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Archive for November, 1996

A personal farewell An officer and a gentleman

Lt Gen (Retd) Attiqur Rehman, former Governor of the West Wing of Pakistan pre-1971 and later on of the Punjab Province when one Unit was dissolved, died a few months ago of throat cancer on June 1, 1996 in Lahore. He had been suffering from the disease for some time and had been admitted in CMH Lahore. He is survived by a widow and two daughters. An ISPR release stated that “born in 1918 in Messoorie, Lt Gen Attiqur Rehman was commissioned in 1939 from the Military Academy, Dehradun where he won the Sword of Honour and the Silver Spurs for being the best all-round Gentleman Cadet. On Commissioning, he was posted to the Frontier Force Regiment. Later, he commanded different battalions of the famous “Piffers” including the one he had served as a young officer. During the World War II, he saw action at various fronts including the Burma front where he earned his Military Cross. His early schooling in England was richly improved by a series of courses that he attended during the service, both at home and abroad. He graduated from Command and Staff College, Quetta in 1945. In 1950, he attended Command and General Staff Course in America”, unquote.

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Elections or Accountability?

The great debate about whether elections should be held first or accountability should precede elections is on. Having swiftly enacted the Ehtesab (Accountability) Ordinance, the Caretaker Government have also appointed as Chief Ehtesab Commissioner, a respected non-controversial retired Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Mr. Ghulam Mujaddid Mirza. Both the President and the Caretaker PM Malik Meraj Khalid have repeated the intention of the Caretaker government to have the February 3 elections as scheduled. Given the enormous task of holding a whole slate of people accountable since January 1, 1986, it would seem logistically impossible to complete the accountability process in the next 70 days. How then do we reconcile this great divide?

The arguments for accountability are very cogent. This nation has been looted in the name of democracy under the flimsy cover of the Constitution. Given the enormous wealth in the hand of the looters they could conceivably buy their way back into power and thus frustrate the accountability process. We have seen how Ms Benazir, without a mandate from the people, was manipulated into power by a combination of power and intrigue in 1993. Conceivably money and intrigue could play a part in foisting the likes of Zardari on us again. Even in first world countries like the US, an election campaign war chest is important to winning elections, in Third World countries where voters are mostly illiterate or ignorant on a relative basis, an enormous election fund is more than likely to ensure victory. To add insult to injury, the looters will use a classic “Judo play”, using money looted from the national treasury to influence the voters so that once in power they can proceed to loot the nation even more, inflicting more torture on the populace. By itself, this makes for good enough reason to delay the elections until the accountability process is complete.

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The caretaker scorecard

The immediate period after the Presidential Proclamation dissolving the National Assembly (NA) and the consequential dismissal of the Benazir Government has been of some confusion. Toppling of a government needs meticulous planning or there are bound to be mixed signals, in his book on “How to stage a coup de etat”, Emil Luttwak states even conventional “coup de etats” must cater for a period of uncertainty and ambivalence. The subsequent need to dissolve the Provincial Assemblies could have ended up in a legal quagmire unless due process of law took in the Wattoo aberration in respect of the Punjab Assembly. While the Presidential action did exercise some haste in sending Benazir’s corrupt coterie packing, by inference that lack of planning also absolves President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari of intrigue and conspiracy charges being laid at his doorstep by the lady who can do no wrong.

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The caretaker scorecard

The immediate period after the Presidential Proclamation dissolving the National Assembly (NA) and the consequential dismissal of the Benazir Government has been of some confusion. Toppling of a government needs meticulous planning or there are bound to be mixed signals, in his book on “How to stage a coup de etat”, Emil Luttwak states even conventional “coup de etats” must cater for a period of uncertainty and ambivalence. The subsequent need to dissolve the Provincial Assemblies could have ended up in a legal quagmire unless due process of law took in the Wattoo aberration in respect of the Punjab Assembly. While the Presidential action did exercise some haste in sending Benazir’s corrupt coterie packing, by inference that lack of planning also absolves President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari of intrigue and conspiracy charges being laid at his doorstep by the lady who can do no wrong.

