Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wilson John's Article on Key Players in the Pakistani Elections

Wilson John has a recent write up on the upcoming Pakistani elections. I think it is worth a read.

I would like to start a group of people here that distills the Pakistan News and Discussions thread on the disreputable forum into a meaty news summary. Please reply to this post with a contact email if you would like to be a part of this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Complicated Narrative of the US-Pak relationship

Through the disreputable forum, thanks to Gerard, I chanced upon this book by Abidullah Jan. I would have dismissed it as ISI sponsorred psyops but after watching Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confess to everything short of the Roswell UFO landing, I decided maybe I should read Abidullah Jan's masterpiece.

Needless to say when true lovers talk, there is much for others to hear, so Abidullah Jan is speaking from the heart and as I would listen to Manju or Laila for that matter, here too I am but a humble kafir slave listening to the woes of those lost in the mirrored halls of amour.

Okay enough of the faux firdausi poetic crap!

We are not talking about two teenagers in love, this is the discourse of nations for Allah's sake, and deception and disinformation are the primary means of communication in siyasat. And I state my belief blandly, here trust is built solely to create the necessary grounds to acheive a totally paralysing shock through a complete and utter betrayal. Perhaps that is something that would make most so called Hobbessians piss in their pants, but I never claimed to be a Hobbessian thinker.

Despite the reality of the discourse between nations, we effectively pay our political leaders to keep the overt discussions civil and they in turn pay a good fraction of the psychological operations people in their national security community to develop public narratives that maintain civility and continuity on the surface while keeping things manageable internally.

However when the reality of the bilateral relations turns sour, the narrative becomes complicated.

That is what Abidullah Jan's writings reflect, a complicated narrative, a deliberate suggestion that Pakistan, per itself is incapable of evil, it is merely led along the garden path of sin by an all powerful America.

It is not Pakistan that is guilty of terrible horrors but the CIA which induced the ISI and seduced unscruplous Generals to abandon good sense in favour of a narcotics and terror trade.

The ISI is not guilty of supporting terrorism, the CIA is guilty of entrapment.

This is the overt tone of Abidullah Jan's book. Complicated? yes... Convoluted? oh most definetely... but effective where it matters? I think so. For one it completely matches - fold for fold - twist for twist - the complicated story being put out by the US.

Naturally an American would dismiss this outright and say "what rubbish!" but can they truly ignore the implicit narrative injected here by Abidullah Jan?

Remember you are reading an Asian writing about an Asian perspective, the entire approach in Asian writing is one of a deliberate use of allusion without a direct implication. Think of Firdausi or Hafez, talk about something, but imply something completely different. Don't say what you mean, say something completely different and mean something completely different, reduce plain text to private language of communication between sophisticated minds as Bill Waterson suggests in his epic comic strip.

Just to keep things civil, let me put it in plainly for those unfamiliar with this style of communication.

Abidullah Jan's book makes the implicit suggestion that the ISI is not independently creating problems on a global scale, but rather it is doing so as part of a more coordinated strategy crafted in the US and implemented with the full involvement of various elements of the American national security community.

I do not know if this suggestion is accurate. I will however say that the presence of such a statement greatly complicates the narrative of the US-Pak relationship. I do not know if the relationship can endure such complications.

Let me be absolutely clear about what I am saying.

For those of us in India, this is not an novel narrative, as we have long held that Pakistan and the US had a convergence of sorts when it came to India, but the world as a whole might find the idea of any form of instability - controlled or otherwise - emanating from Pakistan at American direction - unacceptable.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Woes of General Musharraf (Yawn)

What high drama, an attack on Geo TV by "policemen". Geo TV, home of Hamid Mir, the centerpiece of the ISI's publicity machinery. The TV channel which happened at the right moment to be pointing the camera at exactly the right position as a suicide bomber walked up to Shaukat Aziz's car in Fatehjung. And to top it all of Hamid Mir, was "manhandled" by the police, now the fellow threatens to launch a nationwide protest by journalists.

