The difference between Afridi and Razzaq is the difference between the Pakhtun and the Punjabi. The Pakhtun delivers violence and punishment randomly, but with vigour, passion and even intransigence. For him the moment is more important. The end is never nigh for him. The Punjabi metes out the same with as much impact but induces more damage, as he works within a larger stratagem. His victory is built on a framework, a scheme. His plot is thicker. Unlike the id-driven Pakhtun who works on a pleasure-pain principle, the Punjabi is ego-driven and operates in a reality network…It is thus that the Punjabi wins matches…but the Pakhtun conquers his opponent’s fear..
The smartest people in the world can talk and talk, but it’s still a tough call to reach a resolution.
Even at the tail-end of Day 1 of the 14th IACC, the International Anti-Corruption Conference – the world’s premier platform for tackling corruption – identifying the basis, the causes, and the methods which will eliminate corruption has been a difficult task.
I’m here with seven other journos – reporters, bloggers, photogs – who do print, TV and online work – and the mission is a simple one: get the word out on global corruption. Period.
The concept is ground-breaking: Eight journalists, from all over Asia, bring cutting edge social media skills to the Thai government/Transparency International sponsored expo and spread the happenings to the world.
But that’s where the problem begins.
Hearing some of the world’s smartest corruption fighters, campaigners and prosecutors is inspiring – but also confusing.
In the workshops as well as the ‘plenary’ sessions (which are as big if not bigger than UN General Assembly meetings, complete with translation headphones that disseminate the buzz in four languages), these experts focus on several key areas regarding corruption – security, defence, human rights, environment, climate-change, and disaster-relief.
The topics are engaging, as is the jargon: “State Capture” (when corruption becomes endemic in society in congruence with central institutions of the nation-state perpetrating ‘organized’ corruption; “Water Integrity” (I’m still trying to figure out that one); “Settling Foreign Bribery Cases”; and that’s just Day 1.
According to the schedule, over the next four days, the IACC is also going to be shedding light on “Corruption and Human Trafficking” , “Facilitating Integrity in the Judiciary”, even “Following the Money to Curb Forest Crime”.
As an American colleague put it, it’s all very “heady”.
This is probably the biggest collection of academics, public officials, development workers, activists and info-junkies I’ve ever seen in one place.
But there is a gap – the elephant in the room; the black swan; the 800 pound gorilla – and no one is covering it well enough.
That would be the Islamic Republic of Pakistan: my home and country, and now the world’s unofficial “basket case” of geo-political instability, terrorism, poverty and yes, corruption.
A few days ago, a former Indian diplomat referred to “Pak”, as it now commonly called, as the “Sick Man of Asia”. He said it on live TV, hours after President Barack Obama had displayed the courage to tell an Indian audience in Mumbai that their country had a “stake” in the stability and prosperity of Pakistan.
The diplo had slammed the American president, and his “erstwhile ally”, Pakistan, as being a failed state, a hotbed and sponsor of terror, which was well on it’s way to breaking up.
But he missed some details. The country that became the template for Public-Private partnership (for current giants like S. Korea and the UAE) for a sustainable economy in the 1950s has not only gone broke economically, but also institutionally. The military, the executive, the judiciary, the civil society, and yes, the so called liberal elites, are all in the common business of corruption.
That is Pakistan’s primary and perhaps existential problem.
Not nukes. Not Osama. Not the Taliban. Not human rights abuses. Not biblical floods.
Rampant, embedded and institutionalized corruption.
Unfortunately, that is the gap at the IACC.
For now, I have failed to see enough attention drawn to the Islamic Republic’s ghosts of graft.
I have failed to see any questions being asked by a very eclectic audience.
I have failed to see an interest in a failing state whose ultimate demise will probably create the most catastrophic ripple effects on the political, economic and demographic spectrum of our planet not seen since the fall of the USSR.
The eye of the global security storm, “Pak”, has not been covered by a global conference dedicated to tackling the world’s corruption woes, so far.
Is there something corrupt about that?
I think so…
The Foreign Office is hardening its stance – but where is the inspiration for the art of gaining the upper hand on Delhi coming from?
