Posted by Mahim Maher
Been down so long, it looks like up to me – this should be Pakistan’s running motto. After a 19-hour gun battle the army wrested control of a navy airbase in Karachi that a handful militants infiltrated starting 11pm Sunday night. They destroyed 2 out of 3 US-made P-3C Orion planes. What a waste.
People are asking how long this weary fight will go on. I say, it will continue until you ensure that all kids are in school. Education is the only way out – an education which helps Pakistanis, literate or unlettered, to be able to tell for themselves who is their real enemy.
One of the sub-editors who works with us is the first cousin of one of the young men who led the fight against the terrorists inside the base. A measure of my own insensitivity to violence and helping steer reporters cover it is that it was only when I learnt that she had flown out to Lahore for the funeral that I started to feel something.
I felt what many Pakistanis feel today: helpless. Helpless that our army, which we take so much pride in, is being attacked. It’s like Pakistan is being turned inside out. Gutted. Disemboweled. And if you’ve ever had a morbid fascination with the Spanish Inquisition, you’ll get the picture.
I thought of the brave young armyman fighting the terrorists in the night. People have been visiting his facebook page and his photographs have been all over the television. Damn he was good looking. He was going to be married in four months. How did he die, I wondered late into the night. I couldn’t sleep till 2:45am, so I got back up to write this. I couldn’t shake the thought of this young man, smooth-cheeked and impossibly smart in his aviator sunglasses.
I thought about being ungrateful. I thought about a guy from the army who I hung out with briefly. Listening to him talk gave me some insight into how they think. My uncle is an ex-army man who ran the ISI academy (so I’ve heard) and once gave me fantastic details of zebra-crossing painted rooms to induce non-physical torture. If you ask him for a contact, he’ll say, Just give me the questions and I’ll ask them and get back to you. No point explaining to him that as a journalist you need to interview that person yourself.
I thought about Rashid Minhas, who is a well known national hero. I barely feel anything for him. I wondered today if we had a new hero in this young man who fought. Hero worship seems a long shot, something our grandmothers did while listening to the patriotic songs Noor Jehan sung on Pakistan Radio as we went to war decades ago. My hero is Mordechai Richler, not Lieutenant Yasir.
My reporter felt helpless as he stood out there at 3am, knowing that no one would let him in – and indeed it wasn’t safe either for him to go. The media clustered around the gates of the base with no proper way of finding out what was happening. And live television coverage was blacked out so that the mistakes of the GHQ attack in 2009 were not repeated.
We’ve been caught with our pants down and are sleep walking through a war. It’s like walking dazed through a minefield of hate with the landmines blowing up. We keep staggering ahead as someone picks us off one by one. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, comes to mind.
Pakistani society is too divided to fight this war. That is the biggest tragedy. We are divided by class, ideology, ethnicity and religion. I teach young high school students and never cease to be amazed when I heard rightwing rhetoric from them. They don’t know enough political theory and history to be able to sift through what has become mainstream discourse. Blaming Russia for entering Afghanistan can’t help now.
I feel helpless as a journalist/desk editor when we aren’t able to actually provide readers with someone concrete. And when I sometimes visit our newspaper’s website, I’m amazed at the strange mullah-hating, US-hating, Iran-hating, rich-hating comments posted there. We’re all over the place. Some of us think it’s OK to die if you’re fighting imperialism.
When are we going to be able to understand what America wants from us and what the big game is? Is it oil? Is it Mullah Omar? Will killing Mullah Omar end terrorism? That is what scares me the most – this war will last centuries. Until we stop young men and women from believing that harming other people will achieve something we will keep paying a price. America will never be able to sleep at night. Neither will Pakistan.
Karachi alone has a population of 20m people. Even if we managed to get the majority of young kids – the terrorists were 20 to 25 years old – there will always be rebel teens from bad homes, waiting for some madrassa to whitewash their brains.
When will our governments realize that they aren’t taking their people along. That the PERCEPTION of American foreign policy is important. You have to be seen as engaging in the dialogue as well. Does America really care what Pakistanis think? If it doesn’t then how can it expect to solve the problem is its own back yard?
