On Pakistan

Reclaiming One’s Voice

17 July 2014

 

 

Raza Rumi cuts through the high decibel terrorism rhetoric to voice some ground realities of Pakistan, all this while braving attempts on his life.

 Quetta

 

A few months back, I had to leave my country simply to ensure that I would not be left dead. The price of public positions is hard. Perhaps I had ruffled too many feathers or was simply unlucky to have caught the attention of those who tried to kill me. I am trying to make sense of things that may have fallen apart for me. But have they? I keep trying at making sense of my country, the one I belong to and the one I love immensely.

Nuclear state. An Islamic Republic. A Failed state? Endless labels and categories have been accorded to what Pakistan represents today to the world at large. Some facts speak for themselves but perceptions are deceptive as they start morphing into realities. Pakistan is also a resilient country and inspires me to fight the odds, the demons that have to be defeated and the endless list of things that need to be done.

Contrary to what most diagnose, Pakistan’s trajectory was not inevitable. The country’s founder, almost a demonic figure in India, attempted to set a direction in his August 11 speech by recognising that religion could mobilise people and politics but cannot be an instrument for governance. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” said Jinnah, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.” The famous words followed: “…in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” Critics say it was too late. Others think this was the only way to shape statecraft when a new state had come into being. Perhaps all of this is irrelevant now. Sixty seven years later, Pakistan is hardly the country it was geographically or otherwise in 1947.

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Exodus from Pakistan’s troubled north presents risks, opportunities

27 June 2014

By Raza Rumi, Special to CNN

Polio

 

Pakistan’s much-awaited military offensive in North Waziristan was launched more than a week ago, and followed an attack on Karachi airport that left at least 36 people dead.

Due to the strategic calculations of the Pakistani state, North Waziristan has steadily fallen into the hands of motley militant networks, and has become a mountainous zone for the Pakistani Taliban to recruit, regroup and launch attacks against the country.

The Pakistani Army conducted a similar operation in the Swat Valley in 2009, not too far from the tribal areas, that has been a relative success in reclaiming territory. It is unclear which direction the latest operation will go. But a major humanitarian crisis is brewing in the wake of the new offensive.

As of Wednesday, the government had registered over 450,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been fleeing the area in view of the aerial bombardments and warnings by military authorities. There are fears the figures could be much higher. (more…)

Farzana’s honour killing is a national shame

28 May 2014

My outrage – sadly limited to social media on the brutal stone age murder of a pregnant woman in Pakistan’s ostensibly ‘developed’ city

Looking back at General Kayani’s Tenure

2 December 2013

Raza Rumi

General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani retired after leading Pakistan’s most powerful institution for six years. As a close confidante and successor of former president General Musharraf, General Kayani ensured policy continuity and facilitated the return of the army into the barracks. Histenures were eventful yet, turbulent and thus, he leaves behind a chequered legacy. Before his extension in 2010, Kayani led successful operations in Swat and the tribal areas against extremists, and save a few instances, did support the democratic transition. In 2008, he ordered all serving military officials in civil departments to relinquish charge. Despite these commendable measures, the military firmly set and managed foreign and security policies, and faced little or no challenge from the civilian rulers. In fact, following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, former president Asif Ali Zardari and his prime minister(s) gave up the management of the security policy, which had serious ramifications for Pakistan’s governance and economy.

During 2008-2013, a weak democracy beset by civil-military schisms defined Pakistan’s governance. The military strongly resisted attempts by the civilian government to reform the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI. A campaign was orchestrated, which moulded public opinion against the Kerry-Lugar-Berman (KLB) bill in 2009. The KLB bill was projected as an assault on Pakistan’s ‘national interest’). An unprecedented reaction through an ISPR press release (bypassing the ministry of defence) was given to the civilian authorities when the military aired its reservations about the KLB bill. The latter marked a significant shift in Pakistan-US relations: for the first time, an attempt was made by the Obama Administration to engage with the civilian government. Earlier, US relations with Pakistan were mediated through military cooperation, which bred domestic perceptions that the US always backed military dictators in the country. The establishment identified the orchestrator of the KLB bill as Husain Haqqani, our then ambassador in Washington. (more…)

Murder in the capital

26 November 2013

By Raza Rumi

Nasiruddin Haqqani’s assassination is a significant move in a game of chess and nerves

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A photographer takes picture of the spot where Nasiruddin Haqqani, a senior leader of the feared militant Haqqani network, was assassinated at an Afghan bakery in the Bhara Kahu area on the outskirts of Islamabad


Pakistan’s media had to turn its attention to the visible-invisible world of good Taliban when the news of a high profile assassination hit social media. A key member of the controversial Haqqani network was assassinated in a quiet corner of Pakistan’s capital. The slain Nasiruddin was the brother of Siraj Uddin Haqqani and a son of Jalaluddin, a key figure of the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s. Haqqani group or better known as a ‘network’ is reportedly close to Pakistan’s security establishment. Pakistan’s alleged patronage and protection to Haqqanis has been one of the major causes for trust deficit between Pakistan, US and Afghan authorities. It may have jeopardized counterterrorism efforts over the last decade.

