Fall of Pakistani Governments -Coups or Street Politics

Pakistan has witnessed a long chain of political instability- and also change of government either through coups ot street fighting. The trend started right after murder of Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister. That was a sign of things to come. There have so far been four major political movements in Pakistan that led to overthrowing a sitting government. Three of these movements were against military rule and one targeted an elected civilian setup. Though three of the movements (two against military rule and one against a civilian government) were actually successful in initiating a sequence of events that bought the government down, the eventual successes of these movements were soon soiled by the consequential emergence of greater social and political crisis compared to the ones that the movements had pointed their demonstrations against.
The four movements include the 1968-69 uprising against Filed Martial Ayub Khan’s military-backed regime; the 1977 movement of opposition parties against the civilian government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto; the 1983 movement led by the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against the military dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq; and the 2007 protest movement led by radical lawyers and aided by opposition parties against the pro-military set-up of General Parvez Musharraf.
The movements against Ayub, Musharraf and Bhutto were successful in gradually ousting these men. But each one of these successes were soon followed by certain weighty events that were largely triggered by the immediate consequences of the movements i.e. weakening of the economy, political bedlam, and the withering of the social contract between the state and society that encouraged indiscipline and confusion within state institutions and in society in general.
Ayub’s regime fell in 1969. Though his fall was followed by Pakistan’s first ever general election based on adult franchise (in 1970), in 1971 Pakistan lost a civil war in its Eastern wing (East Pakistan) and then a war against India whose forces aided the separation of East Pakistan from its Western wing.
The weakening of Bhutto’s regime due to intense protests against it in 1977 was almost immediately followed by a reactionary military coup that lasted for eleven years. The dictatorship’s legacy today is widely considered to be one of the most damaging to the country’s social and political fabric.
The movement against Musharraf forced him to hold an election in 2008 that allowed the return of the country’s two main parties (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the PPP); and the same year he was forced by the newly elected government and parliament to resign as head of state and Army chief. However, his exit further intensified episodes of anarchic terrorism by religious extremists and militants who had first emerged during his regime. Thousands of civilians, politicians, soldiers and policemen were killed in the militant violence and bombings that erupted during the regimes that followed his ouster.
Of course, the movements that ousted Ayub, Bhutto and Musharraf can’t be entirely blamed for such devastating quandaries because the roots of the ultimate damage that followed their ouster also lie in the shortcomings of their respective governments. But it is also true that the economic, political and social consequences triggered by the movements did intensify the magnitude of the rot that had been brewing within the country’s state and society before the movements began.
1. Good bye Ayub
Many people who as young men and women took part in the widespread protest movement against the military rule of Ayub Khan in the late 1960s suggest that Ayub relinquished power after he was told what some of the protesters had started to call him. In 1968 at the height of the movement against him, young protesters in Karachi and Lahore began describing him as a dog. This was a time when politicians and rulers in Pakistan hardly ever used any derogatory language against their opponents, so Ayub was shocked when he heard that some of his children (the term he used to describe his subjects), had decided to call him a dog.
Ayub had come to power in 1958 on the back of a popular military coup (Pakistan’s first), and had enjoyed a significant run of admiration from a majority of Pakistanis in the first four years of his dictatorship.
Vowing to make Pakistan a powerful and influential military-industrial state, Ayub encouraged and facilitated an unprecedented growth in the process of industrialisation in the country. He also initiated the introduction of technical innovations in agriculture and brought Pakistan closer to the United States, thus benefitting from the military and financial aid that came with the enhanced relationship.
By 1961 the Ayub regime had largely restored the country’s economy that had begun to weaken from the mid-1950s onwards, mainly due to the political chaos that prevailed in the country, as various factions of Pakistan’s first ruling party, the Muslim League, indulged in constant infighting and intrigues, and were unable to address the growing disenchantment and cynicism exhibited towards politicians by those who were kept out from the political process dominated by the country’s political-bureaucratic elite.
Ayub was at the height of his power and popularity when he decided to lift Martial Law in 1962 and restore at least a semblance of political activity by the parties that had been banned in 1958. He became President and handpicked an assembly through a complex electoral system called ‘Basic Democracies’. After discarding the 1956 Constitution, his assembly passed a brand new Constitution that enshrined Ayub’s idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan. The idea revolved around the construction of a strong military-industrial state, propped up by state-backed capitalism, free enterprise, agricultural reforms and a progressive interpretation of Islam that was compatible with science, technology and modernity.
Ayub detested politicians, from both the left as well as the right sides of the conventional ideological divide. His regime came down hard on left-wing parties and then went on to ban certain fundamentalist parties such as the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) (though the ban was overturned by the courts).
The leftists accused him of encouraging capitalist cronyism, the exploitation of the workers, and the suppression of the rights and ethnic-nationalism of of the Bengalis (in East Pakistan), Sindhis, the Baloch and the Pakhtun, and of dislodging the Urdu-speakers (the Mohajirs) from important state and government institutions that they had helped build after Pakistan’s creation in 1947.
The religious right denounced him of being overtly secular. Ayub easily glided through the many periodical protests that took place against him after 1962 and then won a second term as President in a controversial Presidential race in 1965.
Buoyed by his victory and his firm status as a benevolent dictator, Ayub then made an uncharacteristic mistake , advised by the hawks in his cabinet (led by his young Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto), to crown his economic and political achievements with a military triumph against India. India had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese army in 1962 and Bhutto and his supporters in the cabinet were convinced that the Pakistan army would be able to crush the weakened Indian armed forces.
Though the Pakistani armed forces made rapid gains in the initial period of the 1965 Pakistan-India War, the conflict soon turned against Pakistan and the control of Lahore virtually passed to India. Ayub settled for a ceasefire, sending Bhutto into a rage. Ayub eased out Bhutto from the government but the damage was done. The war had drained the country’s resources and the economy began its detrimental slide.
Ayub’s opponents accused him of coping out and of losing the war on the negotiation table. Bhutto went on to form his radical left-liberal party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and along with the already established left-wing groups, such as the National Awami Party (NAP) and the National Students Federation (NSF), he became the most prominent face of left-wing opposition in West Pakistan.
In Bengali-dominated East Pakistan, Shiekh Mujeebur Rehman’s Awami League (AL), upped the ante against the regime and accused it of leaving East Pakistan open to an Indian attack during the 1965 war. As the Bengali nationalist movement led by AL and by various militant/Maoist Bengali nationalist groups in East Pakistan gathered pace, in West Pakistan, Ayub was suddenly faced by a spontaneous students’ movement when in October 1968, a large contingent from the NSF gate-crashed a ceremony being held by the government at Lahore’s Fortress Stadium to celebrate the ‘Decade of Progress’. The students began to chant anti-Ayub slogans and clashed with the police. They accused the regime of enriching a handful of cronies and letting everyone else suffer unemployment and economic hardship. Then in November 1968, police opened fire on a left-wing student rally in Rawalpindi, killing three protesters.
In response to the killings, the students formed a Students Action Committee and announced that students across Pakistan would begin a concentrated protest movement against the regime. As the students began their campaign (with most of the student groups demanding a socialist system and parliamentary democracy), Bhutto’s PPP joined the fray along with NAP and their entry brought with it the participation in the movement of the radical trade and labour unions that were associated with these parties.
By late 1968 the movement had spread beyond Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar and reached the smaller cities and towns of Punjab and Sindh. Meanwhile in East Pakistan, AL and other Bengali nationalist groups began to demand complete provincial autonomy for East Pakistan. Schools, colleges and universities stopped functioning; workers went on strike and closed down a number of factories, and white-collar professionals refused to attend office, further crippling an already deteriorating political and economic order.
After failing to quell the protests (through police action and wide-scale arrests), Ayub invited opposition parties to hold a dialogue with the government. But the PPP and NAP boycotted the negotiations that were largely attended by religious parties and some moderate right-wing parties. However, Mujeeb’s AL did participate, but the talks ultimately broke down. By early 1969 the movement had also been joined by peasant committees and organizations in the country’s rural areas.
In March 1969 a group of senior military men advised Ayub to step down, fearing the eruption of a full scale civil war in East Pakistan and political and social anarchy in the country’s west wing. A weakened and tired Ayub finally decided to throw-in the towel and resigned, handing over power to General Yayah Khan who immediately imposed the country’s second Martial Law. He promised to hold the country’s first general election based on adult franchise and relinquish power after introducing parliamentary democracy in Pakistan. With this announcement, the movement came to a halt.
The elections were held in 1970. In East Pakistan AL won 98 percent of the allotted national and provincial assembly seats, whereas in West Pakistan, the PPP swept the polls in the region’s two largest provinces, Punjab and Sindh. NAP performed well in the former NWFP and Balochistan. Most of the status quo parties (such as the many Muslim League factions), and most religious outfits (except Jamiat Ulema Islam), were decimated. However, a three-way political deadlock between AL, PPP and the Yayah regime (over a power-sharing formula) triggered a grave crisis that finally saw the feared eruption of a civil war in East Pakistan and then India’s entry into the deadly conflict.
Pakistani armed forces, exhausted by the anti-Ayub movement and facing negative sentiments due to the fall-out of Ayub’s departure, lost both the civil war and the consequential battle against Indian forces. A group of military officers (most of them Bhutto sympathizers), forced Yayah to resign and then invited Bhutto and his party to form the country’s first parliamentary government.
2. Bhutto’s paradox
Between March and June 1977, ZA Bhutto saw the emergence of a protest movement against his government – the kind he had triggered and then led ten years earlier against the Ayub Khan regime in 1968. But even though the movement against the Bhutto/PPP regime in 1977 was as strong, impactful as the one that ousted Ayub, the 1977 movement’s class and ideological make-up was squarely different than that of the 1968 movement.
During the 1968 movement a wide cross section of the society had participated – left-wing middle-class youth, blue-collar workers, peasants, etc. The1977 movement on the other hand, largely revolved around right-wing student groups, middle-class/white-collar professionals, traders and urban and semi-urban petite-bourgeoisie.
Bhutto had come to power in December 1971 after his party had won the largest number of seats in the former West Pakistan. After the dramatic separation of East Pakistan, a group of disillusioned and angry army officers forced General Yayah Khan to resign and hand over power to Bhutto.
Bhutto’s party, the PPP, had contested the 1970 election on a populist socialist manifesto and the first three years of his regime were spent in repairing the morale of the armed forces and the civilians that was deeply damaged by the separation of East Pakistan and the defeat of Pakistani forces at the hands of the Indian army. It was also during these years that his regime implemented large-scale populist policies that included the nationalization of a number of industries; widespread reforms in the bureaucracy and the armed forces; (limited) land reforms; action against monopolist capitalists and corrupt bureaucrats; the ouster of Bonapastists from the armed forces; formation of two strong parallel security forces (the Federal Security Force and the Red Guards) that were directly placed under Bhutto; education reforms (that saw the nationalization of a majority of educational institutions that drastically cut down their fees and allowed the working classes to send their sons and daughters there); and cultural reforms that facilitated the proliferation of folk music and ethos of Pakistan’s various ethnic groups. During this period, the Bhutto regime drafted a brand new constitution (1973), and managed to get it passed in the national assembly by gaining the approval of all political parties.
By 1973 the regime had also successfully managed to somewhat restore the economy. Contrary to popular perception, and according to political economists such as S. Akbar Zaidi, Asad Saeed, V.Y. Belokrenitsky and V.N. Moskalenko, Pakistan’s economy actually rebounded after the beating that it had received during the later years of the Ayub regime and especially after the economic fall-out of the conflict in East Pakistan.
However, it is also true that the economic restoration could not withstand the stress generated by the 1973 international oil crises that raised the inflation rate in the country and Bhutto had to devalue the Rupee. This got a negative response from traders and businessmen who then began to ship out their capital, creating a new economic crisis. The incompetency and inexperience exhibited by the new managers in the nationalised industries further deepened the crisis and the Bhutto regime now decided to look towards the oil-rich Arab countries that had begun to make large profits due to the unprecedented hike in oil prices after 1973.
By 1974 Bhutto had overtly become the pragmatist that he actually was and began to ease out the hard-line leftists from his cabinet. Conscious of the early moves made by oil-rich Arab states to begin funding a mainstream revival in Political Islam in Muslim countries, Bhutto began manoeuvring a delicate balance between his socialist/populist policies and the emerging interest in Political Islam to attract petro-Dollars from Arab countries. He cracked down on radical labour and student outfits (calling them impractical and detrimental to Pakistan’s recovery), and tried to appease right-wing opposition by agreeing to address some of their demands to Islamize the Constitution.
Bhutto was sitting easy in 1976 as the petro Dollars began to come in and he had quietened opposition from the left as well as the right (one through arrests and the other through pragmatic appeasement). He also seemed to have the military’s support and backing after he initiated a military operation in Balochistan against supposed Baloch separatists. Feeling confident, he announced elections almost a year before they were due only to be left surprised when he saw a fractured and battered opposition unite on a single electoral platform to compete against the PPP in the 1977 election. The Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) was made-up of nine anti-PPP parties. It included three of the country’s main religious parties, some moderate conservative parties and a few small left-wing outfits. PNA largely represented the frustrations and aspirations of those groups that had been affected the most by the Bhutto government’s economic and other policies. These included industrialists, businessmen, traders, shopkeepers, the anti-Bhutto landed gentry and the urban middle-classes.
The PNA denounced the Bhutto regime for being detrimental to the cause of Islam in Pakistan, and for turning Pakistan into a land of sin. They also accused Bhutto of being a civilian dictator, an oppressor and a drunkard who had let loose a reign of hooligans on the streets of the country.
Bhutto’s party which, by now, had toned down its socialist rhetoric and tried to prove that its Islam was more enlightening than that of the capitalist and feudal mullahs of the PNA, swept the election.
The PNA cried foul and claimed that the election was rigged. It boycotted the provincial election and decided to start a protest movement. Today, according to various analysts and historians, rigging took place on not more than a dozen seats (in the Punjab) but resentment against the regime in certain sections of the society had been brewing so strongly that the movement that Bhutto thought would fizzle out, erupted in the most devastating fashion. According to a detailed study of the movement done (in 1980) by historian and author, Ahmad B. Saeed, the main participants/protesters of the movement included disgruntled urban middle and lower-middle class youth (mostly belonging to Karachi and Lahore); traders, shop-keepers and white-collar office workers. According to Saeed, the working classes and the peasants largely remained away from the movement. The agitation against the regime and the police crackdowns mostly took place in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi. Government buildings, police stations, homes of the members of the PPP, nightclubs, bars, cinemas and hotels were attacked by mobs demanding Shariah Law (Nizam-e-Mustafa).
