Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

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Self Destruction – Pakistan at the Cricket World Cup 2015

February 21, 2015

CRICKET-WC-2015-PAK-WIS

I’m crestfallen, but not surprised by team Pakistan’s performance today against the West Indies in the World Cup. By showing up to International Crickets biggest tournament with apparently very little preparation, one shouldn’t have expected anything different than what’s happening.

Truth is, the teams they have lost to so far are not playing spectacular cricket, rather, Pakistan lacks the basic components of a world class team:

1. No Specialist Wicket Keeper. Pakistan is essentially playing without a wicket keeper and I wonder if that has ever happened in the history of the World Cup. Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a specialist wicket keeper must also be a spectacular bat as a requisite in one day international cricket in the past 20 years: think Australia’s Adam Gilchrist, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and India’s M.S. Dhoni. Yet, selectors (PCB), commentators (Ramiz Raja) coaching (Waqar Yunus) refuse to address why specialist wicket keeper and in form batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed is not on the team now. And with every Akmal butterfingers drop, Sarfaraz’s absence is sorely missed. Yahoo Sports puts it well:

Surprisingly, regular wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who had scored prolifically against Australia and New Zealand in last year’s test and ODI series in the UAE, is yet to get his first Cricket World Cup match.

2. Zero Team Leadership: Starting from the top with mind boggling selections of the PCB, to Waqar Younus as a clueless coach and Misbah ul Haq as a most lackluster, demoralizing captain. Waqar consistently baffles everyone with his selection of bowlers and his misplacing batsman in the order (i.e. consistently selecting or opening with Younus Khan or putting him at the most valuable #3 spot, or not playing spin bowler Yasir Shah against the Windies who have trouble with spinners, but playing him against India who traditionally does okay with spinners). Then, Misbah who is the only captain out of every team i’ve seen, including the minnows who seems incapable of competitive, encouraging positive athletic leadership– which is a requisite of a captain for any sport! Battling legend Javed Miandad summarizes Misbah’s leadserhip succinctly

Cricket World Cup: Misbah-ul-Haq’s ‘weak’ leadership is not helping Pakistan, says Javed Miandad

This is aside from the fact that Misbah’s field placements CONSISTENTLY cost us matches (i.e. putting one of our least mobile fielders, Mohammad Irfan at mid wicket and long on), one is left scratching their head — what on earth is Misbah’s strategy, let alone rationale for winning?

Shoaib Akhtar agrees, he scathingly commented today “We are heading for disaster. I have never seen a more selfish and coward captain like Misbah,”

Remember Shahid Afridi as captain of Pakistan’s 2011 world cup team? THAT was world class leadership: Afridi led an inexperienced side that was underestimated by all, from the front, and launched them to exceeding all expectations. He was positive, motivational, competitive and strategic — Misbah doesn’t compare, and his captaincy is costing Pakistan win after win 😦

Shahid Afridi's Pretty Chiseled

Shahid Afridi’s Pretty Chiseled

3. No Batsmen Groomed for the World Cup: Shame on the PCB: Pakistan it seems is the only team who squandered the past 4 years without grooming enough batsmen for this tournament.

Inventor of the deadly “doosra” delivery, former master spinner Saqlain Mushtaq explains  “The whole nation feels let down and is understandably angry. You don’t expect such unprofessional decisions from a professional management,” he said.

Constantly yanking batsman with in form, winning performances like Fawad Alam, refusing to play Mohammad Hafeez when he insists he is ready, and wasting world class batsman like Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi as lowest order players and instead playing non performing batsmen who consistently cost us key matches, like Younus Khan, Pakistan has yet to have a reliable opening duo, let alone stable batsmen to follow. And with Waqar Younus as coach admitting he’s still “experimenting” with the order (with dire results), Pakistan is painfully unprepared for the World Cup 2015.

Don’t expect major wins from a team that lacks the most basic components for crickets biggest tournament. I’m looking forward to tomorrows South Africa vs. India game. A.B. de Villiers, Hashim Amla and company — now that’s a team to be excited about.

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A Guide to Pakistan’s Election 2013

May 10, 2013
Pakistani Elections 2013

Each Candidate Brings a Unique Skill Set, Experience & Expertise

This marks the first time in Pakistan’s history a civilian government has completed its full term and will transition power to a new civilian government, Pakistani elections this Saturday are complete with hope, democratic fervor, and anticipation. Here is a guide to whose running, and what each party stands for.

