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Pakistan for Dummies

You could read a lot about Pakistan to understand what happened and what is going to happen. Or you could watch the two clips below. In the first one Fareed Zakaria explains what Gen. Musharraf did in plain simple words. The second clip shows what Pres. Zardari is going to do in plain simple words.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Fareed Zakaria
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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Apakalypse Now
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Economic Crisis Political Humor
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Rashomon Effect – 10: Sri Lanka

Recently Sri Sri Ravishankar visited Sri Lanka and provided some video footage.

Ms. Jayalalitha:

“I met Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravishankar who has just returned from the war-zone in the Vanni. He gave me CDs and photographs of the atrocities. My heart boils when I looked at it,” the AIADMK leader said. If this pathetic situation of the Tamil people has to be removed, if the problems of the Lankan Tamils has to come to an end, an independent Eelam is the only solution, she added

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

“When Ravishankar met President (Mahinda Rajapaksa) after visiting the IDP camps he said it was one of the best camps he has ever seen in the world,” the powerful official, who is the brother of the President, said.

See Also: Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

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A Chanakyan Lesson for Obama

In 2007, speaking at the London School of Economics, Benazir Bhutto declared that nurturing Taliban was a mistake ; in the 90s it looked like a wise move. In 90s Afghanistan was in disarray: the Americans had left, various Mujaheddin warlords controlled the supply route from Pakistan to Central Asia, and there was no central leadership. Aided by Pakistan, Afghan refugees who attended Islamic schools took over Afghanistan and according to the view at that time – brought stability.

While handing over Afghanistan to Taliban looked like a bad idea after 9/11, we are now back to early 90s thought process again. The American plan calls for negotiating with “moderate” Taliban, through a combination of “political accommodation, financial rewards and astute exploitation of inter-tribal rivalries.” Thus the same entities against which a war was fought and is still being fought, by a simple switch, are going to be rewarded with power.

In Mudrarakshasa, Vishakhadutta’s 4th century novel about the battle of wits between Chanakya and the deposed minister Amatya Rakshasa, a question arises about reinstating people who were thrown out.

In Act III, there is a heated conversation between Chakakya and Chandragupta Maurya on why certain people switched allegiance to the enemy camp. Among them there are, Bhadrabahata, the superintendent of elephants and Purushadatta, the superintendent of horse. Chanakya explains that these two superintendents were given over to women, drinking and hunting. They neglected their duties and hence were removed from their posts.

Chanakya explains that two kinds of action can be taken against subjects who have grievances; they can be rewarded or they can be punished. In the case of Bhadrabahata or Purushadatta rewarding them would mean giving them their jobs back. To reinstate people who have been dismissed for incompetence, Chanakya explains, would be to strike at the very foundation of government.

The question in Mudrarakshasa is domestic politics while it is international terrorism in Afghanistan and the Taliban were removed from power, not exactly for incompetence. One point is moot though: you do not forget why they were dismissed in the first place; you do not give them an opportunity to commit the same crimes again.

Later in Mudrarakshasa, one of the characters Bhagurayana laments about politics.

Turning friend into foe, foe into friend
on grounds of practical advantages
Politics takes a man while he still lives
Into another birth where earlier memories are lo
st

Bhagurayana’s lament is true about geo-politics as well. There is no excuse, if a decade later, we look back at 2009 and repent like the 2007 Benazir.

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The Carrots can Wait

On February 12th, more than two months after 26/11, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik acknowledged that some part of the planning for the Mumbai attacks were done in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have also said that they obtained confessions from members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and are interrogating one of the Lashkar leaders, Zarrar Shah, believed to be the conduit between ISI and Lashkar.

Is this action — Pakistan publicly admitting terrorists from it soil launching attacks — such a great step forward that India should offer some carrots in return.? Some say, it is time to go soft on Pakistan; some, want to overlook loopholes in Pakistan’s investigation into the incident ; others want to make the right moves in the diplomatic tango.

For the right reaction, uninfluenced by a Ghajini like amnesia, we need to look at the events of the past two months.

