South Asia

Guarding the Guards

Writing for Pakistan's The News International, EWI Board Member Ikram Sehgal assesses the security situation in Pakistan.

Click here to read this column in The News International.

One of the great tragedies to befall this country was the assassination of Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer by Mumtaz Qadri in Islamabad on Jan 4, 2011, bringing into sharp focus one of the important aspects of security that does not get the attention it should: fidelity.

A policeman in the security detail provided to Taseer by the Punjab Elite Police, Qadri readily confessed to killing the late governor because he disagreed with his opposition to the Blasphemy Law. Trust that must be inherent between a bodyguard and his ward was not sacrificed at the altar of material gain but for a more sinister reason, an extreme interpretation of ideology. Given that Qadri had already aroused suspicions among his superiors and colleagues, it is still unclear how he managed to get himself detailed in the squad protecting Salmaan Taseer in Islamabad.

What is far more mystifying (and a cause for real concern) is the role of the other Elite personnel in the security detail. Trained personnel are programmed to react instantaneously to danger. Their failure to take any action whatsoever to interdict Qadri while he was directing a burst of automatic gunfire at Taseer at point blank range put into contention their active (or at the least, passive) complicity.

One aspect has become terrifyingly clear in the aftermath of the Taseer assassination, how does one ascertain the fidelity of guards assigned to provide security to key personnel? This particular incident raises the serious question of infidelity on the basis of ideology. As a member of the provincial police force, and also part of the Elite Force, Taseer’s killer would normally have had his background checked many times, yet there seems to have been a dangerous chink in the vetting process that was not detected. It only requires one or two persons posted on duty at key places to cause mayhem. How good is our verification of antecedents and the physical vetting process?

The All-Pakistan Security Agencies Association (APSAA) insists upon its members not only doing a thorough vetting process but has institutionalised this process. However, given the Taseer assassination one shudders to think what the state of the private security services sector could be. With hundreds of private security services companies operating, a strict monitoring of the process of conducting background verification checks of their employees entrusted with guarding of the lives and property of their clients is necessary. It makes this the most critical aspect of guarding in Pakistan. APSAA members have been fighting a losing battle against the overwhelming perception among the populace that instead of preventing crimes they should (or could) have prevented, the guards themselves go about committing the crimes, or are involved in what at times are heinous crimes.

While this is not exactly true, there have been occasions when a private security guard who was hired to protect property steals it himself or with the help of his associates. This has been unfortunately played up by the media. The question about a guard’s fidelity or his honesty has become extremely important, especially today because we are dealing with cutting-edge terrorism.

All over the world security guards have to go through a mandatory verification process. In many countries background checks are conducted by the local police. Many times this is supplemented by scrutiny by other agencies mandated to do so. In the Netherlands, for example, security guards have to undergo a criminal background check by the local police department in the area where the private security company is located.

While there are similar laws in Pakistan, it costs money to have backgrounds verified electronically and physically. The issue of parliamentarians’ fake degree has clearly shown what a tedious, time-consuming task it is. Moreover, is it accurate? The common factor where security guards deputed to guard banks (or other large establishments) were themselves found involved in robberies, some were successful while some were not, was the false or doctored documents/information given by the security guards to their employers at the time of employment.

For example, the mobile telephone applications had false information and were not verified. Even fake computerised national identity cards (CNICs) were used to get employment. It is painfully obvious that lack of proper verification of antecedents and screening of background allowed the criminals to succeed. Despite the claims of Nadra, proper verification of antecedents or documents is not done. The result is that in many cases genuine Nadra card had fake information about the person! Given such glaring loopholes in the system, many people ask whether it is really difficult for terrorists or those with extremist agenda to infiltrate critical facilities by hiring on as security guards. That is not a frightening possibility, it is a reality.

What, then, should be done? Of course the laws are there, but implementation is very lax. This has to change. More often than not, everyone is content with looking the other way until after an incident occurs. It must be ensured without exception that all personnel who have unaccompanied (or accompanied) access to sensitive areas and who will perform guarding duties must go through extensive background checks. These checks must include criminal background checks, checks against terrorist watch lists as well as the usual verification of documents and antecedents provided by them.

The major problem is that clients are of two kinds: institutions or individuals. While individual clients have to depend upon the company’s statement of the guard’s fidelity, the institution employing their services have security managers to check this aspect out. Unfortunately, even MNCs sometimes do not give much the importance to background checks they deserve. Many security managers merely pay lip-service to completion of the documentation process and their corporate bosses gloss over this. Most fall back on the excuse that it adds to costs.

There is also the training aspect. Trained instructors can easily find out the inclination of various students by cleverly posing some pointed questions. To the credit of the APSAA they have training schools but even a cursory check will reveal that not all members avail of this facility.

Given the fact that organised crime has a nexus with terrorism and there is potential relationship between criminal history and terrorist activity, serious thought must be given to more extensive criminal background checks of employees in the private security services sector. All armed and unarmed guards must also undergo a stringent training programme. Because radical thinking has increasingly crept into mainstream society, criminals/extremists are able to infiltrate the ranks of law enforcement in Pakistan.