The Businessman: Nawaz Sharif
Party: PML-N

Economic Philosophy: Industry Friendly, Economically Liberal: Nawaz Sharif is a consistent proponent of “rapid industrialization” and there is little doubt he will incorporate free market principles anywhere he can. “He liberalized foreign exchange regulations and denationalized several public sector industrial enterprises and financial institutions”, including electric utilities in hopes to curtail power shortages that have crippled businesses and left Pakistani’s reeling in hot summers from lack of electricity. Sharif vows to remove these shortages, known as “load shedding” in the coming years through increased use of natural gas extracted from Baluchistan. While Socialist policies have historically been more popular in Pakistan, Sharif intends to “cut government expenditure by 30 percent in order to secure international backing for the economy” and is likely to continue his legacy as a free market capitalist.
Foreign Policy: Flexible & Amendable: His record includes initiating peace processes with India in his first term as prime minister and is remembered for launching the Delhi Lahore Bus , with his Indian counterpart Atul Vajpayee in 1999. Sharif claims he will not be part of the War on Terror, but rarely shies from turning to the United States for assistance. During the 1998 Kargil conflict, former President Clinton writes in his autobiography that he was personally asked by Prime Minister Sharif to visit and discuss the conflict. He did however defy American calls to halt Pakistan’s nuclear program and the country faced crippling sanctions as a result. Sharif has since promised to “recalibrate Pakistan’s counterterrorism partnership with United States” , in hopes to quell widespread resentment of American handling of terrorism in Pakistan. He supports handing over Gwadar port to China and the singing of a gas supply project with Iran,citing Pakistan’s current foreign policy posture leaves them in “isolation” and such projects is a route to connecting with the world.
Social Policy: Very Conservative: A protégé of Pakistan’s most religious conservative leader General Zia ul Haq, Sharif initiated the ghastly 15th Constitutional Amendment bill known as the Shariat bill in 1998 during his term which empowered the “prime minister to enforce what he thought was right and to prohibit what he considered wrong in Islam irrespective of what the Constitution or any judgment of the courts”. Suffice to say religious conservatism will color his social policy.
Voter Base/Popularity: Very popular in the Punjab. Sharif has widespread support of the middle and lower class, urban population. He also commands support of the industrialist and business class, given his support of free market policies.
Leadership Style/Personality: With a feudal background, Sharif is considered a son of the soil in the Punjab, (even though he lives a rather lavish lifestyle; be brings white tigers to his campaign rallies). He is mild mannered, conservative and has a simple, unobtrusive, way about him which helps him connect with most Pakistanis.
Security Issues: He says drone attacks are against “national sovereignty” and will not tolerate them but does not offer specific alternatives to drone policy, or how to curtail them in the immediate future. Considered to be “soft” of militant groups, and lacking a significant record of standing up for minority groups, he has vowed to end America’s war on terror but “declines to say whether he would stop military operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda” and has floated ideas on engagement with militant groups as workable options as opposed to “guns and bullets” . My guess is his government will initiate added dialogue with militant groups on a need to basis. Sharif is a free markets leader, and will prioritize big business before putting security atop his agenda.
American Counterpart: Mitt Romney – Both free market businessman to their core, socially conservative and very wealthy, these men are rather similar. Sharif does not have Ivy League degrees, but seems more down to earth and connects with the general public with ease.

