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Archive for May, 2001

Foreign policy – The crossroads of friendship

On the receiving end of world opinion for some time, the Chinese Premier’s visit was a much needed tonic for Pakistan. China has been a tried and trusted friend in need since 1965, how did we ever manage to loosen the remarkably strong bond with Pakistan’s friend indeed? And should we now compound the situation by turning away from the US altogether? One of the imperatives of foreign policy is that we must avoid extreme change, another is that change if it comes must be for good reason, next when change does come it must be gradual, then it must conform to prevalent national security imperatives and lastly, it must be in the national interest. Change must never be sudden, never for change’s sake and never for short-term advantage. Above all, change must never be for an individual person’s gain. Far too long Pakistan’s foreign policy resembles a chameleon, changing shape to suit the occasion.


Vigilante Justice

Rome came into its own during 1st Century BC as the capital of a vast empire. The loot and plunder from countless cities and towns went towards making grandiose public buildings and theatres. Even as the lifestyle of the Roman rich became more opulent, life for the poor became more oppressive. Thousands headed for Rome, as much as 500,000 lived on free grain at one time. Confined to narrow alleys and the dirt and squalor of extreme poverty, anarchy prevailed. Having disposed of his co-ruler Marc Antony (and with him Cleopatra), to maintain law and order the nephew (and adopted son) of Julius Caesar, Augustus, created a corps of fire-fighters. They had a secondary task of keeping “vigil” to prevent crime, helping the Praetorian Guard on an “as required” basis. Called “vigils”, they were the forerunner of the self-appointed “Vigilance Committees” in the US in the nineteenth century, keeping a very public eye over wrongdoing. “Vigilantes” is a term normally used for those citizens who take law in their own hands and mete out crude justice, targeting mainly those who have the influence and money to escape the clutches of justice.

Vigilantes ruled supreme in Argentina for a number of years in the 60s and 70s, killing criminals and the corrupt in the judiciary and law enforcement alike, not to mention corrupt bureaucrats, crooked businessmen, anybody amassing inordinate wealth, etc. A movement from a small village called Nagalbari spread in the 60s in India throughout the East and South East as the “Naxalite” movement. Naxalites even today remain a potent force to contend with in some Indian States. Vigilantes may come from law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and/or from the public, those who are frustrated by the injustice of a corrupt judicial system and/or the procedural delays because of lacunas in the law and/or the system being overwhelmed by numerous cases and want to bring criminals to justice. Frustrations can be contained in a society where the intent of rendering justice is sincere, but if the whole system is corrupt and the justice meted out is unjust and unfair, frustration boils over, forcing those seeking justice to take law into their own hands. Many times the target is the person who sits on judgement. One can describe individual crime to an extent, how should one classify the individual who murders out of vengeance rather than murders out of profit (or even sheer lunacy)?


Mayday, mayday!

Within a week of his appointment as COAS on Oct 7, 1998 Gen Pervez Musharraf made wholesale changes in the senior military hierarchy. The swiftness of the postings of relatively junior Lt Gens into critical slots left no doubt they were being made with an eye to safeguard his future, and why not, given the unceremonious exit of his predecessor? In “POWER PLAY”, (THE NATION Oct 17, 1998), PM Mian Nawaz Sharif was warned not to mess with the Army again, “he would have reason to remember JK (Jahangir Karamat) with a lot of nostalgia, sooner rather than later”, unquote. The drastic changes, viz (1) Aziz on promotion to Lt Gen posted as Chief of General Staff (CGS), (2) Muzzafar Usmani shifted from Bahawalpur (Comd 31 Corps) to Comd 5 Corps at Karachi and (3) Mahmood Ahmad moving from National Defence College (NDC) to take over as Comd 10 Corps at Rawalpindi, paid off for Musharraf in spades less than a year later on Oct 12, 1999. While Musharraf was hors de combat in the air, the counter coup of “the three musketeers” not only prevented Mian Nawaz Sharif from doing another civilian coup “a la Karamat” but also removed him from power. Musharraf then made one very wise, farsighted move, which must be commended. Between his “musketeers” and himself were about 10 Lt Gens from six PMA Long Courses, not heart and soul behind him as much as his loyalists. Instead of packing off those not in line, he displayed wisdom and supreme self-confidence, keeping the unity of the Army intact by being patient in letting friend and perceived foe retire as per their normal tenure over a period of almost 18 months, “the Last of the Mohicans” being Lt Gen Tahir Ali Qureshi, ex- 33 PMA Long Course, going home on May 16, 2001. Beyond his loyalists (and the present CGS Lt Gen Yousuf) all the Lt Gens are his appointees, and barring one doubtful case, all deserved promotion. On May 17, 2001 the senior-most of the Oct 12 Young Turks, Lt Gen Muzzafar Usmani will become Deputy Chief of Army Staff (DCOAS), though the “langar gup” (kitchen gossip) was that he would become Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS). Usmani has to choose professionalism over religion and solitude, opting for the latter he would probably have been better off retiring and remaining as Governor Sindh, which he has been in all but name anyway, running the Province by proxy through a handful of Brigadiers. The aloofness gives an unfortunate perception of arrogance of rank, it is difficult to reconcile this Usmani to the person one knew a million years ago. Succumbing to the Pharaoh-syndrome is not Pakistan-specific, religious piety notwithstanding.