Now, I’m not a defense or government analyst and a medium-grade journalist at that too. It sounds really cheesy to say the stuff I just said, but I can’t get it out of my head. Today we’ve run a terribly mediocre city section despite the fact that something earth-shaking happened in Karachi today. I’m reminded of an impossibly syntactically perfect stanza from Theodore Roethke’s The Waking:
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go…
11.22.13 at 11:32 pm | Salvaging a missed music day
11.9.13 at 9:43 pm | As told to me by an old colleague and reporter. . .
11.5.13 at 11:10 pm | Some reading resources
10.16.13 at 7:54 am | Eid Mubarak everyone
10.11.13 at 12:58 am | Her versus Them versus Us
10.6.13 at 6:30 am | Never a dull day in the newsroom - my personal. . .
May 17, 2011 | 2:23 pm
Posted by Mahim Maher
Pakistan’s largest city once again proved to be an excellent hiding spot for al Qaeda men with the arrest of a Yemeni operative on May 17, Tuesday. The swoop was announced in Islamabad/Rawalpindi which is why our crime reporter in Karachi couldn’t get any details because the intelligence agencies were involved. I’ve often wondered why they don’t just shake down the city, literally turn it upside down and shake out all the militants, jihadis, wannabe jihadis, preachers and pranksters.
Small wonder people can hide here. Karachi is an ungovernable city. The government has no clear estimate of its population, which is quoted to be between 15 million to 20 million people. You pick up a rock and someone will peer out at you. I don’t really blame them, there isn’t any work in the rural parts of the province if you aren’t a farmer – and even they work in terrible conditions for bad pay. There aren’t enough schools and hospitals out there. Karachi is where the streets are paved with gold.
These days I’ve been thinking a lot about Rudy Giuliani, the man who ran New York in the mid-1990s and cleaned it up with a zero tolerance policy for crime, especially low-level crime. It was called quality of life crime reduction. Stop people from breaking the smaller laws to instill a sense of safety. Yes, Giuliani was criticized for draconian measures – especially against the homeless – but in the end, I am attracted by the assessment that he made New York America’s safest city at one point in time. Don’t get me wrong, Karachi is no New York – Saddar is no Manhattan – but there are parallels and lessons to be learnt.
I’ve also been thinking about Michel Foucault and some stuff I learnt in college about governmentality. And while I’m not going to act like a ponce and delve into some obscure theory in an attempt to impress you, there is one thing that the French theorist had to offer. One of the main reasons why Karachi is ungovernable is because the bureaucracy doesn’t have a grip on its population. Until Google maps came along there weren’t even any proper accessible maps of the city. I’ll give you just one example of how woefully ill-equipped the authorities are. A couple of months ago the chief of police came to meet me at the newspaper office. At the Karachi city section we run a crime map that is printed on page 18 of The Express Tribune (http://tribune.com.pk). He marveled at it and said he wanted something like this for his force. I was amazed. I said, haven’t you watched the movies? Don’t you have some big digital map at the central police office where the crimes show up? He didn’t. At the very least, he needed to know how much crime he was looking at.
Crimes aren’t fully reported in Karachi and as a result, the statistics are skewed. I’ll give you another example of how desperate the situation is. Every once in a while I’ll ask the crime reporter (they’re always men) if any rapes were reported. They emphatically shake their heads.
“You mean to tell me that in a city like Karachi, with 20,000,000 people not a single rape took place today,” I ask. But I know their hands are tied. Women don’t report rape here because of the stigma and the laws; because of the Hudood ordinance they land up in jail unless they produce four witnesses to testify that indeed the rape took place. [The original Quranic laws are, I personally believe, vastly misinterpreted against their spirit by male jurists].
I’ve been thinking about Karachi and crime and how to cover it for years. But recently I’ve been watching Law and Order’s Season 19 and Law and Order SVU. These shows may not properly portray how it actually goes down in the US, but they often give me food for thought.
For example, the other day we were talking about a case at the University of Karachi. A news report had surfaced saying that the head of a department had resigned after her daughter was assaulted on campus (many faculty members live on campus). I was talking about it with the reporters from our sister newspaper, the daily Express.
They said she had been caught in an objectionable position. But that she had gone on her own to the tennis courts to meet whoever she was meeting. The blame was solely placed at her door. I was stunned to learn that the girl was just 13 years old. “Doesn’t that count as abduction or in the very least luring a minor?” I asked. I got no answer. They smugly said that they weren’t reporting on the issue because the girl’s honour would be at stake.