Bhutto called in the army and imposed long curfews but even that failed to stem the mad flow of the protests. Cops frequently opened fire on the rampaging mobs but some military personnel refused to follow the orders of their superiors and this became a major concern within the military.
Wealthy Industrialists who had been stripped of their perks and power by Bhutto were accused of funding the movement, and the regime also alleged that the United States was bankrolling the protests. Many PPP leaders also pointed the finger towards the large amounts of Saudi Riyals that (according to the PPP) had reached the coffers of the religious parties.
After a month of violence, Bhutto invited the PNA for talks. The PNA demanded fresh elections and the implementation of Shariah Laws. To stall the first demand, Bhutto agreed to conditionally implement the second request and in April 1977 he ordered the closure of all nightclubs and bars. He also banned the sale of alcohol (to Muslims) and replaced Sunday with the Muslim holy day (Friday) as the weekly holiday. PNA decided to stay in the talks.
More than a decade later, veteran Jamat-i-Islami (JI) leader, late Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, who played a leading role in the movement, told journalists that the talks went well and just when Bhutto had agreed to hold fresh elections, General Ziaul Haq decided to impose the country’s third Martial Law (July 1977). He said that most PNA leaders were happy at how the talks had gone but some leaders, such as Asghar Khan (of the moderate conservative, Thereek-i-Istaqlal) and Begum Wali (wife of the left-wing Pushtun nationalist, Wali Khan), desired military intervention. When asked why then did JI join Zia’s first cabinet whereas most PNA parties opposed the Martial Law, Professor Ghafoor claimed that joining Zia was the decision of the party’s Punjab leadership and that JI’s Karachi chapter had opposed the move.
Zia, who adopted PNA’s Islamic rhetoric and agenda, went on to rule Pakistan for the next eleven years. Bhutto was arrested and in 1979, through a highly controversial trial, he was sentenced to death for a political murder he was alleged to have ordered, and hanged.
3. Zia Gets Scared
Though protests against the Ziaul Haq dictatorship began almost immediately after his military coup in July 1977, his regime’s harsh measures (such as public floggings, executions, sentencing by military courts and torture) against any and all opposition did not allow opposition groups to organize themselves in a more coherent and systematic manner. Public floggings were regularly used during the early years of the Zia dictatorship to disperse opposition against the regime and infuse in the society a sense of fear.
But even though the beginning of the anti-Soviet Afghan Jihad in Afghanistan in late 1979 meant that the Zia regime was poised to attract recognition from the United States, and (thus) become its vessel to carry the large military and financial aid that the US and Saudi Arabia pledged as a way to back the Mujahedeen guerrillas in Afghanistan, it would take another few years for Zia to use this material patronage to strengthen his position by reviving the country’s shattered economy.
The regime’s undoing of the economic policies implemented by Bhutto and with the US and Saudi aid now beginning to come in, the economy did begin to slowly revive itself, but Zia’s position was still vulnerable in 1981 when a strong political alliance decided to launch an all-out protest movement against him.
The alliance Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was formed by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that was being led by ZA Bhutto’s widow, Begum Nusrat and his 28-year-old daughter, Benazir Bhutto, both of whom had been in and out of jail and house arrest ever since ZA Bhutto was toppled by Zia in 1977. The MRD was headed by the PPP and also included various smaller left-wing parties, Sindhi, Baloch and Pushtun nationalist outfits, one Muslim League faction (PML-Qasim) and the only mainstream religious party that opposed Zia, the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI).
The movement kicked off in early 1981 from Karachi’s Saddar area where a PPP worker arrived on a camel and court-arrested to the cheers of a large crowd that had gathered there. Soon the movement, whose first phase involved court-arrests, spread into Lahore and was about to take-off when it suddenly collapsed due to the adventurism of Bhutto’s sons, Murtaza and Shahnawaz. Both had escaped to Afghanistan where under the patronage of the Soviet-backed Afghan government they had formed a left-wing urban guerrilla organization, the Al-Zulfikar (AZO), to plan strikes against Zia regime in Pakistan.
The AZO was made-up of Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun and Urdu-speaking militants belonging to the PPP’s student-wing, and after conducting a couple of assassinations and two failed attempts to strike Zia’s plane with a SAM missile in 1980, the AZO hijacked a PIA plane from the Karachi Airport (March 1981). The mission was led by former President of the PPP’s student-wing, Salamullah Tipu, who got over 50 political prisoners released from Zia’s jails when he took the plane full of passengers to Kabul and then to Damascus.
Benazir condemned the hijacking and became even more critical of his brothers’ actions when Tipu shot dead a passenger in Kabul. The MRD movement collapsed when Zia accused the PPP of being behind the hijacking and used the episode to unleash an unprecedented and severe crackdown against MRD leaders and workers. It took another two years for MRD to reorganize itself and plan another movement against the dictatorship. But by 1983 Zia had consolidated his position and revived the economy – even though the revival brought with it a new kind of institutional corruption and the initial emergence of delinquencies such as heroin/gun smuggling and the coming into the mainstream of radical sectarian figures who had been loitering on the fringes of politics but began being patronised by the state to prop-up support among young Pakistanis and Afghans for the US/Saudi-backed insurgency against the Soviet forces stationed in Kabul.
Since, Punjab had been the bastion of the PPP ever since the late 1960s, Zia (an immigrant Punjabi), began to overtly patronize various prominent business groups of Punjab and his economic policies were designed to attract the support of the province’s urban middle and lower-middle-class traders, businessmen and shopkeepers. He then began to give these groups political roles and aligned them with the more radical religious outfits that he was fostering. So in a way the economic revival witnessed during the Zia regime was accompanied by a burst of religiosity.
MRD deducted that the fruits of economic revival (at least in 1983) were mostly falling into the hands of central/urban Punjab’s middle and trader classes, industrialists and businessmen, whereas rest of the country was being ravaged by economic drawbacks, the rising rates of crime and corruption and the growing incidents of sectarian violence.
On August 14, 1983 (one year after Zia had gotten himself elected as President through a dubious referendum), the MRD launched a brand new movement against him. The groundwork for the movement was mostly done by second-tier members and common workers of the parties of the MRD because by now most of the main leaders of the opposition outfits were either in jail or under house arrest.
Though the movement kicked-off simultaneously in Sindh and Punjab, it failed to gather much support in the latter province. Soon, it became restricted to Sindh where at one point it began to threaten turning into a full-blown Sindhi nationalist movement. MRD activists and youth belonging to the student-wings of MRD parties and various left-wing Sindhi nationalist groups plunged into the fray and disrupted everyday life in Sindh – though Karachi, remained relatively calm.
The situation went out of control for the police to handle and Zia called in the army. Anti-Zia activists used shrines of Sufi saints and the thick forests of Moro and Dadu to plan their agitation from. Dozens of MRD supporters were killed when troops used sophisticated weapons to mow down the protests. In Karachi left-wing and progressive student groups went to war with right-wing pro-Zia student outfits at universities and colleges and women organizations gathered on the streets to burn their dupattas as a protest against what they believed were Zia’s anti-women laws. Radical trade, labour and journalist unions too played a role in the movement, but by late 1983, it had squarely become a militant Sindhi nationalist movement when Punjab failed to rise.
Though the movement left Zia and his regime feeling nervous and thinking that they were facing another East-Pakistan-like situation, military troops finally managed to crush the commotion. A number of people were killed and hundreds were thrown in jails and severely tortured. The PPP’s main leadership went into exile. Zia had managed to avert a major scare to his dictatorship.
Zia had managed to change the political and social complexion of Punjab and begin the long process of drying out its support for the PPP. But whereas he managed also to keep Balochistan quiet (after releasing Baloch nationalists who had been thrown into jails by the Bhutto regime), and with the NWFP (present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) caught-up in receiving Afghan mujahideen and Afghan refugees and with the regime integrating the Pakhtuns into the changing ways of the ruling and business elites, Sindh was left to its own devises. Apart from the fact that there was already anger among the Sindhis against the hanging of a Sindhi prime minister (ZA Bhutto), what actually triggered violence in the province in 1983 was the fact that Sindhis as well as the Urdu-speakers in Karachi felt that they were being invaded by elements that were posing a threat to their economic and political interests.
Karachi began receiving waves of Afghan refugees, many of whom came for the sole purpose of setting up shady drug and weapons businesses in the city. This trend would trigger the vicious circle of ethnic violence in Karachi from 1985 onwards. Zia also began to allot land and business in Sindh to Punjabis who began to migrate from Punjab into Sindh. Zia did this to create a constituency for himself in Sindh. But what he got was resistance and resentment from the Sindhis and Urdu-speaking traders. In Karachi non-Punjabi traders and businessmen formed an anti-Punjabi organization called the Maha Sindh (this would partly evolve into becoming the MQM in 1984). But the reaction was more violent in the interior of the Sindh province where protests against the regime soon became militant and military troops had to be called in to quell the turmoil.
The MRD began yet another movement in 1986 that was directly led by Benazir Bhutto. Though this time it did manage to draw support from Punjab, it would take another two years and a controversial plane crash for Zia to fall. He died in the crash in August 1988 paving the return of democracy Pakistan.
4. Musharraf Fumbles & Falls
General Parvez Musharraf pulled-off a popular military coup against the second government of Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) in 1999. Just like Ayub, Musharraf too came to power and received a hearty round of applause from a populace exhausted by the economic downturns, corruption and chaos of the 1990s in which two main political parties, the PPP and PML-N, constantly pulled the carpet under each other’s feet and at the same time wore themselves out by combating political intrigues whipped up by remnants of the Zia era in the establishment.The Musharraf coup was not appreciated by Pakistan’s leading donor, the United States, and the General struggled to restore the country’s battered economy during the first two years of his regime. Posing himself as a moderate and a lifestyle liberal, Musharraf’s luck turned when he agreed to become a frontline ally of the US in its war against terror in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. Pakistan became the recipient of millions of dollars worth of military and financial aid from the US which Musharraf used to rebuild the country’s economy.
The economic boom masterminded by Musharraf’s second prime minister, Shoukat Aziz (a banker), and almost entirely based on various aspects of post-Cold War neoliberal economics, helped Musharraf avoid any serious resistance and the country remained largely peaceful till 2005.
However, joining the war on terror also meant Pakistan making some sudden U-turns regarding its policies related to religious militant groups who had been patronised by the state of Pakistan across the 1980s and 1990s to fight proxy wars in Afghanistan and Jammu & Kashmir. In 2002 Musharraf began to crackdown on a number of extremist organizations but at the same time his regime maintained links with certain militant outfits. The crackdown, his decision to join the US war on terror, and him positioning his regime as liberal triggered a backlash by extremist outfits that had been outlawed. Thus began the trend of suicide bombings against government targets and foreign embassies that then escalated from 2007 onwards against civilians in markets, mosques, Sufi shrines and churches.
Despite of facing terrorist attacks, the Musharraf regime managed to construct a feel-good environment in which the economy of the country’s urban areas thrived and no overt protest movement succeeded to take hold. This also included Karachi’s return to peace and development after two decades of ethnic turmoil.
In the first five years of his rule, Musharraf managed to construct a feel-good environment in which the economies of the major urban centers thrived. The euphoria however began to wear off after 2006. Both the PPP and PML-N remained side-lined and Musharraf seemed to have been enjoying a continuous stretch of popularity when the northern areas of the country (including the capital, Islamabad) were hit by a devastating earthquake. Thousands died in the catastrophe but the regime was quick to offer aid backed by an unprecedented charity drive undertaken by various civilian organizations and individuals.
Interestingly, the drive also seemed to have stirred some latent resentment against the regime, especially in the Punjab and NWFP. When the economy (that seemed to have been built like a bubble), began to deflate, Musharraf started to face his first round of direct criticism that mostly came from opposition groups who were enthusiastically invited by the string of private TV channels that had emerged from 2002 onwards.
Then in late 2006 Musharraf casually dismissed a controversial and ambitious Supreme Court judge, Iftikhar Chaudhry. The TV channels gave a sensationalist twist to the episode and drummed-up a narrative that explained Chaudhry as defying the illegitimate orders of a dictator. Lawyers poured out on the streets of Lahore and Islamabad and demanded that Chaudhry be restored. As the protests of the lawyers grew louder, they now also demanded that Musharraf resign and fresh elections held.
Seeing the protests as an opening and with the way agitation began to be covered by the electronic media, PPP and PML-N too jumped in, as did parties such as the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
Musharraf was clearly taken aback by the commotion which was then followed by another crisis when radical clerics and their supporters from Islamabad’s Red Mosque began to abduct cops and women working at beauty parlours and attacking music shops. After negotiations between the government and the clerics failed, Musharraf ordered the army to storm the mosque where the armed clerics were holed in. The military used teargas, guns and missiles to clear out the mosque. Exaggerated figures of the civilians killed (especially women and children) were often quoted and the clerics were given more airtime to sound out their views than the government officials.
The confusion created by the media and the regime’s own weakness to counter the narrative that was being built eventually saw the emergence of an alliance of extremist militants who began to target public places supposedly to avenge Musharraf’s Red Mosque massacre. It was at this point that the Lawyers’ Movement that had been initially started by progressive groups of lawyers began its shift to the right as parties like PML-N and JI began to dominate it. It was also believed that PML-N had begun to bankroll the movement. The movement’s greatest presence was felt in urban Punjab and the NWFP. It was almost nowhere in Sindh and its capital, Karachi.
This was the first major protest movement ever since 1968 and 1977 in which Punjab participated whole-heartedly. The province had largely remained quiet during the movements against Zia and many of Musharraf’s supporters in Sindh and Karachi suggested that Punjab only rises against non-Punjabi rulers. Though some events may actually substantiate this but the recent rise of Imran Khan in the Punjab against Nawaz Sharif (a Punjabi) might be used to counter such a perception.
Unlike the movement against Ayub (which included the participation of the working classes and the peasants as well), the movement against Musharraf was more like the one against Bhutto in 1977 in which the majority of participants belonged to the urban middle and lower middle-classes.
This time however, these classes had actually prospered under Musharraf but after reaching certain limits of economic prosperity, these classes became the blocked elite and/or that portion of the robust urban classes who may have gained economic influence (through business-friendly economic policies) and social influence (through media outlets), found themselves blocked to also gain political influence from the traditional ruling elites.
The movement began to settle down when Musharraf grudgingly allowed the return of two main politicians from exile, Benazir Bhutto (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif (PML_N). Bhutto unfortunately was assassinated in a bomb attack in December 2007 and her husband Asif Ali Zardari became the leader. Zardari and Nawaz led their parties to victory in the 2008 elections and both then squeezed Musharraf to resign as President and Army chief. And thus ended the the fourth government- unwept, unsung and unhonored.
It is to seen whether this trend continues to haunt Pakistan, or would it ever have a normal, civilized system to change governments, without recourse to the politics of agitation with attendant mayhem and chaos.