The Deal Maker: Asif Ali Zardari
Party: PPP

Economic Philosophy: Centrist with Socialist Tendencies: The party has socialist roots but since the death of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his debacle of nationalizing major industries in the 70’s, the PPP has taken a centrist shift. Benazir Bhutto as prime minister favored socio-economic development through fiscal and monetary expansionist policies, and under her husband Asif Zardari’s leadership, the party will continue along this route. The PPP implemented welfare projects, including income support schemes which handed cash out to rural areas, especially in Sindh. Prime Minister Zardari has repeatedly called for consensus in Pakistan on economic issues and turned a nose to repeated US calls to steer clear of Iran’s gas pipeline. The pipeline deal with Tehran is Prime Minister’s Zardari’s answer to “chronic energy shortages in the country”
Foreign Policy: Accommodating: The party most diametrically opposed to the military in Pakistan, the PPP seeks to forge closer ties with the United States. The military having brutally executed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s most populous leader in the 1970’s, and house arresting his daughter Benazir (who would later go on to be Prime Minister) the Zardari government is responsible for appointing Hussain Haqqani as Ambassador in D.C. Recall Hussain Haqqani’s rather embarrassing Memo Gate controversy in which the Ambassador sent a memorandum to Admiral Mike Mullen seeking the Obama Administrations assistance in an American takeover of Pakistan’s military apparatus”. THe Prime Minister has also spent much time cultivating business ties with China, including announcing their takeover of the Gwadar port as part of a “drive to secure energy and maritime routes”. And despite seeking closer ties with the United States, Zardari has gone against US requests and met with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to finalize the Iran Pakistan gas pipeline.
Social Policy: Liberal Leaning: Historically they have been very protective of minority rights, but the PPP has not been able to prevent a current upsurge in violence against Shias, Ahmedi’s and Christians. Social policy has been rooted in helping the poor through inflationary schemes; Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s exceedingly popular and iconic promise of “roti kapra makaan” (bread, clothing, shelter) is still a sentiment held by the PPP. Prime Minister Zardari’s government can also boast passing a “raft of women’s empowerment resolutions through the previous parliament, including laws against domestic violence and sexual harassment”, testimony to the PPP’s liberal leaning posture. And even though many party stalwarts have been sidelined by the Zardari government in the past few years, they remain mostly committed to PPP causes.
Voter Base/Popularity: The PPP’s stronghold has always been in Sindh,. The party commands support of the rural, lower, and middle class. They also have support in the southern part of Punjab. Not enough to win the election this year, but his party consistently wins a significant number of seats.
Leadership Style/Personality: Asif Ali Zardari is a savvy business dealer and deft negotiator. Coming from a relatively modest feudal background, Zardari grew up with a chip on his shoulder, and has been in business for himself since his teens. Beginning with selling tickets to his father’s cinema, to trading cars, selling assets, negotiating land deals, he has always created opportunities, and found success for himself. May not be as well liked as Nawaaz Sharif in Pakistan, but he is renowned to be the most loyal of friends to those who know him.
Security Issues: Prime Minister Zardari and his party have always sought widespread civil society support before opting for military solutions. Last year, he referred to drones as counterproductive, yet on the whole, drones have increased during his regime . On terrorism, Prime Minister Zardari has worked with the military establishment on some operations, (such as negotiating peace in SWAT with the Taliban) but insists Pakistan needs the support of civil society to launch operations against militants, while simultaneously censuring the media, judiciary and other right wing parties for not being supportive enough.
American Counterpart: Rod Blagojevich: Two left leaning party leaders jailed for corruption, they also share strikingly characteristic smiles and have suffered the brunt of many a political cartoon. Asif Zardari and Rod Blagojevich also both elicit a love hate response from people, there’s no middle ground; one either likes, or really dislikes them.

The Captain: Imran Khan
Party: PTI

zainab jeewanjee and imran khan smallest

zainab jeewanjee and imran khan

Economic Philosophy: Welfare Policies: Imran Khan says he will “end corruption in 19 days” and plans to sideline the bureaucracy to do so. All economic plans that follow are rooted in this idea. He will declare an energy emergency and claims to end load shedding in 2 years through an oversight board for energy distributers in attempt to make it an apolitical body while privatizing energy companies. He also plans to increase use of coal from Pakistan, and has made calls for an Islamic Welfare State. No word yet as to what the Islamic Welfare State would mean and how to go about implementing it, but it makes for wonderful campaigning with the people.
Foreign Policy: Assertive: “America is destroying Pakistan”, suffice to say Imran Khan is the candidate most opposed to current US policy to Pakistan, while clarifying he is not “anti-west” . He vociferously opposes all post 9/11 Pakistani regimes from General Musharraf to Prime Minister Zardari, for cooperating in what was once known as the “war on terror”. He finds current relations, involving drone attacks in exchange for American aid more than just transactional, but a failure. Referring to it as an “American war on Pakistani soil” , Khan insists on Pakistan’s sovereignty first, and a rejection of American aid if current policies persist . And in regards to India, as a world renowned former cricketer, India may be warm to an Imran Khan regime and such popularity in the Subcontinent could be an opportunity for diplomatic headway in bilateral relations with Delhi.
Social Policy: Conservative Reformist: Khan’s vision of an Islamic Society looks like Scandinavia; “a humane society, where there is rule of law, a society that looks after its weak, its handicapped.” Where to begin creating institutions to do this, has yet to be fleshed out. As with his energy policy, he vows to declare an emergency on education to tackle the country’s illiteracy problem, commissioning international scholar Dr. Azeem Ibrahim to come up with the plan. On minority issues, he has condemned Lashkar e Jhangvi’s killing of Shia’s yet. Overall, one may expect someone who was known for a high flying, partying lifestyle as a fashionable celebrity cricketer to be more on the liberal side of the social spectrum, but his policies for Pakistan are astonishingly conservative.
Voter Base/Popularity: Young, rural, urban, elite, upper middle class, and educated Pakistani’s are supporting Imran Khan in this election. He also commands a significant supporting from overseas Pakistani’s, especially in the United States, where he has raised millions for this election campaign, in his cancer hospital in previous years. They say if the youth turn out to vote, the election will swing his way.
Leadership Style/Personality: He’s the man who brought the Cricket world cup to Pakistan and will always be known as a hero who led a nation to victory. Men admire him and women love him; he’s compelling, handsome and speaking from personal experience, has a rather impressive presence. Leading PTI gradually, but steadily over the years with a straight shooting manner, he is criticized for being soft on substance. An unwavering posture against highly unpopular American policies and promise of sweeping change however, is where he finds tremendous support.

