ET phones home - Chris Cork - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Dear Mr a kid I used to be fascinated by the possibility of life on other worlds. My Mum and Dad used to get me a comic back in those days called ‘The Eagle’ and I always looked forwards to the adventures of Dan Dare, who had his own spaceship, several pals one of them a woman of interesting proportions at least to my young eye – and he battled the forces of evil led by a nasty green thing called ‘The Mekon’.

The Mekon was transported around on a gravity-defying little craft and forever wanted to exterminate Dan Dare and his brave companions. Of course he never did, but I did wonder what it is like living a life on another planet, which is why I am writing to you today.

You see, Sir, I always thought that it was a made-up story, and that things coming from outer space was a bit of a silly idea really mostly because of stuff like string theory and the laws of physics and the impossibility of travelling faster than light. But then I came to live in Pakistan.

Wow! My dreams came true! A whole country ruled by aliens from another planet! Being here in Pakistan and having extraterrestrials walking around in broad daylight and doing things and having meetings and looking pretty much like almost everybody else apart from the designer suits that is.

And the electricity. It’s the electricity that is the giveaway, Sir. I know you are from another galaxy because you have amazing powers that us ordinary humans do not have and electricity comes on in every room you walk into. You cannot deny this as there are pictures in the newspapers and on TV. Even when you are in a room with not many windows the lights are on even though for miles around you the wires are as dead as the proverbial dodo.

So I am dropping you a line today to ask that you set up a special task force to look into the possibility of transferring some of your special powers to all the rest of us. Well...not everybody, just me, actually. And a few of my relatives, maybe.

There are some other things that I have noticed that you aliens have got that I would find quite handy as well. Like a car. Any chance of you organising that for me? Would I need to go into some special chamber and have a gazillion jillavolts pumped through me to make the changes in my bodily abilities? I don’t mind one bit really. Not one bit.

Then there’s food. I notice that you seem quite well fed and ‘healthy’ as they say here. Obviously this is because the planet you come from allows you to absorb proteins directly from the air. Sadly several million of my relatives are close to death from starvation, so I wondered if you could, you know, work some of that Gilani magic and take all my brothers, sisters, nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins away from deaths door and give them at least one square meal a day?

Lastly, and I know you are a busy man and I do not want to detain you any longer than necessary, do you think you could teach me to tell fibs at the same time as having a broad smile on my face? This seems like a jolly clever trick that could be useful in all sorts of situations. Give my regards to your family on planet Tgorg and if you could sort out that thing with the electricity I would be grateful forever. Yours sincerely...

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:

THINKING ALOUD : Dual citizens and non-citizens — Razi Azmi - Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Now living happily as citizens of their adoptive countries, the vast majority of them nevertheless remain loyal and loving citizens of their country of origin

Much has been said in the press and on TV on the issue of dual citizenship or dual nationality, following the Supreme Court’s suspension of membership of parliament by holders of dual citizenship. Like the learned judges, many commentators have also cast doubts on their loyalty to their country of origin.

This is ironic, for in all countries where migrants have settled, with or without the privilege of dual nationality, there is a strong perception that they remain loyal to their country of origin. As a result, in times of economic crisis, they are made convenient scapegoats; in times of war, they are regarded as disloyal and dangerous. There is the well-known example of Americans of Japanese descent being interned by the US authorities after the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941.

Like primary citizenship, the ‘second’ is also an accident of one’s birth in most cases, passed from parent to child, requiring neither the taking of any oath of allegiance nor the swearing of any loyalty. In any case, patriotism and loyalty are not the products of birth certificates, passports or oaths of allegiance, but of association, upbringing, family and personal history.

One particularly ill-informed opinion on the subject has come from a Pakistani in Canada in a Pakistani daily. Titled rather menacingly, ‘Dual nationals cannot be loyal to either country’, it refers to “Rich Pakistanis — who pretty much can buy American or Canadian passports...Pakistanis who can afford this expensive insurance policy, through money or skills...”