One thing Rudy Giuliani did was increase the police force for New York. I believe this needs to be done for Karachi. The existing force is underpaid and undertrained and whenever any of its members do some good policing political bigwigs interfere with the process. They get their buddies off the hook. Karachi will always remain a dangerous place as long as the police chief and his subordinates take it lying down.
Karachi is awash in weapons and until the police or authorities crack down on assault weapons, it will always be a dangerous place. Within the course of one week hand grenades were lobbed at the Saudi consulate and a diplomat was gunned down in a drive-by shooting. The cops didn’t take chase even though the attack took place in a cleanly laid out neighbourhood and not a slum with a rabbit’s warren of alleyways. The Bahrain consulate and several banks were a stone’s throw away from the crime scene. Where were all the guards?
Karachi will never be cleaned up if things continue like this. I don’t see it happening in my lifetime. It is too fragmented a city along ethnic lines and there is no political will to work with the state apparatus to crack down on bad behaviour no matter who does it. Pressure groups too often get their way and public displays of schoolyard bullying by militant and banned groups and political parties continue. When one political party’s chief said something against President Zardari in Lahore, ruling party goons trashed a restaurant in Karachi because it belonged to a man who supported the rival party. The attack happened just a block away from Zardari’s residence in Karachi, Bilawal House. It is one of the more heavily guarded places in the city. How did the police deputed there let it get out of hand?
Just to dwell a little bit on the theory of governmentality and how to manage a population. I don’t believe we are producing the kind of citizens who can be governed either. People who understand the nature of the social contract and self and collective responsibility. But more on that at the next post; I have some excellent Camille Paglia to pull up there.
May 6, 2011 | 3:11 pm
Posted by Mahim Maher
Fridays are great days for protests. The formula is simple across Pakistan - get the men when they come to the mosque for the special Friday or Jummah prayers.
Also, in Karachi, if you want to give a “show of street force” organise your protest on MA Jinnah Road, a veritable jugular vein for the city but coincidentally just as narrow. The relatively narrow two-way road allows a gathering crowd to give the impression of numbers. And this is where an estimated 3,000 men (not women) gathered to protest for Osama bin Laden, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and jihad. They were vociferous in their condemnation of rival sects in Islam and spray painted the sidewalk and shops with really offensive hate messages.
If you live in Karachi long enough you’ll get used to protests and if you’ve been in a Karachi newsroom long enough, you’ll get used to editing protest stories. But this one in particular chilled me - not because of the numbers - but because of one quote.
A young man said, ‘Thank you for killing Osama bin Laden for you have given the world a million more like him’.
And indeed that is the question of the day. Al Qaeda has acknowledged his death and vowed that his blood will be avenged etc. etc.
Does the killing of Osama bin Laden really count in that sense? Or is it that anti-American and anti-West hatred is so entrenched that we already have enough young wannabe suicide bombers?
I once read an extremely interesting story in the Globe and Mail on a Sunday in Montreal. For the life of me I can’t remember the exact reference and over the years I have tried to get a hold of it, but what I do remember is its essential message. Two scientists had written a paper, reported in the article, on civil war in the African continent. They discovered that conflict was the worst in places where the male population between 17 and about 30 years of age was the highest.
And when I looked at the photos that came in from my good friend Athar Hussain, who is a photographer with Reuters in Karachi, I realised once again, for the umpteenth time, that I was looking at that segment of the population - the young male. For anyone interested in solid information on Pakistan’s demographic, may I recommend the State Bank of Pakistan reports.
The reporter who covered the rally told me that there were so many men that it took nearly 30 minutes for them to eventually leave. “I stood by the curb and motorcycle after motorcycle, van after van whizzed by me,” he said. They just kept streaming by. They were brandishing sticks - rather medieval but effective if you ask me - and flags. Don’t get me started on a feminist interpretation of these symbols. [Camille Paglia will shoot me]
Such strong beliefs. I was just telling someone at work that anyone who has a fetish or habit or obsession or strong belief scares me now. Even the liberals who insist on all kinds of freedoms. A friend’s father, who is an eminent barrister, once told her that a true liberal is one who is able to accept different opinions and points of view. He quipped that some of the conservatives in Karachi were perhaps more liberal than the liberals who automatically considered themselves right.