The federal ministry of interior does insist upon strict verification of individuals. The provincial home departments, whose job it is to actually monitor the private security companies, also do so. Unfortunately only lip-service is paid to monitoring. Only a far more extensive and exhaustive process carried out by third-party monitors will make this exercise effective. Funds must be specially allocated for this.

Given the possibility of infidelity, the ultimate question that a diligent security manager must answer is: is the vetting process credible? If not, who will monitor and guard the guards?

Drawdown in Afghanistan

Writing for Pakistan's The News International, EWI Board Member Ikram Sehgal assesses the implications of the earlier than expected U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Click here to read this column in The News International.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta raised a storm signalling that US and Nato troops in Afghanistan will transition from a combat role to a “training, assist and advice” role by late 2013, a year earlier than the mandated 2014 schedule. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney had earlier railed against US troops fighting a war of independence for another nation.

Political expediency now dictated his calling Panetta’s withdrawal announcement “misguided” and “naive.” “Why should you tell the people you are fighting with the date you are pulling out your troops?” Echoing his sentiments Senator John McCain said none of the US military commanders had recommended the drawdown. The US commander in Afghanistan, Marine General John R Allen, cautioned that “the drawdown schedule is more aggressive than anticipated.”

Ambiguity is bedevilling US strategic decision-making for the last 50 years. How to come up with correct geopolitical conclusions when politics comes into conflict with military objectives? President Obama cautioned against setting goals beyond US responsibility, the means thereof and the primary US interest. President Eisenhower lived by the premise: “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader context, the need to maintain balance in and among national programmes.” Less than three months after becoming president in 1961, an inexperienced Kennedy caused the “Bay of Pigs” disaster.

He redeemed his reputation in 1962 by imposing a naval “quarantine,” foiling the Soviet attempt to put land-based medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba that would have permitted them to attack the US mainland almost without warning. Kennedy did not listen to his generals wanting an immediate pre-emptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, which would certainly have led to a nuclear holocaust. The public showdown was matched by concurrent secret diplomatic talks leading to reciprocal US withdrawal of its missiles from Italy and Turkey.

Obama’s 2008 platform called for lifting the US economy out of the dumps into which it was sinking and getting the US out of the Iraq and Afghan cauldrons. A full US review of the options saw his military and civilian advisors hopelessly divided about Afghanistan. His commanders in the field, Generals Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, recommended a “military surge” to combat the Taliban. Others, led by Vice President Joseph Biden, counselled a staged withdrawal. Obama’s instinct was to cut US losses and exit Afghanistan, but he chose not to second guess his military advisors and opted for the middle course of a limited military surge, with the caveat being a 2014 withdrawal date beginning in stages in mid-2011.

The Afghan escalation in 2010 duplicated the escalation of the Vietnam War, strategically incoherent and not supporting any overriding interest or purpose. The military promised a better job in stabilising Afghanistan and restoring peace, but without really forensically examining what the job actually was or should be. Forced into resigning for making inappropriate remarks about his civilian superiors in the chain of command, McChrystal’s much-trumpeted foray into Helmand province fell far short of accomplishing the desired results. Gen Petraeus took ownership by stepping down from his Central Command appointment to take over. Without real success in any of his stated objectives in Afghanistan, Petraeus has since retired, to head the CIA.

Lt Col Daniel Davis, into his fourth combat deployment (and his second in Afghanistan) wrote in his article “Truth, Lies and Afghanistan” in The Armed Forces Journal: “What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by US military leaders about conditions on the ground. I am hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground. Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies noted that the ISAF and the US leadership failed to report accurately on the reality of the situation in Afghanistan.

Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the US does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively ‘spinning’ the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full scale of the challenges ahead. They (the military leadership) were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 to 2009, to ignore the problems caused by weak and corrupt Afghan governance, to understate the risks posed by sanctuaries in Pakistan, and to ‘spin’ the value of tactical ISAF victories while ignoring the steady growth of Taliban influence and control.”

Col Davis asks: “How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by US senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect-and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve-to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.” Those doubts are widely shared, if not usually voiced in public, by officers on active duty.

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) requires $4.7 billion annually, approximately 447 percent of government revenues. An understandable burden, but a mismatch of both the performance level expected and the fiscal calculations about the country’s anticipated revenues in the future. The IMF estimated $6 billion yearly on the civilian side for the next five years, and even till 2023, $15-20 billion is additionally required annually for the Special Operations Command (SOC) that will take up the slack when Coalition forces gradually scale back combat operations. Given the current US economic realities, who is going to foot the bill?

According to Obama, “the current US deployment in Afghanistan is neither a ‘counter-insurgency’ nor ‘nation building.’ The costs of doing either would be prohibitive.” His contention is that the resetting of strategic balance by the US will mean the scaling back of strategic interests but that the US will remain a global power with an essential leadership role to play. Obama cites an unlikely source, The World America Made by Robert Kagan. The key Romney policy advisor says that overreaction to short-term events-including the financial crisis – overlooks the continued economic, military and political dominance by the US, but “the US could still slip into decline if it slashes the military spending too dramatically."

Panetta’s drawdown pronouncement gives Obama the ability in an election year to claim that instead of a precipitous withdrawal he would be phasing out the war in Afghanistan like he successfully managed to in Iraq. Our problem is that the US can opt out of a tough neighbourhood, albeit both at moral and material cost (more importantly that of reputation), we can’t! However we can hold accountable those leaders who got us into this mess and those who kept us there. To paraphrase Col Davis, the Pakistani soldiers living, fighting and dying at 10-12 times the Coalition ratio deserve their leaders to tell them the truth. 

