Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On the political maneuverings inside Pakistan

I have been asked to comment on this and I have the following things to say.

The confrontation with the Islamists at Lal Masjid ended badly for the Pakistan Army. The incompetent conflict resolution by the Zarrar Company of the SSG resulted in the murder of some 700 children, mostly young girls. The Zarrar also assasinated Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi and the mother of Maulana Abdul Aziz, the khatib of the Lal Masjid. To make matters worse, Musharraf's media managers publicly humiliated the former Khatib by projecting his efforts at a negotiation with the ISI as an attempt to escape from the mosque by dressing as pious woman. This shameful conduct by the Pakistan Army and Musharraf's men resulted in a complete rupture of the cosy relationship that Deobandi Ulema and the Pakistani Army had enjoyed since 1947. The Ulema effectively withdrew the approval they had given the Army in 1999, and with it, the real legitimacy of the Army's rule in Pakistan ended. The aftermath of the Lal Masjid seige was a brutal confrontation between the Islamists and the Army which has left a thousand or so Armymen dead. The Pakistan Army's hamfisted efforts at counter insurgency have only succeeded in turning the general public against the Army.

Most observers judged that having been so betrayed, the Islamists would make a lunge for power. Pakistani Corps Commanders openly opined that the Islamists would turn against the Army as an institution, and American analysts worried about the possibility of Islamists seizing the Pakistani nuke. Driven by these fears an elaborate drama was staged, Musharraf pretended to loosen his grip on the army as an act of contrition - he named a successor - Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Gen. Kayani quickly opened a number of communication channels to the Islamists and made veiled gestures of regret over the events that had transpired between the Islamists and the Army. Gen. Kayani also made several revisions to Gen. Musharraf's counter terrorism strategy. These revisions gradually pulled away from the excessive proximity that Gen. Musharraf had portrayed to American whims. By distancing the Army from Gen. Musharraf and the Americans, Gen. Kayani sought to soften the blow. Additionally the ISI sought to engineer a breakup of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal - through a careful use of threats and money, factional strife inside the MMA was amplified.

This approach by itself was not sufficient to contain the possibility of an Islamist lunge for power. The Islamists still possessed tremendous street power. In Pakistan, street power is everything and the cities where it mattered the Islamists could put large numbers on the street.The Police had indicated that controlling such large numbers would be impossible and the Islamists had indicated even before the Lal Masjid fiasco, that they were having a very hard time keeping overzealous and angry young Islamic men and women from doing nasty things. Some way had to be concieved to try and deflect Islamist enthusiasm in the general population and to this end another drama was arranged with the help of the US, UK, and Saudi Arabia. Per the script of this drama, Benazir and Nawaz were allowed to return to Pakistan and stage a political boxing match of the 1990s variety. Both had lost considerable amounts of money in the last decade of military rule. In order to prop them up as viable candidates in Pakistan, they need a huge amount of money, this money came from the US and Saudi Arabia.

It is important to note that both Benazir and Nawaz had their channels of communication to the Islamists that were modulated by the Pakistan Army. It is unclear if either of them will be able to prevail against the Islamists in an environment where the Pakistan Army is unable to being stability to their communications. Without real support on the ground via Pakistan based economies, neither of them is likely to be particularly effective in containing the ground swell of public support for the Islamists. If anything both are likely to be percieved as candidates that are completely supported by foreign interests.

In my opinion, sweeping Islamist sentiments under the rug in this fashion, makes it very difficult to audit the true nature of their extent. There is the added concern that sweeping too much under the rug may simply result in a very big mess that has to be cleaned up at a later date. While it is true that the Islamists are in a very direct confrontation with the US, it is also true that they have a staggering presence inside Pakistan. In many cases the Islamists provide basic services in parts of Pakistan where even the Army does not dare to enter. While most of the so-called secular politicians of Pakistan have spent the last two decades soaking up free liquor at various embassies or eating pork in London and Washington D.C. , the Islamists have spend the last twenty years in the trenches with the Pakistani people facing their day-to-day problems and helping them cope with struggles. Whether anyone likes it or not, the Islamists have a finger on the pulse of the Pakistani people and despite what minimal popular appeal that the so-called "secular" leaders of Pakistan project - they will remain wedded to a highly feudal style of economic authoritarianism that is out of place with the needs of Pakistan.

