Post-OBL Pakistan: Why doesn’t coward Zardari bell the fauji-jihadi cat? – by Mahvish Afridi

Osama bin Laden's presence in a Safe House in the military garrison city of Abbottabad proves that Pakistan army and Al Qaeda are not two separate entities.

While some sincere friends as well as some die-hard haters of the PPP are currently advising the Zardari-Gilani government to ‘make full use of the rare window of opportunity’ by questioning and undermining the GHQ-Al-Qaeda collusion, it is important to understand the current power equation in Pakistan and the lack of an enabling environment to reign in the almighty military establishment.

In my considered view, going against the military establishment is going against more than half a million trained blood thirsty jihadis, aside from a rabid media and judiciary, a fickle, shallow and deeply compromised urban intelligentsia and of course the godfathers of it all, our Pak fauj (army) with its trillion dollar financial assets and  12% of Pakistan land.

The PPP and ANP have already lost many of its leaders and activists. I think civil society (also known as fake civil society – FCS) should step up to the plate. After all, they are always claiming that it was they who restored democracy through their valiant struggle with Jamaat-e-Islami, PESA (ex-servicemen’s association), Sipah-e-Sahaba, PTI and PML-N. They had to endure the horrifyingly scary TV commentary of Faisal Raza Abidi and the millions of the absent PPP jiyalas who did not think much of their Lahore-Rawalpindi Jamaat Islami-dominated movement after July 2007.

As per the narrative of Pakistan’s civil society, it was not the years of negotiations which allowed the late Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan and contest the elections after a guarantee that politically motivated charges against her mother, husband and herself be dropped.

For them, it was the immense bravery of a one-eyed Judge Iftikhar Chaudhry who stood up to one weakened general (Musharraf) at the behest of another ascending and powerful general (Kayani). In this movement, they did not have to rally behind another allegedly corrupt Bhutto with a bad fashion sense, wearing Sufi amulets and hanging out with smelly folks. In the Lawyer’s movement, they had the advantage of exercising their warped moral outrage in support of judges who had supported and legitimized one military dictator for nearly a decade before deciding to throw in their lot with his successor, General Kayani.  The irony of marching under the shadow of Al-Qaeeda banners whilst (mis)appropriating the poetry of dead leftist-progressive poets was somewhat lost on Pakistan’s (Fake) Civil Society.

We agree that the PPP and its silly and smelly supporters are just not worthy of “capturing the movement” after the military establishment was caught with its pants down on the OBL operation by the Americans.

No, the only people who are worthy of being part of such a moment are those who always hated the PPP and often supported the generals who helped rid Pakistan of the Bhuttos.

So while Zardari and Gilani typically cower before the generals to save their government, freedom and their lives along with that of their families, we feel that civil society should take a stand against the Generals and their media and judiciary proxies.

We are fully confident that the Jihadis who killed Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti will not have the courage to do anything more than shower petals on civil society – just like they did with CJ and Taseer’s murderer, Qadri. After the the current (and temporary ) disgrace of the security establishment, this civil society is now the only pure group  (in their own perceptions) left in the land of the pure. Only they have the ability to wash out the sins of the army and splash the resulting dirty water on the PPP government. Only they can do it…

Further points for consideration:

1. The Power equation in Pakistan heavily loaded against PPP by virtue of the Teen Jeem (generals, judges and jihadis)  network.

2. Lack of an enabling environment where FCS (liberal proxies of the ISI), judges, media, rightwing politicians (PML N, PTI, JI) are all virulently against PPP

3. Backdrop of Kargil where even a Prime Minister with the judges under his thumb (after he and his party thugs stormed the Supreme Court premises) Punjabi ethnicity and “2/3” mandate was casually flicked aside after the security establishment suffered an embarrassment of similar proportions in Kargil and were disgraced internationally.

4. The current civilian government has slowly created democratic space inspite of the lack of support from fake civil society and should not risk losing this space on the basis of the goading of a feckless and insincere FCS.

5. By welcoming the Operation against OBL and by taking on the PML N and therby indirectly, the establishment, the PPP government has created a crucial difference between themselves and the establishment; all credit to Yusuf Raza Gilani, Rehman Malik, Husain Haqqani and Asif Zardari. This they did inspite of having been dictated to by the establishment which is commendable.

6. FCS (some liberal writers and activists) are very shallow in its denunciation of the military establishment. While they are encouraging (in fact harassing and daring) the PPP government to take a suicidal stance against the all powerful military establishment, deep in their heart they are focused on only one point agenda, an early removal of the PPP government through shortest possible means.  This is proven in the selective criticism.  The PPP leadership should ignore their advice at all costs!

