Editorial : Joint struggle needed - Friday 6th May 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/06/joint-struggle-needed.html

IT is difficult to accept Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani`s statement that the entire world and not just Pakistan should share the blame for the intelligence failure that allowed Osama bin Laden to elude capture by our own security personnel. Such a claim would have been easier to digest had Bin Laden been discovered hiding out in a remote sanctuary in the tribal belt which lives by its own rules. It was popularly believed, especially by the western media, that he was holed out in a `cave` somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Instead, he was found living in a fortified compound in a residential area in Abbottabad, and at a stone`s throw away from the country`s top military academy. So was it a case of collusion or incompetence on the part of authorities here, as CIA director Leon Panetta has suggested? The complicity allegation is almost impossible to prove at this or possibly any other stage. As for the incompetence claim, yes, the intelligence failure on our part cannot be denied. It resulted in a national embarrassment of monumental proportions, and it is unfair to spread the blame around when we ourselves are primarily at fault.
Mixed signals from the US vis-à-vis Pakistan are nothing new. Washington pursues a carrot-and-stick policy, as exemplified by the CIA director`s brutally frank remarks which were tempered by statements from the White House and the Pak-US defence group. The signals that Pakistan has so far got from Washington are that the latter would, in fact, want to continue counter-terrorism cooperation. But the question is: has the Bin Laden operation, carried out unilaterally by the US and thus exacerbating current tensions with Pakistan, damaged such prospects?
At this stage, the question is difficult to answer. However, there is no doubt that joint cooperation is in the interest of both countries that have, after all, a common enemy. Nothing else can eradicate the danger they face. As such it is encouraging that the two allies remain engaged at the highest levels. Osama bin Laden`s killing “underscores the importance of cooperation”, according to the joint statement released by the Pak-US defence group. True, both sides will have to work hard to dispel their mutual mistrust. What is key though is to keep all possible channels of communication open and to share whatever intel either county has managed to unearth. Continued acrimony at this stage will hurt both Islamabad and Washington and benefit those who wish to destabilise our respective ways of life. We must keep talking.

The emperors’ clothes - Cyril Almeida - Friday 6th May 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/06/the-emperors-clothes.html

PAKISTAN this week has been confronted with a deeply unsettling question.
Could the self-appointed custodians of the national interest themselves be the greatest threat to national security?
There is no joy in asking this. Pakistan exists in a tough neighbourhood. A strong and vibrant army is necessary and desirable.
But as the initial shock and disbelief wears off, there is a deep, deep sense of unease here.
Did they know he was here? Surely, they knew he was here?
Nobody has come out and said it openly yet. It’s too early, the story still unfolding. Ask the question in private, though, and
with hand on heart, no one will say anything but, yes, they knew he was there.
Some do try and clutch at straws. Maybe they didn’t know. Maybe they’re so daft they didn’t really take this whole business of
pursuing Al Qaeda seriously. Maybe they just didn’t think it was their problem.
But those voices, unconvinced by their own words, quickly trail off … They knew. They knew he was there.
It’s too frightening to make sense of. The world’s most-wanted terrorist. A man who triggered the longest war in American
history. The terrorist mastermind the world’s only superpower has moved heaven and earth to track down. A decade of
hunting. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent. The blood of countless Americans and others spilled.
And when he was finally found, he was found wrapped in the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment.
Away from the bleatings of the ghairat brigade — the paranoid schizophrenics marching this country into the abyss — theshock is profound. Grim questions are etched on anxious faces, but so is fear of the answers.
Proud men and women, people who love and serve their country, have cried as they connect yet another dot in the horrifying
trajectory this country is on. If we didn’t know, we are a failed state; if we did know, we are a rogue state. But does anybody
really believe they didn’t know?
Why would they do it? What did they hope to gain? Pakistan has nothing in common with Al Qaeda. They serve no purpose to us; there is no confluence of interests that can be imagined.
Did we think we could produce him like a rabbit out of the hat when we needed to? Did we think if we turned him over, the American attention span would lapse and they’d move on, leaving us unable to suckle at the teats of the superpower?
Or, assured in our assumptions about the world around us, did we simply think we could get away with it?
It makes no sense. And yet, perhaps there was an inevitability to this. Did the 1965 war make any sense? It was hard to find any sense to it then, even less so today.
Did Kargil make any sense? Not then, not today.
Did hawking nuclear paraphernalia on the international market make any sense? Buying did perhaps, but selling? And now we
have the world’s most-wanted terrorist recovered from the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment.
So maybe it does make sense after all. The establishment has flirted with irrationality in the past. Now it appears to have
perfected it.
Where do we go from here as a country?
As long as national security and foreign policy remain in the hands of a cabal of generals — unaccountable and untouchable, a
lay unto themselves, and in thrall to their own irrational logic — what future can this country have? Surely, not much of a
Is self-correction an option? Good luck trying to find anyone in the homeland or beyond with even a modicum of knowledge
and understanding of the institution who believes it is capable of reforming itself.
What you will find are retired officers who will tell you what it feels like to be the masters of the universe, part of the inner core
of the establishment. How your feet leave the ground as the world gathers beneath you, bowing and scraping for crumbs
thrown their way. The view from the inside, the inner core, is of limitless power. The view from the outside is of a perch almost
designed to abjure humility and rationality.
What you will find are bureaucrats with decades of experience who ultimately concede that peace with India is unacceptable to the army on any terms. What you will find are diplomats who scoff at the possibility of Musharraf being able to seal a deal on Kashmir with India. Being Numero Uno at home requires having Enemy No 1 across the border.
Zia’s army, Musharraf’s army, Kakar and Karamat’s army — it may seem difficult to reconcile the differences. But while they were very different men, the strategic orientation of the army has more or less been the same. Some addressed the strategic imperatives from a religious angle, others from a more secular angle, but it has always been the army’s angle.
Can anything be done?
The outside world can’t fix us. In fact, even now the US is probably a better friend of the Pakistan Army than of the Pakistani people. Soldiers and intelligence networks are more useful than an under-educated and impoverished population. Double-gamers and duplicitous allies at least have something to offer; what can the wretched Pakistani people offer myopic Americans?
Can we fix ourselves? Take a look around. Does anyone think Asif Zardari has what it takes? Nawaz Sharif may have the chutzpah, but does he have the nous? Beyond them, what is there but a fetid pool of opportunists and political mercenaries?
So maybe that’s the answer after all. They knew. They knew he was there. And they knew they could get away with it.
The writer is a member of staff.

The world of fatwas By Asghar Ali Engineer - Friday 6th May 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/06/the-world-of-fatwas-2.html

