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The Wages of Truth

Good, Bad and Ugly

The death of the PAF Chief alongwith his wife and colleagues in an air crash was a tragedy that Pakistan could have done without. Of humble background, Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Mir rose by dint of sheer merit to the very top of his profession. The two Air Vice Marshals who died with him, Abdur Razzaq and Salem A. Nawaz, were upwardly mobile professional air warriors, the PAF’s loss was accentuated by their demise. While speculation will remain about the possible reason for the Fokker accident till an official enquiry is complete, prima facie it seems to be pilot error, the wrong height at the wrong place at the wrong time i.e. the approach to Kohat airfield was wrong. The mass out-pouring of grief confirms that this nation still recognizes and respects excellence and integrity. Because of the constant modernization that every Air Force needs, the development of our air war machine has been hampered by sanctions and shortage of funds. Of the three Services PAF has seen very hard times certainly because of lack of resources but more due to diminishing sources for acquisition of new equipment. Every one of its Chiefs, except for the much unlamented Shamim, provided the driving leadership necessary for a Service like the PAF to keep its cutting edge. Mushaf Mir had the hardest job of all, husbanding our meager (and constantly depleting) resources to keep the PAF in fighting trim. The PAF lost an outstanding leader, Pakistan lost one of its more illustrious sons. One can only hope and pray that Mushaf Mir’s successor will carry on his mission with the same spirit of dedication and integrity. One must also spare a prayer for Col (Retd) Sajid Ali, an old friend from Army Aviation, piloting the twin-engined Cessna that crashed in the Arabian Sea a few days ago close to Karachi off Cape Monze with foreign luminaries on board, including the Afghan Minister for Mines, Mr. Mohammedi. While Pakistani navy divers have brought up part of the wreckage from the sea, three bodies still remain unaccounted for.


Jihad Against Terrorism

The beginning of the 21st century has seen advances in science and technology force-multiplying terror as a deliberate creation of man. Terror was previously the domain of the unknown, the perception was that of animals in the jungle and of spirits in the night. High-tech equipment rapidly becomes obsolete as sophisticated terrorists innovate circumventing of their potency. What to talk about individuals and communities, entire nations can be held hostage to terror, case in point presently the mightiest nation on this earth, the US of A. Terrorism is a potent weapon for those who lack numbers and weaponry, money may be important but innovation overcomes that deficiency. The targetting of soft targets put forces of law and orders initially in disarray because of the variation in the threat perception, the level and mode thereof. Organized criminal activity desires anarchy i.e. the collapse of the State’s machinery. The international terrorist has a far bigger canvas, the collapse of world order as is evident from the present dangerous split in the UN Security Council and NATO. The globalization of terrorism makes it difficult to counter terrorism, dominating it altogether is almost impossible. Countries without resources must depend upon each other for precise sharing of intelligence, denial of funds, sanctuaries and/or supply of weapons/equipment to terrorists as well as promptly addressing requests for extradition. On the negative side, countries like India are using the bogey of terrorist groups as either surrogates or motivated propaganda to achieve their own motivated objectives against adversary States like Pakistan, India has now started targeting Bangladesh also.


Strategic Options

It was not comfortable being either an American or a Pakistani, for widely differing reasons, in Davos this year. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is normally a love-fest, antagonism is almost never aired in the aura of optimism that is normally prevalent. Because of the aversion of most Europeans towards war in Iraq, Americans (constituting a fair percentage of the 1500 persons attending WEF) found themselves in defensive mode even though the much-respected US Secretary of State Colin Powell made an eloquent case for war to topple Saddam Hussain. While one is used to Indians reacting in an offensively defensive manner to our bringing Kashmir on the table, this year the Indians took a back seat orchestrating a world consensus against Pakistan’s very existence as a responsible member of the comity of nations. Speaker after speaker recommended coordinated action against Pakistan’s nuclear potential, there was no fig leaf of innuendo anymore. The straightforward allegation put us in the business of exporting terrorism. The general consensus was that Pakistan’s nuclear facilities were a potential threat to the world, the premise being that if Musharraf was overthrown, the 650000-man Pakistan Army would be overwhelmed by “200000 dedicated Jehadis”. Instead of waiting to be subjected to “nuclear terrorism” their convoluted logic was that the world would be far better off launching a pre-emptive strike against Pakistan, even in priority to Iraq! These were no ordinary persons, they happen to be the world’s top leaders in government, business, academics, etc the elite of the elite! More depressing was to see the blissful ignorance we are living in on returning from Davos. This country is in a state of permanent Basant, God help us!