For every immigrant who might have bought his way to a western country, there are thousands who arrived there with little more than their personal belongings, some with degrees, some with skills, others with nothing but their strong desire to uplift themselves and their families. Many fled there to escape violence, oppression and discrimination in their own country. Now living happily as citizens of their adoptive countries, the vast majority of them nevertheless remain loyal and loving citizens of their country of origin, even those whose ‘motherland’ compels them to renounce their citizenship if they take another. The last category includes Indians, millions of whom maintain the closest possible affinity with their motherland while prospering in western countries. France, Italy and Portugal have multiple reserved seats in their national parliaments for expatriates.

By far, the largest proportion of legal immigrants to the US, UK, France and Germany has arrived there as a result of being sponsored by their spouses, sons, daughters, parents, brothers or sisters; and to Canada, Australia and New Zealand as skilled migrants. Everywhere in the west, a large number have settled as refugees or asylum-seekers. Thousands of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and others have become US citizens as the lucky winners of a lottery under the Diversity Visa programme. Where being ‘rich’ has ever entered the equation, only the author of the above article knows!

A joke made the rounds in Moscow after US-USSR relations began to improve in the 1970s. It had the Communist Party chief Leonid Brezhnev in a state of shock when told by his Prime Minister Aleksei Kosygin that if Soviet authorities lifted travel restrictions to the US, no one would ever return and only he (Brezhnev) would remain in the Soviet Union.

The real issue is not dual citizenship but residency, meaning which country is the primary residence of the person in question. The present Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard is British by birth. The former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner always maintained his UK citizenship. Michaelle Jean, the Governor-General of Canada, renounced her French citizenship only after taking oath of office, and in order to avoid controversy. Henri Duynhoven retained his Dutch citizenship while being a member of the New Zealand parliament. Most famously, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California while maintaining his Austrian citizenship.

Quite different from the non-issue of ‘dual citizens’ is the very real issue of ‘non-citizens’. Entire communities or ethnic groups are sometimes denied citizenship of the country in which they have been living for many generations. They remain stateless in the state of their birth and in a world with nearly 200 states.

The Rohingyas of Burma (Myanmar), who fall in this category, have recently been in the news. There are an estimated 800,000 of them in Burma and another 300,000 living as refugees in Bangladesh. Rohingyas are originally from Bangladesh, who long ago migrated and settled in the adjoining region of Burma called Arakan (now renamed Rakhine). They happen to be Muslims, and are despised in Burma for both their religion and their ethnicity. Denied citizenship and denounced as intruders, they remain stateless in their own country.

The 30 million or so Kurds living in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria face discrimination everywhere. Nearly 300,000 Syrian Kurds were deprived of their citizenship in 1962 in a move to ‘Arabicise’ the resource-rich northeast region. They exist without nationality, passports or rights.

A million or so Biharis have been living in Bangladesh since 1971 as stateless citizens without any rights whatsoever. Mercifully, in 2008, the Bangladesh High Court approved voting and citizenship rights to 150,000 of them.

In the early 1990s, Bhutan expelled people of Nepalese origin after stripping them of citizenship. Denied citizenship in Nepal, about 100,000 of them now live there as stateless people, joining 800,000 Nepalese who ‘do not have confirmed nationality’ due to some legal complications.

The list of minority ethnic populations who have no official ‘nationality’ and remain stateless or in a state of limbo in the twilight zone of semi-citizenship and virtual statelessness is long. It covers many countries and is a stigma on the international community. As for dual nationals, they are no different from ordinary citizens anywhere, neither villains nor heroes, neither traitors nor chest-thumping nationalists. No one anywhere needs to sit a loyalty test, which are worthless anyway. But ‘sole-nationality’ zealots and patriots should do their ‘duty to God and country’ by providing equal, non-discriminatory citizenship to all citizens. And to those non-citizens who know no other country and call that country home.