Pakistan cannot shed tears over something it has no control over, US strategic decision-making and mistakes thereof. Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to gear up to cope with the residual eventualities, preferably in 2014, or in a worst-case scenario, even earlier by the end of 2013.

Is the Turkish model a way out for Pakistan?

Writing for The Telegraph, India's former foreign secretary and EWI board member Kanwal Sibal discusses instability in Pakistan and assesses Turkey as a model for maintaining an institutionalized military in an Islamic republic.

Click here to read this piece in The Telegraph.

To start believing that democracy is taking root in Pakistan because the political confrontation between Prime Minister Gilani and General Kayani has not resulted in a military coup would be premature. There have been moments in Pakistan’s political history when the army has lost public support — both General Ayub and General Musharraf were ousted by civil revolts — without leading to any durable triumph of democracy in the country. Why should it be different now?

Sceptics cannot ignore the responsibility civilian governments bear for Pakistan’s democratic deficit. To view them when in power in Pakistan as helpless victims of military manoeuvres would be wrong, even if they have had to contend with the extraordinary weight of the armed forces within the system. The hallmark of the civilian governments in Pakistan has been misrule, corruption and fractured politics. Their governance has been poor to the point of prompting military intervention with a measure of public support. They have failed to address economic problems meaningfully. Their external policies, controlled in vital areas by the military no doubt, have remained within the traditional Pakistani grooves of confrontation with India. Their larger view of Pakistan’s national interest has not differed essentially from that of the military, and this has included the centrality of the Kashmir issue, the acquisition of nuclear capability, reliance on the United States of America for leverage against India and China for containing it, and close ties with Saudi Arabia for strengthening the country’s Islamic identity and giving it a personality outside the Indian sub-continent. The terror threat to India has not diminished under civilian rule in Pakistan, nor have curbs been imposed on extremist religious groups advocating jihad against India. The water issue is now being artificially raised to unwarranted levels of contention by the civilian set-up. In short, the civilian part of the Pakistani establishment is almost as much answerable for the stunting of democratic institutions and for the country’s many failures as the military is.

The current stand-off between the government and the armed forces in which the civilian government has been unusually defiant does not alter the basic problem with institutionalizing democracy in Pakistan. Does Pakistan have political leaders with a track record of commitment to democratic norms that would make them credible instruments of democratic change in the country? If the political actors in Pakistan and their scripts remain unchanged because the political environment is structured the way it is, meaningful democracy will continue to elude Pakistan. As it happens, the civilian personalities alternating in power have been the same — Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, with the latter now replaced by her husband, Asif Zardari — and they have by no means been paragons of democratic values. This is because the blockages in the political system remain intact, with the internal contest for power amidst ethnic divisions, regional differences, the overwhelming weight of the Punjab province in the polity, the role of the armed forces and the judiciary, the religious forces and so on, limiting the scope for a break in traditional thinking on how to solve the country’s many problems, of which charting a new course towards India ought to be an important component.

Is the Turkish model a way out for Pakistan? Turkey is an Islamic country that successfully practices democracy with an institutionalized role of the military in politics. General Musharraf often mentioned Turkey as a country Pakistan could emulate. But there are fundamental differences between Turkey and Pakistan. The genesis of modern Turkey and the new state of Pakistan have nothing in common. Kemal Atatürk, the father of the Turkish nation, was a military leader who established Turkey’s frontiers in war with Greece, followed by a massive population exchange that left no Turks in Greece and no Greeks in Turkey. Kemal Atatürk broke Turkey’s links with the Arab world politically and culturally. By strictly imposing the ideology of secularism on Turkey, he deliberately diluted Turkey’s Islamic profile as he considered Islam an obstacle for the country’s modernization. Pakistan’s case history, its politics, its religious orientation, its links with the Arab world, and so on, distinguish it from Turkey. Unlike in the case of Turkey where the military was the pillar of the country’s national agenda of modernization and secularism, the military in Pakistan not only had no such agenda, it, in fact, played a highly retrograde role under General Zia-ul-Haq in Islamizing Pakistan, quite apart from the links that the Pakistani armed forces have maintained with religious parties and jihadi groups for internal and external purposes.

Any perceived similarity between military coups in Turkey and in Pakistan — three times in both countries — that points to a Turkish solution in institutionalizing the role of the military in Pakistan’s polity would be misleading. Since the country’s inception, the Turkish armed forces have given themselves an institutional role of strictly upholding Atatürk’s secular codes even at the cost of democratic principles, a role eroded in recent years by external pressure from the European Union for a reduction of the military’s role in politics as part of Turkey’s eligibility for membership as a democratic state, and, more importantly, with the rise of Islamist forces in the country through democratic politics with an agenda of tilting the balance between Islam and secularism in favour of the former. The Pakistan armed forces are politically obsessed not with secularism but with India.

