Pakistan falling apart?

By Patrick Cockburn

It has suffered disaster after disaster. Its people have lived through crisis upon crisis. Its leaders are unwilling or unable to act. But is it really the failed state that many believe?
Is Pakistan disintegrating? Are the state and society coming apart under the impact of successive political and natural disasters? The country swirls with rumours about the fall of the civilian government or even a military coup. The great Indus flood has disappeared from the headlines at home and abroad, though millions of farmers are squatting in the ruins of their villages. The US is launching its heaviest-ever drone attacks on targets in the west of the country, and Pakistan closed the main US and Nato supply route through the Khyber Pass after US helicopters crossed the border and killed Pakistani soldiers.

Pakistan is undoubtedly in a bad way, but it is also a country with more than 170 million people, a population greater than Russia's, and is capable of absorbing a lot of punishment. It is a place of lop-sided development. It possesses nuclear weapons but children were suffering from malnutrition even before the floods. Electricity supply is intermittent so industrialists owning textile mills in Punjab complain that they have to use their own generators to stay in business. Highways linking cities are impressive, but the driver who turns off the road may soon find himself bumping along a farmer's track. The 617,000-strong army is one of the strongest in the world, but the government has failed to eliminate polio or malaria. Everybody agrees that higher education must be improved if Pakistan is to compete in the modern world, but the universities have been on strike because their budgets had been cut and they could not pay their staff.

The problem for Pakistan is not that the country is going to implode or sink into anarchy, but that successive crises do not produce revolutionary or radical change. A dysfunctional and corrupt state, part-controlled by the army, staggers on and continues to misgovern the country. The merry-go-round of open or veiled military rule alternates with feeble civilian governments. But power stays in the hands of an English-speaking élite that inherited from the British rulers of the Raj a sense of superiority over the rest of the population.

The present government might just squeak through the post-flood crisis because of its weakness rather than its strength. The military has no reason to replace it formally since the generals already control security policy at home and abroad, as well as foreign policy and anything else they deem important to their interests. The ambition of the Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, in the next few weeks is to try to fight off the demand by the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, that the legal immunity of President Asif Ali Zardari should be lifted. Mr Zardari, who owes his position to having been the husband of Benazir Bhutto, assassinated in 2007, has a well-established (though unproven) reputation for corruption during his pre-presidential days. Whatever the outcome of the struggle with the Supreme Court, Mr Zardari is scarcely in a position to stand up to the military leaders who may find it convenient to have such a discredited civilian leader nominally in power.

The military have ruled Pakistan for more than half the time since independence in 1947, but their control has never been quite absolute. The soldiers have never managed to put the politicians and the political parties permanently out of business, so the balance between military and non-military still counts. But there is no doubt about which way the struggle is going. A decisive moment came on 24 July this year when General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff, was reappointed for another three-year term. The US embassy in Islamabad is said by foreign diplomats and Pakistani officials to have protested vigorously but unavailingly to Washington. It said that keeping General Kayani in place would inflict a fatal wound on democracy and demonstrate that the civilian government could not get rid of its own army commander. In the event, Washington, always a crucial influence in Islamabad, decided that it would prefer to deal with a single powerful figure able to deliver in negotiations over Afghanistan. This was in keeping with US policy towards Pakistan since the 1950s. "We were put under intense pressure to keep Kayani,"� said an aide of President Zardari's. "We were left with no choice."�

In one sense, the army never really left power after the fall of General Pervez Musharraf in 2008. It has continued to allocate to itself an extraordinarily high proportion of Pakistan's limited resources. Military bases all over the country look spruce and well cared-for, while just outside their razor-wire defences are broken roads and slum housing. At the entrance of a base just west of Islamabad last week was an elderly but effective-looking tank as a monument, the ground around it parade-ground clean. A few hundred yards away, a yellow bulldozer was driving through thick mud to make a flood-damaged road passable two months after the deluge, while a side street nearby was closed by a pool of stagnant grey-coloured water. At the other end of the country in northern Sindh, a local leader, who like many critics of the Pakistani military did not want his name published, pointed to a wide canal. He said: "This canal is not meant to be taking water from the Indus, but it is allowed to operate because it irrigates land owned by army officers."�

The army projects a messianic image of itself in which it selflessly takes power to save the nation. It likes to contrast its soldierly virtues of incorruptibility and efficiency with the crookedness and ineptitude of civilians. "The army is very good at claiming to be the solution to problems which it has itself created,"� complained a local politician in Punjab. "It is also good at ascribing all failures to civilian governments, which cannot act because the army monopolises resources." He added caustically that in his area, the floods had arrived on 6 August and the first army assistance on 26 August.

Politicians and journalists criticising the army often employ code words where more is implied than stated. But last month, a government minister made a pungent attack on the army that astonished listening journalists. The minister for defence production, Abdul Qayyum Jatoi, directly accused the army of being behind the killing of the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007, and the revered Baluchi leader Nawab Bugti, a year earlier.

"We did not provide the army with uniforms and boots to kill their own countrymen,"� Mr Jatoi said bluntly, suggesting that the army leaders do their duty by going to defend Pakistan's frontiers and end rumours of a coup. He added: "Not only politicians should be blamed for corruption, rather [army] generals and judges should be held responsible."�

Mr Jatoi's words reflect what Pakistanis say about the army in private, but seldom dare do so in public. He paid a price for his forthrightness, since Mr Gilani promptly sacked him and he is being accused of high treason in a petition before the courts. He says he does not miss his job very much because all the important decisions in his ministry were in any case taken by the military. Pakistanis are unhappy because every week seems to bring another piece of bad news. The country is highly politicised with millions of people observing with acute interest the struggles for power at the central and local level. Taxi drivers discuss the make-up of the Supreme Court and its future composition. When it comes to open and lively political disputes, Pakistan is more like Lebanon, with its tradition of weak government but free expression of opinion, than Russia or Egypt with their supine and intimidated populations. Political parties in Pakistan are powerful and, given an ineffectual and corrupt administrative apparatus, everybody believes he or she needs somebody of influence to protect their interests. The army likes to denigrate civilian politicians as "feudalists", but in practice, big landowners have limited political power. Politicians gain influence through helping "clients" who need their support and that of their parties. "All politics here is really about jobs,"� says National Assembly member Mir Dost Muhammad Mazari.

Pakistan may not be falling apart, but the floods and the economic crisis – the government is bankrupt and inflation is at 18-20 per cent – means that every Pakistani I meet, be they small farmers, generals, industrialists or tribal leaders, is gloomy about the future. Each negative incident is interpreted as a sign of Pakistan's decline and a menacing omen of worse to come. Two recent scandals, both filmed as they happened and shown on as many as 26 cable television news channels, appear to confirm that the country is saturated with corruption and violence. This explosion of news channels has happened only in the past few years and makes it far more difficult to censor information.

One scandal was the notorious allegation of match-fixing in return for bribes made against Pakistani cricketers touring England. Commentators noted acidly that it was typical of the political system that the highly unpopular head of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Ijaz Butt, could not be dismissed by the defence minister, Ahmad Mukhtar, because he is the latter's brother-in-law. The scandal was peculiarly damaging because it broke in August just as the government was trying to persuade the world to give it large sums of money for flood relief.

A second scandal, which may have horrified Pakistanis even more than the bribery case in England, took place a few days earlier. News out of Pakistan at the time was all about the devastating floods and it received little international attention, but the gory events were again played endlessly on television. They took place on 15 August in the city of Sialkot, north of Lahore, where two wholly innocent teenagers called Hafiz Sajjad, 18, and Mohammed Muneeb Sajjad, 15, were misidentified as robbers and lynched by a crowd in the middle of a city street. Uniformed police stood nonchalantly by as men with iron rods and sticks took turns over a period of hours to beat the boys to death. Their mangled bodies were finally hung upside down in the market and the case only became know because a courageous television reporter had accidentally witnessed and secretly filmed what happened.

The Sialkot lynching shows Pakistani society at its worst. It also illustrates what happens when there is a breakdown in the administration of justice. In this case, the local police are reported to have routinely killed alleged criminals or handed them over to lynch mobs. This breakdown in the administration of justice is general. I asked Pashtun tribal elders in a town near Lakki Marwat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province what they most needed. They all said governance: some form of effective local government administration. In south Punjab I went to a tribal court where 100 tough-looking Baluchi tribesmen had submitted a land dispute to a respected leader of their tribe. It was a complicated case involving a grandfather's will written in 1985 that left 12 acres of land unequally to the sons of his two marriages. The will was not very precise but nobody cared at first because the land was in the desert. But then one member of the family started to irrigate it and made it productive, leading to a rancorous dispute about ownership. The claimants to the land had chosen binding arbitration by a respected local leader, because a decision would be swift and free. They said that if they went through the state courts, the case could take years and the judges and police could be bribed.

But incidents such as the Sialkot lynching do not mean that the country is slipping into primal anarchy like Somalia. The Western world looks at Pakistan primarily in relation to Afghanistan, the Taliban, extreme jihadi Islam and the "war on terror". In a country of 170 million people there are always episodes that can be used as evidence to illustrate any trend, such as the belief that Pakistan is filled with bloodthirsty Islamic militants bent on holy war. Earlier this year, Foreign Policy magazine in Washington, which compiles an annual list of failed states, placed Pakistan 10th on the list, claiming that it showed more signs of state failure than Haiti and Yemen, and is only slightly more stable than Somalia and Yemen.

The country's high ranking in the survey tells one more about the paranoid state of mind of Washington post-9/11 than what is actually happening. There is no incentive to play down the "Islamic threat to Pakistan" on the part of any journalist who wants his or her story to be published, think-tankers who need a grant, or diplomats who seek promotion. The influence and prospects for growth of small jihadi organisations are systematically exaggerated. Over-attentive reading of the Koran is seen as the first step on the road to Islamic terrorism. Overstated claims about their activities by fundamentalist Islamic groups are happily lapped up and repeated.

Stories acquire a life of their own, regardless of their factual basis. During the recent floods, the foreign media reported on how militant Islamic groups were prominent and energetic in distributing aid to victims, the suggestion being that they will use their enhanced status to recruit more young men for holy war. This is supposedly what they did during the Kashmir earthquake of 2005, which killed 75,000 people whom it was difficult to reach because they lived high in the mountains. Christine Fair, an expert on Pakistan at Georgetown University in Washington, eloquently demolishes this and other spurious stories about the growth of militant Islam in Pakistan. She cites a survey of 28,000 households in 126 villages in Kashmir in which one-quarter of the inhabitants said they had received aid from international agencies, 7 per cent from non-militant Islamic charities, and just 1 per cent from the Islamic militant groups. Of course, the militantly religious of all kinds are likely to be to the front in helping survivors of any disaster, because most faiths adjure their adherents to help others in a crisis. The only person I met during a visit to flooded areas who could in any way be described as a religious militant engaged in relief work was an amiable German Pentecostalist waiting for a flight in Lahore airport.

Another hardy-perennial story about Pakistan claims that because of the undoubted inadequacy of the Pakistani public education system, madrasahs, or religious schools, provide free education to the needy. Once enrolled, the children are supposedly brainwashed to turn them into the future foot soldiers of jihadi Islam. In reality, Pakistani educational specialists say that just 1.3 per cent of children in school go the madrasahs, 65 per cent to public schools, and 34 per cent to non-religious private schools. In recent years, it is the small and affordable private schools that have expanded fastest, mainly because jobs in them are open to educated women prepared to accept low pay. Most jihadis turn out to have been educated at public schools.