When the obvious stares you in the face... sometimes you just have to accept it.


At 11:47 AM, Anonymous a n said...

Hi Maverick,

I am not much of a political analyst, but still trying to understand things. One thing I am clearly seeing in the case of Pakistan is that all the events unfurling are moving towards a predictable end – that of Pakistan’s ultimate break up and destruction. Though even back in 70s and 80s there were predictions that the country was on the verge of break up, never before was it as transparent as it is now.

Think tank groups have predicted the events taking place at present – may not be to every detail – but at least considering the overall direction they seem to be moving. This makes me wonder that perhaps the whole thing is planned out.

After the cold war era and after the break up of Soviet Union it was only natural that the clash of civilisations occurs. With fundamentalist Islam attempting its final push to engulf the whole of humanity and with the rest of the world finding themselves in variance with it in thought and action I feel the events you are witnessing are of natural outcome.

Outside Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan is the only fundamentalist country capable of executing terrorism and as we know they have been at it for quite sometime. While it could be argued that Americans actions are always guided only by their unquenchable thirst for money and power, one cannot put it past them to act in their self defence when their very way of life is threatened and considering this they seem to be achieving success in creating obstacles to the unchecked spread of Islamic fundamentalism. One has only to read between the lines to understand that they have created in Iran what they intended – an economically weak country that is breaking up in the lines of Shia and Sunny.

The scenario is same in Pakistan. We all know that it is a matter of time and islamists are going to be at the helm of things, including in control of nukes. It would be a fertile ground for US and allies to move in destroy the country. I do not know how much our country is going to get drawn into the conflict – I would be surprised if do not get pulled into it.

I would very much welcome your view on this matter.

At 12:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iran to read as Iraq in my comment above. Error regeretted.

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous kg said...

Hi Maverick:

A couple of links that may be of interest to folks:

Ambassador Ghose on the nuke deal in Outlook:

But the really interesting one is this:

I think . . . folks ought to look through that blog site carefully. The good Col Lang (retd from US Mil Intel) is an "interesting type".

At 7:18 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi A N,

I do not see the events proceeding to Pakistan's break up .. just yet, though a break up of this nature seems to be an ever present possibility.

In my opinion a breakup will be most likely to occur when the US decides that it can no longer control such a large country. At such a point the Pakistani Army itself will deliberately cleave off portions of Pakistan to appease its American masters.

The predictions of so-called analysts in washington are merely public diplomacy. Thse predictions are like those.. "super secret Pentagon plans" to attack Iran that keep getting mysteriously "leaked". Yeh sab, dikhane ke daant hain.. khane ke nahi.

To my mind, Fundamentalist Islam, is a myth.

What I think is more real, however, is an increasingly uncontrollable desire among the young Muslim men the world over to express their dissatisfaction with the global political situation via acts of violence.

The ability of the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan together to keep this anger boiling up inside the Islamic social system is very questionable. With that the prospect of controlled violence becomes more viable.

Think about it, what will the global scenario become if some angry young commander of Iranian revolutionary guards decides to seize the small Iranian nuke and blow it up inside the refinery complex at Abadan - forget nuking Israel with a missile no one trusts... lets just say a misguided IRGC officer drives a small jerry rigged nuke into the refinery complex in Abadan and blows it up. What impact would such an action have on the global energy scenario?

As long as the Iranian regime can control the IRGC, things like this will never happen, but if some American influenced regime change operation creates visible welts between the Iranian leadership and the IRGC who can say such things cannot happen? I mean look at Pakistan, there are already visible fissures between the US backed Pakistani military and the Jihadi groups.