The Arab Spring was supposed to herald democratic change in authoritarian, military dominated states like Egypt through a street uprising led by the social media generation. It has ended with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists gaining undisputed majority in recent elections. In Tunisia, too, the Islamists have gained from the ouster of autocracy. This raises questions about the nature of democracy in the Islamic world, in particular whether democracy should also mean a liberation of the individual and the society from religious dictates.

The events in the Arab world actually carry a negative message for change in Pakistan. Until now, religious parties in Pakistan have not been able to win more than a handful of seats in elections, though outside the formal electoral system they exert considerably more influence on politics. With open confrontation between the Pakistani Taliban and the country’s military and the spread of domestic terrorism, Islamic groups in Pakistan have become anti-state, not because the state has traditionally suppressed them or projected a secular face but because of cooperation with the US to control the extremist groups targeting Afghanistan from Pakistani soil. If the ousted autocratic Arab regimes were seen to be working with the US to suppress domestic dissent and prevent any form of political destabilization that could endanger Israel’s security, Pakistan’s quandary is that it is under pressure to cooperate with the US for external reasons and oppose its interests for internal reasons.

All in all, the overthrow of secular regimes in North Africa and their replacement by Islamist forces, the pressures building up on President Assad’s secular regime in Syria by the West as well as Islamist forces, the sectarian political activism of the authoritarian Gulf regimes, with whom Pakistan is close, does not augur well for democratic change in Pakistan. To expect Pakistan to swim against the tide in the Islamic world would be wishful thinking.

The author is a former foreign secretary of India.

US-Pakistan divergences

The US defense secretary, Leon Panetta, has disclosed that Dr Shakil Afridi who ran an anti-polio campaign in Abbottabad succeeded in obtaining DNA samples that led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden and his subsequent death at the hands of US Special Forces during the May 2 raid last year.

This statement places in perspective the reasons behind the deterioration of relations between the US and Pakistan.

Underlying Bin Laden’s death is a raft of more serious questions. One is the report that the government commission constituted to uncover the facts about the May 2 incident has recommended the institution of a case of treason against Dr Afridi by the government.

Yet the UN Security Council, vide resolution 1390 of 2002, defined Bin Laden as a proscribed person who was not to be allowed within the territory of any member state. His detection within Pakistan could therefore lead to serious repercussions that could isolate the country further.

In October 2008, Gen Petraeus said that “There is no question … that Osama bin Laden is in the tribal areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan”. Therefore, Pakistani officials’ repeated denials — that they had not known of his whereabouts — is considered by US officials as disingenuous at best.

To revive the credibility of the Pakistani interlocutors it has become necessary to use regular institutions such as the Foreign Office and parliament to define the country’s foreign and security policies. The current de-institutionalised approach to the formulation of policy is harmful.

One can speculate that many of the events that have since transpired between Pakistan and the US, including the tragic episode of Salala and the upheaval caused by ‘memogate’, are part of this sad interaction between the two countries’ national security goals and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships: the breach of trust between the military leaders of the two sides plays a major role in the existing tussle. It has isolated Pakistan in terms of the Afghan peace process.

It is possible to conclude, therefore, that it was the breakdown in inter-institutional communications that was responsible for the Salala attack. The Pakistan military believes that excessive and disproportionate force was used and the attack lasted till the last soldier was killed, despite GHQ’s communication with Isaf.

It may be thus fair to presume that behind the worsening US-Pakistani bilateral relations is the differing negotiating style of the representatives of the two countries.

This difference arises out of the different cultural backgrounds of the two nations, the asymmetry of the US-Pakistan relationship and Pakistan’s assumption that the US will leave it to pick up the pieces after its own strategic purpose is fulfilled.

A recent review regarding the negotiating style of the two nations, Howard and Terresta Schaffer’s How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States, throws light on this complex world where national, cultural and realpolitik concerns coincide.

Some of their important findings regarding the stance of Pakistani military officers in this matter are: Pakistanis insist that they will not be dictated to by India or the US, yet at the same time demand top-of-the line US military equipment; US civilian negotiators know nothing of military matters; Pakistanis begin negotiations, blame the army’s problems on the US and make their American counterparts feel guilty about Pakistan’s difficulties.

The authors: “When [Pakistani] military officers are leading the government, they also play hardball, insisting that unless all their demands are met disaster of one sort or another will follow.” US officials observed that the ISI routinely deceived them, and this led the CIA to develop independent links with the Afghan insurgents. Furthermore, “US negotiators should expect that inconvenient truths will be kept from them”, according to the researchers.

It is thus clear that the asymmetric relationship, differing styles of negotiation and divergent strategic goals in Afghanistan has caused the US-Pakistan alliance to become dysfunctional. It would be correct to conclude that most of the divergence comes from different outcomes expected in Afghanistan after 2014.

Pakistan would like to have in place an Afghan government that is soft towards Pakistan, is Pakhtun-dominated and keeps India marginalised. The US, on the other hand, would want an effective Afghan government that rules the country well and has a strong counterterrorism capacity. The US is not committed to bringing in a Pakhtun-dominated government or one that is pro-Pakistan.

Thus, besides the strategic divergence that exists between the US and Pakistan, there is also now a severe trust deficit in terms of statement by Pakistan, particularly after the discovery of Bin Laden and the denial of our alleged role in other occurrences inside Afghanistan. That this relationship is unravelling at this critical juncture as far as Afghanistan is concerned is unfortunate.