This is the same FCS that participated in a selective campaign against one weakened general and NOT the institution that was represented by this general. They have rarely, if ever, spoken against the concept of “Strategic Depth” that provides official cover to the Jihadi adventurism of the security establishment.  When PPP leaders leaders like Benazir and its stalwarts and ministers were killed by the Taliban and the Jihadi organizations connected to it, this fake civil society barely talked about the blowback effect of Strategic Depth that has claimed the lives of 35,ooo Pakistanis and made the women and children of FATA hostage to the Taliban and foreign Al Qaeeda mercenaries who use them as human shields!  Their entire narrative smacks of a vague and ambiguous denunciation of a phenomena (extremism) without really being specific as to how the players are.  The only specific and clear parts of their narrative is their contempt for the elected leaders of the land and their abuse for Zardari. Today, they just want a cosmetic denunciation of the generals and the resignation of President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani for the sins of the security establishment.

Rising above the din of the cacaphony of rubbish and insincere advice, one came across the rare voices of sanity like Kamran Shafi, whose  current article for DAWN very correctly concluded that the generals should be made to clean up their own mess.  When Messrs Zardari, Gillani, Haqqani and Rehman are coming to the defense of the ISI, they could well be communicating the following:

It is now clear to the world that you, our security establishment, cannot continue with your double games.  However, instead of committing political hara-kiri by adopting a confrontational stance, we have given you the same space that you never afforded us or the rest of the country that does not benefit from the Strategic doctrine of Jihad Inc.  You can accept this and use the moderate factions with the army and ISI to wrap up the policy of strategic depth.  We, on the other hand, will clutch you in an embrace so tight that it reduces your ability to derail the democratic process any further by making us indispensable to your future survival.  Our space has increased and we ill not surrender it by a reckless short term manoeuvres.  You have been exposed on a global level and we don’t need to stretch you to a breaking point as you have attempted to do to us and failed….

36 responses to “Post-OBL Pakistan: Why doesn’t coward Zardari bell the fauji-jihadi cat? – by Mahvish Afridi”

  1. Very nice analysis. I think its would be a great opportunity for parliament to stamp its authority onestablishment by forcing Kayani and Pasha to give briefing to them, even though it is in-camera.

  2. I would beg to differ, this is a great opportunity to bell the cat and this is risk worth taking. Memories are fickle and who knows when we would have such widespread support to bell this cat as is now.

  3. Eh. Whatever keeps the government going till 2013.

    we don’t need to stretch you to a breaking point as you have attempted to do to us and failed

    I was thinking of doing that for the sake of a democratic space in Pakistan.

    Funny you bought up July 2007. That`s when I split from the Lawyers movement and started focusing on the dark ring of suicide bombings that started taking place. Black days, after that.

    I remember having a very vicious argument with a friend who had become the PTI webmoderator for the country I am currently in.

    I told him, “you don`t know what you`re doing”, “the PTI doesn’t know what its up against”, you need to be with a large party to deal with this.

    The darkness that Musharraf started in Dera Bugti and South Waziristan has come to roil all parts of Pakistan.

    Dark days.

  4. Oh, and Mahwish, you’re the one who wrote that takedown of Tariq Ali’s strange, stilted, emotionally hollow obituary of Mr Taseer. All I can say about you ma’am is:

    The Force is Strong in This One.


  5. Because I still think this is an opportunity to push the military establishment into some sort of civilian control.

    After all, Mr Husain Haqqani himself said from Washington, “Heads will roll”.

    God help (and bless) that man.

  6. Great write up, almost close to reality. Period. But the scenario is drastically changed after the demise of Osama Bin Laden. A mysterious system prevailing in the country has has gone topsy turvy. The cds, hard discs and other documents uplifted and taken over from Abbottabad to Pentagon would perhaps never be revealed. But some leaks would certainly be felt by the near future socio-political behavior of the world. When the dust of the storm (cries of integrity, soveriegnty, inefficient govt. blah blah) there is bound to appear some good aspects for Pakistan:

    1. No American government would support any future military adventurism in Pakistan.
    2. It will take some time, but surely enough, Military expenditure and budget could be brought under the parliamentary question hours.
    3. Defence expenditure would be lessened to give space to civil easement.
    3. Flow of money, arms and ammunition under the amazing network of Osama has been dismantled. Many politicians would lose their voices, many media men would suffer the same. In fact, an unobserved change in the behavior will occur.
    4. The shock-absorbing stance of the civil governments on the misdeeds of Establishment will be minimized.
    Enough is enough.