Trading Dark Horses

The process of the General Elections of Oct 12, 2002 was completed by Saturday Nov 2. Due to meet on Friday Nov 8 the National Assembly (NA) was postponed for a week at the request of some political parties to give them some time to shore up their coalition arrangements. A proposed alliance led by PPP-P and MMA is pitted almost equally against the grouping led by PML (Q). With the bogey of “hung Parliament” hanging in the air, one doubts whether a stable government could be formed in the Centre. Both the PPP-P (which privately had called for a delay) and the MMA immediately condemned the postponement, labeling it as a machination of the incumbent military government trying to contrive a PML (Q)-led government coalition.

Who are the main players in the power game? PML (Q)’s Ch Shujaat Hussain with the largest number of MNAs must be counted as a major player, followed closely by PPP-P’s self-exiled leader Ms Benazir Bhutto (and her incarcerated spouse Mr Asif Zardari). One must not forget Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the Jamaat-e-Islami chief who is the chief architect/planner of MMA’s strong showing, MQM’s self-exiled Altaf Hussain in London or the Jeddah-based exiled brothers Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif of PML (N). The name of the game is acquisition of power, somehow! What is of consequence is that all the political parties are talking to each other i.e. except for PML (Q) and PML (N), an anomaly that needs to be corrected. And who are the contenders for the prized post of PM? The horses in contention are Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali of PML (Q), Makhdoom Amin Fahim of PPP-P and MMA’s Maulana Fazlur Rahman. While PML (Q)’s Khurshid Kasuri and Humayun Akhtar cannot be ruled out as possible choices, compromise candidates can be Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao of PPP (S) or Hamid Nasir Chatha of PML (J). In this world of horse-trading, is there a dark horse somewhere?


Is There Smoke Yet?

As much as the Catholic faithful flock to the Vatican to see smoke appearing from the chimney signifying that the closetted college of cardinals had finally agreed upon the new Pope, the people of Pakistan have been anxiously looking at the skies over Islamabad for a sign that our new political messiah may have been chosen. Since our version of the College of Cardinals is the periodical Corps Commander’s Conference, should the people be looking at Rawalpindi skies? The last time smoke appeared over GHQ it was one of the stationery stores catching fire. With Ramazan less than a week away, the appearance of the PM could be subject to the disappearance of the moon. Since late night on Oct 10, the nation has been waiting anxiously for a PM, they might as well be waiting for Godot. The only person at the moment nominated as PM-to-be by any political grouping, Maulana Fazlur Rahman (by MMA), is not likely by any long shot to be PM, by the time the Nov 1 date mandated for transferring power has come around, we have just about completed the elections to the women’s reserved seats. With National Assembly now scheduled to meet on Nov 6, transfer of power is to be completed by Nov 14. The schedule given is the best time and space adjustment in the circumstances, in contrast the Brazilian President-elect Lula will have to wait two months till Jan 1, 2003 for his inauguration.


The Dust Settles, Somewhat

It is only now beginning to dawn on the people of Pakistan that despite themselves they have managed to pull off somewhat of a miracle by not even giving a “heavy” (Mian Nawaz Sharif-type) mandate (10% of the available vote) to any of the political parties. With the Election Commission reporting 40% plus of voting percentage, PML (Q) and PPP-P got almost an equal number of votes, nobody got more than 10% of votes that could be cast. Claiming a “revolution” to anyone who will listen, MMA’s vote tally amounts to a grand 4%. The number of seats does not truly reflect the reality on the ground in the “first-past-the-post-system”. The MMA constituent parties got almost the same number of votes they normally get in any general election, this time their votes were counted together in a Qazi engineered “alliance”. With the main PML split into PML (Q) and PML (N), and both PPP and ANP also split in NWFP, MMA swept them aside in close races. A low turnout in any election always helps the more organized political machine, whose rank and file is more likely to turn out to vote en masse. The anti-American factor helped solidify the MMA vote in the border areas of NWFP and Balochistan but not as overwhelmingly as given out to be. Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI (F) may strut his stuff as a potential PM but with less than 60 votes (including the ones reserved for women) in the National Assembly out of 340, or less than 20%, Maulana Sahib’s expectations are rather over-ambitious. At best his posturing is a bargaining position, meant to get maximum benefit for himself, his party and the alliance, MMA, and in that order. As a close ally of Ms Benazir, he managed that to his benefit in the last PPP regime.