The writer, a dual citizen of Pakistan and Australia, is a former academic with a doctorate in modern history and can be reached at

DailyTimes EDITORIAL : Virtual judicial coup

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The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) verdict on the petitions challenging the ruling of the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) that rejected the argument that Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani stood disqualified after being convicted and sentenced for contempt of court has pronounced that he does stand disqualified, not only from the premiership, but from membership of parliament as well. Not just that, the SC in its short order has laid down that he cannot stand for election for five years. To that end, the SC has sent instructions to the Election Commission (EC) to issue a notification to that effect. Meantime the PPP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), which happened to be meeting when the verdict was announced, revealed its decisions on the crisis through a press conference by PPP leaders. The gist of the CEC’s decisions was that despite having reservations about the SC’s verdict, they had accepted the court’s finding that the conviction and sentencing till the rising of the court of Gilani for contempt on April 26 meant that he was no longer the PM, and with retrospective effect, had been removed on and since that date. The PPP has appealed to its workers and supporters to remain calm and restrained, despite the fact that the verdict is bound to inflame opinion in the PPP and allied camp. The CEC has empowered party Co-chairperson President Asif Ali Zardari to take whatever decisions he thinks fit regarding a replacement for Gilani. The intriguing question of course is whether the new PM will suffer the same pressure from the SC to write the letter to the Swiss authorities regarding President Asif Ali Zardari that the court was insisting on Gilani writing, and refusal to comply with which had attracted the contempt conviction for the former PM. In that case, the looming confrontation between state institutions, which began as a confrontation between the judiciary and the executive, could expand to now a confrontation between the judiciary and parliament as well. After all, the SC’s verdict overruling the Speaker of the NA too has set an unprecedented example, one that will reverberate in our jurisprudence for a long time to come. Questions have also been raised whether all the decisions and acts of the former PM since April 26 to date stand. The most important of these acts was the passing of the budget. It is possible that the detailed judgement may throw more light on this matter. Normally, courts are mindful that retrospective judgements should not disrupt things done and transactions closed to an extent that causes greater difficulties.

Yousaf Raza Gilani was unanimously elected PM after the 2008 elections, arguably in the context of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in end 2007, a tragedy that led to widespread unrest and riots, especially in Sindh. The sympathy factor had a great deal to do with the results of the 2008 elections in which, despite garnering only a plurality, the PPP was the only party in a position to form a coalition government. The other factor that worked in favour of the consensus that surrounded Gilani’s election as PM was the relatively good relations at the time between the PPP and the main opposition party the PML-N. By 2009, those relations had already soured to the point where the coalition saw the departure of the PML-N and its open opposition to the seeming reluctance of the PPP to restore Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the deposed superior judiciary. Since then, the impression has been unmistakable that the SC has tilted more against the incumbent PPP than in any other direction, even resorting to picking and choosing which cases to hear on a priority or fast track basis. This has invited criticism of the judiciary for alleged bias. True or not, such criticism may well find a fresh lease of life after the SC, in an unprecedented verdict, has deposed a sitting PM. Such ‘treatment’ at the hands of the judiciary is likely to resurrect the party’s memory of past injustices at the hands of the judiciary, the most poignant example being the case of Z A Bhutto. This verdict will have legal as well as political implications. Whether our nascent democratic system will survive these fresh storms can only be left to the imagination at this point. *

SECOND EDITORIAL : Walking on a tightrope

Happy at its victory in the Egyptian presidential elections, the Muslim Brotherhood now faces a power struggle with the armed forces ruling the country for the last 60 years. In choosing what was perceived as the lesser evil, the Egyptian people sent a clear message to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) by not voting for its candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, the former prime minister of Hosni Mubarak. What started in Tahrir Square 15 months back has ended with the swearing in of Mohammad Morsi Thursday as the next President. Disoriented by the political developments in the wake of the revolution that saw Hosni Mubarak ousted after 30 years in power, the Egyptian people are still waiting for the army to return to the barracks. The crowds that rallied spontaneously in Tahrir Square at the height of the movement failed at the next stage of political organisation to mount an effective challenge to the military and the Islamists going into the elections. Resultantly the forces that were already organised and hardened by decades of struggle, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, took the lead. Resented by the secular-liberal-progressive ‘revolutionaries’ of Tahrir Square, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) could end up dividing Egypt even further. In an effort to allay its opponents’ fears, the Muslim Brotherhood has categorically denied any intent to impose Sharia or of assuming strategic posts such as Foreign Affairs and the Interior Ministry. It wants involvement in services that could relate it directly to the people, like health and social affairs.