Extreme Islamists have seldom done well in elections in Pakistan. Widespread popular support for the Afghan Taliban stems primarily from the conviction that they are essentially a Pashtun national liberation movement fighting a foreign occupation. The Pakistani Taliban was once said to be "60 miles from Islamabad", but such scaremongering ignored the fact that there were three mountain ranges and one of the world's most powerful armies in between the Taliban's rag-tag fighters and the capital. The Pakistani state may not function very well but it is not failing, and – a pity – current crises may not even change it very much.

Sept. 11, 2010: The Right Way to Remember

Barack Obama: US remains one nation
Barack Obama has called on Americans to observe religious tolerance and make sure "we don't start turning on each other".

Nine years after terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, a memorial and a transportation hub are taking recognizable shape and skyscrapers are finally starting to rise from the ashes of ground zero.

That physical rebirth is cause for celebration on this anniversary. It is a far more fitting way to defy the hate-filled extremists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor their victims, than to wallow in the intolerance and fear that have mushroomed across the nation. They are fed by the kind of bigotry exhibited by the would-be book burner in Florida, and, sadly, nurtured by people in positions of real power, including prominent members of the Republican Party.

The most important sight at ground zero now is Michael Arad’s emerging memorial. The shells of two giant pools are 30 feet deep and are set almost exactly in the places where the towers once were.

The huge waterfalls around the sides, the inscribed names of victims and the plaza are promised by the 10th anniversary next year. But two 70-foot tridents that were once at the base of the twin towers were installed last week. The museum will be built around them by 2012. And the first 16 of 416 white swamp oaks were planted on the eight-acre surface.

Surrounding that memorial will be a ring of commercial towers — eventually to be filled with workers, commuters, shoppers, tourists, the full cacophony of New York City. The tallest skyscraper is now a third of the way up. The developer Larry Silverstein has one of his skyscrapers taking shape — this one by the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. The bases of two more are finally beyond the planning stage.

The first outlines of Santiago Calatrava’s elegant PATH station are visible. Giant white ribs and other structures that will support the birdlike hall are moving into place. The temporary PATH station shuttles 70,000 commuters a day through the construction site.

After years of political lassitude and financial squabbling, rebuilding at the site began in earnest two years ago. That was when Mayor Michael Bloomberg exerted his considerable muscle to make sure the memorial is finished by 2011. At about the same time, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey established more control of the site. The authority and the mayor turned out to be a good team.

That cooperation and the visible progress are such a contrast with the way some political figures have been trying to use the Sept. 11 attacks to generate antipathy toward all Muslims. For weeks, politicians — mostly but definitely not all on the right — have been fanning the public controversy over plans to build an Islamic community center two blocks away from ground zero.

Then, Terry Jones, a minor preacher in Florida, managed to create a major furor by scheduling a ritual burning of the Koran for Sept. 11. Alarmed by hyperbolic news coverage, the top general in Afghanistan, the secretary of defense, the State Department and the president warned that such a bonfire would endanger Americans and American troops around the world.

It was bad enough to see a fringe figure acting out for cable news and Web sites, but it was deeply disturbing to hear John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, equate Mr. Jones’s antics with the Muslim center.

In both cases, he told ABC News, “Just because you have a right to do something in America does not mean it is the right thing to do.” The Constitution does, indeed, protect both, but they are not morally equivalent. In New York City, a group of Muslims is trying to build something. Mr. Jones and his supporters are trying to tear down more than two centuries of religious tolerance.

It is a good time to remember what President Obama said on Friday, echoing the words of President George W. Bush after the attacks: “We’re not at war with Islam. We’re at war with terrorist organizations.”


In its Flood Response Plan, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) identified nearly $460,000,000 of funding needs for the humanitarian response. According to OneResponse, a humanitarian tracking website run by OCHA, 55 percent of those funding needs are still unmet.
How You Can Help
In the U.S. text SWAT to 50555 to make a $10 donation to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or donate online from international locations.

Aid Agencies Taking Donations

Save the Children
Islamic Relief USA
Relief International
American Red Cross
International Rescue Committee
Other Ways to Help

Google Person Finder
Report missing or found persons
Sahana Eden
Help enter data into Sahana's response coordination database
Pakistan Flood Incident Reporting
Contribute to a crowdsourced map tracking flood-related incidents.

Pakistan's government estimates some 15.4 million people have been affected by massive flooding this summer, making it the country's worst-ever natural disaster.

« Click to see a U.N. infographic on how the floods compare to other natural disasters in Pakistan (PDF)

In its Flood Response Plan, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) identified nearly $460,000,000 of funding needs for the humanitarian response. According to OneResponse, a humanitarian tracking website run by OCHA, 55 percent of those funding needs are still unmet.

How You Can Help
In the U.S. text SWAT to 50555 to make a $10 donation to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or donate online from international locations.

Aid Agencies Taking Donations

Save the Children
Islamic Relief USA
Relief International
American Red Cross
International Rescue Committee
Other Ways to Help

Google Person Finder
Report missing or found persons
Sahana Eden
Help enter data into Sahana's response coordination database
Pakistan Flood Incident Reporting

Pakistan: A Lifetime, Washed Away

New York Times

A few days ago, I stood atop a 30-foot-high levee in Pakistan’s south Punjab, looking out as the waters from the greatest Indus River flood in memory flowed past, through orchards, swirling around a village on higher ground half a mile out. Twenty miles wide, the flood was almost dreamlike, the speeding water, as it streamed through the upper branches of trees, carrying along bits of brightly colored plastic and clumps of grass.

Many of the displaced people had left the area in the past few days, driving whatever was left of their herds, carrying whatever they were able to rescue. In Pakistan, your primary loyalty is to your biraderi, an untranslatable word, something like clan, but more visceral and entailing greater responsibility and connection. You marry among your biraderi, you must travel and be present when a member of your biraderi is married or buried and, in times of trouble, you stand by your biraderi. In Frost’s words, they are the people who, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

The hundreds of people camped on the levee were those who had no biraderi outside the flooded area, or who couldn’t afford to make the journey to them. Each family had claimed a little spot, made it home, rigged up some sort of shelter like a blanket on a frame of branches. Many had rescued a bag or two of grain, and they sat combing this out in the dirt, trying to dry it. As I walked past, I could smell that much of the grain had spoiled, a bitter loamy odor.

These families’ poverty and loss shone in the little piles of their belongings, the things they had carried with them when the water came: two or three cheap tin plates, a kettle. In one family’s encampment, discordantly, sat a dresser with a mirrored door — how did the man who had brought that through the floodwater think it would be useful?

I found most pitiful a family gathered around a prostrate brown-and-white brindled cow. The father told me that the cow had been lost in the water for four days, and the previous night it had clambered up on another section of the levee, a mile away. The people of this area recognize their cattle as easily as you or I recognize a cousin or neighbor — they sleep with their animals around them at night, and graze them all day; their animals are born and die near them. Someone passing by told the family that their cow had been found, and the father went and got it and led it to their little encampment.

In the early morning the cow had collapsed, and I could see it would soon be dead. Its eyes were beginning to dull, as the owner squatted next to it, sprinkling water into its mouth, as if it were possible to revive it. Its legs were swollen from standing in water, and its chest and torso were covered with deep cuts and scrapes, sheets of raw flesh where branches rushing past must have hit it.

The rest of the family sat nearby on a string bed, resigned, waiting for the end. This was their wealth, but when it died they would tip it into the water and let it float away to the south. Through the past few days they had seen it all, houses collapsed, trees uprooted, grain spoiled, and this was just one more blow.

Driving back to my farm, which has (so far) been spared from the flood, an image of the cow’s ordeal kept coming to me: splashing through the flood for hours and hours, at dusk or in the blank overcast night, with nothing around it but a vast expanse of water stretching away, an image of perfect loneliness. It must have found high ground, waited there as the water rose, then set off again, driven by hunger. In the immensity of the unfolding tragedy, this littler one, this moment of its death, seemed comprehensible to me, significant.

It is difficult to convey the scope of what was lost by those who had labored with ax and shovel to bring this land under cultivation. Fifty years ago, the area was all savanna, waving fields of reeds and elephant grass running for a thousand miles on both sides of the river. As a boy, I hunted there for partridge, walking among a line of beaters, the tall grasses so dense that I was invisible to the next man only 10 feet away. This was wild country.

But in the years since, these people tamed the land, leveling it by hand, expanding their plots acre by acre, until they had conquered it all. Last year, from where I stood on the levee, one would have seen orderly fields proceeding all the way to the river on the horizon. These lands had not been flooded in living memory, and so people built solid houses and granaries, planted trees, raised mosques. This was their life’s work.

Now all that has been swept away. In this area, the best-paying crop by far is sugar cane, which was to be cut in November but now stands submerged, except for the tips of the fronds, dead and rusty gray on the surface. When the water recedes, the people will, if they are lucky enough to have any, sell their cattle and their wives’ ornaments, their dowry gold, to rebuild the watercourses and to level the fields. Some will plant winter wheat, but it will be sown late and will not pay, not enough to cover the costs of reclaiming the land.

Others may plant another crop of cane, which will be sown in February and harvested the following October, 14 months away. Before that, they will have no income whatsoever. The generosity of these people’s relatives, their biraderi, cannot possibly carry them through. They are ruined, and there are millions of them.

This disaster is not like an earthquake or a tsunami. In the 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, 80,000 people died more or less at one blow; whereas the immediate death toll from this flood is likely to be in the low thousands. The loss of property, however, is catastrophic. It is as if a neutron bomb exploded overhead, but instead of killing the people and leaving their houses intact, it piled trees upon the houses and swept away the villages and crops and animals, leaving the people alive.

For months and even years, the people of the Indus Valley will not have sufficient income for food or clothing. They will rebuild, if they can afford it, by inches. The corrupt and impoverished Pakistani government cannot possibly make these people’s lives whole again. It’s not hard to imagine the potential for radicalization in a country already rapidly turning to extremist political views, to envision the anarchy that may be unleashed if wealthier nations do not find a way to provide sufficient relief. This is not a problem that will go away, and it is the entire world’s problem. It is said, the most violent revolutions are the revolutions of the stomach.
Daniyal Mueenuddin, a mango farmer, is the author of the story collection “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders.”

Pakistan floods: victims not receiving aid quickly enough

Imran Khan: a Taliban Goebbels?

By —Dr Mohammad Taqi
Daily times

The PTI and its leader are perhaps politically insignificant, but conceding space to such Ziaist propaganda has the potential to radicalise the nation, especially our youth. Fortunately, Mr Khan is not perceived as an American stooge — he is seen as a Taliban apologist

“The lowest form of popular culture — lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives — has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage” — Carl Bernstein, US journalist.

Perhaps ordinary Pakistanis are not much better off either. But it is not just the journalists embedded with the jihadists who are peddling nonsense. Among the politicians, Mr Imran Khan keeps outdoing himself in the craft of black propaganda. He has been stuffing people with this Goebbels-speak for years and, unfortunately, the western print media is one such avenue he uses to push his outlandish assertions.