Iraq was always a country rife with Shia-Sunni strife - it is where Imam Hussain and Imam Ali attained martyrdom. This violence you see is not out of sorts with Iraqi society. The only reason we are seeing such an increase in violence is because of the proliferation of weapons and explosives after the US entered the country. The same explosives are being used against the US itself there. If the US leaves Iraq, a super Afghanistan will develop between Saudi and Iranian urges to dominate. Iraq in its current form, whatever its American creators' intentions is turning into a mire that will likely suck its creators down with it.

Shia-Sunni strife is unlikely to stop the Islamist juggernaut in Pakistan. Pakistan's conception as an Islamic state leaves every political elite in Pakistan at the mercy of the religious leadership for validation. Every political leader in Pakistan must have support from the religious leadership if he is to project himself as the leader of Pakistan. The Army by attacking the religious leadership at Lal Masjid has effectively lost the mandate given to them after 1999. That is where all these two bit feudals are getting the guts to confront the army. Without Lal Masjid these feudals would not have the balls to do such things.

No political leader (Pakistani or American) in Pakistan can inspire sectarian strife inside Pakistan with the hope of securing his rule. Firstly the sectarian strife would reflect poorly on him, and secondly it would reflect poorly on his religious backers. It would amount to cutting the branch that one is sitting on.

As demonstrated with the case of Nuri Al Maliki - the Americans too have had to back away from the policy of encouraging Shia-Sunni strife as a way to keep themselves in power in Iraq

At 8:05 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Kg,

Yeah, the Lang-Sale article is interesting.

The Ghose article is a much more complicated read.

I am a little worried now about the mixed signals emerging from GoI. There is a cautious optimism that is being voiced in certain places and an every more in-your-face sense of forboding that prevails everywhere else.

Mme. Ghose's article falls right on the thin line between the two. That is the dead space in which I have increasingly found myself in the last few months.

I for one am at a complete loss to say what is going to happen. The relentless publicity campaign mounted by opponents of the deal had achieved considerable impact. The government is being openly insulted as being an American plant and every single act is being projected as an American inspired policy shift.

This is very very worrying as it risks unnecessarily colouring India's ties to Russia, China and France. It was for this very reason I had tried my utmost to distance the deal from the Pak-Friendly State Department Lobby's rubbish about a China/Iran containment strategy. Given the richness of the ties between this group and others in India, I had feared that they would create a system of debate that precluded progress altogether. It appears my fears have been realised.

When I spoke to one of the Grand NPAs I told him that there was no sense in creating a situation where there was no option left on the Indian side but to create another Enron style fiasco. He appeared unfazed by the idea of gridlock on this. I guess his NPA bloodlines probably told him gridlock was a good thing. I suspect NPA strategy was aimed at specifically fostering discord in India. The NPA alliance with the Delhi Science Forum types was well known. It was not clear that the DSF would project such a huge influence on chatterati. The DSF and its friends had been for years seeking an advanced state of "informedness" about the nuclear program. This effort had been resisted internally because of concerns over their ties to the US and international groups. Today they are projecting the same demands with greater public stature. What is ironic is the disreputable forum and the DSF are now on the same side.

Between simultaneous attacks from both the right and the left, the GoI is completely paralysed. If either the Right or the Left had anything aside of partisan political interests at heart, I would be somewhat less concerned, but I fear there is nothing more to things at that end.

Very few people realise the need to proceed rapidly. No one has publicly combined the implications of the falling dollar with inflationary tendencies for nuclear energy resources. The closest anyone has come to a dispassionate analysis is Sri. Vikram Sood, who in his article shed light on the pricing of power issue. Given the commericial sensitivity of this inside India, I can understand no one else besides someone of Sri. Sood's stature dares talk about such things.

Inside the US, there is a big push towards non-nuclear power. This is mostly backed by Agro/BP (biofuels), Murray Corp. (Coal to Liq), and GE (solar/wind). This is creating a major swirling type motion in the loyalties of the lobbyists on the hill.