This on top of getting a Chief Justice and half the lawyers in the country beaten up by the police.

Crore Commanders conference, Ayaz Amir, Mazdar and Cowasjee filing all sorts of nasty reports, Sethi in a panic. Hayat looking strangely at his uniform...

All this is faithfully reported by the NDTV and other friends of... in India.

Popcorn anyone?

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Great American Flip Flop

Some of you were pleasantly surprised to see that President Cheney openly admitted to putting pressure on Musharraf. The pressure appeared to have been motivated in my opinion by a desire to check the growth of negative views about the Bush adminstration in influential sections of the US military. I addressed this issue sufficiently in my previous post and in the replies from readers, so I will not dwell on it much here.

I note with considerable amusement that General Ahsan Saleem Hayat's name has cropped up as a possible successor to Gen. Musharraf in the NYT. I suppose I should be sorry for you Gen. Hayat, everyone hates to be publicly told that they is certainly not in the running to succeed Musharraf but if I were you I would thank my Allah and count up the balance in my Swiss bank account and put in for long leave pending retirement.

Now some of you may find it surprising to see people like Michael Schuer, who strongly opposed the Bush Adminstration's handling of the post 9-11 situation are now rallying to General Musharraf's rescue.

Some questions probably naturally come to mind:

Are Schuer and company being reflexively opposed to any actions by the Bush Administration? or

Do the Democrats now eying the White House in 2008 seek to dispel any notion that it is their presence in the American parliament that is likely to cause Pakistan discomfort and are they communicating this via mouthpieces like ...? or

Is this the overt part of some internal American intelligence community drama, a struggle between factions in the NSC over the fate of Musharraf's Pakistan as Sri. Raman alludes in his recent article on differing views in the CIA and DIA about Musharraf?

To be honest I don't know which of these are the exact motivating factors behind people in the US rallying to Musharraf's rescue.

I do know however whoever rallies to Musharraf's support will do so under the banner that Musharraf's incompetence has something to do with Pakistan's peculiar situation with India. You see if America gets angry with Pakistan for what it is doing to American troops in Afghanistan, then it has to become suddenly much more tolerant of Pakistan's activities vis-a-vis India. Otherwise a delicate state of balance is altered.

After all if America says it is not happy with what Pakistan is doing in Afghanistan and in India, then what will be the difference between India's point of view and America's point of view? such an event would be the kiss of death for Pakistan.

Now you all know that a rather large arms sale to Pakistan is in the works in the US parliament. If America gets publicly angry with what Pakistan is not doing about the Taliban and Al Qaida, then it can afford to say that only way to elicit Pakistani cooperation is to accomodate their desire for arms to use on India. A win-win for Pakistan and for those defense industries that are seeking to palm off old outdated equipment to Pakistan.

Needless to say (but I say it anyway) what kind of a politician would I be if I didn't somehow shake down the defense industrial groups that seek to profit from this transaction? After all I am giving Pakistan money to buy the arms from American companies? what is the point of it if I don't get a cut? please understand I want American companies to get this deal through so that I can do all manner of "pork-barrel" spending under the guise of fighting international terrorism? and I want the Pakistanis to cough up some of the good stuff to me so that I am compensated for any "pork-barrel" spending I might have done with the money being given to Pakistan for buying American arms. Am I greedy? Heck no - bhai no personal feelings here, its all business. If I don't sell you arms, how will I justify sending banks to invest in your enterprises? Jaanam samjha karo...

You Indians and probably even Pakistanis understand what I am saying? the hand that gives also takes? You scratch my back and I scratch my back too? right?

With such refreshing new thoughts I leave you with my question:

Okay so now that we see the flip flop, is this all part of some scheme to generate the necessary political grease for ensuring the smooth passage of Pakistan's arms purchases through the US parliament?

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Problems facing the US in Afghanistan and Iraq

There is a lot of press given to visits to Pakistan by American dignitaries. Most of the press also comes down negatively on Pakistan's leadership and rumours abound that American dignitaries are suggesting that America's fearsome congress will clamp down on aid to Pakistan unless Pakistan does something to clamp down on terrorism.