While the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman, Muslim Khan, had the dubious courage to clearly own up to the savagery of his outfit, Mr Imran Khan, who is the head and de facto chief spokesman of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, stoops to the lowest levels of skulduggery in defending Taliban atrocities. Sheer disinformation, misinformation, contempt for truth, and an utter disregard for the realities of people’s lives, particularly of the Pashtuns, are what Mr Khan’s spoken and written words are all about.

He seems to have perfected the art of repeating half-truths and quite often just plain lies over and over again. In his article ‘Don’t blame Pakistan for the failure of the war’ (The Times, UK, July 27, 2010), he has some real gems to share. He writes: “Before the West invaded Afghanistan, my country had no suicide bombers, no jihad and no Talibanisation.”

Perhaps Mr Khan had been too busy playing cricket to take note of al Qaeda’s activities in the early 1990s at Abdullah Azzam’s Maktab-al-Khidmat — a base camp in Peshawar for Arab jihadists. Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden met each other in Peshawar courtesy Professor Azzam. Suicide bombings were not a norm then, but Azzam himself was killed in a car bombing in November 1989, allegedly orchestrated by his more extremist friends. He disagreed with their concept of takfir, i.e. declaring people who did not meet their definition of Muslim as infidels, who they believed deserved to be murdered. Benazir Bhutto, Dr Najibullah, several Arab rulers and Muslim minorities were placed in this category.

The early 1990s were the formative years of world jihadism and these men in Peshawar were not confined to just Afghanistan. The Afghan-Arabs, as they became known, worked hand in glove with all varieties of Pakistani jihadists and after 1992, Afghan territory was used for their cause. For example, training and sanctuary were provided at the Al-Badr camp in Khost to terrorists who unleashed havoc in Pakistan and around the world.

Mr Khan has completely glossed over the terrorist acts of the jihadists trained in the Pak-Afghan border regions. Riaz Basra of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was one such figure who was involved in over 300 acts of terror on Pakistani soil, including an attempt on Mian Nawaz Sharif’s life, way before the US forces had set foot in Afghanistan. Along with Akram Lahori and Malik Ishaq, Basra had used the training facilities in Sarobi (near Jalalabad). This was the beginning of Talibanisation in Pakistan.

While the terrorist cadres were trained in Afghanistan, their leadership was groomed at various madrassas in Pakistan. However, Mr Imran Khan is either ignorant of this fact or is protecting such nefarious characters when he writes, “Until that point [army action in FATA in 2004], we had no militant Taliban in Pakistan. We had militant groups, but our own military establishment was able to control them. We had madrassas, but none of them produced militants intent on jihad until we became a frontline state in the war on terror.”

Only two entities from what is literally the Ivy League of the jihadist network need a mention to refute Mr Khan’s claim. Karachi’s Jamia Islamia aka Binori Mosque has produced hundreds of jihadist leaders that include Maulana Azam Tariq of Sipah-e-Sahaba, Qari Saifullah Akhtar and Maulana Fazlur Rahman Khalil, the leaders of Harkatul Jihad Al-Islami, and the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Maulana Masood Azhar. The association of this madrassa’s patron (Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai) with the Afghan Taliban, especially Mullah Omar, is well known.

It might not have dawned on Mr Imran Khan but Jalaluddin Haqqani carries the title Haqqani for a reason — he had spent six years at Darul-Uloom Haqqaniah in Akora Khattak. Among the top 32 officials in Mullah Omar’s government, 11 — including six top ministers — were educated in madrassas in Pakistan. Out of these 11, seven were students at the Haqqaniah seminary. The US was nowhere in the picture when the alumni of these madrassas were on a killing spree in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Mr Khan betters himself still when he claims, “After the WikiLeaks revelations yesterday, reports are being floated that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is aiding the Afghan militancy. The fact is that the ISI is not that powerful, but certainly in an environment of chaos and uncertainty Pakistan will need to protect its interests through all means necessary.” Even the ISI may take serious offence to this, as it is positioning itself as the power that can deliver the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network, provided the new set-up in Kabul is to its liking.

These assertions by Mr Khan might even be amusing if he was not capable of even worse assertions. Blaming the US for all ills is one thing, but he has as easily blamed the victims of terrorism. Writing about the Karsaz bombing in ‘Benazir Bhutto has only herself to blame’ (The Telegraph, UK, October 21, 2007), he noted, “I am sorry to say this, but the bombing of Benazir Bhutto’s cavalcade as she paraded through Karachi on Thursday night was a tragedy almost waiting to happen. You could argue it was is different for me campaigning in public, even in the frontier region, because I am not perceived as an American stooge, or a supporter of the war on terror.” Benazir and not the takfiris were to be blamed as per Mr Khan’s views!

The PTI and its leader are perhaps politically insignificant, but conceding space to such Ziaist propaganda has the potential to radicalise the nation, especially our youth. Fortunately, Mr Khan is not perceived as an American stooge — he is seen as a Taliban apologist.

Ahmed Wali Karzai..... The King of Kandahar.

By Janis Mackey Frayer, South Asia bureau chief, CTV News

The most powerful man in Kandahar is alone in his reception room with two mobile phones and a string of prayer beads pinched between his finger and thumb. He rises to greet his visitors, shakes hands, and sits again with a slight sigh. He checks his very gold watch. Then, in keeping with some unspoken routine, Ahmed Wali Karzai begins a ritual discussion of weather and war as they both make Kandahar a harsh place this time of year. "Mainly the Taliban want to have an address," he explains from an armchair, "they want to show something this summer. To show they are still around. That is why there is a good need for a military operation." I ask him if the best way to beat an insurgency is to kill. "You have to show muscles," he says, with a fist pump. "You have to hit them hard, as hard as you can because they have no mercy for anyone." Karzai's detractors might say the same of him. The indisputable don of Afghanistan's hostile south, he has been called a lot of things: a drug profiteer, a thug, a warlord's heavy who threatens critics (or worse). Karzai's well-nurtured notoriety spawns a list of accusations that include paying off the Taliban to grease an empire built around convoys and private security with international contracts from countries like Canada. There is also that business of the CIA and reports that Karzai, the younger half-brother of the country's president, has been on the payroll for years in part to mount a U.S.-funded paramilitary force to kill Taliban. Is any of it true? "My problem is never a legal problem," says Karzai. "It's always a political problem … those international media, they are doing it for some political reason." In the assessment of one coalition official: "Nothing in Afghanistan is clean." Any attempt to reveal incriminating evidence against Ahmed Wali Karzai has so far failed. No government or intelligence agency has ever produced the smoking gun or least nobody has dared. "There is always politics," Karzai says of the accusations leveled against him. "Everybody wants to be in front. Some people, they spread rumours, they stab you in the back." Karzai is a 'fixer'. In Kandahar, that can mean a lot of things. What has been proven over years is that real power in Afghanistan is less a function of government or public service than a spoil of private fiefdom. Guns, money, and control of foreign support are the true benchmarks. To that end, Ahmed Wali Karzai is unstoppable and NATO has no choice but to need him. In diplomatic circles and among the military leadership here, the younger Karzai and his unanswered questions are distilled to the initials ‘AWK' and words like ‘issue' or ‘problem'. "AWK is a concern," sighed a diplomat, "but he is a fact of life." It is an open secret that the international community would like Hamid Karzai to rein him in. AWK is said to be a common worry of the U.S. president and other foreign sponsors whose countries bear the financial and human costs of the war. Karzai the president dismisses any criticism of his brother as baseless, but at times does so at a cost to his own credibility. "It is hard to listen to one and look at the other and be convinced of a virtuous leader," a senior official told me. When most people are asked about AWK, their opinions are shared in hushed voices on the condition they will not be named. Among Afghans, Ahmed Wali Karzai is regarded with complementary doses of respect and fear. On the day I visit his home, men with long beards and hard stares sit quietly in the unofficial waiting room. Their shoes -- I count 37 pairs -- are parked neatly at the steps near the door. They wait with their concerns and needs on the blue-carpeted floor until fate might yield the chance to see him. Karzai is a ‘fixer'. In Kandahar, that can mean a lot of things. "I'm very close to the people, the tribes," says Karzai. "I earn it. I work hard… this is the major thing that I am doing is to keep these things… calm." The Karzai hold on Afghans is firm. His control of for-hire security businesses has effectively created a private army that has thwarted the growth of a viable Afghan National Police force. While patrolling the muddy warrens of a Kandahar neighbourhood, Canadian soldiers walked past the funeral of a young man shot dead that day in the market. Through an interpreter a group of male relatives said he was "killed by one of AWK's men." They told the story of armed security guards looking to settle a score, and that their cousin was hit with a stray bullet. Will they go to police? No, it's AWK, they said. They seemed shocked both by the suggestion they would utter a word and that police would actually listen. Collaborating with Ahmed Wali Karzai is among NATO's bigger gambles in the south. Yet now, more than ever, he is crucial to the mission if it hopes to win anything close to stability in Kandahar. In a report titled ‘Politics and Power in Kandahar', the Institute for the Study of War ( concluded that, "Ahmed Wali Karzai's influence over Kandahar is the central obstacle to any of ISAF's governance objectives, and a consistent policy for dealing with him must be a central element of any new strategy." Its author, Carl Forsberg, went on to predict that Karzai's behaviour and waning popularity among locals will only stir the sort of unrest and vacuum that allows space for the Taliban to exist. Sources hint that Karzai and the need to remodel him form part of the reason why military operations slated for the summer are now effectively delayed until September. There has been an off-the-cuff comparison to the prohibition era of 1930s America, where family cartels thrived on illicit trade and then looked to polish their image to the veneered appearance of legitimacy. It is a trickier venture in Afghanistan. Yet it appears Ahmed Wali Karzai now sees himself as a dean of tribal dynamics and unofficial envoy to international players. "We are winning," Karzai says, with an emphasis on the inclusive. "Taliban is no longer a movement that can threaten the stability of Afghanistan. They can create problems. But I'm not worried sitting in Kandahar with my family that the Taliban will take over." (He claims nine assassination attempts against him in the past three years.) In our interview that stretched nearly an hour, Karzai commended Canada for its efforts, and for bearing the challenges of serving in "the capital of Taliban and Al Qaeda." He raves especially about Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance, who has returned as Commander of Canadian Forces for a few months. "I really hope to see General Vance," he says, "maybe he will come for lunch." I asked Karzai if 2011 was too early for Canadian troops to be leaving Afghanistan. He explained that with 30,000 American troops here now it is no longer the concern of numbers that it was in 2006. Still, he believes it sends the wrong message about commitment, and the Taliban benefits. "It's up to them," Karzai says of Canada's political decision-makers. "If they know the war is over they can leave. The war is still going on. War is still happening." According to some estimates, the war has meant a billion dollar commercial network for the Karzai family through businesses dealing in food, fuel, construction, and security. Canada has one of his firms on contract to guard the Dahla Dam project. As for being a paid operative of the CIA, Karzai never flatly denies the allegation. He says he meets with everyone -- Americans, British, Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians, Dutch. "We are partners in this war, you know," he says. "I didn't sign a paper with a contract that I work for this agency or this person or this organization. I met with your Special Forces, I met with your military, I met with your generals. Can someone accuse me tomorrow that I was working for the Canadians?" At the end of our discussion, Ahmed Wali Karzai wished us well. His next guests were already waiting on the couch. He checked his very gold watch and shifted his attention. We left Karzai's villa, walking past the barefoot men still waiting, and returned to the weather and war that make Kandahar a harsh place this time of year.