Security Issues: If elected, Imran Khan says he will simply shoot down American drones . He will negotiate with the Taliban, explaining actual militants comprise only a small sector of Pakistani society and plans to reconstitute tribal Jirga’s to maintain peace. He want to withdraw all Pakistani troops from FATA tribal areas and applauded Prime Minister Zardari’s and the military brokered peace deal with the Taliban in SWAT 2009, which was promptly violated by the Taliban almost immediately. His plan for securing the nation from increased sectarian violence, political bombings and terrorist militancy are rooted in ending American drones and “Rambo style” mercenaries who he explains increase, rather than decrease violence.

American Counterpart: Ron Paul: Both call for limited foreign interferences and engagements as a silver bullet to their country’s problems. They are straight shooters, unabashedly opinionated and while they don’t always have an exhaustive, full proof plans on how to pursue their relatively radical policies they both command increased followers each election cycle!

 Altaf Husssain : The Organizer

Party: MQM

Economic Philosophy: Small Scale, Private Enterprises: A party founded to establish a corruption free society, uproot the feudal system and establish a meritocracy in Pakistan’s Indian immigrants, and other minorities have a fair shot at social mobility, the party is a strong proponent of free market capitalism. They have executed several large scale development work in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
Foreign Policy: Progressive: MQM is the part that stands up most forcefully against the Taliban, historically and in this election. Sadly, they have been viciously targeted and attacked for this stance in the past weeks through bomb blasts in and around their party offices. They do not support American drones, but do support military operations against terrorist militants as needed. They call for “close, and honorable ties” with India along with a newly “independent foreign policy” .
Social Policy: Liberal : MQM is historically secular and has always stood up strongly in support of minority rights. They have vociferously condemned every attack against minorities in Pakistan.
Voter Base/Popularity: Altaf Hussain and MQM’s stronghold is in Karachi, among the urban, Urdu Speaking, educated middle classes. Urdu speakers are Paksitani’s who trace their roots back to India; their families migrated to Pakistan during partition, and they are disapprovingly referred to as “mohajirs” (migrants).
Leadership Style/Personality: Altaf Hussain is a cult like figure, the single and supreme ruler of the party, he has a thunderous speaking style. With the security of knowing his party does not command enough support to rival PML-N, PPP, or PTI and other parties throughout the years, he leads loudly, and forcefully.
Security Issues: Unwaveringly opposed to militancy and MQM supports grassroots movements to counter it. They have a stronghold in Karachi and a loyal party base in this large city couple this with Hussain’s powerful leadership (even though he lives in England) the MQM can mobilize attacks against the Taliban on a local scale.
American Counterpart: Jimmy Hoffa. They’re both charismatic leaders who catapulted their organization to protect a minority population to the forefront of the political scene. It helps that they happen to look alike also.

May the best candidate win.

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Empowering the Worlds 6th Most Populous Country

June 23, 2012

Schools in Pakistan’s Rural Areas

The big news in Pakistan right now is about the newly elected Prime Minster, deteriorating diplomatic relations with the United States and match fixing charges on star cricketers, but there is a less publicized, but important story that CNN published last week “Family’s 20 Kids Highlight Pakistan’s Population Explosion”. The article warns that Pakistan is currently among the top ten most populous countries and by 2050 will rank third only behind China and India. The author’s attribute this population explosion to a lack of birth control, and insufficient access to family planning information. And while birth control and family planning organizations are certainly effective means to control population growth, dissemination of information that counters prevailing cultural norms and attitudes that discourage limiting family size are also important. The article accurately describes “a majority of the population – 70% is largely illiterate and resides in rural areas lacking the most basic services” and it is in those regions in Pakistan that are most influenced by the deep conservatism that often views birth control as “un Islamic”, but does not account for the large number of efforts that have been made to curb illiteracy in these areas. Well known nonprofit organizations including The Citizens Foundation  and Development in Literacy are focused on educating Pakistan’s rural populations and DIL in particular focuses on countering female illiteracy.