Pakistan’s FO has never been the most independent of organizations. It is not news that Pakistani foreign policy has long been the domain of GHQ – Rawalpindi has always had a particular interest in Islamabad’s handling of the six vital ‘nodes’ of Pakistani diplomacy: Beijing, Kabul, London, New Delhi, Riyadh and Washington – other missions, as they say in the military, do not make it on ‘Pindi’s radar.
But suits do what boots can’t, and after all, civilian functionaries are supposed to be inherently more diplomatic than their uniformed counterparts. Despite decades of systemic quasi-autonomy, Pakistan’s Foreign Office has remained one of the country’s more functional bureaucracies – even during recent times of gross mismanagement by a beleaguered and distracted central government. Islamabad’s diplomats have seen it all, and the new international dispensation has forced them to reshape their tactics, fast.
New York and Washington were the latest battlegrounds for the FO. On the margins of the UN General Assembly, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi exhausted the think-tank circuit, building a case for that guarded crown-jewel of Pakistan’s existential raison d’etre: Kashmir. He even sent a signal by not taking his foreign secretary along – Pakistan, the message went, was in a ‘no-nonsense zone’ – enough meanderings, he declared at the UN itself. Stop the repression in Kashmir.
The falling out with India was expected, and it came. Qureshi’s Indian counterpart, S.M. Krisha, went on a classic, terror-centric anti-Pak rampage – and both diplomats went home without even a joint photo-op.
But the FO’s recent handling of Kashmir has been particularly telling of a new, aggressive evolution that Islamabad’s legates have undergone of late. The ‘flexible’ and ‘out of the box’ thinking of the Musharraf era has been dropped, at least publicly. A highly placed FO official, comparing the diplomacy of Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs versus that of his predecessor, Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, made a sharp comparison, criticising the systemic of the former administration’s foreign policy approach.
“Publicly, one should not dilute their basic positions. That is left to negotiations, behind the scenes,” he said, citing Musharraf’s famous ’06-’07 submissions to India that Pakistan was willing to ‘move away’ from its conventional policies on Kashmir.
“When you say publicly you are willing to move beyond your ‘stated position’, that too without a quid pro quo from the other side, you gain nothing. We believe in flexibility, but … our stance has been that you don’t need to go public on everything…it becomes difficult to change your position.”
This traditionalist, discrete approach of the FO follows the classic tenets of old-school statesmanship – and the end of the Musharraf era has seen Pakistan’s diplomats snap back into their former, cautious modes. Wardrobes are a good comparison; if the general had a ‘business-casual’ approach to dressing down his foreign policy, today’s Foreign Office is, undoubtedly, attired in ‘formal’ regalia.
“The Foreign Office was always very different, tactically, from Musharraf. But the man was a one-man show – he could take positions and decide on behalf of the whole country, that was his prerogative. But now things are different. Now, the Foreign Office, through an elected Parliament, has a mandate.”
He might have a point, but not completely. Today, even a less than astute observer of Pakistani diplomacy will agree that Islamabad’s new self-declared ‘democratic diplomats’ have hardened their approach on several, if not all foreign policy fronts. But orders are still taken from men wearing three or four stars, not the ‘suits’ and ‘waskets’ in Islamabad. As for the FO’s missions abroad, most observers agree that the defence attache is still the key opinion-maker, outweighing the views of most ambassadors. Perhaps that is why Pakistan’s relationship with India has witnessed the biggest turn-around.
Exemplary are the events of this summer, which saw the unveiling of Foreign Minister Qureshi’s new ‘tough love’ approach towards India. At the end of an over-hyped visit to Islamabad by S.M. Krishna in July (both countries had not talked formally at the foreign ministerial level since the Mumbai attacks in 2008), and after a round of tedious and obsessively secretive meetings, Pakistan published its new foreign policy tagline: exercising zero eye-contact with Krishna even as he shared the podium with his counterpart, an aggressive and irked Qureshi declared Pakistan was not interested in “talks for the sake of talks”.