It is possible that this could easily drive things towards non-traditional power sources in India. All in all as I once told someone in DAE - that may not be a bad thing. After all there is no reason every village in India has to consume 10 MW - with the right kind of emphasis on and low wattage consumption and distributed generation from non-traditional sources we could save a boatload on grid construction *and* maintain considerable energy independence in the rural agro economy.

At 10:30 AM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Kg,

It appears Ahmad Quraishi has come out with an article that suggests that the US is attempting to distance itself from the Pakistani Military.

Quraishi is making a claim that specific counter-responses are being considered in the Pakistani establishment. The options allegedly being considered by the PA are snapping the POL line for US troops in Afghanistan. Reviewing Pakistani participation in the War on Terror, and opening negotiations with the Taliban.

It seems a fissure is appearing between the Pakistani Army and the Americans.

Apparently per Quraishi, the cause of the fissure is primarily the manner in which the Pakistani Army is being challenged by US SD funded "democratic" politicos. The Pakistan Army .. according to Quraishi was well aware of a US plan to use the Islamists inside Pakistan and Afghanistan to antagonise the Chinese but it was only when the fires of American desire began to impinge the PA's own interests, did the fissure appear.

Now the question to my mind is... is this fissure being deliberately inserted by the USG with the aim of engaging Anti-US sentiments in Pakistan?

Is a clique of Zia era politicians and officers being deliberately driven to the forefront of the pro-Islam, anti-US sentiment in Pakistan?

I am absolutely certain that this is a geopolitical maneuver, what is a realistic objective for such a maneuver?

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous kg said...

Maverick I think it depends on two different issues:

It all depends on whether or not the US has a handle on Pakee nukes. Note, not control but at the very least information.

Thats the biggest constraint on what the US can do. If the US has enough information to know where the nukes are, then their freedom of action increases enormously. By "know" I mean they need to know not just the assembled/partially demated warheads are, but where the parts for others are.

Specifically, the US must know where *all* the machined cores are. I think that's crucial given the sophistication of what the media at the time described was in Richard "shoe bomber" Reed's shoes at the time. N had said atthe time that given the hi-tech nature of the ignition device, he thought Reed was meant to fail and send a message.

i.e. If the US can't control the ancillary stuff that goes around the core to make an actual "bum", then they simply have to make sure of those cores.

There are, IMO, therefore two different structural objectives available:

A. The US has *enough* information, to be able to target the places the machined cores are and be fairly certain of destroying them if necessary, and to also be "certain" they can take out the ability to machine new cores and prevent the Chinese/Germans from giving the Pakees new machining tools:

Now if they can do that the whole game changes. If they have that information, why break up and damage the PA? The PA are totally dependent on the US anyway. They're obedient enough. Sure they do the odd amount of double play and backstabbing, but from a "corporatist" perspective, that's simply normal organisational behaviour from ambitious lower, middle management types.

Given the drugs and conflict economy now firmly centred on the arc between Pakistan to the Meditarranean, the US is in like a pig in clover.

The Paks can still be used to keep a check and harass Iran, Russia, India and the Chinese (The Chinese can be harrassed with or without the PAs active cooperation, if the old CIA-Ulema nexus can be re-built with Saudi help.)

In such a scenario I would suggest that the US' primary *initial* objective is to simply get a better handle on the PA. i.e. Move to obtain fine-grained control that can ensure better "management" of their new acquisition.

From a corporatist perspective (always a handy way to view the GoTUS' behaviour, its in their genes or something) they'd do pretty much what a company that had a successful hostile takeover of another one would do: Begin replacing uncooperative management with new people, finding out and removing bottlenecks to better synergies between the two bureacracies - always making sure everyone knew who was in charge, dileneating new boundaries to shift power structures inside the new acquisition.

Trying to get the "neutrals" to get onside by improving/changing the incentive/disincentive structures to modify people's behaviour and responses to the new situation to encourage behaviour new management wants and discourage behaviour they don't want. And a whole host of other ancillary stuff - all designed to give the new management firm control.

All the sort of things that a company (or a mafia family!) does with a valuable new acquisition.