The million-dollar question is, would the Muslim Brotherhood be able to run the government without military interference? Interestingly, as the presidential vote went to the FJP, the ruling SCAF amended the constitutional declaration it had issued last year, resuming legislative powers and restricting the authority of the president, thereby consolidating the ‘coup’ that started with the dissolution of parliament. What is termed as a de facto martial law empowered the SCAF to hold the effective reins of power. It has endowed itself with the authority to pick a panel of its choice to write the new constitution.

In the midst of the Arab Spring that has effected sweeping changes in the regional political set-up, Egypt is in a bind to make things work on democratic lines. The Brotherhood has to live up to its claim of dispensing with radicalisation and perhaps adopt the Turkish model to render both tendencies — religion and secularism — able to co-exist, even if uneasily, in the new Egypt struggling to emerge from the womb of the old. *

Give Greece a chance - Mahir Ali - 20-6-2012

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“GREEKS are fond of pointing out that they invented democracy,” John Lanchester pointed out in The New Yorker a week or so ago; “they invented tragedy, too….”
That the two phenomena are hardly incompatible has been underlined not so much by last Sunday’s elections but by the overall Greek experience of recent decades.
The two parties that have alternated in power since the demise of fascistic military rule in the mid-1970s, the conservative New Democracy and the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok), were poised at the start of the week to form a new government. New Democracy won about 30 per cent of the vote on Sunday, a substantial improvement on its 19 per cent showing in last month’s elections, but not enough for a simple parliamentary majority even with the 50 extra seats that the Greek constitution awards to the leading party.
Hot on its heels was the leftwing Syriza, the bête noir of Brussels, with roughly a 27 per cent share of the vote, 10 per cent more than it won in May. Pasok maintained its sharply diminished vote bank of about 13 per cent.
The result followed what could only be described as a concerted voter-intimidation campaign by a range of European leaders and institutional heads, notably the German chancellor Angela Merkel, the International Monetary Fund’s Christine Lagarde and the World Bank’s Robert Zoellick. Even France’s recently elected president, François Hollande, pitched in.
They were all singing from the same hymn book, emphasising that Greece’s only path to salvation lay in electing a government that would abide by a memorandum agreed with the European Union (EU), whereby financial assistance is contingent upon stringent austerity measures ranging from a sharp reduction in minimum wages and deep cuts in pensions to wide-ranging privatisation.
The alternative would be eviction from the eurozone — a prospect that’s unpopular in Greece even among most of those appalled by the prospect of further Brussels-imposed belt-tightening.
Even New Democracy’s electoral platform envisaged requesting a moderate amelioration of the austerity programme, and party leader Antonis Samaras, who is almost certain to take over as prime minister, has indicated he wishes to renegotiate the terms of a bailout that Greece desperately needs.
A number of European officials, including some in Germany, have indicated they wouldn’t be averse to a bit of tinkering at the margins, although Merkel, speaking from the venue of the G20 summit in Mexico, seemed adamant that Greek voters could expect no reward for effectively voting into power the sort of government she championed.
Perhaps she has noticed that almost 60 per cent of the electorate opted for parties that oppose the austerity measures. In the interim between the two electoral bouts, Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras spent several days in European capitals arguing that if his nation did not stand up to the EU’s unreasonable dictates on this count, other countries could expect the same treatment.
From the point of view of the EU hierarchy, a Syriza-led government could indeed have set an unpalatable example of resistance to neoliberal dictation.
The prospect of that variety of Greek ‘contagion’ arguably evokes more fear among European financial institutions than burgeoning sovereign debt and collapsing banks. The latter can invariably expect more sympathy when their speculative investments lead to spectacular losses than individuals whose pay packets or pensions are stripped away for no particular fault of their own.
In some quarters it has frequently been argued of late that the people of Greece deserve the pain they have been ladled with as punishment for electing governments that have squandered the wealth that came their way after Athens joined the eurozone in 1999.
It is much the same quarters, though, that have lately been demanding that the same parties — New Democracy and Pasok, most of whose policies are all but indistinguishable, notwithstanding their traditional rivalry — be re-elected.
Some economists, including Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, argue that whereas poor policymaking at the domestic level has indeed played a role in ravaging Greece, it’s European structures and officials who are primarily to blame for the eurozone crisis.
A common currency may have been an unworkable idea to start with in the absence of a common government — and moves towards closer financial and political integration face considerable resistance.
In the past few days it has been speculated that, notwithstanding a pro-austerity administration, Greek may anyhow be compelled to abandon the euro by the end of the year.
Although not everyone in Greece shares the opinion that a return to the drachma would necessarily exacerbate the crisis, such a move would undoubtedly renew the periodic turmoil that has become a part of the political landscape over the past couple of years.
It is highly likely, of course, that unrest will anyhow be unleashed in the months ahead as the new government seeks to impose the measures agreed with the EU in return for a cash injection, whether or not Samaras succeeds in winning the odd concession.
This could turn very ugly indeed. Amid mass unemployment and even more widespread impoverishment, comparisons are being made with Weimar Germany. The ultra-right Golden Dawn party, which encourages anti-immigrant violence and boasts a symbol reminiscent of the Nazi swastika, won seven per cent of the vote last month and, despite the histrionics of its representatives, more or less maintained that level of support this week.
It represents a Europe-wide phenomenon, but there are few grounds for complacency about the spread of fascist sentiments in the guise of Greek nationalism.
Like all similar movements, it feeds on fear, and Greece in its present shape is a crucible of uncertainty. The proposed austerity measures will only exacerbate this trend. Europe can afford to be a great deal more generous. It could at least try to stimulate growth without insisting on its pound of flesh.
What is more broadly a crisis of capitalism ultimately cannot be redressed without rethinking the underlying fundamentals. That may well prove inevitable in the slightly longer run.
For the moment, though, a concerted effort to ease or share Greece’s pain — and to spare Spain, to cite the most obvious example, the same sort of agony — could possibly turn out to be the least excruciating remedy for Europe as a whole.

