Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Pakistan’s debate on drones, lifting the secrecy

Photo
-

droneIn a rare admission of the effectiveness of drone strikes, a senior Pakistani military officer has said most of those killed are hard-core militants, including foreigners, according to Dawn newspaper.

It quotes Major-General Ghayur Mehmood as telling reporters at a briefing in Miramshah, in North Waziristan, that, “Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners.”

“Yes there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements,” he said.

The comments may not have been entirely authorised — the New York Times quoted Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas as playing down the remarks. Abbas called them a “personal assessment”. ”General Abbas emphasised that the army supported the public policy of the government that drone strikes inside Pakistani territory ‘do more harm than good’,” the newspaper said.

Bajaur bombing highlights conflicting U.S.-Pakistan interests

Photo
-

damadola2Last week’s suicide bombing in Pakistan’s Bajaur region, which killed at least 40 people, had a grim predictability to  it.  The Pakistan Army cleared Pakistani Taliban militants out of their main strongholds in Bajaur, which borders Afghanistan’s Kunar province, after 20 months of intense fighting which ended earlier this year.  But as discussed in this post in October the insurgents’ ability to flee to Kunar — where the U.S. military presence has been thinned out — combined with a failure to provide Bajaur with good governance, suggested the security situation in the region was likely to be deteriorating. The bombing appeared to confirm those fears.

The implications go far beyond Bajaur. The Pakistan Army has resisted U.S. pressure to launch a military offensive against militant strongholds in North Waziristan until it has secured gains made elsewhere.  Pakistani daily The Express Tribune quoted army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas as reiterating that point after the Bajaur bombing and after fighting in the neighbouring Mohmand region. Until areas “cleared” by the military were consolidated, “it is impossible to rush into another campaign,” it quoted him as saying.

Guest contribution-Unifying Pakistan

Photo
-

sindh floodsThe following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is a defence expert and author of two books on the Pakistan Army.

By Brian Cloughley

Many of Pakistan’s problems are of its own making, courtesy of uniformed dictators or ineffective politicians or weird alliances of both. When military rulers took over the country in their bloodless coups they were welcomed by the majority of citizens, which was understandable given that the governments they replaced were feudally authoritarian and grossly incompetent.

Giving a voice to Pakistan’s flood victims

Photo
-

charpoyIf you were to give the flood victims in Pakistan a voice, they would tell you that they need seeds to replant the crops destroyed by the water and enough emergency relief to tide them through the winter. After that the land, newly fertilised by the floods, could yield bumper crops in the years ahead.

The children would tell you that the floods hit so powerfully that the memory of feeling in panic while loudspeakers broadcast warnings from the mosques will be forever etched on their minds. They don’t blame the government for a disaster so big that not even in the tales of their ancestors had they heard stories of such floods. They just want enough help to rebuild their homes so they don’t have to sleep in half-destroyed buildings with sunken floors, worrying about them collapsing on top of them in the night.

Helping Pakistan; not if, but how

Photo
-

morefloodsOutside President Asif Ali Zardari’s political rally in Birmingham last weekend, I chatted to a middle-aged woman passing by about the floods in Pakistan. “I have every sympathy for Pakistan and the Pakistanis, but he is not helping them much, is he?” she said. Another woman asked me to explain why it was that the  protesters were not focused on the floods but demonstrating “about all sorts”.  Inside the rally, a young British Pakistani who had recently returned from a visit to his family home in Kashmir complained about negative stereotyping in the media of Pakistan that had reduced a country of some 170 million people to “a terrorist threat”.

If there is a common thread to the relatively slow western response to one of the worst catastrophes in Pakistan’s history, it is a sense of confusion, not about whether to help, but how to help. That, and the dehumanising impact of stereotypes - corrupt politicians, angry bearded protesters, suicide bombers to name but a few – that obscure the impact of the floods on the very real people – 14 million of them - affected by the disaster.

Pakistan’s General Kayani given three-year extension

Photo
-

kayani profilePakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez  Kayani, is to be given a a three-year extension to his term of office to maintain continuity in the country’s battle against Islamist militants. 

Kayani, arguably Pakistan’s most powerful man, had been due to retire in November. His future had been the subject of intense speculation for months, with opinion divided between the those who argued he should be given an extension for the sake of continuity, and those who said that Pakistan needed to build its institutions rather than rely on individuals – as it had done with powerful army rulers in the past.

Between golf and war, Pakistan’s General Kayani’s future is debated

Photo
-

kayani profileThe Pakistan Army prides itself on being an institution which rises above politics and personal ambition, committed to defend the interests of the nation. That this has not always been the case is demonstrated by its history of military coups, and a tendency of past military rulers, from General Zia ul-Haq to former president Pervez Musharraf, to impose a very personal brand of leadership.  Where Zia pushed Pakistan towards hardline Islam, Musharraf aimed at “enlightened moderation” in a country he wanted modelled more on Turkey than on Saudi Arabia.

While no one expects the military to launch another coup, some of that historical memory is feeding into increasingly intense speculation about the future of Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who is due to retire in November.

Guest contribution-The United States and Pakistan

Photo
-

orakzaiThe following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is a defence expert and author of two books on the Pakistan Army.

By Brian Cloughley

On 11 May several Frontier Corps soldiers were killed by insurgents in Pakistan’s Orakzai Tribal Agency. Concurrently there was a report that US Secretary of State Clinton had once again been indignantly critical of Pakistan’s supposed lack of effort to rid itself of murderous fanatics seeking to destroy Pakistan and create a so-called ‘Islamic caliphate’ in the region.

from Afghan Journal:

Challenging the myths of Pakistan’s turbulent northwest

PAKISTAN/

Reuters' journalist Myra Macdonald travelled to Pakistan's northwest on the border with Afghanistan  to find that some of the Kiplingesque images of  xenophobic Pasthuns and ungovernable lands may be a bit off the mark especially now when the Pakistani army has taken the battle to the Islamist militants.  Here's her account :

                               By Myra MacDonald

KHAR, Pakistan - I had not expected Pakistan's tribal areas to be so neat and so prosperous.

Pakistan’s constitutional democracy and the Pakistan Army

Photo
-

zulfikar“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.” – Field Marshall Sir Philip Chetwode at the inauguration of the Indian Military Academy in 1932

For the first time in the history of Pakistan a civilian government is pushing a comprehensive constitutional reform package through parliament to undo provisions introduced by dictators to tighten their grip on power.  President Asif Ali Zardari urged parliament this week to approve constitutional amendments which will turn him into a titular head of state – and, crucially, remove his right to sack prime ministers which had been used by previous military dictators.

  •