Although the Pakistani security narrative does not perhaps agree with this view — neither did I, till some time ago — the metrics in Afghanistan don’t look too bad from the US perspective.

The surge approved by President Obama in 2009 and the night operations against the Taliban ordered by Gen McChrystal and Gen Petraeus have successfully eliminated many of the Taliban mid-level commanders and have forced the top Taliban leadership to accept negotiations in Qatar.

However, as the last chapter of the Afghan war unfolds with the spring offensive in the eastern districts alongside Fata, it will cause Pakistan more headaches. It could result in cross-border incursions by Isaf. Ending hostilities is often more difficult than starting a war. This is yet another reason to resolve the crisis between the two nations.

Khalid Aziz is the chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training (RIPORT), based in Peshawar, Pakistan.

Pakistan's Place at Davos

Writing for The Telegraph, India's former foreign secretary and EWI board member Kanwal Sibal discusses instability in Pakistan and assesses Turkey as a model for maintaining an institutionalized military in an Islamic republic.

Click here to read this piece in The Telegraph.

The feudal mindset is conditioned to accept defeat militarily, never in sports and/or politics. The sportsmen’s spirit rhetoric that the British endlessly spout is just that, rhetoric. Casting aspersions of the nasty kind after being “Aj-mauled” and “Rah-mmed” was certainly not cricket. Two of Pakistan’s world-best young fast bowlers were successfully framed for “spot-fixing,” and subsequent humiliation at the hands of our spinners four times in a row must be frustrating and painful.

During the traditional “Pakistan Lunch” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Summit 2012 at Davos two days earlier Imran Khan was emphatic about cricket: “We will win.” He confidently predicted a similar sweep in politics for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in the next elections. Nearly 250 WEF participants crammed “Lounge East” of the “Steigenberger Belvedere” to hear Imran Khan in his element. 

In sharp contrast Prime Minister Gilani was being his usual bland-faced evasive self across town. Except for Jahangir Tareen, none of the speakers preceding Imran Khan in presenting the positives in Pakistan that the world is deaf, dumb and blind to, belonged to the PTI. Tareen was very impressive and eloquent about the necessity of good governance to really tap Pakistan’s potential. The speakers provided Imran the perfect platform to expound upon his vision despite the country being plagued by perennial bad governance complicated by the “war on terror.” 

Industrial tycoon Husain Dawood spoke about massive opportunities in business and industry, banking titan Zakar Mahmood eloquently laid out the amazing stability in our banking and finance industry while public health expert Dr Sania Nishtar was articulate about possible reforms in Pakistan. No words can really describe Dubai-based expatriate Yum International and “Mera Passion Pakistan’s” Irfan Mustafa doing what he is best at besides his job, being passionate about Pakistan!

One is indeed fortunate to have witnessed the charisma that Ms Benazir Bhutto exuded at the WEF in 1994. Another Pakistani’s charisma was on display 18 years later to the day. Davos-ians are a hard-bitten lot, the heads of state and/or government, academics, business and industry potentates, media giants, political figures, etc., are no gullible pushovers. Well received at Davos in January 2011, Imran Khan at his brilliant best in 2012. The instant feedback from virtually a world’s “who’s who” was elevating, despite our current problems force-multiplied by adverse and motivated media vibes, the message of Pakistan’s rising political phenomenon radiated hope. 

With entire groups of political activists at every layer, from the PPP to the PML-N, joining at the grassroots level, Imran Khan will sweep any free and fair elections as he confidently predicts, a management team for transition into good governance will be much harder to craft. The ANP and the PML-Q are in virtual disarray, and their cadres are defecting wholesale to PTI. When so many expectations are placed by so many on one human being alone, the danger is that while political weaknesses can be overcome, human failings can be exploited by friend and foe alike for their own selfish interests.

One cannot discount the tremendous contribution made by the Rangers in Karachi. By instilling a modicum of political stability with active help from the intelligence agencies, they have raised aspirations for massive economic emancipation. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and fellow justices in the Supreme Court deserve the ultimate kudos. The law enforcement agencies got the judicial cover badly needed to enforce the rule of law that the government intentionally and criminally abdicated to protect their “target killers.” Time to replicate the “Karachi Model” for Pakistan?

Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh (on John Defterios’ CNN Debate about Emerging Markets) and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (on the South Asia panel with Young Global Leaders, YGL, and Imran Khan) did extremely well. Khar politely fobbed off Imran Khan’s public offer to her to emulate three other former Foreign Ministers Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Khurshid Kasuri and Sardar Assef Ali and join the PTI. What political party or leaning any Pakistani who comes to Davos belongs to does not matter, that he (or she) represents the country in good light is all that counts.

My fellow panellists in the “Global Security Context” Session were Richard Haas of the Council of Foreign Relations, John Chipman of the IISS, Yan Xuetong of China’s Tsinghua University and Moon Chung-In of Korea’s Yonsei University. William T Davell’s WEF Summary reflected my views. “The US withdrawal from Afghanistan promises to be troubling for Pakistan, which currently hosts three million refugees. The Afghan army is likely to collapse if the US stops footing the bill. With troubled relations with the US falling below the level of a partnership or alliance, Pakistan can be expected to rely more heavily on China for help, although the Chinese are making it clear they do not want to become involved militarily.” 