Censorship attempts - Dominic Rushe - 20-6-2012

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THERE has been an alarming rise in the number of times governments attempted to censor the Internet in the last six months, according to a report from Google.
Since the search engine last published its biannual transparency report, it said it had seen a troubling increase in requests to remove political content. Many of these requests came from western democracies not typically associated with censorship.
It said Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 links to blogs and newspaper articles critical of public figures. It did not comply. In Poland, it was asked to remove an article critical of the Polish agency for enterprise development and eight other results that linked to the article. Again, it did not comply.
Google was asked by Canadian officials to remove a YouTube video of a citizen urinating on his passport. It refused.
Thai authorities asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy, a violation of Thailand’s lese-majesté law. The company complied with 70 per cent of the requests.
Pakistan asked Google to remove six YouTube videos that satirised its army and senior politicians. Google refused.
UK police asked the company to remove five YouTube accounts for allegedly promoting terrorism. Google agreed. In the US most requests related to alleged harassment of people on YouTube. The authorities asked for 187 pieces to be removed. Google complied with 42 per cent of them.
In a blog post, Dorothy Chou, Google’s senior policy analyst, wrote: “Unfortunately, what we’ve seen over the past couple years has been troubling, and today is no different. When we started releasing this data, in 2010, we noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services. We hoped this was an aberration. But now we know it’s not.
“This is the fifth data set that we’ve released. Just like every other time, we’ve been asked to take down political speech. It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect — western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”
Over the six months covered by the latest report, Google complied with an average of 65 per cent of court orders, as opposed to 47 per cent of more informal requests.
Last month Google announced it was receiving more than one million requests a month from copyright owners seeking to pull their content from the company’s search results.
Fred von Lohmann, Google’s senior copyright counsel, said copyright infringement was the main reason Google had removed links from search terms.
He said the company had received a total of 3.3 million requests for removals on copyright grounds last year, and was on course to quadruple that number this year. The company complied with 97 per cent of requests. — The Guardian, London