Amnesty International and FATA

By Zar Ali Khan Musazai

In a recent Report issued by Amnesty International regarding Human Rights situations in FATA concern was shown that nearly 4 million people in FATA live under Taliban rule where they suffer human rights abuses from both militants and the Pakistani Army.

As if Hell Fell on ME, a report based on interviews with nearly 300 people, says millions live in a, human rights free zone, where militants torture and kill women aid workers and men without beards. Pakistani soldiers have also committed serious violations, including indiscriminate artillery fire and extrajudicial executions, as the army swept across the tribal belt over the past year, the report said.

FATA is a buffer between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan termed it its geography but till this very day since its creation in 1947, she has done no good to this part of the world.

Political freedom has been closed for the people of this area. Political parties act has not been yet extended to FATA. On Aug. 14, 2009 incumbent President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari announced abolition of FCR and extension of Political Parties Act but soon retreated back for the known reasons pressurized by military establishment not to dare intervene into the affairs of FATA.

As for as we know, there are reasons for pushing FATA into hell, the foremost is that area in question is still not having any constitutional status as to whose part is it? The second is that Pakistani establishment has been in its control to use it against Afghanistan and to take into hands who rules the Kabul. People at helm of affairs in Islamabad have no interest in those living in FATA (Native People of FATA) rather they have their own interest in FATA. We see that FATA has been used for the terrorism for the last nearly 30 years. Religious extremism was promoted by the establishment. Seminaries were constructed and people were encouraged to participate. Politics was termed as a forbidden flower for the people of FATA. They were told that they were different from those living both sides of them. But actually people who at their west and east are of the same ethnicity, Pashtun. They were also told that they were more brave and courageous than others and they had a unique culture. Many a times they were presented as the soldiers having no formal salary out of the national kitty which is supposed to be filled by the alms getting on the very name of tribal people. Actually people of FATA have never been antagonistic to any country or people. They have always remained as peaceful and secular people. In Tirah valley of Khyber Agency so many people are living who are Sikh, by religion. More than 30 thousands Christians have been also residing in FATA but there has never been an incident of killing, abducting or abusing each other. They have all rights what a tribesman and woman have except some what the FCR has taken from them. This is an excellent example of tolerance and secularism. People in Tirah go to the funeral prayers of their sikh brethren and have a good relation ship and no one counts him or her as alien. They have never scorned at them for being different from what they practice. Now we have to come to the facts as to what are the reasons that turned the situations sour. Due to an area like a black hole having no know how about politics and political parties’ presence the religious extremism was promoted and encouraged by the state sponsored agencies for the reasons already mentioned above. Political Agent was imposed on them to decide about their future. Militants from across the world and Punjab were invited by establishment to FATA and a farce like situations was developed in which several actors have been performing their respective acts. Militants were handed over the guns and weapons while on other players started getting fund from international community to apparently wipe out terrorists. In this whole drama the marginalized people of FATA has no role. They and their land are just used for the stage and getting money. Pakistani establishment is a fund starved one and would be using all means and tactics to get the dollars to fill the pockets and have an occasion to loot and plunder with both hands and the recent report of Transparency International also supported our view.

The report of Amnesty International should open the eyes of international community giving fund to the cheaters and robbers on the heads of tribal and FATA. People are hostage and they have been terrorized to the extent that no one in FATA could dare to discuss this issue and go to the bottom of the awful tale of the FATA residents. Most of the tribal have left for comparatively safer places to take shelter. Those who are still there are at the mercy of terrorists and military alike. More than 50000 innocent tribesmen and women were sacrificed for the sin they had not committed. About 3500 pro peace political people, tribal Malakan and influential were ruthlessly beheaded and assassinated Fund is coming and drowned the drain. Neither terrorism was wiped out nor did miseries of people come to an end.

Now it is the responsibility of the Pakistan government to do something for the betterment of the people in FATA because it has been getting the fund on its name but no one knows where it goes.

(The writer is a social and political worker and currently is Chairman Tribal NGOs Consortium, FATA and can be reached at email,

Afghanistan And Pakistan In Obama Year One: Missed Opportunities

Written by FRIDE
The Obama administration’s first year was characterised by somewhat enhanced transatlantic cooperation on Afghanistan, but a coordinated transatlantic policy on Pakistan remained elusive by the start of 2010. The United States and many European countries made the case for more money and troops for Afghanistan to sceptical publics. In 2009, the increased resources for Afghanistan faced muted – if any – opposition on both sides of the Atlantic. Economic troubles at home have pushed the Afghanistan war, Pakistan and most other national security issues lower on the list of public policy debates.

The US and several European countries sent more money, troops and diplomats to Afghanistan to address growing instability there. One symbol of the increased attention was the growing number of special representatives or envoys for Afghanistan and Pakistan. A few months into his job, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke stated that he had at least two dozen counterparts around the world, many of them from Europe. The US and Europe, particularly through the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), held multiple conferences and met regularly throughout the year. These efforts were aimed at garnering additional resources and aligning tactics on an integrated civil-military strategy.

The United States committed to sending about 50,000 additional troops this year; allies including European countries will add about one fifth of the amount that the United States is sending. When the troop increases announced in 2009 are fully implemented, US troops will make up about 70 per cent of the total foreign troops in Afghanistan, up from 50 percent in 2006 – pointing to a further ‘Americanisation’ of a military presence that was already predominantly American. Linked to the increased military presence is a civilian ‘uplift’; additional contingents of diplomats and development assistance specialists aimed at improving governance and enhancing economic development.

Although the United States and European countries increased resources and enhanced policy coordination in 2009, they also missed key opportunities, particularly the August 2009 presidential and provincial elections. The 2009 elections were marked by widespread fraud and raised questions about whether the international community has legitimate partners committed to good governance and anti-corruption in the Afghan government. It also raised questions about the capacity of the international community to provide effective assistance on electoral administration.

The parliamentary elections scheduled for 2010 risk a replay of the 2009 elections without significant reform in Afghanistan and in the international bodies offering support for elections.


As the NATO alliance’s first ‘out-of-area’ mission beyond Europe, the Afghanistan war represents a test of transatlantic capacity and political will to combat threats such as terrorist networks. Since the 1999 Washington Summit, NATO allies have looked to redefine the alliance’s mission and purpose, and many lessons have been learned during the course of the Afghanistan war. In the past year, Europe and the US have worked to reduce transatlantic differences over Afghanistan and move beyond the divisions created by the Iraq war.

President Obama’s outreach to Europe on Afghanistan began during the 2008 election campaign and continued though the early days of his administration. In March 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the foreign ministers of NATO and Vice President Joe Biden met with the North Atlantic Council to discuss new strategies for Afghanistan as part of the policy review initiated by Obama. After Obama released the results of his first strategy review in late March, he travelled to Europe in an effort to gain NATO support and European pledges for additional resources to implement the new strategy. The April 3–4 NATO summit was designed in part to demonstrate NATO unity behind the new strategy.

The Obama administration’s outreach appears to have won the support of most of the political leadership in Europe, even if it has not done much to change public opinion of the Afghanistan war in Europe. Last year was the deadliest year of the conflict for the United States and Europe, and public opinion will likely remain divided and mostly negative in the coming year, as chances of increased casualties grow. At the start of the Obama administration’s second year, five major challenges exist for maintaining transatlantic unity on Afghanistan policy:

Maintaining troop levels and overall military cooperation. The 2009 pledges for additional troops made by European countries in large part compensate for the announced troop withdrawals by the Netherlands in 2010 and Canada in 2011. Significant US troop increases combined with a continued reluctance on the part of European countries to send more is leading to a further ‘Americanisation’ of the foreign military presence in Afghanistan.

Operational exceptions – countries limiting where, when, and how their forces are used – will remain a source of tension. General McChrystal has said that despite pledges to eliminate these ‘national caveats’, certain self-imposed restrictions continue to limit operational flexibility. Some American soldiers in Afghanistan joke that ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, stands for ‘I Saw Americans Fight’ or ‘I Stay Away from Fighting’. Another transatlantic challenge may be equipment shortages; particularly equipment for transport and attack such as helicopters. In the past NATO has at times chartered commercial helicopters for logistical supply flights.

Developing a unified and coordinated training effort for Afghan security forces. Years of effort to develop the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) have produced disappointing results. In May 2007, the European Union (EU) accepted a NATO request to take the lead in training Afghanistan’s police and established the European police (EUPOL) training mission.

The April 2008 summit saw the creation of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A). NTM-A has a single commander for the NATO Training Mission and the US-led Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, and the United States and many European countries committed to sending additional funds and trainers to train the ANA and ANP in 2009. Implementing and executing this effort in a coordinated fashion will be a major challenge.

Creating a coordinated approach on democratic reform, governance, rule of law, and anti-corruption. In 2009, the US and Europe recognised the significant challenges that remain on institutional development efforts. Officials on both sides of the Atlantic acknowledged that supporting legitimate and credible institutions that provide decent governance and justice was central to the mission. But an effective and coordinated policy on these fronts still does not exist.

The EU created the Election Observation Mission (EOM) to monitor the presidential and regional elections in August 2009, and the EOM sent an estimated 200 observers to the elections.

Despite hundreds of millions of dollars of international support for Afghanistan’s election administration, major flaws such as an uneven electoral registry remained. Without significant reforms both in Afghanistan and to the international effort to support elections, the 2010 parliamentary elections could face a crisis of legitimacy similar to the one witnessed in the 2009 presidential and provincial elections.

The US and European countries have developed a sophisticated, multi-layered approach to enhancing governance and supporting efforts to root out corruption.

Ensuring that the implementation of these policies goes smoothly will be difficult, particularly with enduring tensions between international representatives and leaders in the Afghan central government regarding the nature of decentralisation.

The international community continues to develop plans to build a comprehensive system of rule of law. The Italian government leads the effort to support a professional judicial system. One continued source of tension between Europe and the US may be over how to handle Afghan prisoners.

Supporting a synchronised economic development strategy. The January 2010 London conference represented an attempt to showcase the effort to better coordinate political, diplomatic, and economic development steps and avoid duplication of effort. The new NATO Senior Civilian Representative Mark Sedwill, Britain’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, was appointed to improve the international reconstruction effort.

Although this position is not new, Sedwill is charged with making sure that aid money actually gets to the people of Afghanistan and is coordinated with the military strategy. Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) are civilian-military units of varying sizes designed to improve the Afghan economy through infrastructure development and support for service delivery. These PRTs operate throughout the country; more than two dozen exist in Afghanistan. However, there is no single model for how these PRTs are composed and operate. They tend to be led by military personnel, though an effort is underway to increase the number of technical experts and the civilian contingents represented.

Coordinating transatlantic economic development efforts in Afghanistan and having a coherent civilian strategy linked to the military efforts remains a challenge. Major issues such as dealing with the narcotics trade – which is relevant to economic development, governance, and reform – require special attention. Making sure that the overall civilian effort in Afghanistan is coordinated is not only a transatlantic challenge but also includes several other countries that operate bilaterally or through the United Nations. The pullback of UN personnel in reaction to attacks in Kabul in autumn 2009 represents an additional challenge to having sufficient qualified personnel in Afghanistan.