DIL claims “empowering underprivileged students, especially girls” as part of their “student centered model schools in remote areas of Pakistan” as part of their mission statement. And female empowerment is exactly the kind of education that can help disseminate valuable information to facilitate controlling Pakistan’s population bulge. Successful NGO’s in the Microfinance space including Grameen Bank  have demonstrated success in assisting with a reduction of birth rates of their members. Like DIL, Grameen Bank claims female empowerment as part of their mission, but unlike DIL, puts in place more direct mechanisms to achieve such objectives. Their “sixteen decisions”  is testimony to a commitment to female empowerment making finance contingent to social development goals, including educating children, cleaner homes, maintaining and caring for one’s health, personal discipline, and cooperation with other females in the community. Number 6 on Grameen’s list explicitly has women pledge “We intend to have small families” and through these guidelines their microfinance model is supplemented by female empowerment strategies that encourage family planning and overall develop the social environment in which they live.  Similarly, Microfinance organization Pro Mujer provides poor women with mechanisms for empowerment in Latin America in addition to development opportunities through lending capital. Their approach reads:

 While most microfinance institutions focus only on financial services, Pro Mujer uses a holistic approach, making sure that clients are better prepared physically, emotionally and economically to improve their lives and that of their children. Education is one strategy. Pro Mujer teaches women about domestic violence, communication skills, and women’s rights, using workshops and group discussions to raise their awareness about leadership, gender issues, and self-esteem. It also links clients with other organizations for counseling, legal assistance, and education and vocational training programs. Women also become empowered as they join and become active in their communal associations. Pro Mujer organizes women in groups of 18 to 28 clients and teaches them how to organize and manage a community bank. The women elect a board of directors to run the meetings, form a credit committee to approve loan applications, and create solidarity groups to guarantee each other’s loans. Members of the communal banks gain confidence and self-esteem as they successfully borrow and repay their loans, set up savings accounts, and become more aware of their own potential and abilities. What’s more, they apply their new skills as leaders in other community organizations.

Education + Empowerment for development

Pro Mujer and Grameen Bank are first and foremost Microfinance institutions, as DIL is to education. These organizations converge in their commitment to “women’s empowerment”, but diverge in their mechanisms to achieve that objective. Microfinance, and education are important development goals for a larger purpose of empowerment so it is important that direct efforts are put in place that have a positive impact on female empowerment. Nonprofit organizations have a profound responsibility not only to those they seek to help, but to their donors, and women’s empowerment must be more than just a catch phrase in Pakistan. It requires a serious commitment by organizations who want to have a positive, long term and sustainable impact for women. Education is an important starting point, but the work will not end there. Given the population growth numbers, empowerment must increasingly become part of the plan to develop Pakistan. Education focused NGO’s are in a good position to begin such models of development, especially if empowerment is a stated part of their mission.

 

 

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Would Imran Khan call Ron Paul to Bat?

January 9, 2012
American Congressman Ron Paul

Ron Paul speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference: 2011

Is it just me, or are seemingly incessant GOP debates the past few months allowing President Obama’s lack of public exposure to seem more and more like solid leadership? The Republican lineups simplistic, square and reactionary focus on “Anti-Obama” rhetoric especially on foreign policy has highlighted a resoundingly hawkish stance on Iran with little attention to our current engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And while it may be expedient amongst a certain political base to try and one-up each other in aggressive foreign policy talk, only Ron Paul challenges the party line on Americas role in the world.

When it comes to Pakistan, compared to Democrats Republicans have a consistent history of preferring to work closely with the military establishment in Islamabad. While there is a level of bipartisanship post 9/11, (case in point is Obama’s continuation of Bush era drone use with little debate), Republicans have through the Cold War and beyond preferred dealing with the military establishment rather than focusing on democratic, or liberal institution building. Which is not necessarily an entirely erroneous  policy; part of the rationale is that state building is expensive in blood, toil, time and treasure and rarely feasible. Further, there are an endless number of constraints and uncertainties that profoundly hinder institution, or democratic state building in a place like Pakistan, rendering Republican policies simply pragmatic.

Which brings us to current policy: the bipartisan endorsed “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act” (S. 1707)  enacted in 2009 has yet to bear tangible fruit. Granted the aforementioned that institution building is time exhaustive, the fact remains that Pakistan has deteriorated politically, in the realm of security and economically. And having watched everyone from Gov. Romney, Sen. Santorun, Gov. Perry, Rep. Bachmann and yes even the soft spoken Gov. Huntsman, reiterates hawkish foreign policy while refusing to acknowledge a need for meaningful improvement. In the Republican camp only Rep. Ron Paul’s extreme calls for an isolationist posture offer some semblance of change. And because his prescriptions have yet to be tried, the utility of his ideas have yet to be tested. And now may be a time to consider his stance since they call for exactly what the Pakistani public wants right now.