What does the US want? Najmuddin A Shaikh - 20-6-2012


IN my last article I had concluded that Pakistan and the United States have more areas of convergence than divergence on what they want to see in Afghanistan.
In this column I will attempt to validate this assertion in the hope that this will contribute to a rational debate on the subject. This convergence, or absence thereof, is far more important in determining the US-Pakistan relationship than what I see as the temporary if highly inflammatory issues of a Salala apology or the reopening of the ground lines of communication (GLOC).
According to President Obama, who laid out his administration’s policy during the visit he paid to Kabul to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement with President Karzai, “America has no designs beyond an end to Al Qaeda safe havens, and respect for Afghan sovereignty”. He went on to say “our goal is not to build a country in America’s image, or to eradicate every vestige of the Taliban”.
He made clear the nature of the commitment to Afghanistan saying, “we’re building an enduring partnership. The agreement we signed today sends a clear message to the Afghan people: As you stand up, you will not stand alone.”
As regards the continued military presence after 2014, Obama said, “we’ll work with the Afghans to determine what support they need to accomplish two narrow security missions beyond 2014 — counterterrorism and continued training. But we will not build permanent bases in this country, nor will we be patrolling its cities and mountains. That will be the job of the Afghan people.”
To Pakistan his message was, “I have made it clear to its neighbour — Pakistan — that it can and should be an equal partner in this process in a way that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, interests and democratic institutions.”Obama also claimed that in coordination with the Afghan government the US was in direct discussions with the Taliban and had made it clear to them that “they can be a part of this future if they break with Al Qaeda, renounce violence and abide by Afghan laws.” It was perhaps significant that he did not refer to the Afghan constitution. In so saying he is not I think backing away from the earlier position that these were not preconditions but the desired outcome from the talks.
He recognised that there was no support in America for continued military involvement in Afghanistan but argued that such a presence would be necessary to give Afghanistan a chance to stabilise itself. “Otherwise,” he said, “Our gains could be lost and Al Qaeda could establish itself once again.” He pledged “I will not keep Americans in harm’s way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security.”
Many people in Pakistan do not believe that this is the whole story and assert that the Americans will want to maintain a military presence and bases in Afghanistan for much longer. Evidence to this effect can be adduced by referring to the testimony of then Centcom chief Adm Fallon who in asking for funding for Bagram airbase described it as “the centrepiece for the Centcom Master Plan for future access to and operations in Central Asia”.
A further examination of the sums that have been expended on Bagram including $62m for an ammunition storage facility at Bagram and $100m for upgrading and modernising airports in the north to handle aircraft of a size that Afghanistan will not have in the foreseeable future lends credence to the suspicion.
The same people also suspect that the Americans do not want genuine negotiations with the Taliban and are only interested in using them to get some ‘moderate’ Taliban to join the government and then to eliminate the hardliners through military means.
Perhaps there is truth to these assertions, though frankly my own view is that in the face of the $517bn that the US has already expended treating the money spent on base facilities as wasted will not be difficult for a defence department that has this year a $711bn budget. Attempting to beat the hardline Taliban into submission has been tried and has failed. In the present anti-war mood in America, persisting with such notions would be a fool’s game.
Today, Obama’s advisers have apparently coined the phrase ‘Afghan-good enough’ to describe what America will settle for and that can be defined as the destruction of Al Qaeda and the creation of conditions in which it cannot be resurrected. For the rest to put it callously it is every Afghan for himself.
Will Karzai or his successor reach an agreement under which the Americans can be stationed at Afghan bases to provide air support for counterinsurgency operations carried out by Afghan boots on the ground or attacks probably by drones on Al Qaeda adherents on both sides of eastern Afghanistan’s borders?
Despite Karzai’s distrust of Nato allies generally and of the Americans in particular he may find that he has no choice because in that case there will be not just a contraction of the Afghan economy but a complete collapse. Will the Americans stay for the envisaged decade? The rapid increase in ‘green on blue’ incidents will not in my view subside after 2014. At Afghan bases despite heavy security there will be greater vulnerability and the inherent Afghan hostility towards foreigners will be high.
To my mind it is more than likely that if some sort of reconciliation is worked out and some reasonable power-sharing arrangement is accepted by all ethnic groups in Afghanistan, the Americans will be content to pull out their military and maintain only a political presence.
Is any of this against Pakistan’s interest? I think not as I will try and explain in another next article.
I have not touched on another issue that is of fundamental importance to Pakistan’s security-centric establishment and that is the Indian influence in Afghanistan and our fear of being encircled or facing a two-front war. That too needs to be looked at separately.
The writer is a former foreign secretary.