Since then, strengthened by the Intifada-style uprising in Indian-administered J&K, Qureshi’s summer quip has now become the mantra of an increasingly confident Foreign Office.
But Qureshi’s actions were not conjured by his own whimsy, nor were they the studied and independent view of an all-powerful Foreign Minister. Islamabad was rife with rumours that the FM had chosen to tow GHQ’s tough line with the Indians, and this had led to serious tensions with the softer-leaning President Asif Zardari, who evidently even coined a devious nickname for the bespoken, immaculate Qureshi: ‘Mr. Aabpaara’, referring to the Islamabad suburb that headquarters the ISI. Reportedly, Mr. Qureshi was also sent a more direct message by the Presidency when he was denied accompanying Mr. Zardari on the latter’s recent, controversial trip to France and the UK.
Regardless of the FM’s branding and treatment by the Presidency, GHQ’s stamp resonates far and wide at the Foreign Office. This ‘Run it all through Pindi’ systemic – not new to Pakistani bureaucracy – is only reinforced in the current dispensation by a weak and divided centre. The recent dismissal of Indian overtures of talks on all issues, including Kashmir, is reflective more of the establishment’s firm grip on the bureaucratic core of Pakistani diplomacy and not the muddled footprint of the PPP-led government over its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“They want to confuse the issue, making it look like a concession when it is not one – Kashmir was always a part of the Composite Dialogue. There is nothing new about the offer…all they are buying is time,” said the Foreign Office source. “That’s why there is an impasse.”
Since this summer, the FO’s India-centric tactics have evolved fast. The Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Omer Farooq inspired “Protest or Die” rebellion in Indian-Administered J&K – which is armoured by the passionate spontaneity of a generation of Kashmiri teenagers who have grown up in probably the most militarized and over-policed region in the world – has forced India out of its old ‘Blame Pakistan’ knee-jerk defence of the dispute. It seems the Kashmiris have a case and, finally, they are making it themselves.
But Pakistan’s FO, instead of gloat with a ‘we told you so’ rebuke to India, has been cautious, even controlled about using the protests and India’s mishandling of them as a ready made diplomatic weapon. At this point, with New Delhi embroiled in a crisis of its own making, it seems that for Islamabad, less is more.
“We are cautious because the stone-pelters have redefined the whole struggle. Even the Indians themselves are saying that this uprising is indigenous; the situation is just like the Palestinian Intifada. And Pakistani involvement – none! Back in the day, you could have said we inspired all of this. But, not now. Whatever [Syed Ali] Geelani wants, happens. And even he is not friendly with Pakistan anymore.”
But Srinagar’s rock-throwers have also inspired a daring, paradigm breaching policy shift at the typically conservative Foreign Office. This ‘change the discourse’ move is being seen as a nuanced variation in Pakistan’s diplomatic brinksmanship with India. At a time when India is tied down in J&K, Pakistan doesn’t want to lodge the diplomatic kick – rather it wants to take the moral high ground and shepherd the fury of Kashmiri nationalism from a distance.
“Right now, you want to operate with utmost circumspection. You don’t want Pakistan linked to it [J&K unrest]. As long as they [anti-Indian protests] are going on fine on their own, we don’t need to push it,” said the source.
Instead, what the Foreign Office is pushing for is a change in that classic tool of diplomacy: language.
“Our approach is nuanced now. We are asking India things [regarding J&K] we have not tried in the past. We now, officially, are demanding three things. One, stop saying it is internal. Two, stop saying it can be by solved by just the Indian Constitution alone. And three, stop calling Kashmir an integral part of India. There can be no progress if the discourse doesn’t change. Stop with the hackneyed approach.”
Such evolved tactics reflect a new, dynamic ‘counter-attack’ school of diplomacy in Pakistan, a big shift from the ‘your place or mine’ approach of the Musharraf-Kasuri Foreign Office. For instance, defending Islamabad’s links to the Mumbai attacks has usually been an embarrassing case for any official to make on behalf of the country. But the Foreign Office has finally chiseled a new, libertarian argument based on the contemporary buoyancy of fair and balanced judicial freedom – effectively stalemating India’s demands for immediate and punitive measures against the accused.
