Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Pakistani education authorities are verifying university degrees of members of parliament amid fears that scores of them could be disqualified for holding “fake degrees”, leading to “mini mid-term elections” less than three years after general elections were held in the country.
Large scale by-elections could trigger political uncertainty in the country which is presently confronted with growing threat of Islamist militancy and is struggling to bolster a weak economy.
Pakistan’s increasingly assertive Supreme Court last week ordered election authorities to take action against legislators who were found guilty of forging their education degrees to contest general elections in February 2008.
Under a law introduced by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, a member of parliament must be a university graduate. The move was seen as an attempt by Musharraf, who resigned after the defeat of his allies in elections, to keep his rivals out of politics, many of whom were not university graduates.
from India Insight:
Just days ago, scenic Kashmir, torn by two decades of war, was near normal.
Thousands of tourists were flocking to the region and honeymooners were once again gliding in shikaras, small Kashmiri boats, across the mirror-calm Dal Lake.
The disputed Himalayan region has seen a significant drop in violence between Muslim rebels and security forces.
According to a new report published by the London School of Economics, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency not only funds and trains Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but is officially represented on the movement’s leadership council, giving it significant influence over operations.
The ISI has long been accused of backing the Taliban – an accusation Pakistan denies, saying this would make no sense when it is already fighting a bloody campaign against Islamist militants at home. But the report is worth reading for its wealth of detail on the perceptions held by Taliban commanders interviewed in the field. You can see the Reuters story on the report here and the full document (pdf) here.
In a country which has suffered many bombings, the killing of more than 80 people in two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore last week has unleashed a particularly anguished bout of soul-searching in Pakistan, going right to the heart of its identity as an Islamic nation.
When he heard the news, wrote Kamran Shafi in Dawn, “I ran home and put on the TV and burst into tears, first of rage and a seething anger; and then of complete and utter helplessness and sadness. Shame on us.”
from India Insight:
Nearly half of the people living in the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir want their disputed and divided state to become an independent country, according to a poll published by think tank Chatham House.
London-based Chatham House says the poll is the first to be conducted on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), a military control line that has separated Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir since the U.N.-brokered ceasefire between two rivals in 1949.
The 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.
White House National Security Adviser Jim Jones and CIA director Leon Panetta are visiting Pakistan to step up pressure on militant groups following this month’s failed car-bombing in New York’s Times Square. But what specifically do they want from Pakistan in what has now become a familiar “do more” mantra from the U.S. administration? That, as yet, is not entirely clear.
The Washington Post and the New York Times quoted unnamed administration officials as saying Jones and Panetta would press Pakistan to step up its military action against Pakistani and Afghan Taliban militants based in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
Indian writer A.G. Noorani has just become the latest to weigh in on the parameters of a possible peace deal in Kashmir. Writing in Dawn newspaper, he argues that no solution will work unless it is supported by a domestic consensus within each of the three parties involved – India, Pakistan and Kashmir.
“First, no Indian government can accept de-accession of Kashmir and survive even for an hour. Secondly, no government in Pakistan can accept the Line of Control as an international boundary and survive, either. Thirdly, nor will the Kashmiris submit to the partition; and lastly they insist on self-rule,” he writes.
Given the amount of negative news about Pakistan in the last few weeks, it is good to see a report about something going reasonably well, with this article by the blog Changing up Pakistan on the country’s first microfinance institution.
Modelled on the Grameen Bank set up in Bangladesh by Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohmmad Yunus, the Kashf Foundation provides loans to Pakistani women to set up small projects which both bring them an income and enhance their status.
The 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.