WHEN the Quran was revealed it was assumed that all Muslims would read it to seek guidance for their problems and hence no class of priesthood was needed. But as Islam spread far and wide and Muslims from other cultures spoke different languages, they could not do so.
The Quran was in Arabic and many did not know that language. Hence the need for scholars. Thus, the people approached Islamic experts, who came to be known as ulema, with their questions. The ulema would seek for followers answers from the Quran and Hadith, sometimes making their own interpretations and also in the light of their own cultural background. These answers began to be compiled, and the ulema of the later generations would refer to these compilations to answer similar questions asked by their followers.
This is how the institution of fatwa came into existence. Thus fatwa was the opinion given in the form of an answer to a question or a series of questions posed by the layman. Though the earlier ulema were more creative and tried to exercise their brain more, the later ones followed the rulings given by their predecessors. A lot of the time the ulema simply refer to these texts evolved by their predecessors in answering questions. They hardly bother to apply their own minds. Not only that they simply refer to the texts of the schools of law they belong to i.e. Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, Hanbali, Jafari and so on. Such fatwas contribute to making Islamic society stagnant and create difficulties in bringing about creative and much-needed social change. To this day, the fatwas issued in mediaeval ages are referred to in order to answer modern-day problems.
For example, in an answer to the question that if a father of a daughter jokingly says to a father of a son that he gives his daughter in nikah to his son, would the nikah be deemed to have taken place, the answer given by the Darul Ulum, Deoband, was ‘Yes, the nikah shall take place’ (quoting (Durrul Mukhtar — Bab al-Nikah). This fatwa was issued in the 20th century.
Thus, one can understand what kind of fatwas are issued by such important centres of learning. Here we want to discuss a fatwa recently issued by some muftis of Saudi Arabia in view of a rebellion taking place in the Arab world. These muftis have said that the rebellion is haram as it is taking place against a properly constituted authority and it is a western conspiracy.
Obviously, the rebellion is against the monarchies and despotic rulers, hence the official muftis have obliged the rulers without caring how impermissible the fatwa is even from an Islamic point of view.Let us examine the content of this fatwa and its implications for the Arab world. Before we proceed further it should be noted that throughout history, two types of ulema were associated with giving fatwas, i.e. ulema-i-su (false ulema who issued fatwas to suit a ruler’s interests) and ulema-i-haq (righteous ulema), who issued fatwas as per Islamic teachings without caring for the consequences. Imam Abu Hanifa and other notable ulema had even refused to assume the office of qazi (chief justice) for fear of being forced to issue such fatwas.
But among the ulema-i-haq were also many who took a static view of society and continued to issue fatwas as per the earlier texts without taking in view changes taking place in their own time. The ulema backing despotic rulers with their fatwas cannot be ulema-i-haq. They just cater to the interests of the rulers.
Let us take into account the basic principles involved here and what the Quran has to say on the subject. The Quran stands for just rule and disapproves of oppression, exploitation and corruption. The Quran makes it abundantly clear that its sympathies are with what it calls the mustadifun (weaker sections) and it denounces the mustakbirun oppressors).
Thus we can easily conclude that the Quran stands only for just governance and opposes oppressors and corrupt rulers. It gives the people the right to replace their ruler if the ruler is oppressive, unjust or corrupt. The Quran also prohibits giving bribes to win loyalties. What has happened in Morocco, Iran and Egypt and what is happening in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria is the violation of the right to stage peaceful opposition to dictatorial regimes.
The rulers in most of these countries are dictators or monarchs. Most are utterly corrupt and ruthlessly suppress peaceful opposition. Even the Prophet (PBUH) was asked to consult his people in worldly matters (shawirhum — i.e. consult them).
When the Prophet had been asked to consult people in secular matters who are these corrupt rulers to deny any democratic processes or ruthlessly suppress them? The people demand transparency and democracy in governance.
There will always be ulema who can argue that that dictatorship is preferable to anarchy, citing the rulings given by the ulema in mediaeval times. But often such rulings were given when there was a danger of outsiders attacking and taking over.
Presently, there is no such danger. It is the people of a country themselves who are trying to overthrow corrupt rulers and replace them with just and democratic ones. Instead of anarchy it would result in better governance that the Quran endorses.
Today’s ulema need to free themselves from the rulings found in mediaeval texts and adopt Quranic values. This can be done only by learning more about the changes taking place around them.
The writer is an Islamic scholar, who also heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai

A minimum common agenda By Sakib Sherani - Friday 6th May 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/06/a-minimum-common-agenda.html

OVER the past few months, both political parties as well as civil society have separately shown signs of recognition of the need for economic reform. Pakistan’s economy has shown progressive signs of stagnation since the 1990s when compared to its own past vibrancy, while a comparison with much of the rest of the world depicts its relegation in the economic order.
However, given that the government did not to take the initiative over the past one year to shape and influence the discourse over economic reform as cogently and aggressively as it should have, much of the articulation from within the country of the need for reform has so far come from a disparate group of like-minded individuals or industry associations. Importantly, the
discourse so far has not been between the political parties and other non-government actors.
In this context, the move by the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) over the past several months to try and evolve a common minimum economic agenda that has the consensus of all major political parties in Pakistan is a watershed event. For the first time, senior figures of the main political parties have sat across the table from a group representing some of the biggest businesses in Pakistan to shape a common agenda which the PBC hopes will ultimately lead to a demonstration of the politicians’ collective commitment by a public signing of the final document.
The agenda in its current shape identifies five reform areas that need to be urgently addressed. Despite the fact that much of this agenda is not new, and has been around in some form or shape since the mid-1990s (starting with the Sartaj Aziz period, followed by the Vision 2010 policy document of the Planning Commission under Ahsan Iqbal of the PML-N, Gen Musharraf’s seven-point plan, the Economic Advisory Council’s nine-point plan of 2009, among others), it unfortunately remains relevant even today.
As a result of the policy inertia over nearly two decades, if not longer, both the urgency as well as the cost of reform have almost certainly gone up. Nonetheless, the cost of further delay is even higher. It is here, in the framing of the issue and in the articulation of the imperative for reform, that the PBC’s effort needs to be strengthened.
While an excellent exposition by the chairman PBC set the stage for the dialogue in Islamabad on April 29, it did not go far enough. For a politician, the fact that Pakistan’s growth rate is now one-third of India’s or roughly one-half that of Bangladesh, may not in itself confer a sense of urgency. The fact that the rural economy has done exceedingly well over the past three years has even served to weaken the impulse for reform in the minds of at least the two major political parties, the PPP and PML-N.
This sense of wider well-being and prosperity under the political government is even shared by some of the economists on the PBC panel, and other eminent commentators, who feel the talk of a ‘crisis’ is a conspiracy against democracy. (So keen are friends on a particular side of the political divide, that they have assumed the same narrative to describe the economy that was used formerly by the erstwhile spokesperson of Gen Musharraf’s regime — which was widely ridiculed at the time).
While it is true that a large part of Pakistan’s population may be insulated to an extent from high inflation and the slowdown in the wider economy, thanks to booming crop prices and rising remittances, this condition is not policy-induced, it is weather-dependent, and it does not represent a structural change in the lives of the people (for the most part). The sharp decline over the past two months in the price of cotton underlines the fickle nature of the turnaround for the rural sector.
Pakistan’s economy has ventured into uncharted territory in some important areas, and it is critical to understand these ‘turning points’ to disabuse oneself of the notion that, since the economy has invariably bounced back from a bad patch in the past, it will automatically do so again. Inflation is not only at historic highs, it is at its most sustained level ever.
Without serious and credible reform, especially on the fiscal front, Pakistan can easily tip into hyperinflation from here. The frequency and magnitude of price ‘resets’ of the consumer basket, the frequency of public-sector demands for both wages and wage increases and the potential for a wage-price spiral taking hold, combined with the spectre of lower external assistance available to finance rigid expenditure demands, are all disturbing markers that have not been crossed before.
Added to this is the disconcerting lack of private investment in the economy, and the secular moribund growth rate of the manufacturing sector. All this to combat and turnaround in the face of looming, even larger challenges: demographics and climate change. This is the state of play, with the current condition of the economy and its medium-term outlook both not very favourable.
This is a daunting agenda, but one that is entirely doable given commitment, policy stability and dedicated implementation. The challenge lies in fixing the common strand of very similar policy plans over two decades, on the one hand, and lack of progress in pushing through a wide reform agenda, on the other.
The common feature is a weak institutional framework that allows protection of vested interest (and creation of some more!).
Without bringing institutional reform and governance issues to the heart of any reform plan, it will not succeed. At the core of this lies reforming the civil service, which is an obdurate stumbling block to efficiency, transparency, change and innovation.
This is the substantive policy agenda the political parties should be signing off to if they are serious about fixing Pakistan.
The writer heads an economic consultancy based in Islamabad.