POST 26/11

Following the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan, along with other countries, expressed solidarity with India and President Zardari agreed to co-operate to find the masterminds. Soon Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar stated that Pakistan played no role in the attacks. It was then announced that Pakistan would send the ISI chief, Shuja Pasha, to visit New Delhi. Soon they reneged.

President Zardari blamed non-state actors and accused that India did not provide any evidence that Muhammad Ajmal Kasab, the surviving terrorist, was a Pakistani. In January, when Pakistan’s national security advisor, Mahmud Ali Durrani confirmed that Muhammad Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani, he was fired for “irresponsible behavior.”

The visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi denied that the terrorists traveled by boat from Karachi to Bombay and asked reporters if they had seen the boat? He told Indians that Pakistan too was a victim of terrorism and what was needed was a joint anti-terror mechanism.

When the dossier, which contained previously undisclosed transcripts of telephone conversations and evidence from the trawler used by the terrorists, was sent to Pakistan and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh upped the ante verbally, Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s information minister said that scoring points like this would not help solve the issue of regional and global terror. Also Pakistan found a Bangladeshi connection by the involvement of a banned militant organisation, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami, Bangladesh (HuJI-B) and announced that the plot was hatched in Dubai by an “international network of Muslim fundamentalists”.

Thus in response to the terrorist attack of 26/11, Pakistan mocked facts, trivialized Indian demands and displayed evasive behavior. From such a position what caused Pakistan to admit involvement in 26/11.? Was it the strength of our dossier or the guilt we created by arguing ourselves out of surgical strikes or those warnings against “neighboring countries.”?

The admissions came on Feb 12th, but even on the Monday before that Pakistan was busy denying involvement. So what changed abruptly.? Richard Holbrooke, President Obama‘s special envoy to the troubled regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan raised the issue with Pakistan according to New York Times. At the same time President Obama  made a call to the Pakistan President. As soon as Mr. Holbrooke left Pakistan for Afghanistan, Rehman Malik of the Interior Ministry made the admission.

Besides this there has been CIA brokered back channel activity as well which allowed India and Pakistan to exchange sensitive information. According to this news, which was revealed by Washington Post, “the unparalleled cooperation was a factor in Pakistan’s decision to bring criminal charges against nine Pakistanis accused of involvement in the attack.”

Pakistan Foreign Minister insisted that Holbrooke’s visit had nothing to do with the change of plans, but it hard to believe. With sufficient pressure Pakistan has produced rabbits out of a hat: Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, who  was considered third, in command in Taliban was arrested immediately after Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit ; in 2005, President Bush telephoned President Musharraf and after the 25 minute conversation, President Musharraf expelled all foreigners from Pakistani madrassas.

A COERCED CONFESSION

While Pakistan admitting to terrorism originating from its soil is definitely welcome, it is not sufficient to display irrational exuberance.

First, in their admission, Pakistan singled out two suspects who are connected to Lashkar-e-Taiba, which apparently is a group banned by Pakistan. The goal of this group is to  wrest control of not just a small part of India, but “All of India, including Kashmir, Hyderabad, Assam, Nepal, Burma, Bihar and Junagadh.” The fact that such a group is operating, just by changing the name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, with impunity in Pakistan even now should make it clear that the Augean stable is not clean.

Second, to believe how effective the arrests of these suspects are, one has to look at what Omar Saeed was able to do from jail . In death row for the murder of Daniel Pearl, Omar Saeed was able to call Gen Pervez Musharraf on his personal cell phone and issue a death threat. On investigation, the authorities found that he was running a terror network from the jail. Rashid Rauf, the suspect in the plot to blow up planes over the Atlantic, escaped from custody in a plot which the late film maker Manmohan Desai would have found unbelievable.

Third, this concession came due to American coercion. Pakistan and United States have a strange relation. As a front line ally in the war on terror Pakistan gets financial aid and weapons; as the epicenter in the war on terror Pakistan gets bombed by unmanned Predators. This gives America leverage, not India. This admission by Pakistan, after American pressure, could also be a temporary gesture to gain concessions. So let us not build a rope ladder from dental floss.