Pakistan has been receiving economic help for decades, even when the Chinese could not really afford to give it. The ongoing joint production of modern fighter aircraft and tanks is a credible military reality for which one must commend all previous governments, Nawaz Sharif’s, Benazir Bhutto’s Musharraf’s. 

Richard Haas could not resist taking a pot shot at Pakistan’s “agenda.” Every country has an agenda about its core interests. Anybody who claims otherwise is a hypocrite. Our “agenda” is real: the three million refugees on our soil and the long difficult border we share with Afghanistan. The US can walk away at will whenever they are militarily and/or economically and/or emotionally exhausted and the US public cannot bear further loss of US lives fighting a war with no crucial interest or strategic meaning for the US. 

To quote then Senator Barack Obama in an anti-war rally in Chicago in 2002, “I am not opposed to wars, I am opposed to a dumb war.” A decade later his presidency is bogged down trying to extricate the US military with honour from a really dumb war. The US can still “declare victory and go home,” but Pakistan does not have the luxury of walking away, we will have to cope with the bloody aftermath and clear their mess like we have done previously.

“Experts” in different sectors from all over the world confidently give diverse predictions every year at Davos of what is likely to happen in the future. Why is it that they are mostly wrong? One was witness in Davos on the first day of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt in January 2011 coinciding with Muammar Gadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam being contemptuously dismissive of the movement as being of no real significance. Before the year was out Saif’s father was dead, captured on the run he himself has an uncertain future awaiting trial for atrocities committed on the people. Destiny is unforgiving when the masses are aroused. You can run with your money, you cannot hide!

Our land reforms being a total farce, the feudal mindset inherited from the British is alive and well in Pakistan, camouflaged under the garb of a democracy it allows our rulers to run riot. What does destiny have in store for Pakistan and our corrupt leaders? Constitution or no Constitution, the equation is simple: either they go or the nation does!


Afghanistan: The Obstacles to Peace

The announcement that the Taliban will be opening an office in Qatar should be a cause for some reflection. The US and its allies are politically exhausted and economically drained by the war in Afghanistan. They no longer seek a clear victory; they want to avoid the impression of defeat. The policy of "reconciliation" obfuscates the reality of their political and military failure in Afghanistan.

Reconciliation means restoring friendly relations, causing to co- exist in harmony or making someone accept a disagreeable or unwelcome thing. But then, the issue is not one of ending the estrangement between the Taliban and its opponents, whether inside or outside the country, as they did not have friendly relations in the first place.
Co-existence means existing in mutual tolerance despite different ideologies and interests. In the case of the Taliban is it the intention to accept the Taliban as they are, without seeking any change in their political and social conduct? Are the Taliban, in turn, willing to tolerate the existence of a polity in Afghanistan that is politically, legally and socially structured on relatively secular ideas?
And, finally, accepting a disagreeable and unwelcome thing connotes an absence of any other viable option, not freely choosing one out of several alternatives. Therefore, how can the strategy of "reconciliation" be projected as a positive political initiative, as is being done at present?
Our thinking should not be affected by misleading terminology. The spin of "reconciliation" allows the West to conceal the reality of fatigue in fighting the rising insurgency in Afghanistan and wanting to extract itself from the quagmire there with a reduced stigma of failure by projecting the conflict as one essentially between opposing Afghan factions, with the solution lying in creating conditions in which differences between them can be bridged and peace restored in the country.
The idea is to distract attention away from western intervention being principally responsible for the conflict in Afghanistan and transfer the main responsibility for war and peace in the country on to the quarrelling Afghan factions. This would explain the accent on the process of reconciliation being supposedly Afghan-led. 
However, understanding the motives behind the "reconciliation" policy does not make it any the less confusing in some of its essential aspects. While the British and the Germans have pressed for "reconciliation" as a necessary ingredient of any political solution to the Afghanistan conflict, the US, with greater political and military stakes in it and more division in thinking between the military and the diplomats on strategy, has been more ambivalent.
Today, however, the Americans seem more on board, with a clear message emanating from Washington that while "reconciliation" may neither be the most desirable policy nor one that will necessarily work, there is no better alternative in view. This only confirms how thin and uncertain is the basis of the reconciliation strategy. The US President apparently is determined to bring down the expenditure on the Afghanistan war from the present US $ 110 billion annually to US $ 4 to 5 billion that the US spends on aid to Egypt and Israel for the maintenance of peace in that volatile region.
Sensing the obvious danger to his own position of western overtures to the Taliban and distrustful of his western allies, President Karzai has wanted to remain central to the reconciliation process by taking ownership of it and appointing Burhanuddin Rabbani to lead it from his side. With Rabbani's assassination, Karzai has lost the initiative in directing the process. His first reaction was to call the process off and propose direct talks with Pakistan as he held the latter responsible for Rabbani's elimination. He has, as was to be expected, protested against the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar as, apart from granting a form of international recognition to this group and raising its negotiating status vis a vis the legitimate government of Afghanistan, it removes the reconciliation process from Karzai's control all the more. He has, of course, been compelled to give his assent eventually, but the earlier claim that the process has to be Afghan- led, a stipulation that has figured in the declarations of various international conferences on Afghanistan, including the last one at Bonn, will now seem less tenable.
With the on-going manoeuvrings on giving the Taliban an address outside Pakistan, how the Pakistanis conduct themselves on the issue will need watching.
The top leaders of the Taliban are in Pakistan, and so long as they operate from its territory and their movements, contacts and communications are monitored locally, and their security assured by Pakistani agencies, the end- game in Afghanistan cannot be played behind Pakistan's back or to its exclusion.
US-Pakistani relations have, however, deteriorated very sharply after the recent killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers by a NATO attack on a border post inside Pakistan. NATO convoys through Pakistani territory remain suspended, the US has lost the use of the Shamshi air base and the Pakistani government is drawing up new and tighter rules of engagement for a reduced number of US operatives in the country. Intense public anger has been whipped up against the US through the media by the Pakistani establishment.
In this situation of mounting distrust between the US and Pakistan, Pakistan is likely to become more intent on pursuing its strategic goals in Afghanistan and less accommodating vis a vis the US which is seen to be drawing closer to India.
Indeed, the contradictions between the US and Pakistan interests and policies in Afghanistan are likely to become more pronounced. In this context, the newly declared India- Afghanistan strategic partnership is bound to have goaded Pakistan into thinking of a countervailing strategy, even if it has reacted officially to this development with uncharacteristic self- control publicly.
If there is need for a coherent and constructive Pakistani approach to the Afghan problem, in addition to the complicating factor of a down slide in US- Pakistan relations, there is mounting political disarray in Pakistan itself, with mounting confrontation between the civilian government and the armed forces. The political turmoil in the country is not likely to end soon because of its structural roots.
In this background, the "reconciliation" strategy that the West wants to pursue is short term in scope. Over the longer term, for the strategy to succeed, it has to be accompanied by reconciliation of several other differences. The mounting differences between the US and Pakistan would have to be reconciled; those in the Pakistani polity that are pitching the Army and the Judiciary against the President would need reconciliation; Pakistan's strategic goals in Afghanistan would need reconciling with Afghan independence and sovereignty; an intra- Afghan reconciliation has to occur on the basis of adherence to some minimum rules of civilised conduct by all parties; the divergent interests of Afghanistan's neighbours would have to be reconciled in specific areas; and, finally, US interests in the region need to be reconciled with the legitimate interests of others, including those of Iran, Russia and China.
The quick-fix "reconciliation" being attempted at Qatar can become unglued unless it is bound together by a more transparent effort to reconcile differences and promote commonalities of interests across the region as a whole.
- Author is a former Foreign Secretary of India


