Posts Tagged ‘ Harvard ’

We Are Free to Choose Peace

By Ethan Casey for Dawn.com

I was planning to devote this column to Memogate and Ambassador Husain Haqqani’s resignation, then I woke up one morning to learn that the topic had been rendered quaint by a Nato cross-border attack killing two dozen Pakistani soldiers and bringing the already fragile (not to say ostensible or notional) alliance between Pakistan and the United States very close to the breaking point. Then I realised that the two topics are aspects of a larger one, indeed of the twin elephants in both societies’ living rooms: the damage done when a military establishment becomes too powerful and unaccountable.

The only time I’ve ever met Husain Haqqani was at a seminar at Harvard University in 2006, organised by the journalist and activist Beena Sarwar. He wasn’t yet Ambassador to the US; Musharraf was still president. Most of the discussion was, I felt, preaching to the converted among elite-class Pakistani liberals about how the military was the problem and the solution was democracy in the form of elections and civilian rule. I’m not Pakistani, but I was an invited panelist at the seminar, so I took the liberty of challenging that consensus. Recall, I said, the sorry tit-for-tat excuse for democracy that Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif and their undemocratic parties inflicted on the country throughout the 1990s. That rivalry’s personal vindictiveness and pettiness, I asserted, did a lot of damage to the credibility of civilian leadership. Was it really clear that civilian rule was preferable to military rule under Musharraf?

For my pains I was, as I remember it, ganged up on by Husain Haqqani, the stern and formidable historian Ayesha Jalal, and Ayesha Siddiqa, whose book Military Inc. was about to be published. Haqqani in particular accused me of being “merely anecdotal,” meaning that the foibles of civilian politicians were incidental, whereas the military was a problem institutionally and structurally.

I still believe that my point was well taken, because there’s much that elected leaders can and should do to claim political space and assert their own authority, even – especially – if they’re being besieged or undermined by the military. If you’re elected to lead, you must accept the responsibility to do just that, and you must demonstrate courage and personal character in disdaining consequences to yourself when necessary. And I’m a reporter; merely anecdotal is what I do. But Haqqani was all too right – wasn’t he?

I’m aware that conspiracy theories have been flying about the notorious memo’s provenance. Like most conspiracy theories, they’re beside the point. It doesn’t matter whether Haqqani wrote the memo himself or was framed by the ISI; the result is the same. And the question to ask is Lenin’s: Who benefits?

A.J.P. Taylor (among many others) was right to point out that the armed forces are a fundamental institution of any state. But if the state is going to serve the interests of anyone else, the armed forces must be subject – and obedient – to civilian authority. This is what the authors of the US constitution understood in the 18th century, when they made the president the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. And it’s what President Truman understood when he fired the insubordinate General Douglas MacArthur in 1951, even though MacArthur was more popular with the American public at the time than Truman himself.

But Americans should be anything but self-congratulatory about such things. President Eisenhower, himself a retired general, was not only prescient but brave and patriotic when he took the occasion of his leaving office in 1961 to warn, in a rightly famous nationally televised speech, that a “military-industrial complex” (he coined the phrase) was poised to dominate America’s public life and economy. Half a century later America is hip-deep in the muck of Afghanistan, and – in addition to the death and destruction in Afghanistan itself and in Pakistan – the only Americans who are benefiting are the military itself and the shareholders of the companies that supply the war effort with everything from “contractors” (mercenaries) to drones to cheeseburgers for the troops. Military Inc., indeed.

Which brings us to the cross-border attack. Maybe Nato mistakenly or aggressively attacked over the border; maybe Pakistani troops fired first. Who knows? The New York Times has published a de rigueur, pro forma editorial urging an inquiry. Whatever the truth, it doesn’t matter, because the only people who gain from such an incident are the people who gain from war, and that’s not you or me. It’s also not the soldiers on all sides who are being killed. If I were Pakistani I would be furious, as I know many Pakistanis are, at the contempt for sovereignty that the attack shows. At the same time, we know that the Pakistani establishment is duplicitous. So where does that leave you and me? Does it help anyone if I claim your establishment is more duplicitous than mine, and vice versa?

Our two countries have arrived at a depressing and discouraging pass, both in relation to each other and internally. The exigencies of “defense,” which is a euphemism for war, have brought us here. As individuals, we feel (because we are) largely powerless to affect the course of events. As human communities there’s more we can do, as the Occupy Wall Street movement has been showing in America, and as the lawyers’ movement showed in Pakistan.