Advancing a comprehensive diplomatic approach in Afghanistan and the region. Inside Afghanistan, the efforts to reintegrate mid- and low level Taliban fighters as well as international diplomatic support for Afghanistan’s peace and reconciliation processes will require continued transatlantic cooperation. Although there has been talk about developing new diplomatic mechanisms such as establishing a ‘Contact Group’ consisting of all nations that have a stake in the security of the region, a comprehensive regional diplomatic approach has yet to materialise.

Transatlantic differences over questions such as how best to deal with Iran in this broader regional diplomatic context could possibly emerge in the coming year.


Across the border in Pakistan, a volatile situation grew even more dangerous as terror attacks against civilians and the government increased to unprecedented levels. Rancorous clashes for power among leaders in the civilian government escalated into a crisis in March. Although diplomatic intervention by key European governments, the United States, and other outsiders defused this crisis, tensions between the major political factions endure. The Pakistani military conducted several operations inside Pakistan to tackle certain extremist groups representing a threat to the Pakistani state. But concerns remained about the Pakistani military’s ties to certain elements of the Taliban. An assessment produced by General Stanley McChrystal, the top military commander in Afghanistan, reaffirmed the long-standing concerns that the Pakistani security establishment supports some of the insurgents working to undermine the Afghan government.

The US and Europe have only just begun to build the foundations for a viable strategy to address Pakistan’s multiple security challenges. Continued military assistance and intelligence cooperation remained central to the relationship with the Pakistani government, and the US provided additional funds for counterinsurgency training and support in the last year. The US passed the Kerry-Lugar legislation, which triples non-military development assistance to Pakistan, places a higher priority on enhancing democratic governance, and sets conditions for military assistance.

But the Obama administration is only beginning to develop an implementation plan for delivering that assistance, even as it continues to have trouble spending money for previous programmes in Pakistan. A $750 million programme focused on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas approved in 2007 had only spent about 10 per cent of its funds by the end of 2009. Like the United States, several European countries identified democratic governance, rule of law, and economic development as fundamental to success, but a fully coordinated strategy encompassing efforts by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as well as bilateral assistance programmes remained elusive.

The US and a number of European countries committed more money, personnel, and attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they took important steps to increase coordination on Afghanistan. Past differences within the NATO alliance over managing the strategy in Afghanistan have subsided with more coordination efforts, but significant policy implementation challenges remain ahead. Pakistan remains one of the world’s most complicated security challenges – and policies remain stuck in reactive and crisis management mode.

In 2009, the US and Europe did not achieve strategic progress on the ground in either Afghanistan or Pakistan; instead they prevented a loss and laid the foundations for a more comprehensive effort in both countries. To win back the support of sceptical publics, European countries and the United States must achieve tangible results in the coming year or risk losing further public support.


In contrast to the enhanced coordination on Afghanistan, the United States and Europe have yet to develop a viable strategy for Pakistan. A fairly strong consensus exists on the nature of the challenges in Pakistan and general prescriptions for dealing with those challenges. There is broad recognition that the threat perceptions of the Pakistani security establishment – particularly its overriding concerns about India – negatively impact broader regional security and have a spillover effect in Afghanistan. In addition, there are few debates about the massive institutional and economic development issues in Pakistan.

The US and Europe have outlined general strategies for boosting the civilian government in Pakistan and supporting democratic reform: the challenge is coordinating military assistance to Pakistan, conducting diplomacy with Pakistan and the region and implementing economic and institutional development programs with a meaningful impact.

Pakistan represents a more complicated challenge than Afghanistan. It is five times more populous than Afghanistan; it has a security establishment with one of the largest militaries in the world, which has intervened in its politics numerous times; and it possesses nuclear weapons.

Pakistani policy remains reactive to events on the ground and tactical in nature – dealing with issues such as responses to the problems of internally displaced people from internal conflicts in the north and western part of the country consume much time and attention. A coordinated civilian and diplomatic strategy integrated with military assistance and calibrated to support political and governance reform remains incomplete.

The ‘Friends of Pakistan’ initiative has helped to foster greater international focus on economic development strategies for Pakistan, but has not yet produced a coherent strategy that exercises leverage and creates incentives for comprehensive reform. The United States and Europe are only in the early stages of creating a comprehensive strategic policy to address Pakistan’s multiple security challenges.

Brian Katulis is Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. This article was originally published under the title, "Transatlantic Policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan in Obama Year One: Missed Opportunities," in the Policy Brief Nº 42 - FEBRUARY 2010 (PDF), published by FRIDE. This policy brief is part of a joint project by FRIDE, CEPS and the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the original version of this policy brief was presented at the joint FRIDE, CEPS and Heinrich Böll Foundation event ‘One year of Obama: Have transatlantic differences narrowed?’, which took place in Brussels on 2 February 2010.

Pakistan’s defence budget and the Greek example

By —Jan Assakzai
The country’s economic planners use the same method as the Greeks. The usual strategy Islamabad adopts is managing the deficit with borrowed money, contributing to the debt nightmare (both external and internal) and adding to the current financial crisis
Given the hike in defence spending in the budget for 2010-2011 presented by the federal government, the present economic crisis and means for its solution are synonymous with the Greek crisis in many ways. Both countries have more or less similar geo-political settings that have been instrumental in shaping their security and economic responses.
Pakistan has deep insecurities with respect to its much larger (in terms of territory, population and economy) neighbour and historic rival, India. Thus it has increased its already outsize defence budget by 17 percent. Likewise, Greece has also been locked in hostile relations with its powerful neighbour Turkey, and stepped back from the brink of war several times. Turkey is larger than Greece in its size of territory, population and economy.
Pakistan spends more on defence as a percentage of GDP than many countries, including UK, France, China and India (which maintain a regional reach and which also see for themselves the need to be ready to hold out against the vastly superior Chinese Army and possible US naval threat). Similarly, Greece spends more on defence as a percentage of GDP than any other EU member states, including UK, which maintains a global defence outreach, and Poland, which sees itself as holding out the powerful Russian threat.
It is true that both the countries had to face harsh budget deficits. Before the 2008 crisis, Greece’s budget deficit stood at 6 percent of GDP, which however, was later controlled when austerity measures were put in place to bring spending under control.
Historically, Pakistan has managed to survive by securing an outside sponsor. Such sponsors have sought to contain their regional rivals by taking advantage of Pakistan’s strategic location.
To this end, the US, under the arrangement of CENTO and SEATO pacts, backed Pakistan in their bid to keep Soviet Union confined in Central Asia, and then in Afghanistan. With the Soviet Union’s collapse, that arrangement had ended. Of late, the US and the EU again supported Pakistan under a new arrangement to contain non-state actor like the al Qaeda.
Therefore, Pakistan has managed to borrow money from international donors, including the IMF and the World Bank due to its geo-political importance to the West, particularly the US. For example, General Petraeus, the head of the US Central Command for the US forces in the Middle East, is believed to have called the IMF earlier this year to help out Pakistan in its budgetary difficulties.
Against this backdrop, even today Pakistan cannot plug the gap left not only by defence spending but also by meagre social spending and corruption, as Pakistan does not have internal resources to meet its deficit. The country’s economic planners use the same method as the Greeks. The usual strategy Islamabad adopts is managing the deficit with borrowed money, contributing to the debt nightmare (both external and internal) and adding to the current financial crisis.
Pakistan, like Greece to Turkey, has been proposing to India for defence cut to abate the arms race in South Asia. However, India is reluctant to accede to these proposals, as New Delhi is expanding its geo-political prowess, which means that it has to consider China, the US naval presence in the Indian Ocean and the greater Middle East in terms of general security concerns.
A growing number of India watchers in Washington and London believe that India seems to have outgrown its security concerns regarding Pakistan and the US. This is why Islamabad and New Delhi almost reached agreement on the contours of a settlement of the Kashmir issue under the rule of General Musharraf. In spite of this, later incidents, particularly the 2008 Mumbai attacks, halted the progress of talks between the two countries.
Similarly, Greece recently held a joint summit with Turkey, proposing a 25 percent cut in defence spending. The likelihood of this, nonetheless, is very low because Turkey is a rising regional power and is seeking to address its general security concerns in Caucasus, Black Sea and the Middle East. Turkey has also outgrown its security concerns with Greece. This is why it has been showing conciliatory gestures to Greece. Reduction in defence spending for Greece has become a top priority, as the IMF’s bailout package means Athens has to adopt draconian austerity measures.
Therefore, it has to accept whatever comes its way from Turkey, though this will not necessarily be palatable for either its public or its military. But years of poor economic strategy cost Greece its pride and self-esteem and provoked the anger of its people. It had to choose between draconian austerity measures and bankruptcy and it chose the former.
On the other hand, the present arrangement whereby the US and the EU are backing Pakistan in their bid to contain al Qaeda is unlikely to last forever. The US is desperate to extricate itself from Afghanistan. For the US, and the West in general, Pakistan is a tactical ally, despite Islamabad’s glee with regard to the much-trumped strategic talks with the US.
As far as the future of US willingness to provide budgetary support to Pakistan is concerned, it depends upon whether the future’s net geo-political gain from Pakistan is greater or lesser than the present net investment Washington is making. In contrast, Greece seems to have outlived its geo-political utility for the US and NATO.
Considering Pakistan is using the same economic model as Greece, it is just on borrowed times from its powerful western allies who could even make it easier for Islamabad to swallow the bitter pill of any possible harsh austerity measures, including the defence cuts, by manipulating its economic vulnerability.
Thus Pakistan’s economic future and security imperatives are beholden to the judgement call of the US (and West in general) as to when Pakistan has outlived its geo-political utility for them. So it is a matter of when, not if. A dreadful scenario for policy makers but seems far more realistic than ever. For me, I think I will go and hide under the table for now.
The writer is a London-based analyst hailing from Balochistan. He can be reached at

Arab world frozen in time?

By Kai Bird
Arab modernity. Why is it that at the beginning of the 21st century the Arab world seems stuck in time? Why are most Arabs still ruled by kings or military dictatorships? And specifically, why has the most populous Arab nation, Egypt, been governed by one man for nearly three decades?

President Hosni Mubarak, a former general, came to power in the aftermath of Anwar Sadat's assassination in October 1981. He has ruled Egypt ever since under a state of emergency.

Last week, Mubarak's regime extended for another two years a Draconian emergency law that permits police to detain individuals indefinitely, prohibits unauthorized assembly and severely restricts freedom of speech.

We Americans should care about this state of affairs. Mubarak's regime exists in part because our tax dollars subsidize this dictatorship to the tune of several billion dollars a year. We also support the Saudi royalty. And although President Obama and previous presidents have often spoken eloquently about the need for democratization, Egypt's elections are anything but democratic. Why does nothing change?