Referring to our policies to Pakistan as nothing short of “Bombs for Bribes” Ron Paul acknowledges the nobility, yet inherent futility in calling for democratic institutions in places of strategic engagement. He understands that we are already engaged in “130 countries” with “700 bases around the world” and in this speech against the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, he bluntly explains:

the way we treat our fellow countries around the world is we tell them what to do and if they do it, we give them money. If they don’t we bomb them. Under this condition we are doing both. We are currently dropping bombs in Pakistan and innocent people get killed. If you want to promote our good values and democratic processes, you can’t antagonize the people”

He goes on to suggest dialogue and trade as alternatives to current policy. And although his statement is simplistic and was made in 2009, it highlights Ron Paul’s isolationist, more economically focused prescriptions on foreign policy that seek to reduce our military footprint abroad based on pragmatic constraints, like military and fiscal overstretch. And these calls seem more reasonable than before, especially when it comes to Pakistan and the fact that our aid has yet to yield satisfactory results. So while the Obama administration continues engagement and GOP candidates refuse to acknowledge much concern over current policy to Pakistan, can Ron Paul really be the only alternative available?

Someone once considered completely out of left, excuse me, right field, could be the reminder we need to moderate our engagement with countries of interest. Because what is interesting is that current rhetoric in Pakistan is very much in line with Ron Paul’s ideas. Ron Paul isn’t touting conspiracy theories, nor does he echo far left foreign policy thinkers like Noam Chomsky. Rather, his past statements on our engagement in Pakistan as “inadvertently causing chaos” and “violating security and sovereignty” are exactly what the average Pakistani seems to feel and hears about in their mainstream TV, and print media. Takeaway for us means, it’s a perception the is realistic; perhaps more so than current policy reflects.

In fact, legendary cricket star turned politician Imran Khan’s recent surge in popularity is in large part due to his highly critical foreign policy rhetoric that vociferously calls for D.C. to adopt a more isolationist stance so Pakistan might reclaim lost autonomy. Imran Khan steadily built support for his party on the continued observation that America’s “War on Terror” has intensified insecurity and his subsequent promises to curtail American involvement is a first step in alleviating Pakistan’s problems.

He underscores Ron Paul’s sentiment that perceptions urgently matter in a climate where American intervention is increasingly received hostilely.  Both politicians insistence on winnings hearts and minds renders Ron Paul’s foreign policy prescriptions worthy of consideration. Imran Khan’s recent ascendency and Governor Paul’s gradually increasing support marks a convergence in shifting to a direction of a less militarized approach to Pakistan. Two men once considered out of the realm of politician viability now increasingly resonate in their respective publics; policymakers ought to take note.

 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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America the Resilient

May 2, 2011
President Obama & CIA Director Leon Panetta
President Obama & CIA Director Leon Panetta

9/11 changed the face of US hegemony and after 10 years of what began as a sweeping War on Terror, that face changes again tonight as America prevails proud, resilient and rejuvenated. President Obama’s address confirms Osama bin Laden has been killed and his body is in U.S. custody.

Special forces brought bin Laden to justice and our President thanked those who served us in the military, in counterterrorism and intelligence officials who had been watching the compound and gathering actionable intelligence that ultimately took out enemy number one in a firefight.

It’s a proud day for America, but questions already abound regarding relations with Pakistan: “Osama bin Laden was not in a cave, he was in a city in Pakistan” as one analyst on ABC news reported which had Christian Amanpour then raise the question “whose been protecting him?”

But before entirely implicating Pakistan for harboring the worlds most wanted man, it’s important to recall Obama’s increased intelligence operations in Pakistan since he took office. As the war shifted to Pakistan, so did ISI CIA collaborative operations. With closer collaboration came butting of heads where U.S. intelligence speculated if Pakistani intelligence was doing enough and such rifts peaked last week when Admiral Mike Mullen voiced harsh criticism of the ISI.

But the President’s comments and ongoing reporting indicates that today’s victory that comes after 10 long years of war, struggle and sacrifice, was a joint operation with Pakistan on the ground. GEO News in Pakistan confirms most of the information we’re hearing here, save some reporting that 1 American helicopter was shot down. Nonetheless, Peter Bergen on CNN says Elite Black Ops and Paramilitary CIA who were the likely heroes, operated with cooperation of the Pakistani government. Yet this success does not negate or allow us to ignore the concern of who, or at worst, what elements of the Pakistani government knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Today prompts us to reassess and revamp relations with Pakistan, who once again has proven itself as an effective ally at wartime. This victory is an opportunity to foster a fresh relationship that can be something more than transactional and more transparent. Skepticism of one another in both states is beyond a misalignment of interests, it’s a misalignment ofconceptions of one another. Perceptions matter and it is no secret that anti Americanism can be formidable fuel to our enemies abroad. U.S. Intelligence amidst constant rhetoric of “Blowback” is redeemed today; the Intelligence agencies are heroes to Americans everywhere, and in this instance, even for Pakistani’s who suffered tremendously since 9/11. With an ever crippling economy, and a seemingly endless barrage of violent onslaughts from Al Qaeda suicide bombers in the past 10 years, Pakistani’s along with American’s should rejoice at today’s victory while policymakers in both countries take time to capitalize on this game changer and move forward anew.