For some time now, people of all caste and creed representing a wide spectrum of opinion have not only been exhorting the President to do his constitutional duty to rid us of the odd couple that was holding this country in extra-constitutional thrall, but have also been rendering all sorts of advice as to how to apply the “coup de grace”. Now that the President has done the right thing by this nation, a whole slate of bleeding hearts are busy second-guessing his actions. No doubt this debate has been force-multiplied by some appointments among the Caretakers that could have been avoided or for that matter, better slotted. Sindh needs a complete revamp, his credibility in tatters Syed Kamaluddin Azfar must be sent out to pasture alongwith the Caretaker CM Mumtaz Bhutto, not only the original architect behind the language disturbances in 1972 that led to the ethnic Sindh-new Sindhi divide but the initiator of other controversies which strike at the heart of Pakistan’s federal character. Instead of bringing the Sindhis, old and new, together, Mumtaz Bhutto further polarises the issues. The Mohajir community does not have any confidence in him, for that matter neither do most other Pakistanis. One can live with the controversial Khwaja Tariq Rahim but in Sindh the President must not reinforce failure, he must correct the aberration of Mumtaz Bhutto’s appointment before the situation is further compounded. However, we live in a region haunted by the ghost of Chanakhya, “the enemy of an enemy is a friend”, and one can understand why the President remains apprehensive in trusting the nation’s destinies to those whom we can label as genuinely “neutral” people. As a once-upon-a-time PPP insider, he must know that the last Caretaker regime of Moeen Qureshi may have been sound on economics but while giving lot of lip-service to neutrality they were biased almost overwhelmingly towards Ms Benazir. As things stand today, the country is riven with debate as to whether elections or accountability should come first. Having seen the treasury looted and themselves beggared, no doubt the populace is baying for blood but there is nothing more important for this country than to revive the democratic process in the time period given in the Constitution. The accountability process being necessarily a long drawn out affair, the electoral process has to take precedence in order to ensure the credibility of constitutional authority and continuity thereof. By contesting the grounds for their dismissal by the President before the Supreme Court (SC), the Benazir Government may have inadvertently provided the grounds for some individual accountability to start at the apex court of the land. However, that accountability must not take precedence over the accountability at the polls, we must not give her a chance to put the electoral verdict in doubt by her non-participation. On two counts alone, any court in the world should find the former PM and her husband culpable of gross violation of the Constitution, it may also cost the odd couple a lot of friends. Benazir’s extraordinary reaction in the National Assembly to the March 20 SC judgment was broadcast a number of times by Rana Shaikh’s TV, an obnoxious and shameful harangue that poured contempt on the rule of law as well as the respected superior judiciary who have to interpret it. There has never been such gross disrespect for judiciary in the country’s history, defence of such calumny would seek to convert the rule of law into the law of the jungle.

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Inside the Taliban

A lot of controversy has been generated in the western media about the advent of the Taliban in Afghanistan, mostly adverse. Yet unlike the forces of Uzbek Rashid Dostum and Tajik Ahmad Shah Masood, which are ethnic groupings centered on these two personalities, the Taliban have an ideological core without any personality cult to hold them together. This personality cult means that Dostum’s and Masood’s forces will certainly fall apart with the removal of their leaders from the scene, on the other hand the Taliban have a far greater longevity potential because of their Pashtun ethnicity (almost 70% of the population) and collective leadership based on their faith as well as the practice of Islam. While one may not agree with them on any number of issues, the fact remains that theirs is a popular support that is based on a common belief and that by their good governance they have brought peace and stability to the areas under their control. Their rule extends to more than 20 of the 26 Provinces in Afghanistan, i.e. more than 2/3rd of the total area of the country.

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The lady needs help, badly

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “Schizophrenia” is a term used by psychiatrists for a group of severe mental disorders that generally have in common disturbances of feeling, thought and relations to the outside world. Various theories of the origin of schizophrenic disorder have centered on anatomical, biochemical, psychological, social, genetic and environmental causes -— the reaction resulting from faulty adjustments to a variety of underlying conditions that may be either physical or psychological, or both. The “hebephrenic type” is characterized mainly by shallow and inappropriate emotional responses, foolish or bizarre behaviour, false beliefs (delusions) and false perceptions (hallucinations) while the “paranoid type” is characterized primarily by unrealistic, illogical thinking, with alternate delusions of persecution or of grandeur, and is often accompanied by hallucinations. “Megalomania” is an element of paranoia, this affliction seems to be fairly common in the Bhutto family.