Use PDORA Effectively & Stop Wasting Your Time

Wastage of time in corporate offices and hallowed halls of bureaucracy is an endemic problem, It is necessary to ensure that this time is gainfully employed for optimum results. This is an area I follow very closely and I’m delighted to see such strong interest in potential solutions. Clearly, there are some best practices out there on how to make meetings more productive. Some of them addressed herein.
We’re all too busy, spending our days in back-to-back meetings and our nights feverishly responding to emails. (Adam Grant, a famously responsive Wharton professor, told that on an “average day” he’ll spend 3-4 hours answering messages.) That’s why people who waste our time have become the scourge of modern business life, hampering our productivity and annoying us in the process.
Sometimes it’s hard to escape, especially when the time-waster is your boss (one friend recalls a supervisor who “called meetings just to tell long, rambling stories about her college years” and would “chastise anyone who tried to leave and actually perform work”). But in many other situations, you can take steps to regain control of your time and your schedule. Here’s how.
State your preferred method of communication. For years, millennials have famously eschewed phone calls — but almost everyone has a communication preference of some sort. Regina Walton, a social media and community manager, told me that she, too, hates talking on the phone, a habit she developed after years of living abroad; email is almost always better for her, as “I can respond when I have time and usually am very fast to reply.” You can often limit aggravation (and harassment via multiple channels) by proactively informing colleagues about the best way to reach you, whether it’s via phone calls, texts, emails, or even tweets.
Require an agenda for meetings. Pointless or rambling meetings account for a disproportionate share of workplace time leakage. Here’s a solution: insist on seeing an agenda before you commit to attending any meeting, “to ensure I can contribute fully.” You can model the practice by writing an agenda for any meetings you chair, and offering to share the template with others. In fact, you could push to establish company norms that include best practices such as eliminating generic “updates” (which can usually be emailed in advance) and clearly indicating the decisions that need to be made as a result of the meeting. “Discuss expansion strategy” would be a murky and perhaps unproductive agenda item; “Decide whether to open a Tampa office” can guide the conversation much more clearly.
Police guest lists. Meetings are also dangerous when their list of invitees has been wantonly constructed, filled with irrelevant people and lacking decisionmakers with the authority to get things moving. If you’ve been invited, ask two critical questions. First, do I need to be there? Looking at the agenda (which you’ve insisted they provide), you can gauge whether your input would be valuable or if you can just find out details afterwards. Second, will the (other) right people be there? If you’re theoretically deciding on the Tampa expansion strategy and the executive in charge of Southeast operations isn’t in the room, it’s likely you’ll have to repeat the whole process again for her benefit.
Make sure you understand who the real decisionmakers are, and don’t waste your time (or other people’s) until they can be present and participate.
Force others to prepare. We all hope and expect that others will prepare for meetings with us. Surprisingly often, they don’t. Even when they’re requesting the meeting, they may have done very little research and waste our time with extremely basic questions they could have Googled. Instead, we need to force others to prepare in advance. “Force” is a harsh word, and that’s intentional ­— because it’s not burdensome for people who would have prepared anyway, yet it effectively weeds out the uncommitted. Debbie Horovitch, a specialist in Google+ Hangouts, has long offered complimentary initial strategy sessions, but realized that some people were taking advantage with irrelevant discussions.
She’s adopted a new policy: “Everyone who wants a call/chat with me must fill in an application” with specific questions about what will be discussed. “Now that I’ve set my boundaries and expectations of the people I work with, it’s much easier to identify the time wasters.” Similarly, when people request informational interviews with me, I’ve begun sending them a document with links to articles I’ve written about their area of interest (becoming a consultant or speaker, reinventing their careers, etc.) and asking them to get back in touch after they’ve read them to see what questions they still have. Most never get back to me, which is just as well ­— I only want to speak with people who are interested and committed.
I maintain that even if we get the meeting structure correct by insisting that every meeting have a PDORA (Purpose, Desired Outcome, Roles and Agenda with timeframes)…Admittedly, this would be a vast improvement. But it would fall well short of ensuring meetings are productive and NOT a waste of time. The other part of the meeting effective equation that is never addressed when discussing this issue is our “Interactive Skills”. How we communicate with each other and the words we choose when we do…our verbal behaviors. Unfortunately, between two minds there is often a breeding environment for misunderstanding and distortion. I find it very useful to first equip teams with a common language (Interactive skills …the software) and meeting structure (the hardware) for them to truly master meeting effectiveness.
Will you face blow-back by toughening up and putting clear boundaries around your time? Inevitably. But you may also find that people start to respect you ­—and your time ­— a lot more. Most of us wish we could control our schedules better. If you’re willing to step up and argue for smarter policies (like requiring all meetings to have agendas), that benefits everyone. The key is to frame your advocacy not as purely self-interested (“I don’t have time for this nonsense”), but instead as a manifestation of your commitment to the company and your shared mission. “I want to make sure we’re all as productive as possible,” you could say, “and that’s why I think it’s important to make sure we’re respecting each other’s time.” In the end, that’s a hard message to resist.