Henceforth, a new set of rules By Khalid Aziz - Friday 6th May 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/06/henceforth-a-new-set-of-rules.html

OSAMA bin Laden’s epochal journey to awaken the Muslim world came to an end in the town of Abbottabad and practically next door to the military academy that trains officers to defend the state created in the name of Islam in 1947.
The presence of Bin Laden in Abbottabad has raised embarrassing questions about the military’s role in helping him evade arrest. Shortly after the operation, John Brennan, a counter-terrorism adviser to President Obama, told journalists at the White House that “people have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. We are looking at how he was able to hide out
there for so long”. He thought it was “inconceivable” that Bin Laden did not enjoy a “support system” in Pakistan.
In May last year, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Pakistan officials of harbouring Bin Laden and Mullah Omar. “I am not saying they are at the highest level … but I believe somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Taliban are. [The US] expect[s] more cooperation [from Pakistan],” she said.
What benefit would Pakistan get in protecting the Taliban or in providing a safe haven to Bin Laden and others?  Why does Pakistan follow such a suicidal set of policies? Has recourse to such flawed policies put the country in danger? That we have survived so far is perhaps due to American recognition that Pakistani intelligence links to Al Qaeda and the Taliban provide it with a window of opportunity to achieve success in the war. In return, Pakistan uses those links as critical leverage in its relationship with Washington.
If this is correct, then it is a bizarre transactional model. During the last 10 years, Pakistan has been severely destabilised by the war in Afghanistan. It faces a local insurgency that has links with the Afghan Taliban as well as Al Qaeda. At the same time, Pakistan needs a strong patron to survive in its battle against its more powerful neighbour, India, with whom the US maintains a strategic partnership.
On the other hand, the US needs Pakistan’s knowledge and influence in resolving the war in Afghanistan. The US and Pakistan need each other. Thus, however equivocal Pakistan’s role in the Bin Laden episode, the need to successfully exit from Afghanistan forces the US to depend on the former and to that extent delays the essential transformation of Pakistan.
Pakistan feels isolated and vulnerable and does not want this war to end without gaining certain advantages. It appears that Pakistan wants the US to recognise its sphere of influence in Afghanistan and also provide long-term strategic support.
Whether the US is willing to provide those comforts is another matter altogether. After the discovery of Bin Laden in
Abbottabad, one thing is certain: the US will now be planning other unilateral acts against targets such as the Haqqani group, the Quetta Shura, the Lashkar-i-Taiba and others, wherever the opportunity occurs.
In short, US counter-terrorism rules have changed. We in Pakistan may shed tears of indignation but they will mean nothing; we are suffering for our skewed security policies that now endanger our very survival.
How have we reached this lamentable stage? The problem lies in our narrative of statehood. We take pride in considering Pakistan as an Islamic state.
Clearly, religious right and wrong cannot be made the basis of state management for that is best run on the principles of expediency and political purpose. Sultan Alauddin Khilji understood this 700 years ago when he declared that he did not know whether or not what he commanded was permitted under Sharia law. Thus, he gave commands that he considered were of benefit to the country and appeared opportune under the circumstances. He did not know whether that pleased God or not.
By declaring Pakistan an Islamic state, we have exposed ourselves to huge risks to the state. When we mix our national narrative with religion, we permit international issues to enter our political sphere — if any problem of an Islamic dimension arises anywhere in the world, it automatically becomes Pakistan’s problem. This also allows others to indulge in proxy wars of a sectarian nature within Pakistan.
Bin Laden said that he was creating an Islamic caliphate and was fighting the US since it subverted Muslim countries and guided their policies. He hoped that what he set in motion on 9/11 would start an Islamic revolution, resulting in the establishment of a caliphate.
That did not happen. He must have been quite dejected when he saw the motivating force of the recent uprisings in the Middle East. The mass revolutions in the Arab world over the past four months showed that Al Qaeda was politically inconsequential.
As Robert Fisk noted, “During the past few months, millions of Arab Muslims rose up and were prepared for their own martyrdom — not for Islam but for freedom and liberty and democracy. Bin Laden didn’t get rid of the tyrants. The people did.
And they didn’t want a caliph.” This sums up the tragedy of Bin Laden. He
had become irrelevant for a large majority of Muslims since many of them chose secular values of freedom and liberty, not an Islamic caliphate.
Pakistan and its leaders must learn from Bin Laden’s failure and understand that the future lies in dealing with problems related to freedom and liberty, rather than jihad and coercion. If we refuse to transform, we will not be a viable nation — we will rapidly descend into dysfunction and chaos. The choice is clear.
The writer is chairman of the Regional Institute of Policy Research in Peshawar.

New conspiracy theories By Zoe Williams - Friday 6th May 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/05/06/new-conspiracy-theories.html

LET’S say we believe Osama bin Laden is dead (I believe he’s dead). Why the reluctance to release the photograph, with the bullet wound over the left eye? Why did they bury the body at sea, the one place whence it could never be exhumed?
‘Deather’ theorists believe either that Bin Laden isn’t dead, or has been dead since either 2001 or 2009 (there is quite a complicated back-story about his kidneys), and this has all been staged to boost Obama’s poll ratings. Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, said to the BBC on Tuesday: “We should have the body displayed, paraded, journalists should see it. We shouldn’t rely on the American side of the story; we deserve to know the truth.”
One can appreciate his frustration — as credulous as I am, I cannot shift the fishy smell of the sea burial — but the fact is, unless they paraded Bin Laden’s body across the world, took his remains into the living room of everybody who expressed an interest, there would be someone, somewhere, asking for better evidence.
It’s a conundrum: if you believe a conspiracy, you ally yourself with the superstitious and the paranoid, for whom no statement is as trustworthy as the wildest speculation, and evidence is meaningless unless they can bite it to see if it’s real.
And yet if you dismiss the rumours and reject anything not announced by a reputable source, then you will quite often get things wrong.
The White House released a painstaking tick-tock (American for ‘minute-by-minute account’; you have to admit it’s stylish).
Key details turned out to be untrue almost immediately: first, Bin Laden used his wife as a human shield; later she was
someone else’s wife; later still no woman had been used as a shield. In the initial telling, Bin Laden was armed; later an official said: “I’m not aware of him having a weapon.” Originally, Bin Laden’s son Khalid had been killed; this was later amended to Hamza.
Nicholas Tomalin’s remark to fellow journalist Max Hastings before the latter went to Vietnam is the one that sticks in my mind, but it could have come from any journalist, observing official statements about any conflict: “They lie. Never forget they lie, they lie, they lie.” Ask not how plausible their press release is: ask what proportion of press releases from the past has turned out to be true.
Seminal world events raise all the threats to credibility in one hit: slippery politicians; the mendacious potential of technology (remember when a photograph was a document of unarguable truth? No, me neither, but apparently that really helped); and the famous ‘fog of war’, which loosely translates as ‘Don’t ask, because we can’t really remember, we couldn’t really see, and we won’t tell you anyway’.
Larger conspiracy theories do not fade away; if anything they intensify. The memory of what kind of person was promulgating them recedes, and we’re left with only the murky recollection that things weren’t as they seemed.
The death of Diana is an apposite example: at the time, when the person divining the hand of MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service, was Mohamed Al Fayed, his very involvement made the notion ludicrous. But the official records — almost in acknowledgment of the fact that feelings were running too high to accept the mundanity of a drink-driving verdict — put partial blame on the paparazzi. As if anybody who wasn’t drunk would ever drive into a pillar to escape men with cameras.
Yet that line has permeated so completely that the tabloids now express their fealty to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge by promising not to chase them to their romantic honeymoon hideaway. The narrative we’re left with has been shaped by its attempt to refute the conspiracy: so it sounds not so much untrue as somehow off, leaving the door ajar for a fresh conspiracy.
It’s like the lie-detector plot twist in an ’80s cop show. In politics, one always has the sense that they’re fibbing about something, because they always are: just by the laws of the known universe, there will be something that they’re not allowed to tell us. It could be something incredibly small, but once we have perceived falsity in their bearing, it is impossible to stop picking over the carrion, looking for the lie. — The Guardian, London