Photo: "Afghan women voice concerns to coalition" (CC BY 2.0) by DVIDSHUB

In Afghan Reconciliation Talks, Women Deserve a Full Voice

Amidst reports of a Pakistani boycott of the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, on Dec. 5, many have overlooked an important fact. Thirteen of the 40 official Afghan delegates who will accompany President Hamid Karzai are women.

Many see reason to fret about the fate of Afghan women; there are widespread rumors that the Taliban may be among Bonn’s participants, and it is feared that their agenda will trump the interests of women at the conference. The significant representation of women in the official Afghan delegation to Bonn, however, sets Afghanistan apart as a more inclusive actor, especially when keeping in mind that of the 21 major peace processes from 1992 to 2005, only 2.4 percent of signatories were women.

This inclusiveness was not guaranteed. Rather, it was the result of persistent and persuasive lobbying by Afghan women themselves, including instrumental efforts by members of the EastWest Institute’s Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention.

While the Bonn conference is not a formal peace dialogue, it is foreseen that it will outline a vision for Afghanistan and could reinvigorate the reconciliation process. The 2001 Bonn Conference established a Ministry of Women’s Affairs in addition to the Afghan Human Rights Commission. Bonn 2011 represents a major opportunity to further enshrine gender equality and human rights in Afghanistan’s post-2014 order.

The Afghan Women’s Network hails the delegation as a “big victory for Afghan women.” But female presence at the conference, though an important step in the right direction, does not guarantee sufficient influence. Only the outcomes of the conference will reveal whether women are truly included in the discussion, or whether they are simply appearing for “women’s sake,” without real opportunities to participate. An enduring peace depends on female participation for several reasons.

First, conference conclusions must be deemed legitimate and have the necessary “buy-in” from and sense of ownership among the general populace if they are to contribute to security and prosperity. History has shown that it is not possible for the conditions of a sustainable peace to be determined by a select few. Excluding half of the population from the outset severely diminishes the prospects that future plans will result in broad-based, sustainable peace.

Second, if women lack an active voice, issues that disproportionately affect women and may be key to avoiding future conflict may escape notice. Over 45 conflict situations during the 20 years since the end of the Cold War, only 18 of 300 peace agreements have addressed sexual violence, according to the PeaceWomen Project.

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. In a Thomson Reuters Foundation study, 90 percent of women polled feared the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014 would leave them in danger.

Just as the development community has recognized the centrality of women to a country’s economic growth, an inclusive approach to security acknowledges the engagement of women as a prerequisite for peace.

The participation of female delegates, however, is not sufficient to assure peace. Those who label women “natural” peacemakers merely reinforce gender stereotypes that women are innately more cooperative and passive than men—stereotypes blown away by female leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Golda Meir.