American Century & Hegemony Nearing End

The empires, like civilizations, decline and fall. American unspoken empire has lasted just one century. Just one hundred years after it began, the American dominated century is drawing to a close. Both the ugly American and benevolent Uncle Sam are becoming a thing of past. The American dream that predominated this century began in the closing stages of World War I, when the exhausted Allies turned to the Americans for the final, decisive push to defeat Germany. It is ending with the Obama administration’s increasingly obvious inability to stop the growth of the IS, the Islamic State. What is coming to an end is not American military pre-eminence in the world: no country can even think of waging war against it. What is ending is American hegemony.
Hegemony needs to be distinguished from dominance. Gramsci described it as the permeation throughout society of an entire system of values, attitudes, beliefs and morality that has the effect of supporting the status quo in power relations. In international relations, a dominant country enjoys hegemony when it can claim, successfully, that what it is doing in its own interest also serves the general interest. This is the perception of America that is dying in a welter of mutual recrimination.
Momentous changes sometimes reveal themselves in small, even trivial, events. One such occurred on Fareed Zakaria’s CNN program GPS, on October 12. The subject was the imminent fall of Kobani, the capital city of Syrian Kurdistan, to the IS. While interviewing Barham Salih, former prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan and deputy prime minister of Iraq, Zakaria asked whether the Kurdish forces, the Peshmerga, would be prepared to go into central Iraq and Syria to fight the IS. Salih’s response was carefully weighed: Kurdistan has emerged as the most reliable partner of the coalition in the fight against ISIS. There may be a number of reasons. One that I am proud of is that Kurdistan is a tolerant society with tolerant values. We do have a real interest in taking on ISIS… but I have to say that the Peshmerga should not be relied upon to go to Mosul or the heartland of Sunni areas. We can be there to support, but at the same time, the communities there have to be empowered. The same thing can be said about Syria. I did not hear the rest of the sentence because at this point, Zakaria cut him off. Zakaria may have done so unintentionally, but in the 15-minute panel discussion that followed, all the participants, Francis Fukuyama, Gideon Rose of Foreign Affairs, Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute and Walter Mead, professor at Bard college and columnist for The American Interest, also avoided mentioning Syria. Nor did they mention Iran.
Their reticence was strange. Cooperation with Syria has been an option on Barack Obama’s table since day one: in fact, the intelligence agencies began exchanging information in June itself. In August, after Iran backed new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi, several members of his administration advocated cooperating with Iran, which would have included Syria. Mead devoted an entire column to its pros and cons. So why, two months later, did Pletka, Rose and even Fukuyama criticise Obama for promising too much and implicitly advocate withdrawal from the region in preference to cooperating with Syria and Iran?
The answer is that cooperating with Syria now will be an admission that the US made a colossal mistake in joining the conspiracy to oust Bashar al-Assad three years ago. Given that this would not be its first but second huge mistake in the Middle East, and given their incalculable cost, it would destroy what is left of America’s moral authority in the world.
That is why it has become so necessary for the US to keep insisting that Assad must go if peace is to be restored in Syria; to pretend in the face of all evidence to the contrary that, hidden under the Salafi jihad for the establishment of an extreme theocratic state, there really is a moderate Sunni freedom movement that wants to bring in democracy; and that its Sunni allies- Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are really good guys who were paying and arming these fighters in good faith and are now eager to rectify their mistake.
In reality – and this is the true measure of how deeply American hegemony has been eroded – 62 countries have supposedly joined the US coalition against the IS, but their contribution so far has been laughable. Saudi Arabia has 340 aircraft but has contributed four fighter jets to the aerial campaign against the IS. Qatar has contributed two. Turkey’s tanks and troops are drawn up on the heights a mere 800 meters from Kobani, watching the battle while its government presses the US to create a no-fly zone to prevent Syria’s air force from going to the Kurds’ rescue, and demands a commitment to oust Assad as a precondition for sending soldiers to join the battle.
Israel has played a key role in nurturing the IS. In June, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu went on American television to warn Obama against cooperating with Syria and Iran because the IS’s defeat would allow a nuclear-capable Iran to emerge as the preeminent power in the region.
Obama has succumbed to all these pressures. As a result, he has been left with a “grand strategy” that is doomed to fail. If he wishes to cut America’s losses, he would do well to ask himself a few questions: Why has India not offered help? Why are Kurds in four countries, who are overwhelmingly Sunnis, willing to fight the IS to the death? And why are so few moderate Sunnis in Syria willing to join the fight against Assad?
The answer to all these questions is the same: This is not a battle between Sunni good guys and Shia devils, but an attempt by a tiny Wahhabi-Salafi fringe of Islam to take over the entire Muslim world, and the Americans are on the wrong side. It is America’s so-called friends that are digging the grave of American hegemony.

Facing the South Asian Apocalypse

The master strategist, and Machiavelli of his times Henry Kissinger wrote an opinion piece last year, and he did forecast the coming of Armageddon over the next couple of decades. This was in the shape of a nuclear war that was likely to take place between India and Pakistan. The two antagonists had reached the flash at least four times in the course of their turbulent relationship: in 1987, 1990, 1998, 1999 and 2002.
In 1987, when an Indian army launched the Brasstacks military exercises along Pakistan’s desert borders, Pakistan responded by deploying its forces in the north where India was vulnerable. Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s agreement to a mutual stand-down no doubt also took into account the informal threat from Islamabad to bomb India’s nuclear reactors in case Pakistan was attacked. (After the crisis ended, the Pakistan-India agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear facilities was jointly formulated in one day.)
In January 1990, when the anti-Indian insurgency erupted in Kashmir and India threatened Pakistan, a conflict was forestalled by US intervention. The US acted when it learnt that Pakistan had begun to arm its nuclear-capable aircraft. The operation of mutual deterrence between India and Pakistan is being eroded.
During the night of 26-27 May 1998, the night before Pakistan conducted its nuclear explosions in response to India’s tests, Pakistani radar detected unidentified aircraft flying towards its territory. Islamabad issued warnings of instant retaliation to India and relayed these to the US and Israel. This may have been a false alarm; but it illustrates the danger of accidental conflict in the absence of real-time communications.
During the 1999 Kargil war, the nuclear dimension was implicit, given that the crisis occurred a year after the India-Pakistan nuclear tests.
During the 2002 general mobilisation by India and Pakistan, the director general of the Pakistan Armed Forces Special Plans Division enunciated its infamous nuclear doctrine in a news interview. The doctrine envisaged that Pakistan would use nuclear weapons if: it was being militarily overwhelmed; its nuclear or strategic weapons or facilities were attacked; and it was subjected to an enemy blockade. The projection of this doctrine, including at a UN news conference by this writer in July 2002, sparked a fall in the Indian Stock Exchange, the evacuation of foreign personnel and embassy families from New Delhi and a demarche by Indian business leaders to prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and reportedly led to the Indian agreement for a mutual drawback of forces.
The operation of mutual deterrence displayed in 2002, however, is being eroded by several developments. One, the conventional military balance is becoming progressively unfavourable to Pakistan. India is engaged in a major arms build-up. It is the world’s largest arms importer today. It is deploying advanced and offensive land, air and sea weapons systems. Pakistan’s conventional capabilities may not prove sufficient to deter or halt an Indian attack.
Two, India has adopted the Cold Start doctrine envisaging a rapid strike against Pakistan. This would prevent Pakistan from mobilizing its conventional defense and thus lower the threshold at which Pakistan may have to rely on nuclear deterrence.
Three, Pakistan has had to deploy over 150,000 troops on the western border due to its involvement in the cross-border counter terrorism campaign in Afghanistan, reducing its conventional defence capacity against India.
Four, the acquisition of foreign nuclear plants and fuel, made possible by the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement, will enable India to enlarge its nuclear weapons stockpile significantly. To maintain nuclear balance, Pakistan has accelerated production of fissile materials. Both nuclear arsenals are now large and growing.
Five, given its growing conventional disadvantage, and India’s pre-emptive war fighting doctrine, Pakistan has been obliged to deploy a larger number of nuclear-capable missiles, including so-called theatre or tactical nuclear-capable missiles. The nuclear threshold is now much lower.
Six, the Kashmir dispute once described by former US president Bill Clinton as a nuclear flashpoint continues to fester. Another insurgency is likely to erupt, certainly if the Bharatiya Janata Party government goes ahead with its platform promise to abrogate Article 370 of the Indian constitution (which accords special status to Jammu & Kashmir). A renewed Kashmiri insurgency will evoke Indian accusations against Pakistan and unleash another Indo-Pakistan crisis.
Seven, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has obviously decided to adopt a more realistic, some call it an aggressive posture towards Pakistan, no doubt to appeal to his hard-line constituency. The recent ceasefire violations along the Line of Control are an ominous indication of such change But this is a temporary phase.
Eight, India has terminated the composite dialogue with Pakistan. Its precondition for talks, an absence of violence, is impossible for Pakistan to meet.
Nine, the US and other major powers evince little interest in addressing the combustible mix of live disputes, terrorist threats, conventional arms imbalance and nuclear weapons in South Asia. During the parallel dialogue initiated by the US with Pakistan and India following their 1998 nuclear explosions, Pakistan proposed a strategic restraint regime with India which would include mechanisms to resolve disputes, including Kashmir; preserve a conventional arms balance and promote mutual nuclear and missile restraint.
The US at first agreed to consider Pakistan’s proposal. However, as their talks with India transitioned from restricting India’s nuclear program to building a strategic partnership (against China), the Americans de-hyphenated policy towards Pakistan and India, opened the doors to building India’s conventional and nuclear capabilities and disavowed any interest in the Kashmir dispute. Currently, Indian belligerence is bolstered by US pressure on Pakistan to halt fissile material production and reverse the deployment of theater nuclear-capable missiles.
If a South Asian Armageddon is to be prevented, it is essential to build a structure of stable deterrence between India and Pakistan and find ways to deal with Kashmir and other outstanding disputes. Reviving consideration of a strategic restraint regime would be a good place to start.