I spent virtually my entire childhood in the Middle East, and though it is not my home, I worry about it as if it were my home. I mourn for it, I fear for it -- and I also greatly fear it. Modernity, if not ever completely defeated, seems to have been put on hold throughout much of the Arab world. A worn-out, 82-year-old pharaoh still reigns in Egypt. Royalty still rules in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Islamists still seem to be winning hearts and minds in a political vacuum.
The fact is that the Egypt of my adolescence in the 1960s was a more democratic and secular society than today. My father was an American Foreign Service officer stationed in Cairo from 1965-67. An army colonel, Gamal Abdel Nasser, was Egypt's virtual dictator. But Nasser had at least been elected president in 1956. He was a wildly popular and populist politician throughout Egypt.

Sadat was never as popular as Nasser. He had catered to the Islamists in the aftermath of Nasser's death, thinking they were not dangerous, and ending up being killed by them. Neither he nor Mubarak could have survived a truly democratic election.

Nasser became an autocrat, but at least he offered the Arabs a secular vision. Even today, Nasser remains emblematic of a lost era when hope still existed among Arabs of all classes and tribes for a modern, secular and progressive Arab nation.

Suave and articulate, Nasser exuded a quiet intelligence. His colleagues knew him to be incorruptible. He had no personal peccadilloes, aside from smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. He loved American films. His good friend the newspaper editor Mohammed Heikel claimed that Nasser loved watching Frank Capra's syrupy Christmas tale, "It's a Wonderful Life." His favorite American writer was Mark Twain. He spent an hour or two each evening reading American, French and Arabic magazines.

His closest political enemies at home were the Muslim Brotherhood, political theocrats who then attracted an insignificant following. Today, the Muslim Brotherhood would undoubtedly win any democratic election in Egypt.

But back in the 1960s, most young Arab men aspired to a secular modernity. They wanted to be engineers or doctors or lawyers -- and they admired, like Nasser did, American culture.

I lived in Cairo's upscale suburban community of Maadi, about eight miles south of the city on the eastern bank of the Nile River. I am startled to realize now that another resident of Maadi was the young Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In 1965, the future doctor and No. 2 leader of al Qaeda was attending Maadi's state-run secondary school. He was exactly my age. And like me, al-Zawahiri used to watch Hollywood films on an outdoor screen at the Maadi Sports Club.

Al-Zawahiri once aspired to a career in public health. His ambitions were the same as most young Arab men in the Nasser era. Even then he was a practicing Muslim. And his religious sensibilities did not become politically radicalized until after Nasser ordered the execution of the Muslim Brotherhood's leader, Sayyid Qutb, in 1966. But I would argue that al-Zawahiri and other young men would never have taken the road to jihadist terror had it not been for the June 1967 war.

Sadik al-Azm, the Yale-educated, Syrian philosopher, described Nasser's defeat in the June war as a "lightning bolt" and a "shock" to the Arab ethos. Nasser's humiliation spelled the defeat of the idea of a secular path to Arab modernity. Nasser's once powerful notion that the Arabic-speaking peoples of the Middle East could unite under the banner of a progressive Arab nationalist movement was now discredited.

Over time, political Islam moved into this political vacuum. Al-Zawahiri himself wrote in his 2001 memoir that the "Naksa" -- the June 1967 defeat -- "influenced the awakening of the jihadist movement."

Al-Zawahiri today is hiding in a cave in Afghanistan, or dodging drone missile attacks in Pakistan. Someday he will be a dead man, along with his pitiful co-conspirator Osama bin Laden. The jihadists don't have any thing real to offer the Arabs of the 21st century. They can't put bread on the table in this era of globalization.

Al-Azm believes the jihadists have already lost: "There may be intermittent battles in the decades to come, with many innocent victims. But the number of supporters of armed Islamism is unlikely to grow, its support throughout the Arab Muslim world will likely decline. ... September 11 signaled the last gasp of Islamism rather than the beginnings of its global challenge."

I hope so. But if Al-Azm is right, the new generation of young Arab men and women must find hope for their lives elsewhere. And so long as tired old kings and pharaohs smother their rights to democratic elections and free speech, the jihadists will still offer a desperate alternative.

Pakistan Military in Spotlight After Times Square Plot

"When in doubt, do nothing" could have served as the Pakistani military's unofficial motto until now on the tricky question of tackling militant strongholds in the tribal badlands of North Waziristan. But doing nothing may no longer be an option, now that the Obama Administration is blaming the failed Times Square bomb attack on the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). Washington has long cajoled the Pakistani army to extend its campaign against militants on its own soil into North Waziristan, where the TTP leadership has set up shop amid a viper's nest of militant groups that include al-Qaeda, but the generals have until now demurred, claiming a lack of resources. Following reports that Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad was trained by TTP elements in North Waziristan, the pressure on Pakistan from Washington has sharply increased, leaving the Pakistani military leadership in an increasingly uncomfortable position.On Friday, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, met with Pakistan's Army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, reportedly to coax Pakistan into moving into North Waziristan. And on Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sternly warned of "very severe consequences" for Pakistan if an attack similar to the one tried in Times Square were to prove successful.Pakistanis are already embarrassed at the fact that Shahzad was not only born in Pakistan and is alleged to have been trained there, but is also the son of a retired senior military officer. More alarming still is the apparent move by the TTP, until now a domestic insurgency directed at the Pakistani state, to target a U.S. city in retaliation for drone attacks in Pakistan. That leaves Pakistan's political and military leadership to find a response sensitive to both the needs of a key ally and the concerns of a skeptical public.Wary of U.S. motives at the best of times, Pakistani public opinion was rankled by Clinton's warning. Even liberal newspapers committed to fighting militancy warned of the statement's unintended effects. "Ms. Clinton's comments are unfortunate and will rekindle suspicions here that America is no real friend of Pakistan," said an editorial in Dawn, Pakistan's leading newspaper. The fear is that those who oppose the campaign against jihadist militancy will turn Pakistani ire at Clinton's perceived bullying to their advantage in the battle for Pakistani hearts and minds.But while an offensive launched under pressure from the U.S. could antagonize the Pakistani public, there could be an even greater backlash should the U.S. decide to take matters into its own hands. This year alone has seen at least 32 U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, principally at targets in North Waziristan, and that program - which infuriates many Pakistanis - is set to continue. While the authorities may be able to absorb the political fallout from the increasingly accurate drone strikes, their real worry is that Washington might decide to send its own ground forces into North Waziristan. "[The presence of U.S. troops] would be truly disastrous," says Aftab Sherpao, who served as Interior Minister under former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf. The mere presence of foreign soldiers, he believes, would inflame public opinion to dangerous proportions, weakening the hand of the civilian government and the army. In September 2008, the only known case of an American boots-on-the-ground operation triggered a chorus of outrage, led by General Kayani himself.Even if the U.S. refrained from expanding its own actions on Pakistani soil, the generals and politicians also fear that failure to act could jeopardize the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars in civilian and military aid from Washington.Given the risks that follow from doing nothing, Pakistan will have to take action. "The army realizes that it must go into North Waziristan," says retired general and analyst Talat Masood. "They have been looking at this option for quite some time, but they have been hesitant as they are overstretched." Tens of thousands of Pakistani troops are already fanned out across the northwest and the tribal areas in an effort to consolidate gains made in recent offensives. "Washington should appreciate that we have covered a lot of area," insists Sherpao, the former Interior Minister. "There have been operations in Swat, Bajaur, Mohmand and South Waziristan. We cannot move troops from the eastern border because there's no comfort as far as India is concerned." As the military's decision to test-fire two ballistic missiles at the weekend demonstrates, India remains its principal focus.The Pakistani military has long drawn a distinction between the Taliban, and related insurgent groups, using its soil as a base from which to attack NATO forces in Afghanistan and those waging war on the Pakistani state. The Afghanistan-oriented groups have been allowed to operate largely unmolested in keeping with Pakistan's desire to recover lost influence in Afghanistan, while the military has gone after the TTP. But as the army pushed into the TTP's strongholds in South Waziristan, the group moved north, into territory controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadur - a militant leader who enjoys a fragile nonaggression pact with the Pakistan army. "It's a very complex area," says Masood, "particularly because there are elements there that are not so hostile to the Pakistani military." By that he means the Haqqani network, an al-Qaeda linked Afghan Taliban group deemed one of the most dangerous confronting the U.S. in Afghanistan but viewed as a strategic asset by Pakistan's intelligence services. "The army will prefer to take a limited operation, one that is confined to the Mehsud areas," says Masood, referring to TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud.But North Waziristan is only one part of the jihadist infrastructure that enables terror attacks beyond Pakistan's borders. As Shahzad's alleged story - making contact with militant elements in Karachi before heading off to North Waziristan for training - demonstrates, there are jihadist groups seeded throughout the country, and they're strengthening their cooperative ties with one another.Dismantling that infrastructure will take years, say Pakistani analysts and politicians. "You can't start operations against all these groups simultaneously," says Sherpao. "You have to proceed step by step. You have to consolidate your gains first, then move on to the next target." But the Shahzad case, says Sherpao, should serve as a wake-up call. "The political and military leadership have to sit down now and devise a serious response," he says. "Otherwise, it will become very difficult."

Who murdered Benazir Bhutto?
Christina Lamb
Benazir Bhutto was brought back to Pakistan from exile as part of an international deal. Then she was killed — and all traces of evidence were immediately swept away. Our award-winning correspondent follows the clues to her killers in London, Karachi and Washington
Across fields of cotton and baked mud in the village of Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in southern Pakistan rises a white marble mausoleum with Mughal-style cones that shim-mer in the heat. Inside lie four bodies — a father and his three children — all murdered over a 30-year span. The father was hanged by a military dictator, one son poisoned and one son shot, both by unknown assailants. The daughter was still building the mausoleum when she, too, was assassinated. Her killing was captured on live TV, yet who did it remains a mystery, as well as how.

Benazir Bhutto was Pakistan’s most important political figure, the leading female politician in the Islamic world, an Oxford and Harvard graduate who was the West’s best hope of tackling terrorism. Yet 2½ years on, and despite a $5m United Nations commission of inquiry, her murder remains unresolved.

Almost every Pakistani has a theory about who did it; practically nobody expects to find out. Pakistan’s history is dotted with unexplained political assassinations, but this time there was an unexpected twist. Bhutto’s widowed husband ended up as president, with all the government apparatus at his disposal. One might think that for once there was a good chance of establishing a culprit. Instead he had called in the UN to investigate, claiming “This thing is bigger than us.”

I had my own reasons for wanting answers. I’d known Bibi, as friends called her, since 1987, when her kind wedding invitation to a 21-year-old led to me falling in love with her country and starting a life as a foreign correspondent, covering both her spells as prime minister. I was with her on the truck in Karachi the first time they tried to kill her: two bombs killed 150 people, but she survived.

Ten weeks later, just after 5pm on December 27, 2007, they succeeded. As Bhutto left an election rally in Liaquat Park, Rawalpindi, she stood up through the sunroof of her armoured car to wave. Moments later she was dead, blood gushing from a wound to her temple, as a suicide bomber exploded himself in the crowd.

Bhutto’s action had been foolhardy when she knew there were people out to kill her, and her death sadly unsurprising in a family that has sacrificed everything for politics. What was less explicable was what happened next.

“Everything was manipulated,” says Athar Minallah, a leading lawyer who sits on the board of the Rawalpindi hospital where Bhutto was taken. “The evidence was washed away and no autopsy or investigation allowed. As a lawyer I can’t come to any conclusion, but it’s all too sinister to believe there wasn’t mala fide in this.”