That, in my view, is what the US would do if it knew where the cores are. Worse case scenario: If the new acquisition doesn't work out, they can try and sell them to the Chinese - or . . . India. :-)

What the US would do once they have both these things - the info to destroy what Tellis called "the crown jewels", and having a better handle on the Pakees I hate to even think about.

B. If the US doesn't know (i.e. may suspect but can't be "certain") where the machined cores are:

Then the options change dramatically.

There's no master/servant relationship anymore. Arrogant-employer/shifty-employee, yes. But master/servant, no. They're no longer a recalcitrant wholly owned subsidiary that can be, literally, beaten into shape. It's more of an uneasy collaboration.

And everyone gets to play in the pakee sandpit - us, the Chinese, the Iranians, the Russians (note the editorial by Sethi in DT about "blue eyed Chechens"), the Saudis, the Turks and even those sad, pathetic, but always amusing, little folk from the United Queendom. :-)

It would seem to me to be an unbelievable bit of incompetence if the US did *not*, over the last 5-6 years, have a handle on the Pakee nukes. But given the genius they've displayed so far . . .

If they haven't got the required info, I would guess that virtually everything they do is, in one way or another, designed to give them or extract such info to obtain the necessary leverage *and* to maintain it.

Pushing the pakees to do things, the leaks on pakee nuke safety, the systematic and deliberate attempts to create enough paranoia so that the Pakees make a mistake - everything would be done so that they get enough movement to spot the houdbara.

It's not clear to me which of these holds. US behavoiur seems to be a mix of the two situations. Some of the things they've done seems to indicate they got some sort of handle on the Pakee nukes but other things they do imply they haven't and the pakees still, therefore, have leverage over the US.

Perhaps they got some info on the built warheads, but not all. Or maybe they got enough info on those but aren't confident they can stop new cores being machined and new warheads produced - or maybe the Chinese have something to do with guaranteeing the Pakees their nukes if the US intervenes or something.

It seems a bit up in the air.

By the way, re the POL stuff.

I don't quite buy that. What's to stop the US from simply "detaching" Balochistan if the Pakees play funny buggers with the POL shipments? It would be trivial. And the Balochs would flock to the US banner if the US did so openly and promised them a state and the weapons to defend it. Remember, the Balochs including Nawab Bugti openly, clearly and repeatedly said that the Pak Army fight with the Balochs was *because* the Balochs were resisting the Islamagiri that the PA was pushing.

If the pakees *openly* mess with the US' POL supply lines to Afghanistan I'd say its a safe bet that Pakistan, as its currently constituted, would regret it.


At 7:55 PM, Blogger maverick said...

Hi Kg,

I am going to have to think about your post. I suspect scenario B is closer to reality. If it was scenario A, the US would have acted already but I want to think about this more.

With regards the threat to the POL lines - well that is more actionable on the Pakistani side than many would believe.

Any independent US POL line would run via Pasni, thru turbat to Quetta and from there to Kandahar.

Quetta is the choke point. Quetta is a Pashtun dominated city and it is unlikely that the US would be able to seize control over the city in a short enough time to guarentee safety of road based POL shipments. As long as the LOCs go via Quetta, I imagine the prospect of Pakistani interference remains.

You may recall attacks on POL convoys in Quetta - something like 10-20 trucks being burnt at once. That is probably what the PA is hinting at.

POL .. well.. it is the OL part of it that is worst from the US perspective. Without the heavy oil - i.e. Jet A Kero, their helo bridges will be inoperative. Without air mobility the US cannot move in Afghanistan.

The mighty fleet requires a substantial number of escorts. Escorts have to pick up fuel from Karachi. If PA cuts the fuel line, fleet operations could take hit as well.

It will be like Mogadishu without the blackhawks.

When I think of this, I realise that the instability in Pakistan could very well be part of the reason why the US suddenly started kissing up to Iran. I imagine the US probably believes that Iran would happily sell it POL for ops in Afghanistan if the Pakistanis decide to move in a different direction than earlier anticipated.


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