In a manner eeriely reminiscent of GoI officials in the 2002 period, Americans are telling Musharraf that they want Dadullah or Zawahiri to be arrested. You may recall that for the longest amount of time the Indian government wanted to see key Jihadi group leaders like Masood Azhar extradited, it appears that the Americans are now handing the Pakistanis some similar sort of list of wanted criminals and rogues.

Is it too simplistic to conclude that sections of the American military do not think highly of the Bush Administration and its friends? Is it too simplistic to conclude that the poor image of the name Bush in the military has become an issue of deep concern for the Adminstration officials? Could this public bashing of Musharraf be part of some scheme to regain lost ground with the US military? or am I simply reading too much into a few straws in the wind?

To be absolutely fair, the American military is experiencing a number of problems in its current role in Iraq and Afghanistan. I can summarize these as follows:

1) A hostile muslim population, divided along sectarian and ethnic lines but united by its resentment of the West.

2) A helicopter based line of communication that is increasingly vulnerable.

3) A military that is largely not mentally geared to handle peace enforcement operations.

How can Pakistan help? you ask...

1) Pakistan is a model (however imperfect) for how an unrepresentative minority can use sectarian and ethnic divisions to perpetuate its grip on power through the deliberate use of terror. In essesence - divide and rule. It could be that Pakistan teaches the Americans how to divide and rule a muslim population.

2) Technology and knowledge proliferation from Pakistan could increase the vulnerability of the helicopter based supply line. The effect would be similar to what the Vietnamese achieved with Russian air defence advisors. Note the manner in which terms from the Vietnam era are being used by miliary officers and members of the US press to describe insurgent strategies.

3) All the insurgents that attack the ill prepared US armed forces come from Pakistan. Pakistan could use its influence with these groups to degrade the effectiveness of the attacks on US forces. For example Pakistan could ask the groups to target only Afghans and Iraqis while leaving the American military largely untouched or Pakistanis could allow the US military to occasionally stage vengeance attacks on Pakistani soil against insurgent groups based there.

And how can Pakistan hurt the US? Well... that should be obvious by now, but I will state it nonetheless.

Pakistan can hurt the US by encouraging insurgent groups to attack the US. These groups could either deliberately shred the sectrian and ethnic fabric of Iraq and Afghanistan to the point where civil war breaks out or they could simply target only US military personnel and the helicopter based supply line. This is all part of the damage that Pakistan can do to US interests even if it does not give Al Qaida a nuclear bomb, or assist Al Qaida in conducting spectaculars on US or allied soil.

So what will Pakistan do?

Pakistan has deep interests in Heroin production from Afghanistan. It would like to be second to none in exploiting this resource, after all this is almost a 50 Billion USD a year economy, who does not want to be in on this? Pakistan also sees a greater role for itself in the Middle East, Pakistanis are through being menial servants of the Sheikhs, they want to be the masters now. Any conflict in the Middle East will draw immensely upon the limited pool of native manpower in places like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Pakistanis will therefore fill the void created by the outflow of manpower and effectively exert greater control over the economies of these parts. If there is control over Afghan heroin output, it is easy to see how a greater initiative in the middle east could be sustained. So from the Pakistani perspective Iraq and Afghanistan are literally pieces on a chess board.

It is not in Pakistan's interest to see the US gain a competitive edge over Pakistan by an extended and positive stay in Afghanistan. It may be in the Pakistani interest to see the US stay in Iraq for the present time as it will exacerbate the problems faced by US friendly regimes in the region. An anonymous "senior government official" allegedly told the Pakistanis that the democrat dominated Congress was keen on changing US strategy in this conflict. The Pakistanis already know this, and my personal guess is that the Pakistanis will be keen to see the Congress take the US out of Afghanistan first.

The only question now is what exact sequence of events will precipitate a US withdrawal from Afghanistan.