In the 20 years I knew Benazir I had been both captivated by her and infuriated by her, once even deported by her. But I had also personally witnessed the lengths gone to to stop her by what she called “the Establishment”, the old guard of Pakistan’s military and intelligence, which at the time of Bhutto’s death had ruled the country for 32 of its 60 years. Despite being warned off by friends in the Pakistani media, I travelled from London to Dubai, Karachi to Kabul, Waziristan to Washington, asking questions from those involved, many of whom had never spoken out before.

If ever there was a death foretold, this was it. Bhutto’s days were numbered from the time she decided to end eight years in exile in Dubai and return home, following a deal with President Pervez Musharraf backed by the US and Britain. Under the deal, corruption charges against her, her husband and senior members of her Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would be dropped, enabling them to contest elections. In return they would allow Musharraf to remain president. But neither trusted the other, and the military ruler had sworn he would never allow her back in power.

“We might as well have painted a bull’s-eye target on her head,” admitted a British Foreign Office minister involved in the negotiations.

Her closest friends begged her not to go back. “I said, ‘You’ve been prime minister twice, why do this?’ ” said Peter Galbraith, a former UN envoy to Afghanistan, who had been a friend since 1969, when a primly dressed Bhutto arrived at Harvard aged16 and went to dinner at his parents’ house.

Mark Siegel, a Democrat strategist who co-wrote her last book, said goodbye to her in the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Washington. As he turned back to wave, he recalled the scene in The Graduate of a rain-soaked Anne Bancroft standing bereft after realising that her lover, Dustin Hoffman, is in love with her daughter. “I had this terrible feeling,” he said.

In London before her return, Bhutto told me she knew the risk. “I know there are people who want to kill me and scuttle the restoration of democracy,” she said. “But with my faith in God and the people of Pakistan, I’m sure the party workers will protect me.”

She then flew to Dubai to say goodbye to her daughters, Bakhtawar and Asifa. On October 16, the day before she was due to fly to Pakistan, she was warned by UAE and Saudi intelligence of a plot to kill her. She immediately wrote to Musharraf naming three suspects: Pervez Elahi, then chief minister of Punjab; General Hamid Gul, the retired head of Pakistan’s military intelligence, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI); and Brigadier Ejaz Shah, the former head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). But there was no changing her mind. “The time of life is written and the time of death is written,” she insisted.

When the plane landed at Karachi and Bhutto came down the steps, she could not hold back the tears. Huge crowds had lined the streets. Waving from the top of a special bus, she was transformed, her face alive, so different to the Bhutto of the last few years in exile, gorging on ice cream and reading self-help books. I understood then why she had gone back.

But her security people were worried. The jammers promised by the Pakistan government to impede remote-control bombs were not working. Bhutto refused to go behind the special bulletproof screen in her bus that would separate her from her people. Eventually, she went to the armoured compartment on the lower deck to work on her speech. It was nearly midnight and we had been on the bus nine hours when the first blast came, throwing us to the ground. Moments later came a second, much larger, blast. There was silence, then screams, sirens and little pieces fluttering down like black snowflakes: bits of charred skin.

Bhutto had no doubt who was behind it. She emailed Mark Siegel on October 26: “Nothing will God-willing happen. Just wanted u to know if it does I will hold Musharraf responsible.”

She also called Musharraf. “He told her, ‘I warned you not to come back until after the elections,’ and threatened her, ‘I’ll only protect you if you’re nice to me,’ ” said Husain Haqqani, a former Bhutto aide who was living in the US and is now Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington.

Instead of stepping up her security, it was reduced. She was even told not to travel in vehicles with tinted windows, as this was against the law of the local government.

She appealed to the American and British officials who had helped negotiate her return. “I called everyone,” said Haqqani. “I even got the US ambassador in Pakistan, Anne Patterson, to visit her.” It did not go well. “Patterson wasn’t nice to her,” said Bhutto’s cousin and confidant, Tariq Islam. “She harped on, ‘You must not talk against Musharraf.’ The Americans never trusted her. It was a marriage of convenience.”

In November, Bhutto returned to Dubai for a few days. Her daughters believe she knew then she would not see them again. “She kept on telling us life is in God’s hands,” said her youngest, Asifa, interviewed for Bhutto, a film about her mother’s life that opens in June. “It was going to be my 18th birthday in January, and she said she wanted to wish me happy birthday in advance,” said her older daughter, Bakhtawar. “I said, ‘Don’t wish me in advance, wish me then.’ ”

The next morning, after her mother left, she found a be-ribboned box containing a silver jaguar head on a pendant. A note wished her “Happy birthday, all my love, Mummy”.

Back in Pakistan, on December 26, the day before the Rawalpindi rally, she addressed a public meeting in Peshawar and a suspected suicide bomber was caught trying to get in. That night her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, called her, begging her to let him campaign in her place. “I pleaded with her, ‘You stay home and I’ll go do the rallies. You’re the mother.’ But she said, ‘What can I do? I have to go and meet my people.’ ”

In the early hours of December 27, she was visited by General Nadeem Taj, the head of the ISI, the agency that in the past had done all it could to stop her becoming prime minister, from printing propaganda leaflets to creating a new political party. What he told her is unknown. Despite the late night, Bhutto was up early sending emails, including one to Peter Galbraith asking him to contact his friend, the Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, to send some of his jammers.

Back at her Islamabad home for a light lunch, she called her political secretary, Naheed Khan, to sit with her. Naheed had worked for her for 23 years and accompanied her through beatings, tear gas and arrests. Bhutto told her some American politicians would be coming that evening. Convinced that Musharraf was planning to rig the elections, Bhutto had collected information of a secret ISI rigging cell based in a house in Islamabad, which she planned to present to the Republican senator Arlen Specter and the Democrat congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Around 2pm, the two women climbed into her armoured, white Toyota Land Cruiser with an entourage of five men, including Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who had led her party while she was in exile, and Senator Safdar Abbas, Naheed’s husband and also a long-time aide.

As they left manicured Islamabad for the dusty streets of Rawalpindi, passers-by waved at the motorcade. In front was a blue police van and a black Mercedes containing her security chief and other officials. Behind were two pick-up trucks of her bodyguards.

Once they reached Rawalpindi and saw people massing, Bhutto stood up as usual. “ ’Pindi was hard for her,” said Naheed. Her father was killed in ’Pindi jail and she was too much excited. It was a huge gathering, we weren’t expecting, and such a charged crowd.”

As they drove out of the back of the park with dusk falling, the gates were opened. The crowd flooded out and gathered round her chanting “Jiye Bhutto” [long live Bhutto], “wazir-i-azam Benazir” [prime minister Benazir]. She stood up, climbing on the seat so that she could be seen.

Then they heard shooting. “Suddenly I felt some pressure, she had fallen on me,” said Naheed. She sobs as she recalls cradling Bhutto’s bleeding head. “She was completely unconscious, her blood seeping over me. That scene is still going on in front of me two years on,” she said.

All those in the car, and her spokeswoman Sherry Rehman, in the car behind, insist that Bhutto fell first, then a bomb went off. “As soon as she ducked down, after three to four seconds there was a bomb blast,” said Naheed. Safdar checked Bhutto’s pulse. “There was nothing.”

A bodyguard shouted “Move the car!” but the left tyres had burst in the blast. The backup car had mysteriously disappeared, so the bodyguard carried her into Sherry Rehman’s 4x4 and they rushed to Rawalpindi general hospital.

“I thought she was already dead,” said Zahid, the driver, showing the back seat of the Jeep where the bloodstains are still visible. “She was unconscious and bleeding from the left side of her neck and top right of her skull.”

At the hospital, doctors tried to resuscitate her. Sherry Rehman describes the chaos of bloodied, injured and dead victims being brought in and party workers crowding the building. Rehman found Naheed and Makhdoom Fahim in a state of shock. “The hospital wanted us to get the body out,” she said. “The whole place was heaving with people. Makhdoom and I created a diversion by driving out so they could get the body out without supporters realising. It didn’t occur to us to demand the medical report. I was sure she was shot, I heard the shots, then our heads being shoved down in the drill we’d had since Karachi, then the boom of the bomb. We never thought anyone would contradict this.”

In Dubai, Bhutto’s family had been watching on television. “All we knew was something had happened,” said Zardari. “I said, ‘Arrange a plane.’ When I came back into the room, the TV was announcing she was dead.” Bhutto’s body was placed in a makeshift plywood coffin and taken to the nearby military airbase of Chaklala.

Around 1am, the family arrived, and both they and the coffin were flown to Moenjodaro in the southern province of Sindh, to drive through the night to Bhutto’s ancestral home town of Naudero. In keeping with the Muslim tradition, she was buried the next day.

On December 30, just three days after her death, Zardari summoned a meeting of the party’s central executive committee. He asked their son, Bilawal, to read out a handwritten letter from Bhutto to the PPP. It stated: “I would like my husband, Asif Ali Zardari, to lead you in this interim period until you and he decide what is best. I say this because he is a man of courage and honour.”

Zardari told me afterwards he had no idea she had drawn up such a will. “The day her remains came to Naudero, a person came from Dubai and said, ‘I have this document Madam left with me.’ ” He said he did not know the person.

It was dated October 16, two days before Bhutto returned to Pakistan. “That was the day she’d been warned not to go back,” Zardari said, “and she wrote that letter to Musharraf showing apprehensions about certain people.”

In a shrewd move, Zardari named their son, Bilawal, as co-chairman, adding Bhutto to his name to make him Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and said he would take over the leadership when he was old enough. Bilawal was then only 19, and starting his second term at Christ Church college, Oxford. He freely admitted he was more interested in Facebook and movies than politics.

Still in shock, nobody on the party’s executive questioned the document. Afterwards, Fahim, the party’s former leader, who had expected to take over, told me he was astonished that Bhutto would hand the party over to Zardari. Known in Pakistan as Mr Ten Per Cent, his alleged corruption was thought to be largely responsible for the demise of both Bhutto’s governments.

Torn apart with grief, Naheed was also too stunned to say anything. “She never mentioned it [the will] to me, nor had I seen it,” she told me.

Back in Islamabad, the Musharraf government appeared to be in panic. Within an hour of the attack the scene had been washed down with high-pressure hoses, wiping out almost all the evidence. Saud Aziz, then chief of Rawalpindi police, said he issued these orders after receiving a phone call from a close associate of Musharraf. The interior ministry said they were worried about “vultures picking up body parts”.

This was in stark contrast to what had happened after two assassination attempts on Musharraf in the same city, when the area had been sealed off for weeks.

With the country in chaos, there was an unseemly rush to announce the cause of death and to name an assassin. At 5pm on Friday December 28, less than 24 hours after her death, Brigadier Javed Cheema, the interior ministry spokesman, held a press conference. He said the hospital report showed Bhutto had been killed by striking the lever of the sunroof as she ducked to avoid the bomb. “There was no bullet or metal shrapnel found in the injury,” he said.

He also said intelligence services had intercepted a call from Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Pakistani Taliban, proving he was behind it. A transcript was later made available — though no audio tape — on which the militant leader is self-congratulatory and gives away his location. A week later, journalists including myself were called in to our respective embassies to be told that MI6 and the CIA had authenticated the transcript and were convinced Baitullah had carried out the attack. The former Pakistani cricket captain-turned-politician Imran Khan was incredulous. “The day after the murder they produce a tape of Baitullah saying, ‘I’m sitting here, tomorrow I’ll be having breakfast. Well done, boys.’ Is this a joke? The guy is being hunted down, on the run. Would he be talking like that?”