MIM – Muslim League Reborn To Divide and Win

The recent federal and provincial elections have brought forth a dragon that may not auger well either for Indian polity or for peace in the sub-continent or even for Muslims whose cause it espouses. I am referring to the poisonous and vilification campaign of MIM – the child of Owaisi brothers.
With attention focused on the BJP’s dramatic electoral gains and the Congress’ increasing political marginalization, the advent of the Hyderabad-based Owaisi brothers in Maharashtra has gone relatively unnoticed. Their unabashedly shrill and strident party — the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) that they say provides a political platform for Muslims — bagged two seats in an impressive debut performance. In Aurangabad Central its candidate, a journalist-turned-inaugural politician, defeated the Shiv Sena by 20,000 votes. In Byculla, the margin was narrower — less than 2,000 votes — but the win still headline-grabbing. Though only two of the 24 contestants delivered wins, the MIM managed 0.9% of the votes in its first assembly election outside undivided Andhra Pradesh, finishing second in three constituencies and a decent third in six other seats. The divisive rhetoric of the Owaisi siblings saw a renewed call to identity politics, with their speeches playing to a victimhood narrative and a siege mentality.
Ironically some of the language used by the MIM supporters and candidates creating a new state constituency of the Muslim-Right mirrored the swipes at “pseudo-secularism” first fashioned by the Hindu-Right on the opposite side of the trenches. Waris Pathan, the advocate-turned-legislator from Byculla, dismissed what he called the performance of the “so called secular parties”. Muslims want a change, he says, arguing that in the name of secularism parties like the Congress and NCP have only taken Muslims for granted. Asaduddin Owaisi, who had been careful to dump the three-decade-old alliance with the Congress in 2012, has now been embraced as “Musalmanon ka Modi” to describe his electoral chemistry with voters. The comparison is exaggerated — and to the PM’s supporters offensive — but after his successful strike rate in Maharashtra, Owaisi is talking of courting UP’s Muslims and opening an office in Lucknow. Other stops include West Bengal and Bihar. The intention is clear: To create a pan-India Muslim party, a modern day variation of the Muslim League.
The Owaisi brothers may have cause to celebrate, but not India’s Muslims. The rise of a party known for its inflammatory politics only reinforces the worst religious stereotypes. The calculations of the MIM ghettoize Muslims as a political entity. Already, religious friction has drawn an invisible line dividing communities in many of our villages and in cities that claim cosmopolitanism for themselves. A party that seeks votes on the basis of religious identity is nothing short of regressive. During the campaign, the speeches of the Owaisis were replete with rabble-rousing references, including exhorting voters to build 1,000 mosques and name each of them after the Babri Masjid. It is legitimate for any leader to raise the issues that beset the community s/he represents and it is not out of line, for instance, if terror cases against young Muslim men that are proven to be false become part of the political discourse. But what makes the MIM brand of politics different is that it is rooted exclusively in the context of religious identity. It encourages grievances instead of aspiration and divisiveness instead of development. Just last year, Akbaruddin Owaisi was arrested for an anti-Hindu hate speech. This year too there are reports that anti-Hindu slogans were raised at MIM victory rallies.
It is of course true that parties like the Congress and the Samajwadi Party must take primary responsibility for failing to provide Muslim voters with an imaginative or modern leadership that doesn’t box them into a corner. The fact that secularism today is increasingly seen to have become a slogan prostituted by cynical politics has only reinforced the absence of options for India’s minorities. Since becoming PM, Narendra Modi has made two very strong statements to reach out, most recently in New York when he said the patriotism of the Indian Muslim would make it impossible for terror groups like al Qaeda and ISIS to make inroads in India. But the BJP has made no other meaningful effort to build itself as a political option for Muslims. In Maharashtra, where Muslims make up more than 11% of the population, the BJP had only two Muslim candidates in a list of 280; the Shiv Sena had just one. Unthinking comments like the one from BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj, who said all madrasas provide an “education of terrorism” haven’t helped matters. Combine this with the disillusionment that most Muslims feel with the status-quoist alternatives could explain the inroads made by the MIM. Speaking on TV on the night of results, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi dismissed any cause for concern, arguing that those who supported the MIM had to reflect on what sort of politics they were endorsing; not the BJP.
But every single party — including the one in the seat of power — needs to reflect on why a party like the MIM is being able to build a base on communal politics at a time when governance issues and the dream of a better life are driving choices elsewhere. Parochialism as an ingredient of effective politics is on the decline; note the decimation of Raj Thackeray’s MNS. Even the Shiv Sena was forced to abandon its quintessential aggression and re-adapt to the changing times by attempting to present a more with-it face in the form of young Aditya Thackeray. If aspirational India is in search of a polity where economic empowerment transcends all other emotive issues, why should Indian Muslims not be part of that process? If Praveen Togadia and Akbaruddin Owaisi reflect two ends of a spectrum, most Indian voters stand firmly in the middle, rejecting both poles of extremism. The MIM’s successful performance is a warning sign that something is amiss.
Ironically some of the language used by the MIM supporters and candidates creating a new state constituency of the Muslim-Right mirrored the swipes at “pseudo-secularism” first fashioned by the Hindu-Right on the opposite side of the trenches. Waris Pathan, the advocate-turned-legislator from Byculla, dismissed what he called the performance of the “so called secular parties”. Muslims want a change, he says, arguing that in the name of secularism parties like the Congress and NCP have only taken Muslims for granted. Asaduddin Owaisi, who had been careful to dump the three-decade-old alliance with the Congress in 2012, has now been embraced as “Musalmanon ka Modi” to describe his electoral chemistry with voters. The comparison is exaggerated — and to the PM’s supporters offensive — but after his successful strike rate in Maharashtra, Owaisi is talking of courting UP’s Muslims and opening an office in Lucknow. Other stops include West Bengal and Bihar. The intention is clear: To create a pan-India Muslim party, a modern day variation of the Muslim League.

Financial War Spells Disaster for Dollar

For 70 years, the United States’ dollar has dominated global commerce—especially the oil market. However, this is changing as Russia and other powers drop the petrodollar. The term “petrodollar” came about because, for many years, the dollar was the only currency used to buy oil in global markets. But times are changing.
As Western nations continue to impose more sanctions on Russia, Russia has begun moving away from the dollar. Russian oil company Gazprom started shipping oil from the Arctic to European ports with payments made in rubles. The oil it ships through the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline will be purchased with Chinese renminbi.
Russian oil company Gazprom started shipping oil from the Arctic to European ports with payments made in rubles. ”Russia is actively pushing on with plans to put the U.S. dollar in the rearview mirror and replace it with a dollar-free system. Or, as it is called in Russia, a ‘de-dollarized’ world,” finance portal Zero Hedge wrote.
In July, BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—developed the idea of a BRICS central bank. Currency swaps among the banks will facilitate trade financing while bypassing the dollar. Given China’s economic power, analysts believe the renmibi will dominate as the central bank’s official currency.
China has made similar moves to circumvent the dollar. On September 30, China began direct trading between the yuan and euro. This will strengthen bilateral trade and investments between China and eurozone members by reducing transaction costs. It also means the U.S. dollar will not be used as an intermediary currency to calculate rates.
In June, China started direct trade between the yuan and British pound. China has been slowly growing the list of countries with which it has direct currency trade: the U.S., the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce recently released a report calling for the creation of a yuan trading hub. In August, the yuan ranked seventh for global payments with more than one third of the world’s financial institutions using it for transfers to China. On September 30, China began direct trading between the yuan and euro.
Five years ago, the yuan had virtually no presence outside of China’s borders, but each year since, it has taken on a larger international role. On October 14, the UK became the first Western nation to issue a government bond denominated in Chinese currency. The renminbi bond was added to Britain’s foreign currency reserves, which before did not contain any Chinese currency. With the unstable American dollar, the yuan has the potential to one day lead alongside or even above the U.S. dollar as the world’s most internationalized currency.
It is more and more apparent that the U.S. is no longer the world’s sole economic superpower. The U.S. dollar is slowly being pushed off the world scene in well-calculated moves. While it may currently be rallying, it is losing its uniqueness as the world’s reserve currency. The “de-dollarizing world” is only one of many indicators that America’s standing in the world is on shaky ground.
Twenty-one men representing China’s most powerful institutions file into a conference room atop the ICC Tower looming over Victoria Harbor. The Politburo Standing Committee has mustered the CEOS of China’s four largest banks, Sinopec, and several other state-owned multinationals, plus officers from the Central Military Commission and a pair of academics from China’s top technology universities.
The general secretary formally opens the meeting. “As you know, the United States of America continues to manipulate its currency,” he begins. “It is devaluing its dollar, which steals away trade and reduces the value of its debts. The Standing Committee manages the yuan’s value to protect our manufacturing base and support employment.” The secretary leans back ever so slightly to say what everyone in the room already knows, and the reason why they are here. “Three days ago, the Federal Reserve System announced its sixth quantitative easing policy in the past seven years.”
And now, the marching orders. “The Central Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party has agreed that it is time to use every financial measure of the People’s Republic to preserve the state of its economy. It has approved liquidating the government’s holdings of U.S. treasuries.”
The order from the stone-faced secretary sounds broad, even bland. But it means very specific, very powerful things to each man in this room. It means pulling the trigger on a huge number of massive initiatives. And it’s backed by more than a trillion dollars.
The Chinese economy will suffer some collateral damage as well, but the decision has finally been made. To encourage and to enforce the point, the secretary concludes with a proverb: “Good medicine tastes bitter.” He could’ve used a different one: “Wait long, strike fast.”
As markets settle into an uneasy wait-and-see, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears at an unscheduled press conference. Holding up a gold coin, he announces that the Central Bank of Russia completed the largest bullion transfer in modern history in October: 850 metric tons from the International Monetary Fund. “Russia would like to thank the United States, Canada and Great Britain for approving this historic purchase of their gold holdings. In this age of unrestrained electronic money printing and currency devaluations, it is the opinion of the central bank that physical gold bullion remains a critical component for national wealth and power.”
Putin then throws down this challenge: “The gold is here for anyone to audit. I suggest that investors follow Russia’s example and demand an independent audit of Fort Knox.”
With this shock announcement, Russia becomes the world’s third-largest holder of gold after the European Union and China. Putin adds that Moscow is also negotiating for entry into the East Asian Prosperity Cooperation and, starting in January, will use the Chinese yuan for international currency transactions—with the notable exception of oil and gas exports to Europe, which will now be priced in euro marks.
To Wall Street and the world, it is now clear that something momentous is happening. It looks like a pre-planned attack on America’s anemic economy. Before Putin finishes his announcement, investors erupt in sell orders. The Dow plummets 30 percent in nine minutes. Institutional investors dump U.S. treasuries at fire-sale prices—trying to get out before China unleashes its hoard. Jim Rickards is on CNN saying it’s a “full-on revolt against the dollar standard.” The ZeroHedge blog has it up in doomsday 100-point font: “Is this the start of WW3?” Rumors begin to swirl on the trading floor and on TV screens around the world that America’s biggest banks are caught short and unable to cover their multibillion-dollar positions in the derivatives market.
And this is what can really happen. In fact, such an economic disaster is imminent enough that the Pentagon held its first-ever financial war games back in 2009. Instead of carrier movements, tactical strikes and aerial bombardments, the weapons were currencies, stocks, bonds, interest rates and derivatives. But just like real war exercises, the purpose was the same: to discover fatal weaknesses and how the enemy might exploit them.
Wall Street banker Jim Rickards participated in the war games. In his book Currency Wars, he writes that the Pentagon is clumsy at financial warfare.
Financial war is not beyond America’s horizon. Whether or not politicians and the Fed will publicly acknowledge it, the war has already begun. In 2010, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega was the first public official to confirm what everyone knew but no one would admit. “We’re in the midst of an international currency war,” he told industrial leaders in Sao Paulo. “This threatens us because it takes away our competitiveness. … The advanced countries are seeking to devalue their currencies.”
While the U.S. and other governments might throw out phrases like “commitment to a strong dollar” every now and then, what many of them are actually doing is actively and openly devaluing their currencies to gain unfair short-term economic advantages.
Faced with unacceptably high unemployment and a stagnant global economy, the world’s leading economies are resorting to currency manipulation to steal a greater piece of a shrinking economic pie. The short-sighted goal is to weaken the currency to make domestic goods cheaper for foreigners to buy and foreign goods more expensive to purchase. This beggar-thy-neighbor strategy is highly contentious and potentially explosive.
In 2012 alone, global central banks cut interest rates 75 times in an effort to weaken their currencies.
“Ever since the Fed launched QE2 in August 2010, we have been in the currency war regime,” confirms Alessio de Longis, who runs the Oppenheimer Currency Opportunities Fund. “It will continue to be this.”
Regardless of who started it, the war is heating up. When Shinzo Abe was elected prime minister of Japan in December, it heralded a new stage in the global currency war. He immediately announced that Tokyo would no longer be neutral. It would implement a massive $1.4 trillion quantitative easing (money-printing) plan to reduce the value of the yen. He said the yen had risen too high (in reality, the dollar, yuan and euro had fallen, making the yen appear to have risen). He then bullied the Bank of Japan into doubling its acceptable inflation level. Abe’s intent was plain: to boost job creation by the same artificial means employed by the U.S. and China—currency devaluation leading to increased exports. And he was very open about it.
A “daring monetary policy is essential” if Japan is to beat deflation and drive down the value of the yen, he said. “We strongly expect the BOJ [Bank of Japan] to conduct aggressive monetary easing with a clear price target.”
Bowing to the pressure, the central bank announced it would potentially buy unlimited amounts of government bonds. Since then, the yen has lost 25 percent of its value against the euro and about 13 percent against the dollar—and Japan’s exporters grabbed market share. “Ever since the new government took control, it feels as though Japan is filled with the spirit for economic revival,” Toyota executive Takahiko Ijichi said in March.
China is “fully prepared” for currency war, its central bank deputy governor, Yi Gang, said that same month. “China will take into full account the quantitative easing policies implemented by central banks of foreign countries.”
Just hours before the BOJ announcement, German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann warned that populist governments threatened to unleash competitive currency wars, as politicians pushed central banks to weaken currencies and steal trade. It was a message aimed at the big powers: America, China and Japan. Monetary policy risked becoming a political tool, he warned.
By February, the risk of currency war morphing into trade war was so high that the G-20 issued a joint declaration: “We will refrain from competitive devaluation .… We will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes, will resist all forms of protectionism and keep our markets open.” But joint platitudes aside, the world is fully engaged in currency war and stands on the brink of full-scale trade war.
It is as if the world is back in the 1930s. Back then, it was Great Britain that set off the chain reaction. Following the failure of Austrian bank Creditanstalt and another bank in Germany, Britain was forced off the gold standard and devalued the pound. Norway, Sweden and Denmark quickly followed. America held off until 1933, when President Roosevelt confiscated all gold held in U.S. banks before devaluing the dollar against gold by 41 percent. By 1936, Germany, France and the rest of Europe had abandoned the gold standard and were devaluing too, all in an attempt to renege on debts and steal trade.
When the short-term boosts gained through currency devaluation were exhausted, nations increasingly turned to tariffs, taxes and trade barriers to protect local industries and jobs—all of which worked to retard economic recovery, increase social unrest, and escalate grievances between nations.
What happened next in 1939 is well known. The currency-war-turned-trade-war was transformed into World War II by a madman. Today, we see history repeating. In January, Jin Liqun, chairman of the China Investment Corporation (China’s massive sovereign wealth fund), warned America that “[t]here will be no winners in currency wars,” and that America’s money “printing machine will have to slow down for people to have full confidence in the dollar.”
It was a thinly veiled reminder of what several Chinese officials have intimated over the past few years: that America’s biggest creditor nation holds a disproportionately important role in maintaining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency—and that if America isn’t careful, China could strip the dollar of that coveted status.
China isn’t alone in preparing for the post-dollar world. In March, China joined with Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa to create a BRICS bank to fund international development outside the purveyance of the U.S.-based financial system and the World Bank. In March, China also announced a $30 billion currency swap with Brazil designed to make each nation less reliant on the U.S. dollar. That same month, it also announced that it was concluding a deal with Australia to cut out the U.S. dollar middle man and conduct bilateral trade in yuan. In this case, it seems to be Australia that is pushing for the deal. The two countries conduct a whopping $120 billion in trade each year. China is also bypassing the dollar in bilateral currency deals with Japan, India and Russia.
We are now in the late stages in the run-up to World War III—locked in a vicious currency war that is getting ready to morph into a trade war. And in today’s high-speed electronic world, the train wreck will happen much faster. The slide from currency war to trade war to hot war could be orders-of-magnitude faster—and orders-of-magnitude more damaging.
Experts say those countries that first devalue their currencies gain the most. The same could be said about actual war. Those countries that act first—surprising their rivals—gain a distinct advantage. When Japan surprise-attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, it hoped it would be a catastrophic blow to America, and it could have been.
Today, most Americans have no idea an economic war is being waged, but they will soon. Only this time, instead of awaking to the sound and images of bombs exploding over Hawaii, America risks awaking to the sounds of riots, images of frantic bankers and empty store shelves—and to newspaper headlines calling today “The Day the Dollar Died.”