    What the world is thinking the Establishment must accept this reality, it would be better for Pakistan, it would be better for them.

  7. I don’t think present government has courage to bell this fauji cat. Faujis are so clever that after remaining cool for couple of years, they again started dirty game in politics. now their main moto is to keep PMLN away from government because they see PMLN is right now against military and reduce their dirty activities.

    Imagine, right now A FAUJI SUMPAHI is enjoying more perks than DOCTOR in government. When country will be so imbalance then results are clear.

  8. There’s a long history here. The new democratic government that took over in 2008 has come a long way in building a strategic partnership. It will take us a little more time to overcome the burden of history.

  9. It is appreciating that the establishment has finally refrained from intervening in politics. I hope that this government completes its term for the larger benefit of the people.

  10. The call General Kayani cannot make
    By Nitin Pai

    Imagine that General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani wakes up one fine morning and decides that the Talibanisation of his country now risked destroying the military establishment that nurtured it since 1947. The militant groups that the army had used to attack India and Afghanistan on the cheap were not only creating trouble for Pakistan around the world, but had wrecked Pakistani society and its economy. General Kayani can tolerate all that, but reckons he will soon have to choose be-tween cutting them down to size or joining their bandwagon, perhaps as their “amir-ul-momineen.” Imagine that he chooses the former option, if only to con-tinue enjoying the “al-Faida” that has come the Pakistani army’s way since 9/11.
    “Get Pasha on the line,” he barks at his orderly. Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, chief of the Agency That Should Not Be Named, picks up the phone from his well-appointed office in the unmarked building near Islamabad’s Aabpara market.
    “Pasha, shut them all down, and this is an order.” General Kayani doesn’t stop for pleasantries or preamble, fearing that the ever-reasonable Pasha will find ways to dissuade him.
    “Sir, yes sir! And what then, sir?” Pasha asks. Kayani has known Pasha long enough to know this was not a rhetorical question.
    How will the Pakistani government — which can’t even collect taxes, electric-ity and water bills from anyone who refuses to pay them — demobilise hundreds of thousands of functionally illiterate, violent, combat-hardened and thoroughly radi-calised young men? The civilian political leadership, bureaucracy and police sim-ply do not have the capacity, competence and power to put anyone other than low-ranking jihadi leaders under arrest, that too temporarily. The only institution that has the prerequisites necessary to take on the jihadi groups is the Pakistan army.
    Those on the margins are likely to explore alternatives to martyrdom, but the hard core of the jihadi firmament won’t give in without a bloody fight.
    Forty-year-old Brigadier Adnan, tasked to dismantle and neutralise a jihadi hub in South Punjab, tugs at his beard. He has deep misgivings about the mission he has been charged with, even as he gathers his officers for the operational brief-ing. As he explains how they will take out the militant headquarters and such, he sees that most of his subordinates have puzzled looks on their faces. Finally, the brigade-major, an energetic 25-year old infantryman, speaks up. “Sir, why are we targeting these boys?”
    “Because, uh, they are putting Pakistan in danger.”
    “How sir? They are only fighting against the Amrika, the Israel and the India. They are only doing what we should. They are doing it because our Crore Com-manders have decided that al-Faida is more important than the real mission. And sir, you do know that our men watch television.”
    Brigadier Adnan gives his beard another tug. This was not going to be easy.
    2000 militants surrendered in one week, and it fell to Colonel Bashir to deal with them. They had been lodged in a hurriedly erected camp outside the village for identification, debriefing and triage. If his job was not difficult enough, the bloody Americans wanted to poke their noses into his business. Their spies were everywhere. Yet he knew his problem was the easy one – the really wicked prob-lem would begin when these boys went home to their towns and villages and fig-ured out there was nothing for them to do there. Some would find ad hoc employ-ment with the local feudal landlord, who could use their special talents. Most, however, would do — what? Other than working the farm for the landlord, there was little to keep them occupied, much less employed.
    Colonel Bashir was not even thinking about their minds. Would minds, once radicalised, ever shrink back to their original state?
    Now you know why General Kayani will never give such an order in real life. The Pakistani state and its society simply does not have what it takes to dismantle, demobilise and de-radicalise the hundreds of thousands of militants that operate in that country.
    In a 2007 study on militant recruitment in Pakistan, C Christine Fair, now as-sistant professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies notes: “Limited evidence suggests that both public school and madrasah students tend to support jihad, tanzeems, and war with India, and are more intolerant toward Pakistan’s minorities and women. Thus, if Ethan Bueno de Mesquita’s model is correct, creating educational and employment opportunities may not put an end to militancy because tanzeems can recruit from lower-quality groups. In the long term, however, interventions of this kind may diminish the quality of terror pro-duced, rendering tanzeems a mere nuisance rather than a menace to regional secu-rity. This would be a positive development.”
    That would be a positive development, yes, but, as she points out in the very next sentence, “(the) problem with school reform and employment generation ef-forts is not only that they may be beyond Islamabad’s capability and resolve but also that there may be no feasible scope for U.S. or international efforts to per-suade Islamabad to make meaningful reforms on its own.”
    That’s the bad news. The worse news is that this is going to get a whole lot worse, as the population grows, the education system continues to radicalise minds, the media reinforces prejudices and the military establishment exploits geo-political opportunities to stay on the same dangerous course.
    In the face of this grim reality, the antics of the motley bunch of slick political operators that pass off as the Pakistani government are tragicomic. Politicians like Yusuf Raza Gilani and Shah Mahmood Qureshi mask their impotence by outrageous grandstanding intended to score points with the military-jihadi com-plex.
    It is a good idea for India to engage the various players in Pakistan to manage — to the extent that it can be managed — the fallout of the turmoil across its north-western borders; so, too, to engage all of Pakistan’s external sponsors. Even so, neither India nor the rest of the world can escape the consequences of Pakistan’s transformation. Driven as much by strategy as by sentiment, Prime Minister Man-mohan Singh is genuinely committed to leaving a legacy of good relations with Pakistan. Don’t you feel sorry for him?
    Nitin Pai is founder & fellow for geopolitics at the Takshashila Institution and editor of Pragati – The Indian National Interest Review, a publication on strategic affairs, public policy and governance. He blogs at The Acorn and is active on Twitter too.