The way ahead - Friday Times Editorial by Najam Sethi -

In India at least half a dozen chief justices in the past have been accused of corrupt practices or conduct unbecoming a judge of high stature. However, none has ever been dragged to the dock. But matters are very different in Pakistan where the chief justice and the Supreme Court are battling for their credibility and independence because of the misdemeanours of the son of the chief justice. There is bitter discord in state and society. The fear is that if the political fallout isn't quickly contained, the military might be tempted to step into the fray.

Riaz Malik has presented credible evidence of footing the bills of Arsalan Chaudhry, the son of the CJP, for more than Rs 34 crore in the last three years for favours promised but not fulfilled in cases of property disputes relating to Mr Malik's business empire pending before his father in the SC. He claims he was blackmailed by Arsalan Chaudhry to cough up or face hard times in the court before his father. Arsalan says he was entrapped in order to influence his father. In the event, Arsalan took favours from Mr Malik but his father didn't return the compliment, which raises the question of who was blackmailing whom and who gained and who lost from this unholy transaction.

Mr Malik faces the prospect of losing his empire if he is convicted of contempt and blackmail. Why would he take such a risk? Therefore conspiracy theorists are justified in asking about Mr Malik's timing and motive - the military establishment is angry with the CJP for blocking its anti-terrorist operations on grounds of human rights violations and the PPP is up in arms for being singled out and hounded for corruption by him. The CJP is popular with the media and middle-class urban Pakistanis because of his summary judgments against the powerful and wealthy.

Mr Malik's argument also is that the father knew his son was up to no good and ignored the matter. He claims the CJP's conduct was unbecoming because he had secret meetings with the Prime Minister, with Mr Malik himself and with unnamed others to cut political deals. He insists he will furnish more evidence later. In turn, the CJP has slapped a contempt notice on him and called upon fellow judges to signal a vote of confidence in him.

The media is bitterly divided. A few blindly believe in the CJP's integrity and innocence and are accusing others more rational and independent of being on Mr Malik's payroll. But it is the considered response of the bar that will be critical in tilting the scales of this case. Many lawyers have become critical of the CJP's conduct and judgments in the last two years. They want an independent commission to investigate the charges against the son. The independence of the judiciary as an institution is more important to them than the fate of one man, however heroic his past. If the CJP rides rough shod over their concerns, they could line up against him.

The opposition parties are mulling their options. Privately, everyone acknowledges that the son is guilty as charged. Some also say, prima facie, the CJP is tainted. But publicly they are with the CJP. The government is silent. It doesn't want to be seen as conspiring against a popular judge.

The military's secret intelligence agencies are suspected of hatching this conspiracy to oust the CJP or weaken him so that he cannot make trouble for them. Insiders claim that Mr Malik would never have acted so boldly without a green light from them. Indeed, he proudly claims to have dozens of retired generals, admirals and other ranks working in his multi-trillion empire.

The outcome of this case will be important. If the SC rallies behind the CJP and successfully shrugs off its detractors, it could be emboldened to take a hard line against the unpopular government. But given past practice, the government will probably resist obeying its orders, thereby leading to a constitutional gridlock. If the court orders the sulking military to compel the government to obey its orders and the military refuses to do so (on the constitutional ground, for which a precedence exists, that it takes its orders from the government and not the court) the CJP will crumble. Equally, if the CJP and SC cannot withstand pressure from the lawyers and media, egged on by the government and military, to investigate the case impartially, the odds are that fellow judges will revolt and ditch the CJP if he insists on having his way.

Therefore the SC cannot afford to be obstreperous. In the worst case, if the gridlock persists amidst bitter wrangling and violent protests, the military might be emboldened to intervene in the "national interest" to stop the slide into anarchy as it has done three times in the past six decades. Whether such an intervention would be sustainable or not is another question.