Hong Kong – No light at the End of Tunnel

Beijing is likely to restore order in the short term. But does it have a long-term solution to the crisis of governability? Normally people’s movements can be made dormant, but they always come back with greater vigor. The most sensible way of ending the stalemate would be offering face-saving but mainly symbolic concessions to the protesters. Technically, such concessions are not impossible.
The pro-democracy demonstrations organised by students in Hong Kong seem to have peaked. But the crisis of governability in Asia’s vital commercial hub is far from over. When tens of thousands of protesters were blockading Hong Kong’s government offices and main shopping districts in the beginning of October, the question on most people’s minds was whether the Chinese government would sanction the use of force, Tiananmen-style, to disperse the protesters. Today, in the middle of a stalemate, the right question to ask is what the endgame is.
At the moment, nobody seems to know the answer. The negotiations between the Hong Kong government and the protesters have been cancelled because of deep mutual distrust. The protesters, fearing the loss of their bargaining power, have refused to call off their dwindling protest that is still causing traffic disruptions in the city’s commercial center. They also believe that the Hong Kong government is merely acting as Beijing’s puppet and lacks the necessary authority to strike a meaningful deal.
For the Hong Kong government, its priority is to get the protesters off the street and restore the city’s life to normalcy — without promising anything in return.
This stalemate, of course, cannot last forever. The protesters have no desire to return home empty-handed. The demonstrations were sparked by Beijing’s refusal to honor its pledge of universal suffrage and allow Hong Kong’s voters to choose the city’s chief executive in 2017. The pro-democracy forces are demanding that Beijing retreat from its uncompromising position. If the protesters are unable to gain any meaningful concessions, they may be motivated to escalate their protests or, alternatively, they may decide to concede defeat and fold their short-lived movement.
The Hong Kong government also faces a dilemma. The longer the stalemate lasts, the more the erosion of its authority and the greater the impact on the city’s image and economy. While it has no real power to make any concessions to the students, it also has no desire to create an everlasting impression of political impotence and illegitimacy.
So for now, China’s short-term plan to deal with the protesters’ demand is to let the pro-democracy movement self- destruct. Chinese leaders believe that the student-led movement is not sustainable because of its lack of organisation and enduring mass support. They also assume that, given the generational split in Hong Kong’s society (the younger generation is much less identified with the mainland than the older generation), the pro-democracy movement will alienate a sizeable segment of Hong Kong’s public because of the disruptions to traffic and commerce the protests have caused. Finally, Beijing hopes that fissures will emerge inside the pro-democracy camp because of the differences in tactics and objectives among the diverse groups that form the protest movement.
Should Beijing’s cold calculations be borne out, we could expect the size of the protest to dwindle and public ire against the protesters to rise, thus making it both tactically and politically less costly for the Hong Kong authorities to clear out the protesters at a convenient time.
Under normal circumstances, Beijing would not have allowed the protests to drag on for so long. But this time, because of the coincidence of the annual plenum of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Committee (October 20-23) and the Apec summit in Beijing (November 6-11), Chinese leaders obviously have little desire to spoil the two parties with a crackdown that could produce ugly pictures and cause international outrage.
In all likelihood, the most politically convenient time for Beijing to end the street protests in Hong Kong would be shortly after the conclusion of the Beijing Apec summit. After foreign leaders, including US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leave Beijing, China will have a much freer hand in dealing with the problem in Hong Kong.
The most sensible way of ending the stalemate would be offering face-saving, but mainly symbolic, concessions to the protesters so they could claim victory and go home. Technically, such concessions are not impossible. For example, the moderates among the pro-democracy forces are floating the idea of changing the rule that elects the committee that will screen the nominees for the chief executive (Beijing insists that only two or three candidates who have received more than half of the votes from this committee can run, thus effectively giving the pro-Beijing committee the power to disqualify candidates considered unfriendly to Beijing).
However, even a minor concession would be a bitter pill for the CPC to swallow. Ever since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, the party’s rule has been based on effective deterrence. It has painstakingly cultivated the impression that it will suppress any anti-regime movement regardless of costs or consequences. Therefore, making even the least substantive concessions risks undermining the party’s image of toughness.
If this is the case, even the short-term solution to Hong Kong’s stalemate could be quite ugly. We should expect to see — and, indeed, have seen — the use of anti-riot police, mass arrests and forcible clearing of the protesters. Such operations will be followed by the announcement of strict regulations that would make similar protests illegal or very difficult to stage in future.
But this pyrrhic victory for Beijing by no means ends the crisis of governability in Hong Kong. The protests have fundamentally altered the politics in the former British colony. The “one country, two systems” model that has governed Hong Kong is now all but dead. The leadership hand-picked by Beijing has lost credibility and significant public support. A very large section of Hong Kong society, most importantly its young people, is demanding their democratic rights and revolting against the CPC.
Beijing may have a clever plan to restore order in the short term, but it is doubtful that it has any long-term plan for ending the political revolt in Hong Kong.

France Not Turkey -The sick man of Europe?

France is in news for various reasons. It is has the signal honor to replace Englsnd as home of illegal Muslim immigrants and become Franistan. And it also view of the nineteenth century Turkey to be called Sick Man of Europe. What a fall. Louis XV & XVI must be tossing restlessly in their graves at the sorry state of affairs. The recent pronouncement by the managing director of John Lewis, that France is “finished”, that it is a “sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat” country where “nothing works and, worse, nobody cares about it”, provoked a flood tide of ripostes and aggrieved accusations of “French bashing” from across the channel. Though he later apologized, his comments had touched a raw nerve. The French are battling a severe case of collective despondency about the future. This famous French malaise has percolated through all layers of society, dissipating any lingering illusions of grandeur.
The political landscape never looked bleaker. Distant seem the days of leaders with vision and grand ambition, like Charles de Gaulle and even Francois Mitterrand. Instead, France has to make do with uncharismatic President Francois Hollande (the most unpopular president in modern French history, with a popularity rating that touched 13 per cent), who, unsurprisingly, has a reputation for perpetually having one eye on the opinion polls. Hollande’s efforts to project himself as a statesman of international stature and as the US’s principal ally in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East are somewhat undermined by his inability to control his own fractious Socialist Party and rebellious members of government. His image took a further beating because of former companion Valérie Trierweiler’s tell-all memoir, which shows him in poor light.
The main opposition party, the UMP, in severe in-fighting mode, appeared to be on the verge of a split when, like a knight in shining armor, Nicolas Sarkozy rode into the political breach. The announcement of his return to politics brought temporary respite and the party appeared to be rallying around him. But old ambitions die hard and bitter rivalries have resurfaced. In the meantime, Marine Le Pen’s radical, far-right National Front has been making inexorable inroads into both left and right vote banks, wresting two senate seats for the very first time in the latest elections. In an unprecedented development, opinion polls show that each party enjoys the support of approximately 30 per cent of the voters and suggest a repeat of the 2002 presidential election: a second-round runoff between the UMP and National Front candidates. That the far-right is forging ahead is unsurprising, given the economic doldrums France finds itself in.
Labelled by some as the new “sick man of Europe”, France’s economy is certainly ailing. The country’s rate of growth is close to zero (0.3 per cent), unemployment is over 10 per cent, public debt is around 95.1 per cent of the GDP, and the deficit is 4.3 per cent. Disposable income has shrunk and the specter of joblessness haunts the young, while for the old, the prospect of diminished pensions seems all too real. Strikes seem the order of the day, as one after the other, various groups — air-traffic controllers, notaries, Air France pilots, pharmacists — make desperate attempts to safeguard their benefits. Hollande’s new measures to spur growth are met, for the most part, with the dismissive Gallic shrug and indifference, indicative of his lack of credibility in the eyes of the population.
This economic quagmire has engendered social tensions. In some dreary, high-rise suburbs, unemployment is as high as 40 per cent for the under-25s, who feel marginalized and discriminated against because of their immigrant origins. All it takes is a minor incident for the feeling of despair that prevails in these neighborhoods to be ignited into violence. In recent months, the spark was provided by the Gaza conflict, exploited by radical groups to fan violence and anti-Semitism. France, home to Europe’s largest populations of both Jews and Muslims, has, of-late, witnessed the rise of both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
Now, to add to its woes, after France’s bombing of Islamic State strongholds in northern Iraq, there is a heightened threat of terror attacks from French jihadists. In its travel advisory for France, the UK government has warned its citizens of the “high threat” from terrorism and the possibility of indiscriminate attacks. The UK issued this new alert after IS leaders urged their followers to kill the “dirty and spiteful” French last month.
In this atmosphere of doom and gloom, a book of nonfiction, Le Suicide Français (The French Suicide) by Eric Zemmour, a right wing political commentator, is topping the bestseller list and selling at the rate of 5,000 copies a day. His essay examines the reasons for the decline of the country and is “a journey through the unhappy soul of France”. That a voluminous, pessimistic text of 500 pages, which analyses the errors that France has made since the time of General de Gaulle, is flying off sellers’ bookshelves shows it resonates with the French.
Recognizing and understanding the errors of the past is the first step towards preparing for a better, more hopeful future. And the French certainly deserve that.