“He was the financier and emissary of the Haqqani network”

Nasiruddin Haqqani was known as the financier and emissary of the Haqqani network and unlike his brother and his father, kept a low profile. News stories circulating in the mainstream media consider his death to be perpetrated by ‘unknown assailants.’ The aims can inevitably be linked to demoralizing or undermining the network, which has been at the core of Pakistan’s security policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan. In the aftermath of HakeemUllah Mehsud’s death in a US drone strike in the village of Dande Darpa Khel of North Waziristan the Afghan Taliban’s overt support to the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek e Taliban I Pakistan (TTP) emerged as a clear signal of how the two branches of the same ideology reinforce each other. Haqqani network, according to several reports, though separate was not too averse to TTP either. (more…)

How the Future of South Asia Can Change!

6 November 2013

By Raza Rumi

Since Pakistan’s inception, its relationship with India has been mired by insecurity, hostility, suspicion and mistrust. Independence in 1947 was followed by conflict over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute eventually led to the 1965 war, and that episode was subsequently followed by the Tashkent Declaration. Yet, the Tashkent Declaration was a short-lived attempt at forging amiable ties between both States as six years later, amid political and ethnic turmoil in Pakistan, in 1971 a second war took place.  East Pakistan had declared independence, and West Pakistan lost its Eastern arm, partly due to Indian intervention in what was largely seen as an internal matter, in Pakistan. Pakistan blamed India for facilitating Bangladeshi nationalists and their quest for independence after being politically and ethnically discriminated. Despite Bangladesh gaining independence, enmity between the two States ratcheted up further, as India flexed its muscles and tested its nuclear weapons capability in 1974, and again in 1998. In response, Pakistan conducted its own nuclear weapons tests in 1998, which subsequently heightened tensions in the already volatile relationship between both countries.

The relationship between the United States and Pakistan have largely been viewed through a contextual global prism since the country’s inception in 1947. The US was one of the first countries to set up diplomatic ties with Pakistan, yet relations soured with the advent of the Cold War which shaped the former to pursue a relationship with Pakistan, as a balancing power against China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Economic aid provided to Pakistan has been largely, military in nature and Pakistan continues to remain as an important Non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally today.

After 1970, with the election of the leftist Pakistan People’s Party government, the already transactional relationship found itself in troubled waters, due to outright condemna-tion of war atrocities committed by the Pakistan military during the Bangladesh Liberation War. The relationship took another turn in the 1980s, after the Soviet coup in Afghanistan, and saw the US, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Zia-ul Haq-led government cooperate to curb the Soviet expansion in Afghanistan, a view to helping Afghan insurgents stave off the USSR.

Yet in the 1990s, Pakistan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons led to economic and military sanctions from the US, which were later lifted, after the US-led war on terror in 9/11, as the US sought the country as a vital ally in the War on Terror, given its geographical proximity to the restive country. Unlike Pakistan, whose military and economic security concerns necessitated and alignment with Russia or China, India sought no such alliance, and was in fact one of the pioneers of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, India’s implementation of socialist policies led it to form a cooperative relationship with the USSR, which frayed its relations with the US. (more…)

Book Review: South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures

5 November 2013

My review for The Friday Times

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South Asia 2060: Envisioning Regional Futures is a comprehensive volume of essays edited by Adil Najam and Moeed Yusuf. Given the importance of the South Asian region, this book attempts to fill in a huge gap that has existed for decades. Discourses on South Asia for reasons well known, have been obsessive about all things security and in recent times terrorism. The editors note that South Asia “sits atop a globally strategic location” and gladly move on to other important topics, which makes this volume a useful contemporary reference. The introduction notes the immense potential for energy trade as well as the significant regional security implications for the world at large. This is why the future of South Asia is not just important to those who live in the region; it is duly a global concern. The 37 papers authored by 44 experts, in the volume trace the multiple futures and mercifully avoid the common fallacy of reducing South Asia to India and Pakistan and their bitter rivalries.

The introduction summing up the book rightly identifies that the idea of South Asia is a contested one and its ownership – political and economic – would determine the future. Commenting on the term Southasia introduced by Nepal based Himal magazine, the editors state: “…the future of the geography we know as South Asia will depend, at least in part, on what happens to the idea of Southasia. We are not in a position to say what that will be just yet, but it is clear that the aspiration of Southasianness is entrenched more deeply in the South Asian mind than we had imagined. It is an idea that our regional politics has often rejected and fought against. But the resilience of the aspiration suggests regional politics may eventually have to embrace it.” Thus the emergence of Southasia, a regionalized identity, will be a political process and the book suggests that there is no one course or prediction to hold it.

In this context the paper, the paper by US based Pakistani historian Manan Ahmad Asif entitled “Future’s Past” contends that though the immediate history of Pakistan and India might broadly be cause for pessimism (such as the violent partitions of ’47 and ’71), there is nevertheless a greater, storied and shared history that can be recalled in order to realize how communities in South Asia can peacefully co-exist. (more…)

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