A lot has been written about unemployment and education and how they contribute to the desperation of young men who may or may not seek solace in religion. I sometimes add to this debate some stuff I read by Foucault. It got me thinking that perhaps disenfranchisement is also at work here. These young men want to plug in to power - some node of power. But at their levels there is none. Perhaps that’s why they need to brandish the sticks and march to Tibet Centre to protest. Surely not all of them would sign up to be suicide bombers.
I’ve known what it feels like to be helpless in society, this society. I often wonder about the time when my father is not alive any more and if I continue to stay unmarried, then, well, I won’t have any backing. This is perhaps why I value my job as a journalist. I’m plugged in to power-points, if you could say.
Is a little of this at work for these young men who hate the US? I’d bet, and I know Americans think this, that given half a chance they would gladly accept a green card to live in New York. It’s a difficult life for them here. Why not? I personally believe, and I could be wrong, that deep down, when it comes to the survival instinct, many Pakistanis envy the US for its progress, roads, food, pride, clothes, cars, universities, working systems. We must look at our selves and feel sad that it’s been a mess for such a long time. And while it may sound pessimistic, it certainly feels like the mess will stay like this for a very long time, or perhaps infinity.
It is perhaps not right for me to say these things given that I have had an exceedingly privileged upbringing that now allows me to be financially independent. Also, I hesitate to speak for others and present a stereotype of Pakistan, which is a varied country with just as many shades of life as any other.
What I mean to put across here are some of the questions I have, some of the things I wonder about. I wonder what it must feel like to spend so much energy hating another entire country. To posit so much of your identity on that. Perhaps imperialism and colonialism forever turned our thought into these binary pictures.
Ultimately, it will be up to Pakistan to try and create peace for itself. I do not see this ever happening because corruption is so rampant. We don’t even have any leaders on the horizon who could pull an Attaturk on us. And so I wonder if the US should keep giving us money.
A newsroom colleague who works on the front page was talking about how the army would appease the militants because it had its eye on the 2014 US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. It wouldn’t want to be targeted any more. Would that mean going full circle, I wonder? As I prepared to leave the newsroom there were rumours that a top army man was resigning over the Abbotabad operation. I feel bad for the army, they’ve been caught between a rock and a hard place. And I genuinely admire its men and women who do a really tough job and live a tough life. Nonetheless, whatever happens in the next short while, I’m convinced that Osama’s killing is a major turning point for Pakistan.
May 5, 2011 | 12:43 pm
Posted by Mahim Maher
Former Wall Street Journal managing editor Paul Steiger, who now runs ProPublica, was in Karachi today. I had the good fortune of meeting him, Joel Simon and Bob Dietz from the Committee to Protect Journalists on Thursday at a group discussion on safety for the media. It was when Steiger mentioned Daniel Pearl that it hit me that I was sitting in front of STEIGER!
He said it was his first time in Pakistan but unfortunately because I had to get back to the newsroom to finish the city pages, I never got to ask him that one question we love asking foreigners: So, what do you think of this place?
We talked about how Pakistan was the deadliest place for journalists in the world. Eight of them were killed last year alone and suicide bombings have injured scores others. The intelligence agencies hound and threaten journalists. On the pages today I’ve put up a PBS picture of Hayatullah Khan who was killed for uncovering sensitive material. I’ve never worried about my safety primarily because I’m a desk person, but as a city editor I worry about the reporters on our team.
May 4, 2011 | 11:46 am
Posted by Mahim Maher
Two interesting stories surfaced today. In one, at a press conference, the Jamaat-e-Islami party’s chief in Karachi Professor Ghafoor Ahmed said that he wasn’t entirely sure that Osama bin Laden was dead. Our reporter Saher Baloch went to cover it. She came back with this:
Responding to a question, the JI leader said that the operation against Osama bin Laden may have come has a relief for the US but the JI has doubts over whether the outcome was successful. “The pictures that were released after his capture look doubtful,” said Ahmed. “It is unknown whether he has been killed or not.” However, he added that even if Bin Laden is dead, he deserved a burial in line with Islamic traditions.
In the second story, a lawyer has filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, as reported by our Zeeshan Mujahid, saying that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority should prevent Pakistani and international television channels from airing footage of the US operation Abbotabad as it wasn’t credible and made Pakistan look bad. It was propaganda, he argued. I guess he wants al Jaz, CNN and the BBC to chuck it out. He said they should wait until credible footage is release. He used the word “confidence-inspriing” video.