  11. Nitin Pai is an unrepentant choot. He also is anti-Pakistan. As for his argument that Pakistan can’t do this, we’ll muddle through one way or another.

  12. Oh, and what about the res of us? The other 85% to 95% of Pakistan that wants to live a normal life? The unrepentant choot, Nitin Pai doesn’t take those who vote and try to live a normal life and want to take care of their families into account.

    And for anybody thick enough to take the “Colonel Bashir in South Punjab” scenario seriously, its a parody. Al-Faida and Crore Commanders, my ass.

  13. Here, if we have to include Nitin Pai’s reductionist fictional crap, let’s include some REAL reporting as well.

    Bin Laden’s Green-Fingered (And Utterly Charming) Neighbours

    Last Friday evening, as the showers hastily turned into a downpour in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, myself and a female colleague found ourselves tramping around the neighbhourhood of Osama Bin Laden, searching for a secret building. It had been reported that for several months, the al-Qa’ida leader had been under surveillance not only from satellite technology, but from a covert CIA team that had been staked out in a rented property close to Bin Laden’s compound. What a wheez it would be, we laughed, to find the building.

    As it was, myself and my colleague never found the secret house (though we have an inkling which one it may be) but we did stumble upon another surprising find, hidden behind the walls of a property located barely 500 metres from Bin Laden’s. In 2005, Sajjad Hussain Shah and his family returned from Saudi Arabia, where he spent almost three decades working for different companies, and they set up home here, at much the same time as Bin Laden must have moved in down the road. They, like everyone, were bemused that Bin Laden, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, had been living unnoticed among them.

    Mr Shah and his family were smart, friendly and curious. His wife had said hello to my colleague while we were pacing around in the rain close to their street and after discovering she was Australian (where some of the Shah family members are living) we were invited back to their home for a cold drink.

    Behind the walls of their home, the family had created a beautiful, English-style garden of roses and fruit trees, with a neatly mowed and well-watered lawn. The variety of colours was amazing and I jotted down in my notebook that there were pink, yellow, purple and red roses, among others. Mr Shah and his family – Waqar Unnisa (his wife) and daughters Abeer, 16, Taiba, 20, and nine-year-old Areeba – posed for a photo among the flowers.

    I said to Mr Shah that it felt like his garden was the labour of someone who had spent time in the desert and who knew the soothing calm of an oasis, and he nodded vigorously. We chatted awhile more, were invited to stay for dinner (which we would have accepted if time had permitted) and phone numbers were swapped, before myself and my colleague went on our way.

    So why is this noteworthy? Simply because, perhaps, in the West (and in India) we are too quick to think of Pakistan only in monochrome terms, as a place only of turmoil and terrorism and where everyone is an extremist. It was nice to be reminded that alongside the (tiny number of ) suicide bombers and jihadis, the vast majority of Pakistanis want a peaceful life, and a good future for their children. It’s a place where people take time to grow a gorgeous, beautiful rose garden.


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