Step 1, halt the drones.

ORIGINALLY POSTED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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Remember Pakistan’s Liberal Dictator?

October 4, 2010
Freedom through Dictatorship?

Freedom through Dictatorship?

Well, I called it: Pervez Musharraf is staging a return to Pakistani politics. Launching his new “All Pakistan Muslim League” (AMPL) party this week in a plan to return to the country, the former General will have to face a tremendously skeptical, increasingly hardened citizenry and even tougher adversaries in the judicial branch and opposition parties. In an Al Jazeera special report, Musharraf’s former Legal Advisor Ahmed Raza Kasuri insisted that should tacit approval come from the country’s military establishment and most importantly, with support of a “silent majority” Kasuri measures at 60-65% of moderate Pakistani’s, Musharraf will garner required support to win in future elections. Political analyst Imtiaz Gul insisted otherwise explaining not only would the military establishment be weary of backing Musharraf who cost them valuable political capital when he sacked the judiciary in 2007 and issued a State of Emergency, but also because he has “lost relevance” in Pakistan today.

Gul makes a valuable point: without relevance a political figure is climbing an uphill battle of garnering credibility, and because credibility is deeply intertwined with legitimacy, Musharraff undoubtedly faces a bumpy comeback.

But relevance is not necessarily an impediment to power in Pakistan since the current situation lends a valuable opportunity for it to be readily earned. Current President Asif Zardari usurped such an opportunity when his wife was tragically murdered and assumed leadership, riding the waves of sympathy that swept the nation to win elections. While that “relevance” is waning now, it was enough to allow him a seat of power for 2 years and actually shake off some of the “Mr. 10%” infamy, which is a far larger feat than what Mushrraf faces today.

While the main opposition party leaders Asif Zardari and Nawaaz Sharif are forever bogged by allegations of corruption, Musharraff’s criticisms revolve around issues of “democracy”.

His most vociferous opponents will cite his sacking of the judiciary, coup to power, and 9 year dictatorial reign as subverting democracy in Pakistan. But such criticism of Musharraf is both misleading and mostly hyperbole.

The deficient part of such rhetoric lies in lacking recognition of liberalism. Notions of individual human rights and liberty, free trade, separation of church and state and religious tolerance are erroneously assumed to come only with democratic leadership in Pakistan. On the contrary, liberal policies extending specifically to women’s rights, fostering regional cooperation and trade, namely with India, opening domestic markets, such as free media and holding free and fair elections were successfully carried out previously by Musharraf.

Ironically, under the title of “dictator”, he brought forth more liberal triumphs than any other leaders in my lifetime. And it is important to not confuse democracy with liberalism. Fareed Zakaria makes this distinction in tweaking “Democratic Peace Theory”. His ideas are described:

“democracy is defined in terms of the process by which a government is selected. In contrast, “constitutional liberalism” is defined not by how the government is selected, but rather b the extent to which the society and its institutions protect individuals’ basic rights (to life, property, freedom of speech, and religion)”

Thus basic tenants of a such liberalism, to a fair extent were brought forth by Musharraf. And as political change seems imminent in Pakistan, if we continue looking to political theory one might advance a case for liberalism by way of identifying Musharraf’s opposition. If we take a voluntaristic view of government, wherein heads of states are integral parts of policymaking as opposed to looking mostly at system wide determinants of policy, one finds that not only corruption, but the fact that both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are part of feudal, landowning elites in Pakistan is meaningful. With that background, and likely subsequent value sets which are diametrically opposed to liberal notions of liberty and individual rights, Pakistan runs the risk of remaining socially, and economically stagnant under their leadership. Moreover, with the U.S. winding down our war in Afghanistan and shifting in to Pakistan, more than ever liberal ideals are needed.

No amount of drones, target killings or CIA intervention have yet quelled extremism let alone terrorism in Pakistan since 9/11. Modernity and liberalism are Pakistan’s best bet at framing a solution for the long run.

It cannot be an overnight shift, but it will require leadership that espouses liberal ideals. Because without credible experience in upholding individual rights and freedoms, only halfhearted appreciation will come for liberalism and even weaker attempts to implement them.