Pakistan’s Other Border Also Flares-up

Pakistan seems to be daggers drawn on both borders. Is it because of inherent Pakistani incapability to live in peace or is it an example of unlimited hubris. Pakistan, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Iran, has accused Iranian border guards of repeatedly making violent incursions into its territory. As firing across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir continues, tensions at Pakistan’s other border are gradually boiling over. Recent violations have undermined relations between Pakistan and Iran with each side blaming the other for the flare up and these fights are a symptom of overweening pride that lacks basic substance.
Iranian claims of the existence of militants in Pakistan’s territory and the latter’s growing concern over repeated incursions by Revolutionary Guards into its side of the border have even raised the risk of a military standoff between the two countries at the Balochistan border.
On Friday, Iranian border guards had stormed inside the Mand area of Balochistan and had attacked a vehicle of Frontier Corps, killing one soldier and injuring three others. Khan Wasay, a spokesman for FC troops in Balochistan, told Dawn that at least 30 Iranian border guards had entered into Pakistan’s bordering town of Nokundi and made the residents hostage for six hours.
These incidents prompted Islamabad to lodge formal protest with Iran over the border violations which in response demanded action against what it claims are militants based in Pakistani Balochistan, a charge vehemently denied. The adverse developments have once again deepened the trust deficit between the already skeptical neighbors. Iran also called Pakistan’s ambassador in Tehran and lodged a strong protest over the issue of militancy.
In February this year, Jaish ul-Adl (The party of justice) abducted five Iranian border guards in the Sistan-Balochistan province, leading to threats of military action from Iran’s Interior Minister Abdulreza Rahmani-Fazli inside Pakistani Balochistan. His remarks shocked and annoyed the Pakistanis which replied that it would not tolerate such a move.
Iranian officials have repeatedly claimed that the militants took the border guards into Pakistani Balochistan, a charge officials in the country denied at that time.
In March, the kidnapping prompted the two countries to hold a joint border commission meeting in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, to discuss ways to recover the hostages. The Deputy Governor of Sistan-Balochistan, Ali Asghar Shikari, visited Quetta to convey Iran’s message to his Pakistani counterparts. “The kidnapping of the guards has harmed the feelings of the Iranian people,” he told a press conference. Four of the border guards were set free in April, but a fifth had been killed by the militant group in late March.
The Iranian Student News Agency quoted a Jaish ul-Adl statement suggesting that a Sunni cleric had mediated to bring about the guards’ release, while Fars News reported that the fifth guard’s body had been delivered to the Iranian Embassy in Pakistan.
Iran has frequently claimed that Sunni militant groups roam freely in Pakistani Balochistan, and use the area as a refuge after carrying out terrorist attacks in Iran. The groups claim they are deprived of religious, political and social rights.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Iran, has accused Iranian border guards of making violent incursions into the Pakistani border town of Mashkail, according to Akbar Hussain Durrani, the Home Secretary in Balochistan. Rockets fired by Iranian guards have killed approximately around one dozen Pakistani civilians in the border region over the past decade.
Iran of course is definitely not comfortable with development of Gwadar Port.
A senior official of the Home Department of Balochistan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, says that Iran supports Baloch separatists fighting against Pakistan. He suggested that this was related to Iranian misgivings about the development of the Gwadar Deep Sea Port. Gwadar, which is around 75 kilometers east of the Iranian border, will compete with the India-backed Iranian port at Chabahar by providing trade access to land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian States through Pakistan.
Suspicion and blame games have marked the last decade of relations between the two countries. Iran is quick to point the finger at Pakistan whenever terrorists strike in Sistan-Baluchestan. The region is home to ethnic Baloch, who adhere to the Sunni strand of Islam. The Baloch say they are treated as second-class citizens in Iran. Professor Rahim Raheemi, an ethnic Iranian Baloch and a former professor of political science at Abadan University in Iran, who fled to Quetta in 2004 to seek political asylum, says, “We are marginalized and deprived of our due rights.”
In 2004, the Iranian spy service attacked Professor Raheemi’s residence in Quetta and killed one of his young colleagues. Professor Raheemi told the author on the same night that two unknown motorcyclists opened fire on his house in the Hudda area of Quetta, killing a young man who was living with him. “We are not safe even here. The Iranian spy service is behind the murder of my young colleague,” Raheemi says. The exiled ethnic Baloch Iranians seek support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to get political asylum. “We are fighting for Baloch rights inside Iran,” he says. Iran and Pakistan have formed a joint border commission to resolve issues relating to their long frontier.
Meanwhile, people living on both sides of the border, most of them ethnic Baloch, continue to suffer. They share historic, cultural, religious and social ties, but terrorist incidents have prompted the two countries to maintain tight security along their porous border, where previously there used to be few restrictions.
Those living in Pakistan’s border districts are completely dependent on Iran in commodities and jobs. Riaz Baloch, a resident of Pakistani Balochistan, says that people from the region must now go through strict security checks to enter Iran. Baloch says members of his family live in Iranian Sistan-Balochistan, but deteriorating relations between the two countries mean they cannot see one other.
The two countries must take practical and effective steps to remove the trust deficit. Iran must stop cross border attacks on Pakistani soil, and Pakistan has to address the grievances of Iran. Both countries must make joint efforts to curb the menace of terrorism and extremism. The two neighboring countries cannot afford tension at the 900 km porous border since both are faced with common threats of terrorism and extremism. But at the same time Pakistan has to realize that it needs to live in peace with both the neighbors, or it might be in a situation that is not palatable to any state surrounded by hostile forces.