He said that the burial at sea was problematic as all evidence has been destroyed.
The thing about these people is, I feel, personally, that they can make a pretty convincing argument if you don’t know any better. At this point, however, I’m not sure it really matters to the person on the street whether Bin Laden is dead. As for me, I’ve been reading as much as I can and watching as many analysts battle it out - sort of like who’s the bigger analyst - on television.
I thought I’d share some art work that came up in the newsroom. I’m not sure if it’s already on the internet.
May 3, 2011 | 11:59 am
Posted by Mahim Maher
“The apathy of this nation has no bounds,” said one of my colleagues in the newsroom when I asked him how he would categorise the reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. I’ve been left scratching my head. Why haven’t all the Taliban and al Qaeda supporters burnt the place down already? When Benazir Bhutto was assasinated, Karachi was ripped apart at the seams - all of Sindh went up in flames. She was a true leader in many respects.
But aside from a few hundred men who gathered for prayers in absentia for Osama bin Laden in Quetta and Karachi, not much else has happened. People are more upset with the fact that American forces swept in and held an operation on Pakistani soil. As people say when they translate from Urdu sometimes: it outrages our honour. Sovereignty is more important than an al Qaeda leader who had faded into the background.
So now the question is, and I think the Americans are asking themselves this, if the Pakistani public isn’t that upset with the killing of the most wanted al Qaeda target, then perhaps they’ll be OK with the killing of other such men? Does this mean now that we’ll see more and more American special forces in covert operations in Pakistani cities?
I think it’s important to consider that public reaction to drone strikes has been particularly bad. Our politicians have come under fire as well and the religous right has, I believe, successfully used this to gather more support. I am no so sure the Pakistani public will be happy with American forces conducting their own killings on Pakistani soil.
May 3, 2011 | 4:44 am
Posted Image by Anum Haleem for The Express Tribune
For more details please visit http://tribune.com.pk but I thought I’d share this image with you of the compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed.
May 3, 2011 | 4:33 am
Posted by Mahim Maher
One of Pakistan’s most well respected analysts, Najam Sethi, has also commented on the Osama bin Laden killing and its ramifications. On his 40-minute Geo TV show ‘Apas ki Baat’ on Monday, May 3, at 11pm PST, he reconstructed the events and examined the possibilities and questions that arise. Sethi’s show has extremely high ratings, as I have heard. [There have since been developments that he has commented on in subsequent programmes - certain clarifications have been discussed, I have not been able to transcribe all the programmes unfortunately]
Unfortunately, the show is in Urdu. But I have attempted here to make a rough transcript. I have attempted to stay as true to what he said, in Urdu and Punjabi. Anyone who wants to watch it can go to his blog (http://najamsethi.com/ns/). I have not been able to transcribe a complete transcript word by word. But in essence this is what he said:
What we know right now is limited. We have a foreign office statement, we have a President Obama statement and the prime minister has echoed this. There has been no word from the Pakistan Army, the Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISPR. There is complete silence, darkness. [Please note that this programme was recorded on Monday night in Pakistan. There may have been developments since then].
First, let’s take a look at the statements that have been made. Then let’s look at the situation on the ground and see if we can piece this jigsaw puzzle together. Can we reconstruct the events or join the dots.
First, let’s take Obama’s speech. One, he is saying that we have reached this place with the help of Pakistani counter terrorism cooperation and in fact the compound also with their help. Obama did not need to mention the compound. He could have just said that our cooperation continued - that counter terrorism efforts and cooperation “led” us to Osama, to this compound.
From this, I understand that it was in our [Pakistan’s] knowledge, our approval, this entire operation. There was a high value target there, which could have been OBL. That the Americans, Pakistani intelligence, its army, leadership knew that there was someone there.
The other thing Obama mentioned was that “I telephoned President Zardari”. And they agreed that it was a success. Obama could have said that he had telephoned Zardari to apprise him, inform him [agah karne ke liye], that this has happened. Or he could have telephoned to tell him about a successful mission. You give information about a successful operation when both of you are going to do something – one of you is in one place, the other person is in another place. I am at the spot and accomplish the mission and then I telephone you and say, ‘Congratulations, mission accomplished… we’ve got the guy’. Then there is a response from the other end, accompanied by a sigh of relief that thankfully it’s been done [muk muka ho gaya].