“Don’t politicize the judicial process [for Mumbai]. For the trials, we need India’s assistance. We can’t do it alone,” explained the FO source with smug reason.
“Remember, the crime scene was in India. Processing a crime there in court here cannot just happen within a certain timeframe, given that they [India] convicted one man, [Ajmal] Kasab, in one year, and acquitted two in the same period. Meanwhile, we have seven men facing trial here! How do they expect us to conclude those trials on demand?! We have a newly independent judiciary, after all, which is following the course of the law, and that takes time. The Indians have to live with that fact.”
But Pakistan’s new-look Foreign Office, tougher than ever, is not totally in control. Islamabad’s new ‘diplomats with a mandate’ have not been able to damage-control every burning issue, and even admit to making critical mistakes, usually due to structural inefficiencies – like sharing the information platform with organizations like the Directorate of Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistani military’s media arm.
“Offering India the dossier on its involvement in Baluchistan was a mistake,” said the FO source, referring to the controversial offer by ISPR chief Lt. General Athar Abbas earlier this year – a promise Pakistan could not – or would not – deliver on, and which encouraged Indian diplomats to further chide Pakistan’s claims for New Delhi’s involvement in Baluchistan. It was a critical error of diplomacy mistakenly committed by a military spokesperson who should have talked about just weapons and tactics – but it was the Foreign Office which had to the heavy, political fire-fighting.
“After all, India has been claiming for decades that there is infiltration across the LoC, but has never provided any proof. We did not have to make that offer [of providing evidence on Baluchistan] either.”
Though stronger than ever before, the FO’s decades old relationship with GHQ is still that of a subordinate to a principal. Perhaps that is why the Foreign Office is not dynamic enough to handle the demands of the new, 24/7 news cycle that now shapes South Asian diplomacy.
Recent underperformances are evident. Even 12 hours after last Monday’s startling disclosure by Afghanistan’s ISAF that its combat helicopters breached Pakistani airspace last weekend and killed 30 alleged militants on its soil – this less than a week after a previewed book by Washington ace reporter Bob Woodward claimed that the CIA has been running a brigade-sized Afghan ground force in and out of Pakistan on ‘hit and run’ missions – the Foreign Office was not ready with a firm response.
Given the political mood of the country that day, it seemed that Rawalpindi – with the COAS tied down due to his ‘routine’ meeting with the Prime Minister and President as the Chief Justice was considering the government’s appeals in the NRO case – seemed too busy to have issued immediate directives for the right language to shape an appropriate rebuttal.
“I do not know what happened, what they [ISAF] are trying to do…The whole nation is engaged in handling the flood, the NRO, Afia Siddiqui and all. We will make a demarche…but I don’t know if there will be a press release or not,” said the FO official.
Rather, an open-ended introspection that only the finer diplomats in the world can provide was offered by the FO source.
“Hopefully we are summoning someone [American]. This is a new element. We will not let it go like this. We are considering our options.”
When it eventually came, late on Monday night, the Foreign Office’s statement was both diplomatic and aggressive: reflective of what is, perhaps, Pakistan’s ultimate political nexus – that between the Bureaucrat and the Battalion.
“There are no agreed ‘hot pursuit’ rules…ISAF/NATO has been asked not to participate in any action that violates the UN mandate and infringes upon Pakistan’s sovereignty. In the absence of immediate corrective measures Pakistan will be forced to consider response options.”
By Wajahat S. Khan – On Oct 1 – The Day Musharraf Announced his Return to Politics
(also published with editing in The Express Tribune)
Everybody likes comebacks. No one ever agrees on their quality, but the chatter can’t be ignored. The return of the doped-out athlete or the jailed movie-star is always observed, debated and judged by all.
But there is no comeback like a political comeback: Winston Churchill; Richard Nixon; Nelson Mandela; even M.A. Jinnah – all giants of government, each left or forced out of the public coliseum as a wounded ideologue, only returned as stronger and bigger leaders: the political gladiators of their national arenas.