Finally, this admission came from the civilian government. There is an opinion that India should strengthen the civilian government of Pakistan and see them as partners and not  as adversaries. Those who suggest this seem to be ignorant of what happened in Kargil just a few months after Prime Minister Vajpayee and the civilian leader Nawaz Sharif recited poetry at the border. So it is hard to believe that by supporting the civilian administration, there will be a miraculous act of appropriation by which the other players in Pakistan — the actual power centers — will allow the terror infrastructure to be dismantled or stop such events from happening again.

All the Pakistani drama before the admission states a harsh truth: it will be hard for India alone make any progress. Next.? The crucial question is this: Will President Obama have to get involved — like President Clinton during Kargil war — to force Pakistan make the next positive step.? Will we see justice served or more meaningless statements like “we are determined to get to the bottom of this attacks.”?

So far pattern of the cross border rhetoric and action has been along predictable lines and we have seen this movie before. Unless we see more sincere gestures to match the words, lets hold off on the carrots.

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The Circle of Life

On July 2, 1999, at the height of the Kargil War, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif telephoned President Bill Clinton and asked for his personal intervention. Clinton was very clear on his message; Pakistan had to withdraw unconditionally and United States would not reward Pakistan for the violation of the Line of Control. On July 3rd, Sharif called Clinton again with a message: though not invited he was leaving for Washington D.C. immediately. Clinton remarked, “This guy’s coming literally on a wing and a prayer.”[1]

In 1999, Nawaz Sharif cut a sorry figure. He was like the resident of Tokyo trapped in front of Godzilla, but indecisive. Prince Bandar bin Sultan who picked Sharif at Washington airport told the Americans that Sharif was in mental pain about the crisis and scared about the reaction from the Pakistani Army, especially Musharraf.

There could be one explanation that this was an isolated incident. But in fact, always fearful and manipulated by Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad, Sharif was like like Rajesh Kuthrapalli on The Big Bang Theory. In 1998, Strobe Talbott, Bruce Riedel, Tom Simmons and Gen. Anthony Zinni met Nawaz Sharif to dissuade him from conducting a tit-for-tat nuclear test and Sharif, “seemed nearly paralysed with exhaustion, anguish and fear.”[1]

While many join Toastmasters to boost their confidence, conquer their fears and express ideas, nothing can match the fear of death and an exile in Saudi Arabia. On the day Yousaf Raza Gillani was sworn in as the Prime Minister, two American diplomats visited Pakistan and they saw Nawaz Sharif in a completely new avatar.

The leader of the second biggest party in the new Parliament, Nawaz Sharif, said after meeting the two American diplomats that it was unacceptable that Pakistan had become a “killing field.”“If America wants tosee itself clean of terrorists, we also want that our villages and towns should not be bombed,” he said at a news conference here. Mr. Sharif, a former prime minister, added he was unable to give Mr. Negroponte “a commitment” on fighting terrorism. The statements by Mr. Sharif, and the cool body language in the televised portions of his encounter with Mr. Negroponte, were just part of the sea change in Pakistan’s domestic politics that is likely to impose new limits on how Washington fights militants within Pakistan’s borders. [New Pakistani Leaders Tell Americans There’s ‘a New Sheriff in Town’]

The 16th century Malayalam poet Poonthanam wrote in Jnanappana, a treasury of transcendental knowledge, “In a day or two, it is He, who makes them ride on the royal chair.” Poonthanam was writing, of course, about the lilas of Guruvayoorappan, but impermanence as elucidated by ancient bhakti poets seem to predict the affairs in our neighboring country quite accurately.

Poonthanam also wrote, “People who is seen by all; you are the one who makes them disappear. On the shoulder of the king; you are He, who places a tattered heap.” If only President Musharraf could read Malayalam.

1. Strobe Talbott, Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, And the Bomb: Revised Edition, (Brookings Institution Press, 2006).

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