Editorial : Tough truths - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=45446&Cat=8

Facing up to the truth is clearly not our strength. While television surveys suggest many people in the country refuse to believe Osama is dead, keeping alive our tradition of believing in bizarre conspiracies as opposed to the truth, even our prime minister seems eager to avoid accepting what has actually happened and instead appears to be trying to shrug off embarrassment saying that, as intelligence is shared with other agencies around the world, they too are to blame for the failure to discover Osama’s presence in Pakistan. Intelligence-sharing may be a reality, but the prime responsibility for events on our soil lies with us. There is no getting away from this fact. We would do ourselves less damage by telling the truth, openly confessing failure, and addressing the issue of avoiding similar disasters in the future by conducting a detailed review of what went wrong. The enquiry into the intelligence failure announced after a crucial corps commanders meeting must not remain just talk and must become a meaningful reality. The findings of such an enquiry need to be made public, given that the incident in Abbottabad is the talk of the world.

The need to avoid a future debacle along the same lines is all the more urgent now that the White House has made it quite clear that it will not hesitate to carry out another operation of a similar nature in the country. It has also said that there will be no apology for what took place. It is apparent that in a triumphant Washington distrust for Pakistan runs deeper than ever. Feeble excuses and attempts to deflect blame will not help anyone, least of all us. Attempted cover-ups will lead us nowhere. This is all the more true given that we cannot rule out the possibility of further US action on our soil. A report in this newspaper suggests the next targets may be Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s second most important leader after Bin Laden, or former Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Meanwhile Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has said that more such raids will not be tolerated and will lead to a review of cooperation with the United States. There is no doubt that further American action, possibly in North Waziristan or Quetta, would tear the notion of our sovereignty into even smaller pieces. And that’s why those at the helm of affairs should act wisely. The flurry of confused statements coming from our leaders is helping no one, and is only making matters worse for us. Though the military commanders have stated that no repeat of Abbottabad will be tolerated, we need a far clearer line of thinking, and also action that proves we are committed to combating militancy, thus dispelling growing doubts that have been expressed in this regard in various capitals of the world. Pressure on Pakistan will continue to grow unless we demonstrate the ability and the will to take on militants, rather than merely going on about how we have suffered at their hands.

Mother of all embarrassments - Ayaz Amir - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=45440&Cat=9

For a country with more than its share of misfortunes and sheer bad luck, we could have done without this warrior of the faith, Osama bin Laden, spreading his beneficence amongst us. He was a headache for us while he lived, but nothing short of a catastrophe in his death. For his killing, and the manner of it, have exposed Pakistan and its security establishment like nothing else.

To say that our security czars and assorted knights have been caught with their pants down would be the understatement of the century. This is the mother of all embarrassments, showing us either to be incompetent – it can’t get any worse than this, Osama living in a sprawling compound a short walk from that nursery school of the army, the Pakistan Military Academy and, if we are to believe this, our ever-vigilant eyes and ears knowing nothing about it – or, heaven forbid, complicit.

I would settle for incompetence anytime because the implications of complicity are too dreadful to contemplate.

And the Americans came, swooping over the mountains, right into the heart of the compound, and after carrying out their operation flew away into the moonless night without our formidable guardians of national security knowing anything about it. This is to pour salt over our wounds. The obvious question which even a child would raise is that if a cantonment crawling with the army such as Abbottabad is not safe from stealthy assault what does it say about the safety of our famous nuke capability, the mainstay of national pride and defence?

Barely 24 hours before the Osama assault General Kayani, at a ceremony in General Headquarters in remembrance of our soldiers killed in our Taliban wars, was describing the army as the defender of the country’s ideological and geographical frontiers. For the time being, I think, we should concentrate on ideology and leave geography well alone, the Abbottabad assault having made a mockery of our geographical frontiers.

Every other country in the world is happy if its armed forces can defend geography. We are the only country in the world which waxes lyrical about ideological frontiers. To us alone belongs the distinction of calling ourselves a fortress of Islam.

In the wake of the Raymond Davis affair a certain sternness had crept into our tone with the Americans, as we told them that they would have to curtail their footprint in Pakistan. I wonder what we tell them now. It is not difficult to imagine the smile on American lips when we now speak of the absolute necessity of minimising CIA activities.

With whom the gods would jest, they first make ridiculous. The hardest thing to bear in this saga is not wounded pride or breached sovereignty but our exposure to ridicule. Osama made us suffer in life and has made us look ridiculous after his death. Around the tallest mountains there is the echo of too much laughter at our expense.

Consider also the Foreign Office statement of May 3, “As far as the target compound is concerned, ISI had been sharing information with CIA...since 2009....It is important to highlight that taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited intelligence leads given by us to identify and reach Osama bin Laden.” This is hilarious. If we were aware of the compound and had suspicions about its occupants what ‘superior technological assets’ were required to go in and find out?

But what takes the cake is the stern warning attached: “This event of unauthorised unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule. The government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the US.” We can imagine the CIA trembling in its shoes. My son burst out laughing when he read this. If the Americans get a clue to the whereabouts of Ayman al-Zawahiri or Mullah Omar will they ask our permission before sending their SEAL teams in?

The CIA chief, Leon Panetta, has rubbed the point in: “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardise the mission. They might alert the targets.” That’s about the level of trust we seem to inspire.

Anyway, trust Prime Minister Gilani to put it best, that the failure to find Osama for so long was not just Pakistan’s failure but that of intelligence agencies around the world. This is really cool, absolving ourselves of all responsibility even when Osama is discovered within walking distance of PMA Kakul.

We have some funny notions of sovereignty and national honour. The CIA spreading itself wide in Pakistan is a breach of national sovereignty, and rightly so. And American boots on the ground, as in Abbottabad, are totally unacceptable. But when it comes to Al Qaeda using Pakistan as a base, Sirajuddin Haqqani and the rest of the Taliban holed up in North Waziristan and Taliban elements in Quetta, we somehow can’t work up the same outrage.

We already had a tough job on our hands convincing the world of our bona fides. After the Osama operation it gets that much tougher.

In an ideal world this should be a wakeup call for Pakistan, an opportunity for some honest introspection and a hard look at some of the bizarre notions underpinning our theories of national security. Must we spend so much on defence? Is the world engaged in a conspiracy to undermine our foundations? Aren’t our nuclear weapons enough to give us a sense of security? Hasn’t the time come to curb some of our zest for nurturing and sustaining jihadi militias? And isn’t it time we stopped fretting so much about Afghanistan and made internal order and prosperity the principal focus of our endeavours?

But we do not live in an ideal world and our capacity for self-deception should not be under-estimated. Shaken as we may be by the Osama operation, we can safely assume that we won’t take this as a wakeup call. As the Foreign Office statement vividly shows, we’ll hunt for lame excuses and hide behind false explanations, convinced of our ability to fool the world when the only thing fooled will be ourselves.

So we will keep talking about strategic assets and good and bad Taliban, and about protecting our interests in Afghanistan, and we’ll keep subscribing to theories of Indian hostility and encirclement, because these are the foundations on which stands the peculiar national security state we have constructed, forever threatened and insecure.

If the separation of East Pakistan was not a wakeup call, if Musharraf’s adventure in Kargil wasn’t that either, it is too much to expect that Pakistan’s comprehensive exposure in this saga, the Islamic Republic without its clothes, will lead to any radical departures in national outlook.

