Moment of truth for Pakistan’s transition

December 5, 2008

India might now do well to resist the temptation to behave as the U.S. did after 9/11, and show the world how a responsible and confident Asian power carries itself even when in pain. Haris Gazdar in the Hindu:

Who knows if the timing of Mumbai had anything to do with the struggle within the Pakistani state, but it is worth remembering that Mr. Musharraf’s coup followed Kargil, which followed Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s bus yatra to Lahore. Mumbai is relevant to Pakistan’s transition because regardless of any evidence of Pakistani complicity, the policy of reconciliation with India requires that assistance requested should be rendered. The civilian leadership was right to respond positively to India’s request for high-level representation of Pakistan’s secret agencies, and it was wrong to wriggle out of its commitment. The rethink may have been forced by the military’s displeasure.

Nevertheless, the ball is now in the court of the military. By falling in line with the civilian government’s diplomatic effort they will reveal their intention to be on board in the transition.


Who killed Gen. Zia ul-Haq?

August 16, 2008

Gen. Zia ul-Haq died with several of his generals and the US Ambassador in a mysterious aircraft crash in 1988. The mystery of his death still captures the imagination. James Bone and Zahid Hussain in The Times, UK:

Gen. Zia ul-Haq

Gen. Zia ul-Haq

This month, General Hameed Gul, the Islamic hardliner who was head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency at the time, suggested that the United States might be responsible for murdering its Cold War ally – even though the US Ambassador and military attaché were also killed.

General Gul told The Times that the Pakistani President was killed in a conspiracy involving a “foreign power”.

The Times has uncovered a far less complicated explanation. According to US investigators, a mechanical problem, known to be relatively common with the C-130 military transport aircraft, was to blame. “There were a lot of conspiracy theories and there still are, understandably in that part of the world,” Robert Oakley, who took over as US Ambassador after the crash and helped to handle the politically fraught investigation, told The Times. “


Spy games

July 25, 2008

The CIA and its partner in Islamabad, the ISI, are trapped in a very complicated marriage. From The New York Times:

Pakistan’s new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, (with Pervez Musharraf, left) used to run the ISI.

Washington: As they complete their training at “The Farm,” the Central Intelligence Agency’s base in the Virginia tidewater, young agency recruits are taught a lesson they are expected never to forget during assignments overseas: there is no such thing as a friendly intelligence service.

Foreign spy services, even those of America’s closest allies, will try to manipulate you. So you had better learn how to manipulate them back.

But most CIA veterans agree that no relationship between the spy agency and a foreign intelligence service is quite as byzantine, or as maddening, as that between the CIA and Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI.

[Photo: Pakistan’s new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, (with Pervez Musharraf, left) used to run the ISI.]


Seven things India should not do in order to help Pakistan

February 12, 2008

Manoj Joshi in Mail Today:

The general elections may be around the corner, but Pakistan continues to careen dangerously out of control. Specific incidents and events are not the issue, but the totality of developments that have been taking place, beginning last year.
A convenient date would be March 9, 2007, the fateful day on which President Pervez Musharraf began his ill-advised campaign to edge out Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry from the country’s Supreme Court. This enraged the community of lawyers, who have since led the civil protest movement against Musharraf.


The boomerang effect

January 22, 2008

Editorial in the New York Times on President Pervez Musharraf’s failure to fight extremism, despite $10 billion in American aid since 9/11

For more than a decade, Pakistan’s powerful and secretive intelligence service has fueled a treacherous dynamic in South Asia by supporting Islamic militants in Afghanistan and Kashmir. Now comes the distressing, but not surprising, news that the ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence, has lost control of some of these Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked networks. The militants have turned on their former patrons and helped carry out a record number of suicide attacks inside Pakistan in 2007, including possibly the one that killed Benazir Bhutto.


The military millionaires who control Pakistan Inc

January 17, 2008

Pakistan’s economy is dominated by a ruthless business conglomerate that owns everything from factories and bakeries to farmland and golf courses: the army. Elliot Wilson in The Spectator


In itself this wasn’t particularly unusual. With 620,000 soldiers, Pakistan boasts the world’s seventh-largest standing army, but its senior officers long ago realised the perks to be gained from commercial ventures. Since independence in 1947, the army has steadily intertwined itself into Pakistan’s economy: so much so that it’s hard to tell where the military stops and any semblance of free-market capitalism begins.

All too often, there is no dividing line. In her 2007 book Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy Dr Ayesha Siddiqa exposes the rampant commercialism pervading every aspect of the country’s military forces, until recently headed by President Pervaiz Musharraf. Dr Siddiqa, a former researcher with the country’s naval forces, estimates the military’s net worth at more than £10 billion – roughly four times the total foreign direct investment generated by Islamabad in 2007.


Pakistan Struggles Against Militants Trained by Agency

January 15, 2008

Pakistani militants have turned against their trainers, write Carlotta Gall and David Rohde in the New York Times

Pakistan’s premier military intelligence agency has lost control of some of the networks of Pakistani militants it has nurtured since the 1980s, and is now suffering the violent blowback of that policy, two former senior intelligence officials and other officials close to the agency say.

As the military has moved against them, the militants have turned on their former handlers, the officials said. Joining with other extremist groups, they have battled Pakistani security forces and helped militants carry out a record number of suicide attacks last year, including some aimed directly at army and intelligence units as well as prominent political figures, possibly even Benazir Bhutto.

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