Action Plan for Pakistan-India Peace: Nobody Wants Today

Everyone cries out and wants peace- cultural and social groups hold seminar, politicians cry from house tops, and people talk of common heritage and yet peace remains an elusive dream.The recent clashes at LOC make one think why there is no peace and what needs to be done to bring in an ear of peace. The reality check today reveals that no one-The politicians, the armies, the media, the people – none of the stakeholders are really interested in peace. How do we ever achieve it then?
Peace is a good idea and paid lip service because the leaders at the time of partitions at least claimed to have peace. Quaid believed it so. Congratulating Rajagopalacharia on ascending the office of Governor General of India, Muhammad Ali Jinnah had expressed his desire for “real friendship between the two dominions”. Gandhi, avowed apostle of peace was never the one to be outdone in matters of conciliation, had taken it a step further. K.C. Yadav quoted Gandhi as having said in divided India: ” Indians and Pakistanis are brothers who have separated. Let them live in different homes and continue to remain brothers.”
It makes economic sense too. Currently, marked at 2.4 billion dollars, the trade worth between the two countries, according to the Jinnah Institute research, has a potential of growing more than 10 to 20 times the current value. That will be further consolidated by the vanishing of informal trade flows via Dubai, resulting in a decrease in prices of commodities; and transit access to Afghanistan and Central Asia via Pakistan to India, and to Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh via India to Pakistan.
It is indispensable for the security and strategic paradigms as well. If the two nations were to look beyond their differences and establish a friendly relationship, the major threats for either one would cease to be threats. That should allow the two countries to focus inwards, enabling Pakistan to deal better with the Talibans slowly permeating its metropolises, as well as empowering India to extirpate its own terrorist organisations, such as the Naxalites and its many offshoots.
Peace would allow better appreciation of reason to reign in the foreign policy of the two republics. Until now, the foreign policies of the two countries have been spurred by the necessity to assume a pugnacious façade, and on the premise of ‘the enemy of the enemy being one’s friend’. When peace prevails, the two can set parameters that actually matter for progress as the bedrock to establishing relationships with a foreign country.
And lastly, it is good for the people of the two states – not just for the millions who have relatives or friends across the border, but also the general public. The prospects of cultural exchanges, the learning opportunities, and the symbiosis that may result as a consequence of collaborative efforts to mitigate collective malaises, such as poverty and illiteracy, as well as some regrettable traditions.
Unfortunately, it is a good idea that nobody wants. There are few buyers and even fewer sellers of it. Let us analyze the role of different stake holders.
The politicians of the two countries appear to not want it because war is a good rallying point. It is an even better attention shifter. If the polls are close, raise the Pakistan-India issue, and some sympathy is sure to be won. If things at home don’t look quite as desired, shift focus to the borders. Or even if the government feels threatened anyhow there is always the stories from the Line of Control to divert the frustration towards. History warrants that the threats are more palpable than perceived. Thus, people fall for the rhetoric of warmongers much more readily.
The degree of the desire for peace in the two armies is also hard to assess what with their bread and butter linked to an ever-present enemy. India spends more than 47 billion dollars on its military and Pakistan does close to 7 billion – which is more than 2.5 per cent of the GDP for either country respectively. India has to feed a 4.7 million large active and reserve force, as Pakistan has to a 1.4 million. Then, there is the spending on the nuclear arsenal and the general weaponry. Together with these comes the influence the two armies enjoy, and the respect and prestige that comes with the job.
If peace were to sustain, the need to have such large armies, and the associated costs of placing them at borders (more than half the total force for either country is deputed to protect the line of control) would become redundant.
The people are the victim of propaganda; the media, a hostage to popular public opinion. It is a never-ending rut where the second suckles off the first and then feeds it right back to the first. War and strife are a selling story, which brings ratings. To the people, it is personal; the distrust stemming from years of posturing and mischief from either side, the distorted narratives history books teach to either folk, and the tumescent egos that we have inherited ensure the people are too piqued to think properly.
The animosity, therefore, perpetuates. Mature nations of the world may have learned to live with their differences, but the ideals of forbearance are not for South Asians. They cannot move past the past. They cannot look beyond the belligerence. The big picture is not for them.
How do we ever achieve peace in the region then, especially when no stakeholders want it? Where do we start? After all they live side-by-side. They started off their journey together. They share history and in some instances much the same culture. They know it and the world knows all the good that they can do so simply by standing together. Still, it appears that Pakistan and India would much rather fight each other and end up killing scores of civilians rather than join hands in progress.
In case they change their minds, and want peace here are six things India and Pakistan can do together instead of fighting:
1. Increase people-to-people contacts
We need this more than ever. The forces of extremism and bigotry are loud on either side, and the way to counter the ensuing misconceptions, hatred and stereotyping is to get the people in touch with each other in a manner unfettered and unfiltered by media biases.
To this end, the governments should facilitate traveling between the two countries. Ease up visa regimes, provide security to tourists, set up student and faculty exchanges, invite professionals, intellectuals and artists over to their sides of the border, organize concerts, host joint exhibitions and events, develop shared publications, invite critique and let guests conduct their research and document their experiences.
The more the discussions, the lesser the mistrust and devious propaganda. And anyway, in 67 years of existence, we both have in fact been hurt more by our own propaganda than the other’s.
2. Trade freely
Remove the non-tariff barriers and bureaucratic hurdles impeding trade. Let India get its Non-Discriminatory Market Access to Pakistan. Create separate routes for different tradable items that stay operational round-the-clock. Cut down duties and improve customs clearance procedures. Yes, India is a much bigger market than Pakistan, but proportionate trade is still possible, if the government sets the right policies. In auto, textile and several other sectors, exports and partnerships can benefit traders from both countries equally.
3. Tell the story of Partition, together
Shouldn’t we have had enough of maligning the other, of teaching our kids hate. Let’s, for once, work together and come up with a better story to tell our children now — of one where people did give and love, where men, women and children saved one another from injustices regardless of their religious or regional affiliations.
Educationists and historians from both countries must sit together and work on this narrative which shows that in an event when all begin to go topsy turvy, people had have their humanity in tact and shielded one another from harm.
Indians and Pakistanis have been one people for most of their histories. They may be separate now, but they’re clearly not foes, with a shared culture and consciousness in many an instance. So let’s tell the stories of Partition, but let’s tell them together. Purge school curricula of political propaganda and make films that tell the stories of people, not ideologies. Write stories that record the joys and sufferings shared through centuries and not the divisions borne over a few decades.
These may be two nation-states now but their attitudes toward life, cultures and customs, zest for sport, love for the arts, values of friendship, hospitality, tolerance and progress remain the same. Let’s make sure the young ones know that’s who they are, that they help and respect each other in real terms.
4. Play each other
Pakistanis and Indians indulge themselves in mostly the same sports and games. Cricket, hockey, football, volleyball, kabaddi, squash, tennis, polo, snooker, bridge — and the list doesn’t end. Our sportsmen have run neck-and-neck with each other for decades. A Pakistan-India contest defines the term ‘sport’ for people all over the world.
Why not play each other more often, then? And not just on the professional level. Get youth from the academies, schools and colleges to participate in games between the two countries. The governments must facilitate here and making visa issues an excuse to be impede contact in this vital arena should not be acceptable.
5. Fight common issues/crises together
Nascent democracies face the same problems all over the world. Problems, especially social ones, are even more similar across Pakistan and India because, again, they come from shared social backgrounds.
So why don’t the governments and civic bodies join hands to fight them? A unified voice against child marriages will be much more empowered and will resonate across a much wider area than isolated efforts against the vice. Let them pool in resources and efforts. Condemn rape, fight abuse and discourage gender discrimination. Do it aggressively and do it together. Create common platforms and help others adopt the models which worked with one or the other. Illiteracy, disease, discrimination, exploitation, poverty, unemployment…all are problems where the two countries can do more than they have.
These are two of the biggest populations in the world, and therefore are most vulnerable to emerging global threats like climate change and food shortage. If they don’t stand together, they may not stand at all.
6. Stop selling conflict
It’s a myth. A Pakistan-India war is not just unfeasible, undesirable and improbable, but it is actually economically impossible as well. Still, vested interests within the powers that be on either side of the border keep flaring up tensions and selling conflict to the populations of their respective countries for selfish gains.
The governments and media need to be honest with the people and tell them how things really stand right now. Yes, there is extremism, insurgency and intolerance and one country may have tackled it better than the other. But that’s inconsequential. What matters is to let people know that it exists in pockets and thrives from the support of only a few, and that the state will never let that narrative win.
All of this cannot happen until the war rhetoric ceases from both sides. Both neighbours should stop calling themselves ‘nuclear powers’ because that is of no consequence other than flaring people up. They keep threatening each other with nuclear arms without knowing the scale of disaster these arms can cause. They also need to find a workable solution of the ongoing border tension because while the rhetoric may be all guns blazing from New Delhi and Islamabad, it is the poor families living along the border who are in reality suffering.
The rhetoric from either side needs toning down and the two should establish a narrative of mutual respect, along with easing up treaties and policies towards one another. If the risk of floods persists after the Indus Water Treaty, rework it. If foreign fishermen are found too often in your seas, let them off on a small penalty. Jailing and torturing poor ordinary men from the other country will never win you anything. And most importantly, for the sake of the future generations, let them curb exorbitant defense expenditures and focus on areas where they can develop the people and give them the tools to live a life of dignity and not one of poverty, neglect and humiliation.
Doves would have to take charge. They would have to withstand criticism from all ends. They would have to endure the storm of vitriol that the hawks would spew. They would have to be vigorously proactive, and than there might be some hope of peace for both the nations.

G-20 – The Club of Murderers?

The oncoming G-20 meeting has generated a lot of excitement. Some of the Australian leaders are calling Putin a murderer for the downing of Malaysian airliner- and it is on specious plea that the rebels who downed it are supported by Putin. And it is height of chicanery as almost all members – or at least the leading ones are proven guilty of killing innocent people. In case Vladimir Putin is guilty by association, others are guilty by direct connection. Putin is definitely no saint, but G20 is a club full of sinners.
Has any inquiry proved beyond any shadow of doubt that Russia is guilty and common law is that Russia should be considered innocent of involvement in MH17 until proved otherwise.
The Brisbane G20 meeting is primarily an economic summit, not a political or human rights convention. Australia’s Prime Minister is correct to welcome Vladimir Putin to attend – if he bothers to come.
The sundry politicians trying to score points over Putin being allowed to visit Brisbane are merely highlighting their relevance deprivation. On this, the federal opposition leader and the Queensland premier are fish on bicycles, tits on a bull. If Bill Shorten was somehow Prime Minister next month, he would be admitting Putin. Presumably he knows that. As for Campbell Newman, we may as well canvas the opinion of the Brisbane Lord Mayor, or any man or woman in the street.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will not be the only person at the G20 summit with a spotty humanitarian record. But while Abbott is doing what he has to do as the host Prime Minister, it would be helpful if he dropped his own political grandstanding: his repeated description of the tragic deaths of those on board MH17 as “murder”. Either that or he should be consistent by calling out the murder committed by several other G20 members.
If the states responsible for genuine murders and those that have carried out killings equivalent to the MH17 deaths were excluded, the Brisbane meeting would be a much smaller affair. It’s a fair bet very few people know who makes up the G20.
Among its least savory members is a feudal state that regularly murders people. Saudi Arabia beheads individuals for the crime of sorcery, among other things. Don’t try to hold a church service there unless it’s of the approved variety – the Saudis officially go in for a medieval, hard-line interpretation of Islam. It’s the country that won’t even let women drive cars. Adultery? Compared with Saudi Arabia, Russia is a bastion of democracy, a beacon of equality, a paragon of human rights.
In some ways, Russia also looks good compared with China, or at least rather similar. There is an opposition in Russia. Beijing doesn’t allow such decadence. China officially kills (as in the death sentence) more people than the rest of the world combined – and then some. China is only slowly and partially repealing its appalling (and economically damaging) one-child policy. You don’t have to be a Right-to-Lifer to consider cases of near-full-term abortion to be murder. Best not mention the occupation of Tibet or the oppression of the Uyghur minority. When it comes to encroaching on borders and unilaterally taking liberties, ask Vietnam and the Philippines what they think of China’s South China Sea behavior.
Turkey is another G20 member, a wonderful and interesting country, a NATO member and, unlike the three already mentioned, a genuine democracy. It’s in a very tricky position with some extremely difficult neighbors, but if you want to start fingering countries being responsible for ghastly deaths, it’s the one that has not been permitting reinforcements for Kobane to cross its border as Daesh attacks the city with murderous intent. Turkish tanks stand mute. And Turkey is actively supporting some of the worse elements of the Libyan anarchy as President Erdogan takes an increasingly interventionist and apparently religion-based world view. Turkey also has never shown the maturity required to face up to the Armenian genocide. But with the 100th anniversary coming up of our failed attempt to invade the country, absolutely none of that is to be mentioned.
Among the democracies (and fifth overall in the world), the greatest perpetrator of official killing is the United States, but when it comes to terrible deaths similar to the MH17 victims, the US is the unchallenged leader this century with a figure well into six figures and still rising. I haven’t heard an Australian Prime Minister suggest an American President was responsible for “murder”.
This is where it’s necessary to spell out why the MH17 victims weren’t “murdered”, as Tony Abbott keeps claiming – or agree that the US, UK, Australia and others are guilty of the same crime. No-one has suggested the pro-Russian side of the Ukrainian war intended to shoot down a neutral civilian airliner. They thought they were targeting a Ukrainian plane. It was an accident. The MH17 victims were, to use the cold American euphemism that’s now universal, collateral damage.
It was a mistake – and an expensive mistake for Russia as it focused attention for a while on a war that most nations gave little attention to. Sanctions were strengthened a touch, in the generally hypocritical way such sanctions are imposed .
When American drones and planes accidentally kill civilians – totally innocent children among them – then nobody calls that murder. When Israel, with far greater knowledge of who was on the ground, killed children in Gaza( notwithstanding the attack and deviousness of Hamas), the Australian Prime Minister did not call it murder. When the “Coalition of the Willing” rained artillery down on Iraqi cities in 2003, the four nations that contributed personnel to the invasion knew they were killing innocent civilians. Some would have been citizens of other countries. Those four nations were the US, UK, Poland and Australia.
The total civilian death toll in Iraq from the war and the subsequent and now increasing mayhem it unleashed is greater than the total number of Australians killed in all wars. It has been a most dreadful accident based on intelligence as bad or worse than that which led someone to fire a missile at a plane that turned out to be a Malaysian airliner.
So come on and wake up; drop the cheap “murder” rhetoric. It might play well in the domestic polls and sound heroic – “we warn the Tsar” – but it’s wrong.
The Russian leadership is dreadful, a paranoid, corrupt and brutal kleptocracy that betrays and kills its own people, never mind the neighbors. It unconscionably throws its weight around in its perceived sphere of influence, the way major powers have always done.
If Australia enjoyed independent foreign policy based on principle and it didn’t rush to join wrong wars (Vietnam, Iraq 2), it would be free to condemn all such behavior without the taint of hypocrisy. But is it so?
But the G20 meeting is not about the great and good, about justice and the human rights. It’s about collective economic self-interest. And that, if it’s successful, will make life better for billions of people. Thus the occasional thug and despot has to be accepted in the mix for the greater good. Exclude them and the nations that have made fatal mistakes, there would be no meeting.