Our ruling establishment is too set in its ways and, sadly, the roots of national stupidity run too deep.

And perish the thought of anyone taking responsibility and throwing in his papers. That’s just not the Pakistani way.

But there should be no escaping the fact that from now on we will have to be more careful. All the signs suggest that this may prove to be a milestone of sorts, a dangerous turning point, in that our friends, let alone our enemies, become more sceptical of our pronouncements and increasingly less willing to put up with our hidden and double games.

We will be asked some tough questions and the time for bluster or a show of righteous indignation may have passed.

Email: winlust@yahoo.com

Naked emperor, dead rabbit - Mehreen Zahra-Malik - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=45441&Cat=9

Picture this: a magician, creating illusions and pulling a rabbit from a hat. Now mix with this image a second image from the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, which turn out to be invisible, leaving the emperor naked in public. Two illusions in one: of an emperor wearing magnificent but illusory robes and a conjurer producing a rabbit from a hat.

Now picture the PPP government shedding old rags stained by terrorism, inflation, price hikes and power outages and putting on a sparkling new patchwork ensemble of several-point agendas and enemy-turned-allies. Picture President Zardari pulling out of a hat a ‘national reconciliation’ government that will extricate the country from its myriad messes and pave the way for long-term reform.

While the government parades around in its amazing new duds, how many of us know it’s completely naked and the rabbit it’s holding up is dead?

When the MQM withdrew its ministers from the federal cabinet earlier this year, the PPP no longer had the 172 seats needed to preserve its majority in the 342-member National Assembly. Next out was Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, and smelling blood, Nawaz too added pressure by demanding action on a 10-point agenda and subsequently sent PPP’s ministers in the Punjab province home.

Remaining allies and 19 independent MPs summed up to the total strength of 166, still six short of target. With the federal budget and Senate elections looming, this just wasn’t going to work, especially when the government had already failed to pass key financial legislation like the reformed general sales tax and a flood surcharge.

What to do? Get besieged and renegade parties to shoulder the numbers-burden for a quid pro quo and call it ‘national reconciliation’ in the name of saving the country. From villain to semi-hero in two words. One hell of a magic trick, no? Same emperor, new clothes – or rather, no clothes at all.

The PMLN wasn’t going to play ball and bridges with the JUIF had been burned. Pesky MQM wasn’t a complicated target because all it wanted was control over Karachi where the PPP demonstrated it would play by Altaf’s rules (sacking Dr Mirza and banning the People’s Amn Committee are cases in point).

That left the PML-Q: a party barely at the margins of the opposition with a taste for mainstream politics. The king’s party during Musharraf’s reign, it was going to be the biggest loser in the Senate elections when its 20 senators retired. Enter the PPP with promises of seat adjustments in the Senate election, important ministries, alliance in general elections – and it was a match made in heaven. Except the PML-Q wanted more. Remember the NICL corruption investigation in which Moonis Elahi is currently detained as a suspect? Two investigation officers on the case, federally appointed, have already been removed from their posts. Remember the voluminous report submitted to the Supreme Court last month alleging that new “senior minister” Pervaiz Elahi siphoned Rs. 5.4 billion from the Bank of Punjab? Enough said.

The contours of the power-sharing deal were finalised almost three weeks ago but the public back-and-forth was orchestrated to lend a whiff of legitimacy to a done deal and to buy time to placate disgruntled PMLQ members.

While the army was too busy worrying about the US, and now Osama, to care about these political distractions, the alliance did set off alarm bells in Raiwind. For the PPP and the PML-Q, that was half the battle already won.

In all the talk of who would get what ministry, however, there was little talk of who would work on what problem. This was a no-good union from the very get-go. Clever politics and rather impressive opportunism; a war of distraction that won’t make even a modest wrinkle in the fabric of Pakistan’s problems but which works perfectly to divert attention from the truth: that we’re in for a long, slow slog to worse times. A naked emperor and a dead rabbit – Pakistani politics summed up in two images.

If that’s not enough on the art of alliance making, here’s more. What do you do if you don’t have federal ministries to hand out in exchange for favours from other irrelevant politicians? On the good authority of someone very close to Musharraf, we know that owner of ‘champion German Shepherds,’ Humayun Gauhar, was requested by Musharraf to ‘gift’ Imran Khan one of his best dogs. Poor Imran unwittingly sent one of his servants to pick up the pup, which Gauhar and his family considered an affront to dogs everywhere. After all, no dog-respecting person would ever send his servant to pick up a thorough-bred, right? Needless to say, the former president had to intervene and persuade Gauhar that the dog was important for any future alliance between Musharraf and Imran. Dog diplomacy? Now there’s an idea.

Here’s another one: One of the new PML-Q advisors to the PM explained over lunch that what Pakistan needed now were philosopher kings. How about you focus on industries and human rights, sir? Leave Plato’s dialogues to those who don’t have a collapsing state on their hands.

But this is how the political cookie crumbles here, the old hats will tell you: anything requiring undivided attention--terrorism, power shortages, Osama--is always accompanied by equally compelling distractions.

So here’s welcoming me to Islamabad, where politics is a distraction from politics itself.

The writer is assistant editor, The News International. Email: mehreen.tft@gmail.com

What do Karachiwalas want? Yusuf H Shirazi - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=45442&Cat=9

“What do the Karachiwalas want? Why are they against...?” Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto asked in a hurried meeting in Hyderabad. I was not ready for such a question at all. I paused, leaned back and exclaimed: “How can you expect Karachiwalas to be for you when they have to buy water to drink, when their children cannot be admitted in schools, and when their lives are disturbed with even mild rain. No electricity, no gas, no transport. Not to mention the law-and- order situation, which leaves a lot to be desired. No one is safe – men, women or children.”

It was now Bhutto’s turn to lean back – on the reclining chair that he sat on, and his body language suggested as if he had heard all of this for the first time! And, I was mistaken. Bhutto never meant to talk politics with me. He never meant the Karachiwalas as I understood them to be. By “Karachiwalas” he actually meant the business community. And, we were both tense: I for my own reasons, among others, having travelled fast for two and a half hours from Karachi to Hyderabad in the afternoon, wanting to return in time for the reception that I had hosted in honour of the outgoing president of the Overseas Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Uneasily, Bhutto asked why the Karachiwalas were not investing. Boldly I once again stated: “You have taken over their hearths and homes – nationalised everything that they had. You have taken over ten basic industries; nationalised banks, life insurance and a part of general insurance; and even taken over small units like those doing cotton ginning and the rice husking mills. What do you expect from them then?” There was a pause: Bhutto, visibly, went into deep thought.

I first met Bhutto in Sind Muslim Law College, where we were both part-time lecturers. Bhutto was, suave and generous. It was his pleasure to entertain all those there during the tea interval. One day, I stepped out and paid the bill. He looked at me, was surprised – nay, shocked. But, this, however, developed a relationship of mutual respect.

Bhutto was in his mid-30 when he was inducted as a minister and given the portfolio of foreign affairs in the cabinet, first by Sikander Mirza and then by Ayub Khan. As a minister, he did a great job till he fell out with Ayub Khan on his Tashkent settlement with Shastri after the India-Pakistan war of 1965. Bhutto resigned. He returned to power again, particularly after East Pakistan came into being, as civilian chief martial law administrator. Later, he started electioneering for the next term. I was president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry – the premier Chamber – during this time. He called me and said he would like to use the KCCI platform in order to address the business community. I said I will have to consult the managing committee. The committee declined and said that the chamber’s platform cannot be used for any political campaign.