But the most rare of comebacks is that of the defamed dictator.
Military rulers – especially those who have had the luck to survive assassination attempts but not the acumen to sustain an absolutist, coup-inspired dispensation of their own making – returning to the political realm, that too through the mainstream of the democratic process – a parliamentary party – are the hummingbirds of the political animal kingdom: They are seldom seen, not expected to make much of a dent to the food-chain, but are obsessively sought by the observers of the jungle of public affairs. In effect, they’re cute – politically, at least.
But the artilleryman who became a commando, and the commando who became a general, and the general who became a coup-maker, and the coup-maker who became a pariah, and the pariah who became a statesman, and the statesman who became a global icon – one former President General (retd.) Pervez Musharraf, doesn’t think he’s a hummingbird. Nor do his supporters.
And they also say that he’s been through so many transformations and challenges, that another turn-around is only natural for the man who was once quoted by Time Magazine in unforgettable, yet (eventually) fallible gusto: “I never feel scared.”
Those were the Big Days of Musharraf. The million-dollar book deals and the Camp David retreats, the 95 percent referendums and the booming middle-classes, all made him, and most of the rest of the world, feel like the man was always meant to run Pakistan, fight a global war, solve regional conflicts, empower women, emancipate media, and ensure everyone in his country could afford a cell-phone.
But then, something went wrong.
Musharraf’s base – the “believers” – could not understand. The progressive elites were shocked at his treatment of the judicial crisis. The capitalist elites were let down by his inability to balance the books and provide the basics as militancy multiplied. The middle-classes saw their car and bike loans climb into deathbed debts. And as they saw both his country and his control over it melt all around him, the global elites – not the always interested academic ones, but the low-attention span political sort – concluded that Musharraf was a powerless relic, an emasculated warrior, an armchair general who needed to retire. And so it ended.
But now, it has begun again. Well, sort of.
Yesterday, in London and Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad, the All Pakistan Muslim League got a new leader. Pervez Musharraf is now, officially, the tough cookie of Pakistani politics. His party’s symbol, the eagle, is a throwback to the famous Iqbal poem that inspires all to fly high. His “branding” is that he is the natural successor of the Quaid-e-Azam (all the launch events paired him in equal ratio with the Great Leader on supersized billboards – Musharraf in living colour, Jinnah in classic black and white). In marketing effect, the APML is saying that it is the return of that iconic platform: The All-India Muslim League. And their message: Big on Sovereignty, Big on Economy, Big on Security, Big on Pakistan.
But Musharraf’s Big Manifesto doesn’t have the biggest of support bases, at least not yet. Only a sliver of the “suits” – vested, corporate giants who supported him once are actively backing him now. Most of the social progressives and liberal-urbanites will only join in when there is a political raison d’etre in motion, not just long television speech, but actual politicking. However, the ‘x-factor’ that makes Musharraf feel confident enough about returning is not actually, but virtually, full of potential.
This is the “credit card” support base that APML is banking on – called so because they have the potential to provide Musharraf benefits, but currently only ‘promise’ the big bucks.
These include Pakistan’s wealthy expat community – rich in cash and even connections to lobby and support his planned comeback, but inherently politically disconnected from the political mainstream of the country.
Second is the APML’s self-processed association with the “youth” – young Pakistanis who, the APML believes, love Musharraf as a strong leadership figure but who are essentially depoliticized and uninvolved in the public policy process.
And finally, as Musharraf himself said recently to David Frost on Al-Jazeera, he is counting on “sixty percent of people who don’t vote.” This grouping, his party insiders explain, are the educated, urban tax-payers who work hard, save little and aspire for economic stability, low fuel prices and no-load shedding – instead of clamoring for “token conventional constitutional supremacy”, as one well-heeled supporter at the launch in Islamabad put it.
Musharraf’s game-plan is not public yet, nor is it fully baked. His supporters at home obviously feel the time is right for him to launch into politics, but not return back. His manifesto is broad, but his unspecified. Most of his former team-mates (or cronies) are not with him, but those who have stuck to the man regard him as Pakistan’s only hope. It’s a strange cult…the military teddy-bear who fondles the political pet-grenade is the closest one gets when comparing Musharraf to the toys – and tools – that the Pakistani polity wants to play with.