Is Musharraf the solution Pakistan is looking for? I do not know. But until new, more modern and liberal alternatives in political leadership are available, he just might be the best option now.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

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Obama’s Wars – Not Planning to Fail, but Failing to Plan

September 28, 2010
Obama's Wars - Shifting Focus to Pakistan

Obama's Wars - Shifting Focus to Pakistan

“Obama’s Wars” released today already has the attentive public abuzz with tidbits of explosive revelations disclosing divergences at the top levels of government; nothing short of that we’ve come to expect from a Bob Woodward work. While McChrystal’s abrupt departure earlier this year had already exposed wrangling between our executive branch and military personnel, Woodward’s book is set to make public the reality of Obama’s campaign promise in setting Pakistan squarely at center stage in our War on Terror.

“we need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan”

The book will illustrate Obama’s aim to wind down the war; elucidating his always meticulous refrain from using “Victory” in reference to Afghanistan.  Woodward reports however, that he is determined that no success can come without targeting Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan.

According to the Washington Post, the book recounts a top secret meeting with Obama’s then Director of national Intelligence, Mike McConnell who specifically warned that Pakistan is not be trusted as a partner in our Afghanistan engagement.

It’s thus no wonder “quagmire” is used to describe the task at hand. Because regardless of how much the President wants to cut back in Afghanistan, the very strong reluctance stems from potentially risking American interests and leaving the aforementioned “cancer” in Pakistan. So deepening, or as the President might prefer, “shifting” the focus requires a new, more Pakistan focused agenda.

Looking at his National Security Strategy laid out in May 2010, we do find Pakistan as a top concern. Amidst steadfast commitment to liberalist principles calling to defeat terrorism with multilateralism, in adherence with international law and a sensitive awareness to growing interdependence in an increasingly globalized system, the document reads our security objective as such:

“to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qa’ida and its affiliates through a comprehensive strategy that denies them safe haven, strengthens front-line partners, secures our homeland, pursues justice through durable legal approaches, and counters a bankrupt agenda of extremist and murder with an agenda of hope and opportunity. The frontline of this fight is Afghanistan and Pakistan”

Naming Pakistan alongside Afghanistan underscores the President’s shifting focus. The policy refers to Pakistan as the “epicenter of violent extremism” and warns “danger from this region will only grow if it’s security slides backward”.

Throughout the document, we see such warnings used interchangeably for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Perhaps an indication of how policymakers and journalists use sweeping generalizations such as “Af-Pak” for two countries still far from understood. However the National Security Policy makes no mistake in interchanging recommendations. Clearly spelling out that “denying Al Qa-da the Ability to Threaten the American People, our Allies, Our partners and our Interests Overseas” is our main objective, it specifically spells out how to achieve this in Afghanistan through:

–       Continued work with the United Nations and Afghan Government

–       Improving accountable and affective governance

–       Assistance on supporting the President of Afghanistan

–       Supporting ministries, governors and local leaders who have demonstrated measured progress in combating corruption

–       Targeting our aid to Agriculture and human rights

–       Military and International Security Assistance Forces partnering with Afghanistan to target the insurgency

–       Timetable laid out: transition to Afghan responsibility. July 2011 reducing troops

This describes the first two parts of the three pronged approach spelled out in the National Security Strategy. The third prong refers to Pakistan and is relatively vague. It restates the objective of “strengthening Pakistan’s capacity to target violent extremists with continued assistance in those efforts” without laying out how this can occur, or what this entails. With Afghanistan, there is reference to the United Nations, specific levels of government and ISAF forces collaborating as a means to acheiving the objective to combat and provide security from violent extremists. No such specificities are spelled out in reference to Pakistan. Rather, the document vaguely describes an approach that is meant to

“strengthen Pakistan’s democracy…provide “assistance responsive to the needs of the Pakistani people and sustain a long term partnership committed to…deepening cooperation in a broad range of areas …in the years to come”

That is not a strategy. There is not a linking of means to an end. There is no specific timetable or reference to benchmarks for the end objective, nor quantifiable measurements for success. Further, Pakistan has not been able to cement it’s democracy let alone sufficiently respond to the needs of its population in 60+ years, making our intentions to do so implausible. In regards to “long term, deepening cooperation” amidst the staunch multilateral rhetoric, the document does not once refer to Pakistan among the “partners” it seeks to engage in reaching our objectives. It references “fostering a relationship” but partnership is nowhere to be seen.

So, if the President has his way, we will wind down Afghanistan and likely shift focus to Pakistan. I hope by then there exists a more clearly laid out and practical approach to achieving our objectives and securing our interests there. Otherwise, without sufficient planning, the quagmire just deepens.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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