Sometime later, our paths crossed again at the Karachi Boat Club. He sat with Begum Nusrat Bhutto, his brother-in-law Brigadier Islam and the brigadier’s wife. An unintended skirmish took place between him and me which, through the sagacity of Begum Nusrat, was amicably resolved and bygones were bygones. And so we sat together for a while, as if nothing had happened.

When Bhutto was elected president, he started nationalising industry after industry. The situation became tense. It shook the private sector. The investment stopped – both local and foreign. Although the government started putting up industries there was a limit to investment from the public sector. The government started realising this and was seeking solutions, particularly since the private sector started approaching the opposition who were only too eager to listen. Most started leaving the country: Flight of talent and capital. Those who had no choice, particularly, the small traders, cotton-ginners, rice huskers, etc. whose industries were nationalised, created a bad atmosphere for the government. Even workers, professionals and the consumers, in whose name nationalisation was done, were hit hard – harder than before the nationalisation.

One day, I received a call in Karachi, at 3 p.m., from Masood Mahmood, then chief of the Federal Security Force (FSF). He said I had sought an appointment with the president, and he will see me at 5.30 p.m. in Hyderabad. I was surprised because I had not sought any appointment. For a reception in honour of the outgoing president of the Overseas Chamber a large number of guests were invited, both local and foreigners. However, I was advised that I must go at any cost. Anyhow, I reached Hyderabad at 5.30 p.m. – just in time to meet the president.

I found Bhutto ill at ease and not at peace with himself. We sat together rather at ease. And, lo and behold! he, at the very outset, reminded me of the Boat Club skirmish and my refusing him the KCCI platform for his address to the business community. I chose not to respond.

Bhutto then came out with his agenda of the meeting. Bhutto said: “You are the ‘badshah’ – the king – of the chamber,” implying that the chamber under my management and control had not allowed him to address the business community from its platform. I said: “I am the president of the KCCI and the business community is not happy with you, among other reasons, for your nationalising everything.” They are left with no choice but to contact everybody – whether he is for the government and against the government. He intervened and said: “Go and tell them that I have nationalised and it is only I who will denationalizes, and no one else. However, I am not going to nationalise anymore: in fact, I will rationalise the nationalisation.” This I understood to mean that at least smaller units would return, particularly cotton ginning units and rice husking mills. He would introduce a pattern of mixed economy which would revive and, in fact, strengthen the economy. So he said: “issue a statement on my behalf. Right at the reception that you are holding for the president of the Overseas Chamber.” He knew, about the reception, and perhaps I was called to Hyderabad at short notice for that purpose only.

LeVaillant, the president of the Overseas Chambers of Commerce and Industry for whom the reception was arranged, was called, and told that I was on my way back. And I was almost in time. Jawaid Bukhari, then of PPI, was there for the reception. I trusted him with the statement. He was thrilled with the news but wanted to be ensured that the news will not be contradicted, which I did. The next day, there was a banner headline: “Rationalisation of the Nationalisation, a job indeed well done.”

(To be continued)

The writer is the founder/chairman of the Atlas group of companies.

Email: yhs@atlas.com.pk

The monolithic narrative - Dr Muzaffar Iqbal - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=45443&Cat=9

“If they kill me, it will be martyrdom for me. If they expel me, it will be a hijrah for me and I will call people to Allah. If they imprison me, it will be a place of worship for me.” - Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328)

Granted that in the unipolar world we now live in, there is no room for anything but a monolithic narrative, yet one would expect that those who craft this narrative would at least have the decency to keep it consistent; this, sadly, is not the case. The world was first told that Osama bin Laden had put up a fight and shot at the Navy Seals’ Team Six that stormed his alleged hideout in Abbottabad; that he used one of his wives as a human shield, that there was a “firefight”.

The White House changed the narrative within 36 hours and confirmed that none of this was true. In fact, Bin Laden was unarmed, was shot in the head and chest, and his wife had been wounded in the leg while rushing towards the kill team. This means: he was assassinated in cold blood by a kill team illegally sent into Pakistan. The lame excuse that the operation took place under the US policy of finding and killing him wherever he was found, would make no sense in any court of law. But a court of law is what we do not have in the unipolar world; international law now stands suspended.

We were told that Bin Laden lived in a million dollar mansion, but anyone who knows what one million dollars can buy in Abbottabad, Pakistan, would immediately know that there is no truth in this claim; only one or two Western journalists have pointed out this flaw in the narrative. What no one has so far (to my knowledge) pointed out a greater falsehood of the whole narrative: we have been told that the operation lasted just 40 minutes!

Putting bits and pieces of the official narrative together, one wonders how this could have been practically possible. After all, they came in their helicopters, landed, attacked the compound, killed the two courier brothers, then went up to the second and third floors, searched for and found Osama in a bedroom, fired at him and killed him. Then they dragged him down the stairs (blood all over the stairs), searched through every room, every drawer, took out hard drives from the computers. We are told, they emptied all the papers they found into their bags, destroyed their own helicopter which had crashed earlier in the operation and took the bodies of those they had killed and loaded them onto their remaining helicopters. All of this, we are told, was done in 40 minutes. Obviously someone was not wearing a watch.

So, the question is: why did they limit it to 40 minutes in the first narrative? A larger question is: why did they cook up a narrative with so many flaws? A still larger question is: how is it that we are now left with only one narrative which burst into view on that fatal morning of September 11, 2001 when the world woke up in shock and went to sleep in awe?

Perhaps we should revisit the beginning of this narrative and go back to its background – barely visible to many, but still traceable nevertheless – to the summer of 1978, when Nur Muhammad Taraki toppled the government and paved way for a full-scale invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets in 1979. By 2001, there was hardly a family left in this poorest of all countries which had not seen death and destruction. A whole generation had grown up knowing nothing but war.

To cut it short, let us just skip the part of the narrative detailing the emergence of Osama bin Laden, as this part has been repeated ad nauseam. Let us just go to the next question: When the Soviets left – more true would be to say when the Soviet army was defeated and driven out – why no one in the international community sought justice. Why did we not hear: let us set up an international tribunal to try those who have committed heinous crimes in remote villages of Afghanistan. Rather, the Soviets were allowed to just leave, as if their coming and going had no legal consequences for the so-called international community. Then the quick unravelling of the Soviet Union itself pushed that phase of history into a barely visible background.

It has been different for the Americans. There was no counter balance left in the world when bombs started to rain down from Afghan skies and hence there was little possibility of anyone standing up to them and say: before you push this wounded country further into the Stone Age, let us have an international court of justice which can scrutinise your narrative, establish truth, and pass a judgment on what really happened on that fatal September day when 3000 men, women and children were killed in a manner that had never happened in the entire human history. This did not happen. Instead, the world witnessed a brief spring of alternate media, where one could see gruesome pictures of American crimes in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq: rape, murder, torture, kidnapping, American soldiers smoking cigarettes next to their victims, posing for photographs, water boarding, electrical shocks, and the rest.

Yet, that brief spring of independent, alternate narrative was simply stumped out by the brute force that now reigns: First came embedded journalists, who had no eyes to see save those given to them. Then, in the wake of death and destruction of over one million human beings in Iraq, we saw an unprecedented accomplishment, perhaps as collateral damage: the bleak silence of all voices other than his majesty’s.

This did not happen overnight, but took steady, cold and calculated planning and manoeuvring. Not everyone was silenced but what remained of the few world-class journalists was made dysfunctional, obsolete. Most of them finally became tired of repeating a narrative that produced no results, that moved no one, and that had no force left in it. Alternative media outlets, which had sprung up in the wake of a global anti-war movement, simply disappeared from the scene. What was left of any independent narrative was hunted down, systematically destroyed, or silenced into submission.