The question is how much before did Pakistan know an operation would be conducted.
The third thing Obama said was that American forces did the operation, it was NOT a joint effort.
Remember, till today, 20 major al Qaeda leaders have been caught in Pakistan. In all these operations, it was a joint effort. First the Americans would identify the targets, and then Pakistani forces would capture them. And with great pride Pakistan would say that their forces had captured the men. These events took place in all the major cities of Pakistan. This was the only mission that was exclusively said to have been performed by American forces.
In fact, in Abbotabad, a few months ago, someone was caught. But more on that later.
So this is first operation in which the Pakistani Foreign Office and President Obama are saying the same thing: this was not a joint operation.
So the question is: if both of them knew that this was going to happen then why did the American forces do it alone?
There are two answers to this:
The Americans said to Pakistan that they would go it alone, they insisted they did it. We need to tell the American people that this was our operation, [they told Pakistan]. This was President Obama’s requirement. It would score points with the American public. In response the Pakistanis would have said, ‘oh all right’ without thinking what the Pakistani people would have to say about such an arrangement, that American boots are on the ground and our sovereignty is at stake. [The same debate surfaced over the drone attacks].
The other answer would be that the Pakistanis said to the Americans that they should go ahead and do this on their own as the Pakistani public was pro-Osama. Indeed, a PEW survey last year, conducted by the Americans, revealed that only 3 per cent of Pakistanis thought that Osama bin Laden was a terrorist. The remaining population didn’t think so.
So the Pakistani army and leadership did not [perhaps] want to take action against a man so “popular” with the people because in such an operation he would have been taken alive. Till today, American has not taken such high value targets alive. If the target is taken alive then the trial becomes problematic and the longer the person is alive the more they become a hero. They did the same thing with Che Guevara. They killed him, took pictures and buried him. As they have done here. He was buried at sea so no one could turn him into a hero, so no shrines are built, there is no hero worship.
We have cooperated, we’ve brought you to the compound, you’ve come yourself but that’s it. [Here Sethi’s humour surfaces].
Then there is the point being made that the helicopters came from Jalabad, Afghanistan and Pakistan’s radios were jammed.
According to my information, the helicopters did not come from Jalalabad. The Americans have a base at Ghazi Barotha, Tarbela. [In his May 4 programme, Sethi said that according to fresh information, they came from Jalalabad - needless to say developments continue] The Americans come and go from here. So, according to the information I have the helicopters did not come from Jalalabad, but here. And this information was known only at the highest level. Not the medium level. So that it was not botched.
I do not know at what stage this was communicated. The ground was prepared, Petraeus and Mullen did make visits and prepare the ground. There is no doubt in my mind this happened on their visits.
To say that the Pakistani radar system was jammed, they didn’t know what happened, were in the dark, for 40 minutes – I think they shouldn’t say this, that they were in the dark. Because people will then ask, how is it that billions of rupees and dollars have been spent on the army and it didn’t know when two helicopters flew? Tomorrow if India…
So to say this is an insult for the army. And even if someone in the army says this, that they were innocent, had no idea the operation was happening, that person should be taken aside and explained that this is not the thing to say. In fact, what would be better would be to acknowledge, admit that you knew. And that these were the reasons why. For the love of God, don’t say that you were asleep at the wheel, and 15 minutes from your cadet college this was going down and you had no idea.
And for another reason, this is a bad idea. People will ask, is this then the same policy you have for the drones? That you [Pakistan] wink at the Americans to signal go ahead, but then in public say that you are against it?
The Foreign Office condemned al Qaeda on one hand by saying that it killed 30,000 Pakistani civilians and at least 5,000 security personnel. But then it said that it had no idea.
There is only one explanation for this – Pakistan does not want to say it was involved because then al Qaeda would blame it and directly target Pakistani security forces and installations.
People are not crazy. On one hand you have such a big army, the ISI, which is compared to Mossad. You can’t fool people. They won’t accept the argument that the Pakistani intelligence was asleep at the wheel.
On Hillary Clinton, when she came twice to Pakistan she said that there were some people in the intelligence establishment who knew where Osama was. Some people, not at the highest level, but the medium level. They may not be hiding Bin Laden, but they were in the know.