National Consensus

Within hours of the polls closing on Oct 10, a very wrong perception of the early returns, which was indicating that the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal was sweeping the polls in NWFP and Balochistan, sent alarm bells ringing all over. Analysts took it to mean an overwhelming majority in Punjab and Sindh as well. Within minutes almost every news channel in the world was predicting a “Talibaan” government in the country, attributing this to the “wave” of anti-American feeling “rampaging” through Pakistan. As later results clarified, the “wave” was confined mostly to the western border in areas adjoining Afghanistan. Available statistics and educated analysis thereof reveals a different picture. The vote MMA garnered hardly exceeds what the alliance partners individually obtained in the 1997 Elections. There is certainly anti-American feeling, but that had very little to do with the vote, the core concerns affecting the individual voters were more earthy, food, clothing, shelter, medicine, education, transportation, access to potable water, electricity, gas, etc. An additional worry was the lack of employment, followed by corruption and law and order. Moreover the other major parties were very badly split.


Mixed Trend

According to a pre-polls survey conducted by Research & Collection Services (RCS) on behalf of THE NATION, despite winning 18-20% of the nationwide vote, the alliance of religious parties Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), was not translating this vote bank into seats. This wrong surmise was the only real casualty of the survey with respect to NWFP, MMA confounded skeptics in the Province by sweeping the polls, and doing far better in Balochistan than expected. The alliance was far more potent electorally in these two Provinces than in Punjab and Sindh. Not to say that they did not cause a couple of upsets in Sindh, particularly in Karachi where, despite controlling the Local Bodies in an election boycotted by the MQM, they were not expected to create any dents in the MQM vote bank. Other than their traditional strongholds in the mountains the MMA swept aside the liberal ANP and the PPP-P in their Peshawar valley fiefdom. The local alliance between ANP and PPP-P proved fatal for the two political parties. Only Aftab Sherpao’s faction of PPP survived this onslaught, and that only because of seat adjustment with MMA.

The MMA emergence is a great blessing in disguise for Pakistan. For the first time since 1947, the Shia-Sunni divide has been bridged, they voted for the same cause. And Iran’s model gives us hope, to stay the pace of the modern world, the Mullahs had to come into line, including the treating of women as equal to men. Things went more or less as predicted in the rest of the country, except that in Lahore, PML (Q) was routed because of the clean seat adjustments between PPP-P, PML (N) and MMA. Electorally the results in Balochistan remained as mixed as usual. The MQM lost ground very slightly in Karachi and Hyderabad but was compensated by the almost 30% increase in urban seats. By the time this goes into print, the final results will be in but these are hardly likely to be so dramatic as to change the political kaleidoscope predicted by the THE NATION’s pre-polls.


Idealism versus Pragmatism

In matters of State objective idealism always gives way to rank pragmatism. Gen Pervez Musharraf articulated his seven-point agenda within days of taking power, the vision was that of an idealist. In preparing the nation for real democracy, his solution is that of a pragmatist. And by the way there is no duality of personality here, over the past 38 years one has seen it to be in consonance with his character. Between the idealism the President embodies and the pragmatism he has adopted, the fault-line is blurred by the doctrine of necessity. In the hard world of realities and given the adverse circumstances, pragmatism is perhaps the only course that any leader of a beleaguered nation, such as ours could have adopted, not only for the sake of the nation, but being inexorably linked with the reforms he has enacted, for his own continuity. The starkest example was his swift decision in Sep 11, 2001 to abandon decades plus of foreign policy alignment to seek security for the State in a region made suddenly untenable for countries like Pakistan to continue civilized existence. Musharraf’s decision was certainly not popular, it was hugely unpopular among the masses, but in the given environment it was correct, Our heart may have been with the Taliban but it was neither logical nor right, we stepped at just the right time away from an extremism to which our masses have never subscribed to.


Attila on Leadership Diseases

Dr. Wess Robert’s best-selling book “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” in the 1980s was followed in 1993 with “Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun”. As his protagonist Dr. Roberts chose the brutal barbarian who sacked seemingly impregnable Rome, sending the Roman Empire into a tailspin from which it never recovered. Attila, chronicled by Roman scribes, is believed to have said words to the effect, “every leader must choose the best people, train them well, develop them into competent workers, provide them with direction, challenge them with responsibilities, reward their individual and group contributions, treat them humanely and in this way lead his people to victory”. Winning is not only important, in the national context it is everything, there are no prizes for second place. True for all forms of leadership, Attila’s logic is very much applicable 17 centuries later. All our leaders, civil and military both, need to be given a pep talk on “Leadership diseases and remedies thereof”.

The first thing to guard against is “avarice dysorexia”, a perverted appetite for acquiring illegal wealth. The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has dealt with this disease with reasonable success but since accountability has not been applied in a fair and judicious manner to all sections of society (the judiciary and the Armed Forces are exempt) it may lose its credibility. “Physician, heal thyself” must be a prime consideration. One can talk about the obvious in procurement contracts and there is always the institutional corruption in real estate in the military-run Defence Housing entities. The laws of the land must be applicable equally, corruption cannot be condoned because of rank or station in life.