In this gruesome monolithic age, only a dim light remains; what the great Bard of Avon had said four centuries ago is still true: “But it is no matter. Let Hercules himself do what he may, the cat will mew, and dog will have his day.” Thus, the probe launched by the Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon may yet spin an alternative narrative, telling us about the systematic torture at that American heart of darkness called the Guantanamo Bay, as he investigates “perpetrators, instigators, necessary collaborators and accomplices” to the torture of Guantanamo prisoners.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

The challenging aftermath - Shafqat Mahmood - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=45444&Cat=9

The Pakistani state finds itself in a difficult place after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. The international community is blaming it of at least incompetence, if not duplicity. Its people are in a state of shock, not being able to comprehend the ease of US intrusion, and the fragility of its sovereignty.

The plain facts are indeed hard to explain. Osama was living not in a cave as generally assumed but in a city that has a fair military presence. It is baffling that no one, neither the intelligence agencies nor local police, had a clue about it.

The brazen American assault, with nary an apology for the violation of another state’s sovereignty, also raises many questions. Is Pakistan its ally or adversary? Why did the Americans not trust Pakistan with the information? And, why was the intrusion not detected? What kind of defence preparedness do we have if another country can come in so easily and do what it likes? Does this mean that our nuclear assets are also not safe?

At another level, the competence quotient in this government is also being seriously questioned. The president wrote an article in The Washington Post essentially endorsing the US raid. A day later, the Foreign Office comes out with a statement which, among other things, raises the sovereignty issue and sternly cautions the US not to test Pakistan’s resolve again. The contradiction between the two positions is obvious. Who is right? The only possible conclusion is that this is a government in complete disarray.

What is worse, the Pakistan case went by default when the Western leaders and media were challenging its credentials regarding the fight against Al-Qaeda. In the first 24-hour news cycle when any press interaction at a senior political level would have had a global audience, there was complete silence. A huge opportunity to present our version was missed.

And there is a case to be made. The American intelligence community, with all its resources, technical abilities, highly trained manpower and huge budgets, could not discover the 9/11 plot and prevent the subsequent attacks. This happens not because of negligence or incompetence, but because thousands of leads pour in every day and it is virtually impossible to follow each one.

The same holds true for other intelligence outfits, including Pakistan’s. They were not able to find Osama’s hideout, and that indeed is a failure. But the explanation is the same: too many leads, too few resources. But – and this is what someone in the government could have told a global audience – since 2001, Pakistan has arrested more members of Al-Qaeda hierarchy than all the Western agencies put together.

Since Pakistan is being bashed from all sides, it is worth repeating some details. After the American invasion of Afghanistan, 248 Arabs, presumably Al-Qaeda were arrested crossing the border. This was the largest cache of Al-Qaeda-related people apprehended ever.

It did not stop there. In the last decade important Al-Qaeda leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj Al-Libi, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Umar Patek, Ammar Al Baluchi, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailari were arrested. The list goes on and on. Some like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Al-Libi were top lieutenants to Osama bin Laden and allegedly involved in the 9/11 attacks. The rest included Mohsin Matwalli Atwah, involved in the Kenya embassy bombing, who was killed in 2006 by Pakistani agencies with six other militants.

And yet the Western media and leaders say that Pakistan is playing a double game. The sad part is that our case has not been put before the world and now we find ourselves saddled with a serious credibility crisis. No one is willing to believe what we say. Our adversaries are having a field day dredging out the worst charges about us, and people like Salman Rushdie are having the temerity to demand that Pakistan should be declared a rogue state.

There is a domestic credibility gap too. People are concerned about their country’s security. Some are conjecturing that if the US can intrude so easily, what would stop the Indians? There is an explanation here too that has not come out in the domestic media. It may not completely put people’s fears to rest but there is certainly a case that a competent government would have been able to make.

Yes, the US was able to intrude with ease and evade our radars. There were both technical and tactical reasons for this. Technical, because superior equipment and high-tech gadgetry, combined with mountainous terrain, hid the intruders from the radars. Tactical, because military resources are deployed according to threat perception. There was little expectation of an attack from Afghanistan, so the radar network there was probably not extensive.

The situation is completely different when it comes to the Indian border or the strategic nuclear sites. They are heavily protected and the radar network is extensive. The possibility of an intruder coming in from that side without detection and a response is nonexistent. In other words, threat and capability go together. Americans sprang a surprise because there was no perception of threat from that side.

While all these explanations are valid and have gone by default because of a poor response from the Pakistani government, the sad fact is that damage has been done. Internationally now we are saddled with a serious credibility gap. This needs to change. Our objective has to be that while we cannot control every event happening here or abroad and, cannot rule out another terrorist popping up within the country, the Pakistani state is committed to the fight against militancy and international terrorism.

To make this commitment credible, mere words would not be enough. It is important to understand that for Pakistan the world is not the same after 1/5. A paradigm shift has come about and it needs to be understood. To be in a state of denial is not just an irritant but positively damaging for the country. There has to be a realisation that explanations having some resonance before would no longer hold validity. Our narrative has to change, backed by performance.

In particular, any impression of softness on militant groups because they are not a threat to the Pakistani state, or seen as assets for the future, would have little acceptance. In the new reality, if they are a threat to someone else, we have to play our part in ensuring that our soil is not used for attacks outside. It is not easy, because every option has its drawbacks, but a changed reality requires a serious rethink.

Our people need peace and prosperity, and that cannot come about by making the world our adversary. We need a cold analysis of our strengths and weaknesses and craft our policies accordingly. For too long we have sought to punch above our weight. This may no longer be possible.

Email: shafqatmd@gmail.com

Side-effect - Harris Khalique - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=45445&Cat=9

The denial, the half-truths, the conspiracy theories, the illusory high moral ground and the act of presenting themselves as embodiments of definite knowledge on the subject under discussion have become the hallmarks of some women and men who ride the primetime television airwaves in Pakistan as anchors and permanent analysts. They have encroached upon the living rooms of a large number of homes across the country, invaded shared public spaces in low income neighbourhoods and occupied the roadside restaurants along the highways in cities, towns and villages alike. As Michael Ignatieff has said and I have quoted before that television has become the church of modern authority. In an oral culture like ours where literacy level is low to further exacerbate the precarious situation surrounding our reading habits and the derivative skills to absorb and analyse the information that we receive through written word, the responsibility of those informing and educating people through electronic media increases manifold.

They are journalists first and foremost. Neither they are thespians, performers or filmstars who are there to entertain and sensationalise nor should they have an unprofessional slant. Particularly, it gets even worse when the slant is in favour of something that is totally untrue, completely concocted and serves a specific agenda.

Pakistan’s foreign policy failures rooted in a defective national security paradigm pursued for many decades have hugely impacted our economy, polity and societal norms on the one hand and tarnished our image as a state and people in the comity of nations on the other. The champions of this narrative got egg on their face once again. This time around this was not the egg of a turtle or a hen but that of an ostrich. A big round egg cracked open on their heads and smeared their faces. They are in a fix. If they own up to being collaborators or claim to be in the know of things about an impending operation that could eliminate Osama bin Laden at the hands of American SEAL commandoes, they would take the wrath of the religious extremists, irrespective of their estimate that extremist outfits could still be controlled and used as a military asset in future.

If they say they had no idea where Osama was, apparently after he had lived in a garrison town near the military academy for years, this is a reflection on their capacity to safeguard the interests of Pakistan. For, Pakistan is a part of a war against Al-Qaeda and Taliban and Osama had declared war on Pakistan for siding with the Americans and Nato-ISAF. How could he then survive in the heart of the country?