When they caught people and took them away and there were interrogations. They realized that they were not using traditional ways to communicate. They were using couriers. In 2007, one man was focused on… [As most of this information has since surfaced, I’ve left out the ‘facts’ and focused on NS’s opinion].
Obama said what he said, there won’t be any “muddying of the waters”. But in the coming days, middle level US officials, journalists etc. will start asking how this could have happened. How could such a compound have been made. They will indicate that the intelligence agencies protected him etc. So on one hand, people such as Hussain Haqqani will say there was cooperation.
But what game was this, people will ask. American pressure will mount. North Waziristan . We won’t be able to answer these questions. Not a leave quivers and the ISI doesn’t know, but then, a tractor came and such a big compound was built…
We cannot understand or answer questions on how such a man came to be in such a compound. Then the US will say that you took us to the compound. The Americans will put on tremendous pressure. They will praise Pakistan and yet put on pressure. Your entire policy on the war on terror will be criticized.
If drone strikes increase in North Waziristan we’ll have to see if they are on the al Qaeda network spots or the Haqqani (Taliban) spots. If its al Qaeda and not Haqqani then you will understand that our beef isn’t so much with the Taliban and now we are preparing an exit strategy. So perhaps not the Haqqani network.
If this doesn’t happen. If the attacks continue, then you can understand that no deal or compromise has developed since Osama’s killing. The US will just say get out of the way.
Today, the FO’s statement that it was good Osama had been killed and Pakistan Army chief Gen Pervaiz Kiyani has never backed al Qaeda. The army has never said it supports or protects al Qaeda. After all they’ve lost nearly 3,000 of their men. (The Pakistan Army is about 700,000 strong). As a matter of strategy they may decide when and where to give up certain targets to get something. In Musharraf’s time, whenever he had a trip to the US he throw around a few bombs, catch some guys, hand them over and then go grab a steak at the White House with Bush saheb (all my paraphrasing from the Urdu).
In reaction to Osama’s killing, former president Pervez Musharraf has said it’s good but this is a matter of sovereignty.
What does he mean sovereignty? This handing over of people has been taking place since Musharraf’s time. According to Pakistani law you cannot hand over anyone. They have to face the law here. But this hasn’t happened in the civilian governments, in Nawaz Sharif’s time, in Farooq Leghari’s time. So it’s useless to talk like this.
When they have to hand someone over, they do and then all your sovereignty goes to the dogs.
Many people don’t believe in Pakistan that al Qaeda is the enemy. In fact, there is a mindset, created by the media among others, that anyone who is against America is our friend. That’s why for the longest time Pakistan said that this wasn’t its war. This is why there are people like Imran Khan (cricketer-turned-politician) who are now arguing that the US must leave.
But then you go to the BBC website where there is an entire list of people who they think are in Pakistan. And there is a considerable presence of al Qaeda in North Waziristan. And they say the No. 2 is here. And he’ll probably surface from somewhere or the other.
There is a complicated game now. This is less about terrorism now and more about Afghanistan. And Pakistan will want to make sure that whatever happens in Afghanistan doesn’t badly affect Pakistan.
And now we’ll see a lot of little attacks all over the world, in Europe, in Pakistan. And we’ll see that they’ll try to do something in India to strain Pakistan-India relations. They will try to take revenge from the Pakistan army and government. If it doesn’t do it then people will believe that al Qaeda has disappeared. They’ll have to put on a show they’re still alive.
The question is now if the US will withdraw from Afghanistan.
They have a commitment to withdraw troops. Obama will prepare for a next term. There will be more action, to uproot this menace. US has a long term interest in Afghanistan. They need to build bases there.
They will finish al Qaeda in Afghanistan and talk to the Taliban so that a non-al Qaeda friendly government is there. They don’t want the menace to resurface to also destabilize Pakistan, which would be dangerous as well.
Pakistan will want that whatever government is settled in Afghanistan shouldn’t be anti-Pakistan or pro-India.
[He then takes callers]
A little on Najam Sethi
Sethi is the editor in chief of The Friday Times, Pakistan’s first independent weekly and he was the editor of the Daily Times. I personally respect him a great deal because of the sheer breadth of his knowledge, his sources, his analysis and his intelligence. He was my editor at Daily Times and The Friday Times and made me the journalist I am today. He speaks at international forums as well and has been writing for years on Pakistan’s state of affairs. But most of all I love him for his killer sense of humour and ability to stay with the times and relate to young people.