The question of whether women are inherently agents of change is a moot point. The real question is why anyone would needlessly undermine an already fragile process by excluding half of the population.

The meaningful participation of women is one of many crucial requirements for a successful outcome from Bonn. The lack of progress made by traditional power holders in Afghanistan calls for a new approach, one that is inclusive, representative and legitimate. The stakes are too high to continue to expect radically better results in Afghanistan without any change of approach.

Jessica Zimerman is a Coordinator of the Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention at the EastWest Institute.

EWI Launches New Delhi Summit Process; India pushes cybersecurity cooperation

India is pushing aggressively to foster closer international cooperation on cybersecurity, and the EastWest Insitute (EWI) has launched a process to work with India on this critical issue.

“Countries that share the same societal values of freedom of expression and speech need to come together in cyberspace,” said Indian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal.

Sibal spoke during a press conference hosted by the EastWest Institute and its Indian partners the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM). Its purpose was to launch the New Delhi Summit Process and announce the Third Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit to be held in New Delhi next year.

“It is essential to have government-to-government collaboration, especially in the field of information sharing on cyber attacks and cyber crime,” Sibal said.

India–U.S. cooperation on cybersecurity has only deepened over the past year. One good example of that progress is the memorandum of understanding on cybersecurity information sharing signed by Indian Secretary of the Departments of Telecommunications and Information Technology R. Chandrashekhar and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in July 2011.

EWI Co-Chairman Ross Perot, Jr., said government cooperation is only half of the story, pointing out that private-public partnerships that share sensitive information across sectors also play a key role in protecting cyberspace. “So far, private-public partnerships have focused primarily on domestic markets with often limited success due to too many ineffective initiatives and too little trust between the government and the private sector. Instead, these partnerships need to expand across borders,” Perot said.

During the EastWest Institute press conference, IT Secretary Chandrashekhar argued that in cyberspace, “there is no Track I or Track II diplomacy. We are all on the same track, and we have to work together.”

Indian officials have ample reason to emphasize world collaboration on these issues. As a developing country, India is just as exposed to threats from cyberspace as the developed world. In fact, as both Minister Sibal and Secretary Chandrashekhar stated, the subcontinent might be more vulnerable to cyber attacks because their consequences could be more devastating than in Western countries.

“Cyberspace is the lifeline of economic and social development in India,” Chandrashekhar said. Minister Sibal supported this assertion, arguing, “The developing world has a great opportunity to leapfrog to the digitalized world, especially in finance, administration, and communications. Because of that, however, we need security solutions more than ever. Any new cyber threat can disrupt the leapfrogging and our fragile process of development.”

The Indian Parliament recently passed legislation to switch the government to paperless communication and administration over 25 years. Cyber threats, however, are on the rise on the subcontinent. For example, according to the Norton Cybercrime Report, nearly 30 million people in India fell victim to cyber crime in 2010, with a total financial loss of USD 4 billion. India now also ranks as one of the top five contributors to spam. Since spam often carries malicious code that can help penetrate or damage systems, these emails are more than just a nuisance; they are a real threat to commerce and India’s businesses.

Another threat is the protection and repair of undersea cables in India’s territorial waters, which carry 99 percent of transcontinental financial transactions and data between India and other parts of the world. All of India’s major Internet and telecommunication service providers are connected to overseas telecommunications systems through these international gateways. India has multiple undersea cables—lSTM 2, 3, 4, Safe, falcon flag, and i2i.

International information flow depends on the safety and security of these cables. Disruptions have occurred in the past due to accidents caused by the movements of ships, and due to natural disasters. Cable cuts are problematic, since single points of failure in the undersea cable system can cause severe disruption to the outsourcing industry in India.

To counter some of these threats, Minister Sibal outlined India’s near term agenda for cybersecurity. First, India will aggressively pursue means to foster better collaboration on cybersecurity with like-minded countries. Second, India actively will promote a discussion on a global vision of cybersecurity, which does not yet exist. Third, there will need to be increased discussion of a new local, regional and global legal framework to better combat cyber crime. Finally, India is searching for the means to acquire a faster and more advanced global crisis response mechanism to cyber threats.

The EastWest Institute is actively supporting the Indian government in these endeavors. The Institute first raised the matter of cybersecurity in India nearly two years ago in a meeting with National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, which was followed by meetings with various other government officials and private sector leaders.

The launch of the New Delhi Summit Process is the result of these discussions. This process will address new actions for international cooperation on cybersecurity in three new fields: supply chain integrity, managing the shift to “cloud” and other globally deployed services in cyberspace, and payload security. The Institute will explore these critical issues with its Indian partners—FICCI, NASSCOM and the Data Security Council of India (DSCI).

As John Edwin Mroz, President of the EastWest Institute, stated during the press conference, “We need to keep racing to stay abreast of the implications of change driven by new technologies, and the agenda grows by the day. Our initiative is meant to spur awareness and help rally the Indian business, media and policy communities to help make a difference in protecting cyberspace.”

Minister Sibal concluded his remarks, emphasizing, “In cyberspace, we are not dealing any more with your problem or my problem. It is our problem. India must take a leadership role in convincing other nations that this is the case. The launch of the New Delhi Summit Process is an important milestone in forging all stakeholders together.”


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