold at? Does anyone in the PPP, or in the elite, for that matter, know that a labourer from Swabi in Islamabad has to spend more than half of his day’s earning on just his food and the rest he consumes up in the days he finds no work, leaving not even a paisa with him to send home for his hungry children and starving family? Does anyone in this elite nobility knows that he sleeps at night on the pavements, as do numerous labourers who work for a day or two and remain idle for days on end for no job? Has anyone in the gentry strutting on the national political landscape so grandiosely even a slight idea that jobless, hungry and starving pavement sleepers in cities and metropolises alike are multiplying by leaps and bounds in these days? These elites across the spectrum must wake up to the horrendous realities on the ground. If it becomes a Somalia of this country, as it seems heading to terribly, where would they stage their long marches and sit-ins, and to whom will they be setting deadlines to meet? They must change, their politics must change, their rhetoric must change, and their idiom must change before it is too late. A stormy tide is evidently in the making to ferociously sweep away each and all.