Ms Benazir’s Dr. Strangelove-type behaviour pattern, characterized by inflections of pitch in speech pattern, her facial expressions and general demeanour as she launches herself into a fantasy world of “conspiracies” involving anybody who runs afoul of her is alarming. A western diplomat described a recent Press Conference as “Benazir in Cuckoo-land”. There are mitigating circumstances for her marked schizophrenic behaviour. For the last 30 years of her life, she has undergone one trauma after the other, starting with her late father’s atrocious behaviour towards her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, a confirmed manic-depressive who was treated by the late Dr Shadi Khan in the “Mother and Child Clinic” in Karachi in 1973 because of a nervous breakdown on her husband’s continuing affair with Ms Husna Ahad, a lady who later became her father’s third (and most influential) wife. This was a father whom Ms Benazir adored and who in turn doted on her almost in exclusion to his other children. The Gen Zia midnight coup of July 5, 1977 was another shock in her collection of mental landmarks, the Bhutto family was herded into the middle of the lawn of the PM’s House in Rawalpindi until it was totally secured. Those in the immediate charge of the operations well remember the then young woman plaintively inquiring whether “they would all be killed”. The next horrific event of traumatic shock must certainly be the unfortunate hanging of her father in 1979, an event that would unsettle much more resilient mortals. Her periods of imprisonment, most of it in solitary, was followed by the drugs-related mysterious death of her youngest brother, Shahnawaz purportedly at the hands of his Afghan wife in the early 80s. When her government was dismissed in August 1990 by Presidential fiat, she must have had another shock but probably she was braced for it because she always expected it from the forbidding presence of President Ghulam Ishaq. Her brother Murtaza’s violent death at the hands of her police in an “encounter” must have also been a profound shock, worse was to follow as the crowds that used to idolize her in Larkana spontaneously blamed her husband for her brother’s murder and refused to allow her or her close political aides near his funeral. Her mother, is in a state of advanced dementia, having lost all three grown males of her immediate family who can blame her ? Coupled with the constant reports, true or false, about her husband’s peccadilloes, the almost universal belief that he ordered her brother’s murder, must have been doubly traumatic. It was fairly common knowledge that brother and husband hated each other.

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The Afghan cauldron

The polarisation in Afghanistan is somewhat on ethnic lines, the warring Pashtun tribes having banded together under a strictly Islamic (mainly Sunni) banner being opposed by the leaders of the Uzbek and Tajik minorities if not the whole community, with the Hizb-e-Wahdat representing most of the 13% Shia community in Afghanistan in support. In short historical order since 1979, we have (1) The 9 major Afghan Mujahideen factions fighting the Soviets and their Afghan surrogates including Jumbish Milli leader Dostum (2) All Afghan guerilla factions carried out an extended guerilla campaign against the Afghan communist regime inclusive of the Uzbek militia (3) A year or so after the Soviet withdrawal mercenary Dostum changes sides and combines with Rabbani’s military commander, Ahmed Shah Masood, to take power in Kabul and set up the first post-communist regime. An Accord is brokered by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in which Mujaddadi, a leader of a comparatively smaller faction, is made interim President. Afghanistan remains banded into canton-like independent enclaves like Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, etc with the government in Kabul exercising only that much power that the local warlord allows them. Hekmatyar keeps fighting government troops led by bitter foe Masood (4) Rabbani takes over peacefully as President when Mujaddadi’s term expires, the situation remains the same till Rabbani’s term expires and he refuses to step down. Fighting rages east of Kabul between government forces and Hekmatyar’s on one side and Hizb-e-Wahdat on the other (5) with Afghanistan in the grip of local Chieftains acting as feudal warlords but virtually as bandits, collecting “toll” from everyone with the help of chains strung across the roads (6) The Taliban, who had gone back to their Madrassas after the Soviet withdrawal, decide that enough is enough, their first attempt to take over Kandahar succeeds spectacularly without any particular fighting. They confiscate all weapons, remove the chains and bring peace to the city as well as on the highways. Other Provinces and cities decide they want this type of peace and go over to the Taliban without even a semblance of a fight (7) In the meantime, Masood’s personal animosity towards Ismail Khan, Governor in Herat makes for a classic error in changing a winning horse and appointing a military commander Gen Alauddin whom the Taliban soon engage in battle. Ismail Khan evacuates Herat and Alauddin’s forces in Shindand Air Base simply melt away. Taliban walk into Herat without a fight, capturing many serviceable aircraft at Shindand. Taliban’s ranks are now augmented by many trained troops shifting their alliances from their former warlords, in effect most of the Mujahideen faction merge into the Taliban entity (8) To ease pressure from Hekmatyar in the east and the Hizb-e-Wahdat in the south-west Rabbani asks Taliban to come to Kabul and share power. The Taliban attack Hekmatyar at Charyasab and force him to flee to Sarobi, they also squeeze the Shia Hizb-e-Wahdat. Rabbani’s Defence Minister refuses to allow Taliban to come further towards Kabul and attacks them frontally, causing them to lose ground (9) Hekmatyar makes up with Ahmad Shah Masood and President Rabbani inducts him as PM as per the original version of the Afghan Accord, Dostum remains away from the fray in his own fiefdom at Mazar-i-Sharif but stays in confrontation with government forces at the Salang Tunnel.

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