We’re in this together – and by “we” I mean Americans and Pakistanis. We’re not on opposing sides; we’re on the same side, against the warmongers of both states. And we are free to choose both our actions and our attitudes. As an American, Ken Williams, commented just this week on my Facebook page: “We can live with generosity and trust OR greed and fear. Each choice has outcomes.”

-Pakistanis for Peace group member Ethan Casey is the author of Alive and Well in Pakistan and Overtaken By Events: A Pakistan Road Trip. He can be reached at www.facebook.com/ethancaseyfansand www.ethancasey.com

Pakistan Rejects Allegations of Taliban Ties

As reported by CNN

Pakistani officials Sunday rejected allegations that their country’s powerful intelligence agency still supports the Taliban and other Afghan insurgents after a paper from a Harvard academic accused the agency of continued links to the rebels.

The powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency does not “actually control the Afghan insurgency” and does not have “the ability to bring it to an end,” Matt Waldman argues in a paper for the London School of Economics. But the ISI provides “sanctuary, and very substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency,” giving it “strong strategic and operational influence — reinforced by coercion,” according to his report, which cites Taliban commanders among its sources.

The ISI is widely thought to have played a key role in creating the Afghan Taliban during the 1990s, but Pakistan officially denies supporting them now. Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistani military, called the claim “rubbish” on Sunday and said Waldman’s report “does not have a credible source or authenticity.”

“At best, it is speculative and only gives open sources without naming [them],” Abbas told CNN. “So, therefore, this kind of report requires a treatment which it really deserves. We are not going to formally respond to this, but we reject these allegations and accusation. If there are hard evidence, we would like for them to be brought out and we would be able to respond accurately.”

And Farahnaz Ispahani, a spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari, called Waldman’s report “one-sided” and dismissed what she called its “wild accusations.”

“If Mr. Waldman had been a seasoned academic, he would have conducted interviews in Pakistan itself to balance his so-called research report,” Ispahani said. “The Pakistani government and its military have been performing an outstanding service to the world community as well as the region in its fight against militancy and extremism, and we can count the dead we have sacrificed in the thousands.”

Waldman’s report is titled, “The Sun in the Sky: The relationship between Pakistan’s ISI and Afghan insurgents.” He based his conclusions on interviews with nine insurgent field commanders in three regions of Afghanistan, plus former Taliban officials, tribal leaders, politicians, experts and diplomats. The title comes from Taliban commanders’ claims that their relationship with Pakistani intelligence is “as clear as the sun in the sky.”

Waldman concluded that that Pakistan “continues to give extensive support to the insurgency in terms of funding, munitions and supplies.” But Abbas dismissed the unnamed sources, calling the report “rubbish.”

“Has he named any Taliban commanders in this, has he named any officials?” Abbas said. “So, therefore, if it doesn’t have any specific source, which is not willing to disclose a name, it just becomes one of those reports that keep appearing. It is a serious allegation, but unless it has a credible evidence to support it or substantiate the report, only then it warrants a serious consideration for response.”

The ISI works not only with the Taliban, but also with the armed Haqqani network, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, Waldman wrote. The Haqqani network sometimes cooperates with the Taliban and sometimes fights it.

The Taliban members interviewed believe that the ISI has a heavy influence on their leadership, which some of them said amounts to control, according to the report.

One of the southern commanders claimed: “If anyone rejects that the ISI backs or controls the Taliban, he has a mental problem … all our plans and strategy are made in Pakistan and step by step it is brought to us, for military operations or other activities,” the report says.

And southern Taliban commanders all complained of heavy ISI involvement, which they blamed for some attacks on civilians.

“One southern commander described their predicament as follows: ‘Another group of Taliban is directly supported by the ISI. They will never stop fighting in the country; they want to destroy the government and bring chaos. Behind all the attacks on … NGOs, schools, teachers, doctors, this is Pakistan. We cannot deny that it is Taliban; but there are Pakistan controlled groups among us. They want destabilisation …,’ ” the report says.

Waldman’s report comes two months after a U.N. report on the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 — an attack blamed on Pakistani Taliban leaders — found that intelligence agencies hindered the subsequent investigation. The report concluded that the “pervasive reach” of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies left police “unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions, which they knew, as professionals, they should have taken,” the report states.

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