As a recent comment on Facebook, the social networking website that he is so popular on, concluded soon after his speech: “If the PML-N is a sea of Payas and Nihari, and the PPP is a broken basket of rotten eggs and tomatoes, while the MQM is a counterfeit bottle of Tabasco and the ANP is actually weeks old barbeque kebabs, then Musharraf, surely, in this fridge of politics, is a loaf of bread – basic, yes, but functional enough to get by on.”
The Time: 21.02hrs, Sep 1, hours after the Yaum-e-Ali bombings in Lahore and sniper attacks in Karachi
The Actors: Two Good Friends – one in Lahore, one in Karachi (lets call them LHR and KHI)
The Situation: KHI realizes that he needs to check on how his bud LHR is doing…after all the shootings in Karachi paled in comparison to the havoc in Lahore…
KHI: Hope all is well bud…
LHR: Yeah, thx, all well
KHI: Good stuff
KHI: But I’m still worried
LHR: Yea…time running out
KHI: That is the scariest shit I’ve heard all day…But you’re right
LHR: This country is plenty resilient man…but this is getting too much…it’s a non stop tsunami of depressing shit…
LHR: This govt is fuckd up but we cnt make them martyrs, nor can we have ganja brothers Sharifov stepping in…
KHI: Agreed…But when the fuck will the powers that be hit the tipping point dude…What the fuck are they waiting for…Eid?
LHR: Something’s gotta give…
KHI: I thought the floods would do it. In a weird, fucked up way I hoped the floods would cause it all to change now…
LHR: The powers that be are stuck knee deep in floods…literally…plus counterinsurgency…
KHI: That aint no fucking excuse…This army is trained to fight military AND political battles, simultaneously…so what are they waiting for…
LHR: If that happens, I just don’t know how sustainable and effective it will be though…
KHI: Yeah…so what do we do? Wait it out and let the “the answer to democracy is more democracy” bullshit/theorem kick in?
LHR: Dunno…That wont work…We aint got time…but ‘drop’ scene of some kind abt to happen…
KHI: Yup. Agreed. There is no clear way. Literally
LHR: Fucking joker in the pack is the CJP
LHR: The fucking problem is that this awaam will be voting in Bilawal’s grandson in 30 years time. Its messed up!
KHI: Unless you give them a 1984 style Orwellian treatment…a fucking big dose of brand new mega-nationalism
LHR: Can it work in this day and age?
KHI: Guess not
LHR: Jeez man Mush shd have Tianemenned the lawyer’s asses. Its been downhill since March 9
KHI: Yeah I sometimes wonder where Mush got his commando wings from!! Fucking Vermont? Fucking Maine?!
LHR: Hehe…Maybe Red Bull!
KHI: Hahaha…Good shit…
LHR: Talk later…
KHI: Later mate…
For those who obsessed with the information business, I’m sure you’ve received one of these…
from email@example.com reply-to firstname.lastname@example.org to Wajahat <email@example.com> date x August 2010 x:x subject Note mailed-by srs.bis.eu.blackberry.com
“the source is considered reliable …. so far he has not given wrong news …….but one cannot be 100% certain
The media gossip in London and reverberating around the wire is that
the mystery buyer of 1 Hyde Park, Knightsbridge, London could be non
other than Asif Ali Zardari. A whopping 140 million pounds was paid
for this vast brand new penthouse property in the heart of fashionable
Collection of the sale proceeds of Surrey Mansion and participation in this auction and prior viewing was the main reason for his visit to London. The final bid was made by mobile phone from inside a bullet proof car parked outside the auction house.
This is a small reminder to the sick people in Pakistan, who were against the throwing of the shoe to a “Respected President of Pakistan abroad”!!!
They are purblind to the realities of the damage this man called Zardari has done to the nation.
Please read this assessment by Ayaz Amir. Declassify after checking your sources.”
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