Baitullah insisted he was not responsible. “I strongly deny it,” he said via his spokesman, Maulvi Omar. “Tribal people have their own customs. We don’t strike women.”

In years of reporting on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, never once had I known them not take responsibility for something. Moreover, Bhutto had told me that after the Karachi attack Baitullah had sent a message saying: “Identify your enemy. I’m not your foe.”

Meanwhile, footage had emerged in which a clean-shaven man in dark glasses was clearly visible waving a gun and firing three shots. A TV station had filmed bullets lying on the ground. Other footage showed Bhutto’s chief bodyguard, Khalid Shahenshah, gesticulating strangely from the stage as Bhutto left.

Aside from Bhutto, 22 others were killed in the attack. Family members told Pakistani media that some had bullet wounds. But no autopsies were carried out, even though they are required by law.

I started my own investigation in the sprawling port city of Karachi on the basis that whoever had tried to kill her there on October 17 was probably the same person that eventually got her.

That bombing was Pakistan’s most lethal terrorist attack, yet I was shocked to find from the local police chief that there was no investigation under way. It wasn’t even clear whether it was a suicide bomb or a car bomb, though a retired army colonel who lived round the corner sent me photographs of a burnt-out car that had its chassis number scratched off so it could not be identified.

Many of those who died were “Martyrs for Benazir”, young party volunteers who formed a human chain round the bus and prevented the bomb getting nearer. One was 25-year-old Intukhab Alam. I went to see his widowed father, Mahmood Yunis, 70, in Muhammadi Colony, Liaquatabad, one of the poorest parts of Karachi. He cannot believe the government is not investigating Bhutto’s death. “My son was a small person, but she was a great leader,” he said. “No Zardari can take her place.”

Someone else with little time for Zardari is Benazir’s niece Fatima. It was eerie going to see her: she lives in 70 Clifton, the house of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, her grandfather and Benazir’s father. He was the first Bhutto to be murdered, hanged by his former army chief, General Zia, in 1979.

Fatima was just 14 in September 1996 when her father, Murtaza, the elder of Benazir’s two brothers, was gunned down on the street, along with six of his men. The murder scene was also washed clean before investigators could arrive.

Fatima and her stepmother, Ghinwa, Murtaza’s second wife, invited me to stay for lunch. They talked of the rivalry between Zardari and Murtaza, who they told me kept a cartoon of his brother-in-law genuflecting to the Sultan of Oman in the guest toilet. It is clear who his wife and daughter believe responsible for his death. “The orders could have only come from the highest levels,” said Fatima. Her Aunt Benazir was prime minister at the time.

Bhutto’s friends and family say she was devastated by Murtaza’s death. Her cousin Tariq Islam accompanied her to the morgue in Karachi. “We went to the cold room where his blood-soaked body was and she collapsed, put her head between his feet and cried and howled, ‘You’re my baby brother, don’t do this to me.’ ”

Bhutto, who was prime minister at the time, called in a Scotland Yard team to investigate and asked Islam to be the liaison person. “Even though it was her government, they were stymied at every turn,” he said. “They wanted to see the scene, but within hours it had been pressure-washed. They wanted to see the vehicle in which Murtaza’s body was flung and taken to hospital but were told it had been taken to a garage.”

Six weeks after the murder, a coup took place and Benazir was ousted as prime minister. Scotland Yard was sent home.

Zardari was detained for allegedly being involved in the murder, as well as a number of corruption cases. He was released from jail into exile in 2004 by Musharraf and acquitted on the murder charge in 2008 owing to lack of evidence.

Last December, 18 police officers also alleged to have been involved in Murtaza’s murder were all acquitted. Some had been highly promoted. “Shoaib Suddle, the police chief who was there on the night, was made head of the IB,” said Fatima. “Zardari’s defence lawyer in the case is now attorney general.”

Similarly, following Benazir’s death, nobody has lost their job despite clear lapses in security and failures to investigate. Bhutto’s security chief, Rehman Malik, who disappeared with the backup car, is now interior minister and Zardari’s closest adviser. “My enemies are talking nonsense that I ran away,” he said when I asked why he left the spot. “I wasn’t a security officer that I had to be there. I’m not a guard or a gunman.”

Musharraf’s interior secretary, Kamal Shah, is still in his post, though it was his ministry that put out the version of events Bhutto’s friends and family dispute. Saud Aziz, who ordered the roads to be washed, was transferred to Multan, the prime minister’s constituency, but was suspended last week following the UN report.

Then there is the unexplained shooting of Benazir’s bodyguard Khalid Shahenshah, who was also in the car the night of her killing. I tracked down his best friend, Mohammed Yarwar, a former US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, who met me in a house full of caged snakes on a busy Karachi road. A student activist for the party, Shahenshah ran a grocery store in Connecticut and seems a strange choice as chief bodyguard. “We hung out in New York,” said Yarwar. “He had a connection with Zardari and got to know Benazir because he would drive her when she visited.”

Shahenshah was heading security at Bhutto’s residence in Karachi, Bilawal House, when, on July 22, 2008, Yarwar got a panicked call from one of his guards, who was outside his friend’s house. “He was screaming, ‘There’s firing going on!’ ”

The guard later told him that Shahenshah had arrived home and got out of his car outside the gate. A small car approached with three men inside who began firing. “They shot 62 rounds, of which seven bullets hit Khalid,” said Yarwar. The car was later abandoned. Yarwar denied rumours that it was a gangland killing. “There was no proper investigation,” he said. “People say he might have known something about Benazir’s death. If he did, he never told me: all he ever said was that she was definitely shot. But I don’t like it. I’ve quit the PPP. ”

Fear is tangible when I start asking about Benazir’s death, something the UN commission noted, describing themselves as “mystified by the efforts of certain high-ranking government authorities to obstruct access”.

In Rawalpindi I went first to Liaquat Road, where Benazir was killed. The spot is marked by a garish painting of her on a red background surrounded by what look like pink bathroom tiles. In front lay a dried-up wreath. Behind a few barricades was a cabin where five policemen were sitting around drinking tea under a lightbulb hanging from a wire.

When I started to take photographs they became animated, telling me to go away. They noted down my driver’s numberplate, after which he refused to take me anywhere else.

I hailed another cab to take me to Rawalpindi’s police headquarters and found the charming chief police officer, Rao Iqbal. When I asked what was the usual procedure after a bombing, he said: “Our priority is to get life back to normal and remove all the rubble, but after collecting the evidence, not before.” Why did this not happen after Bhutto’s death? “The orders may have come through the mouth of CPO Saud Aziz, but it was a government agency that ordered the washing, not a policeman,” he replied, adding: “In my view it should not have been washed.”

As a result, they collected only 23 pieces of evidence, in a case where there would normally be thousands. One of the pieces was her car, and that had also been washed of any evidence. The UN commission pulled no punches, stating: “The failure of the police to investigate effectively Ms Bhutto’s assassination was deliberate.”

Police did find the blown-off face of the suicide bomber, who they say was a 15-year-old boy, on a roof. And to my surprise they told me they have five suspects in custody picked up in 2008, and five more they plan to arrest. They believe they were recruited from madrasahs and part of a team sent to target Bhutto in different cities — but they did not seem to be interested in who had sent them.

The lack of evidence has made it very difficult to establish how Bhutto died. Under pressure, Musharraf called in Scotland Yard to investigate her death. They backed his government’s version that Bhutto died after hitting her head, rather than from an assassin’s bullet. Yet every single person in her car insists she fell before the blast.

I went to the hospital hoping to see Professor Mussadiq, who led attempts to resuscitate Bhutto. I was first refused entry, then told he was at the Holy Family hospital. When I got there, they told me he was not at work. Eventually I met one of the other doctors who attended her; he would only speak off the record.

“Our main concern was saving her life, not what caused the injury, because that is done in an autopsy,” he said. “We all thought she had been shot.”

Because she was an emergency patient, the medical team had made no official report, just clinical notes. They were horrified then when the interior-ministry spokesman held the press conference in which he cited their report, attributing the cause of death to hitting the lever of the sunroof.

“They were very perturbed,” said Athar Minallah, the lawyer who sits on the hospital board. “When they couldn’t revive her, they told the police chief three times there needed to be an autopsy. He was constantly on the phone to someone else and refused, even though by law it’s mandatory.”

If how Bhutto died cannot be properly established, it seems unlikely we will ever find out who did it. In August last year, Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban suspect, was killed by an American drone.

The person fingered by Bhutto, Musharraf, now lives in exile in London, accompanied everywhere by six Scotland Yard officers. Before Christmas I met him at a dinner at the home of a mutual Pakistani friend, where he lounged on the sofa, drinking whisky, smoking a fat cigar and handing out £50 notes to the singers.

When a reporter asked him if he had blood on his hands, he retorted that the question was “below my dignity”, going on to say: “My family is not a family which believes in killing people. For standing up outside the car I think she was to blame — nobody else. Responsibility is hers.”

The UN disagrees. “Ms Bhutto’s assassination could have been prevented if adequate security measures had been taken,” states the report. Describing the government protection as “fatally insufficient”, they point out that there were few police present to guard her, and that those posted on roofs to watch for threats did not even have binoculars.

Ask most Pakistanis who killed Benazir and they ask who benefited. A Google search on Zardari turns up Zardari jokes, Zardari corruption, Zardari assets and Zardari killed Benazir as among the most common searches. Bhutto had told friends that she would not let her husband be involved in politics again. The plan was for him to stay in Dubai. They had lived separate lives for years. He argues this was because in 20 years of marriage, he spent 11 years in jail. But when he was released, instead of Dubai he went to New York, ostensibly for medical treatment.

Her closest friends say the will is in her writing, and they believe she wanted to keep the party in the family, in the South Asian tradition. “She thought it would split into factions otherwise,” said Bashir Riaz, who knew her all her life. But they are at a loss to explain why, when Zardari became Pakistan’s president in September 2008, he did not begin an investigation.

I put this to Zardari when I went to his house in Islamabad. “The stature of Bhutto called for an independent, transparent and above-board investigation so no accusation of bias could be made,” he said. “This is bigger than us.”

He showed me a framed copy of the will. “This was the joker in the pack,” he said. “Whoever killed her wanted a weak PPP minus Benazir. They thought they would get their own choice.”

His interior minister, Malik, claimed the government are now investigating and will soon release their own report. “We are after just one more person, then the circle will be complete,” Malik said.

“I don’t want nine people strung up to avenge her death — it’s the whole system,” said Zardari. “Only when we’re prospering and we’re Singapore will she be avenged.”

Fine words. Last week, Pakistan’s parliament voted to repeal a constitutional amendment used by military dictators to give themselves sweeping powers. But it remains a nation besieged by bombings and power cuts where militant leaders go free, even holding public rallies, and intelligence agencies make people disappear. When a government delegation went to Washington last month it was clear that the army chief, General Ashfaq Kiyani, was the real power. This is the same army whose generals suggested to Zardari last time Bhutto was prime minister that he replace her because they didn’t like saluting to a woman.