It is about time that in the supreme national interest, we whole-heartedly participate in the effort to root out terrorism, take stock of what went wrong in our policy and practice and set it right. It will take some time and both our strategic allies and our neighbours will have to demonstrate some patience. Surrounded and besieged, a wounded cat can cause harm to all. But the civil and military establishment of Pakistan have to finally decide at this juncture in our history that the 180 million poor souls they either represent or claim to be custodians of need a stable, peaceful and prosperous country to live in. They have little choice but to clear out the mess themselves so that outsiders are not able to intervene. People are confused. Our anchors have to stop whipping up emotions and let the powers that be change their course.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy adviser. Email: harris. khalique@gmail.com

EDITORIAL: Welcoming back the MQM - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\05\06\story_6-5-2011_pg3_1

The PPP and the MQM had been on somewhat estranged terms since late last year, when the Sindh based party decided to part ways with the government after scalding remarks made against it by the then Home Minister, Zulfiqar Mirza. It was a devastating retreat from the coalition as the JUI-F had also left the PPP high and dry after the sacking of Minister for Religious Affairs Hamid Saeed Kazmi following the Hajj scandal. The MQM’s decision to quit the coalition was a huge blow that saw the PPP turn to the PML-Q to preserve its teetering numbers in the house. However, all that seems to be a thing of the past now as the MQM’s senior leaders, which included its Deputy Convener, Dr Farooq Sattar, met with the PPP members such as Interior Minister Rehman Malik in the Governor House in Karachi to once again embrace the federal cabinet. The MQM had been mending fences recently with Altaf Hussain’s party by continuing to sit in the treasury benches but also keeping the PPP on edge by withholding their 25 seats in the federal cabinet. The MQM made a hue and cry about the many issues facing the nation and issued an agenda that attempted to tackle a labyrinth of problems such as corruption, law and order, inflation, power shortage etc. However, staying true to the Pakistani politicians’ flair for making loud noises with little content, this nine-point agenda did not outline how the MQM planned to wipe out these problems. Now after tooting the social welfare horn, it looks like the MQM has once again decided to give the cabinet a shot — it is being claimed that the party was offered three rather important federal ministries such as ports and shipping, labour and manpower, and the provincial home department, although the PPP is remaining hush over these claims. The MQM has voiced its satisfaction with the PPP who, it says, is willing to solve the problems listed in the agenda and work towards fixing the law and order situation in Karachi. All in all, the meeting was the usual rhetoric of a jovial political coalition once again re-establishing its dominance in the numbers game.

Once the PPP had taken favour from the PML-Q, it was anticipated that the Chaudhry brothers would be paramount in helping better the ties between the PPP and the MQM. This is because, without the 25 seats belonging to the MQM, the coalition rested on very fragile foundations with the departure of the PML-N and the JUI-F.

Concerning the deteriorating situation in Karachi with each new cycle of violence, the MQM is being scrutinised and asked to account for the bloodshed in the city. It is the major coalition party in Sindh and is responsible for the welfare of the people. Karachi descends into violence at breakneck speed almost every second day, with its people asking if the MQM is part of the solution or part of the problem. We have heard one too many times that the government is working to decrease the tension in Karachi and this meeting at the Governor House is no different. Claims need be implemented but never have been. If the MQM and other political parties are serious about sorting out the Karachi situation they must make the law enforcement agencies independent of all political affiliations so that they can reign in the gunmen who have made life a living hell for the citizens. No matter whom the gunmen belong to and how far back their political linkages may go they must be held accountable. Soft-pedalling and the usual rhetoric will get Karachi nowhere. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: A change may be coming

The conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian parties, began when Hamas refused to agree to Fatah’s approach on the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to make peace with Israel. The conflict intensified when Hamas won the elections of 2006. The EU and US cut off aid to the Palestinian territories because both designated Hamas as a terrorist group and, therefore, Hamas was not allowed to take power.

However, when the US administration used its veto power in the UN Security Council to block a draft resolution condemning Israel’s continued settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, realised that they would never be able to achieve the status of an independent state until Hamas and Fatah resolved their conflicts. Moreover, there was tremendous pressure from the Palestinians who urged the two parties to resolve their issues, as they firmly believed it was the only way to combat Israel.

Back in 2007, under Mubarak’s regime, Egypt too was supporting Israel and had sealed off the Gaza Strip, which meant that the Palestinians in Gaza were cut off, even from supplies . Now, after Mubarak’s overthrow, the new government has been of immense support to Palestine and has played a major role in bringing Hamas and Fatah together. Therefore, the change in Egypt, the hardline stance taken by Israel and the US’s support to Israel all combined to persuade Mahmoud Abbas that the only way to progress in their struggle for independence was by uniting. Hence, the accord in Cairo where both parties reached a truce.

For long, the Palestinians have been suffering due to the constant fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The two factions of the Palestinian resistance movement virtually became entities unto themselves in their own territories. Therefore, nothing could have been better for the Palestinians than overcoming the rifts that led to conflict and fighting. They can finally speak with one voice now, which will lend weight to their position and take them one step ahead in achieving their goal of enjoying the status of an independent state.

However, the fact remains that unless and until Palestine establishes itself as a state according to the 1967 borders, peace with Israel is highly unlikely and a continuation of that conflict is bound to inflame the Middle East even more than it already is and will prove detrimental to US interests as Obama has already disappointed his people by taking Israel’s side one too many times. *

COMMENT: The two faces of Pakistan —Dr Mahjabeen Islam - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\05\06\story_6-5-2011_pg3_2

The ISI most likely knew of the operation and perhaps it was decided that it would play dumb, for CIA Director Leon Panetta claims that the first response of his counterpart on hearing the news was “congratulations”

This is a tough time to be Pakistani. Perhaps the humiliation and bewilderment of the average Pakistani can be analogised to the time when West Pakistan unleashed rape and murder on its eastern half and lost it. But those were not the days of the Internet revolution; propaganda whitewashed the gory details and West Pakistanis lived in ignorant bliss.

Osama bin Laden’s killing remains shrouded in mystery; the backpedalling of the American government is unsettling. And, for Pakistanis across the world, the initial eerie silence and the subsequent outlandish statements of the Pakistan government and the ISI added the last nail in our coffin of infamy.

The media had a heyday with reports of bin Laden using his wife as a shield and all that it connotes. After 24 hours, there was a recant. President Obama seems very concerned about Muslim sentiment and the preference in Islam to bury as soon as possible. So with “Muslim rites” bin Laden was dumped in the sea! The bodies of all previous high value terrorists that were killed were shown to the media and all were buried. A basic knowledge of Islam would reveal that Muslims cannot be buried at sea unless there are extenuating circumstances, and this was not one. The calls for closure and quashing of conspiracy theories demand, at the very minimum, photographs of the body but the decision now emerges that it would inflame Muslims and threaten national security so they too shall not be shown.

That bin Laden was living for at least a year in the backyard of the elite Kakul Military Academy in the garrison city of Abbottabad, that the US could kill him and gather all computer data in 40 minutes flat before the Pakistan Air Force could mobilise, that the Pakistanis were deliberately kept in the dark about this and now there is no public evidence of bin Laden’s death only leads to further vilification of the US and arms al Qaeda and the Taliban to advance their conspiracy theories and extremist ideology.

Even non-Muslim Americans and those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks would have benefited by the closure that photos provide. Reprisals one can anticipate, making definitive evidence public rather than expecting the world to believe the “99.9 percent DNA match” would not have been gloating but the closing of a terrible chapter in world history. A whopping 64 percent in a CNN poll wanted the photos to be made public.

Pakistanis must face that, over the last 25 years, Pakistan has been converted into a haven for terrorism. That the thousands of Pakistani military and civilian lives lost in a war that was not Pakistan’s died at the hands of Muslims, with the tacit and overt support of the population.

There are two Pakistans: one that is committed to democracy, human rights, education and professional advancement of women and a Sufistic practice of Islam. The other is the Taliban brand-literalistic, uneducated, violent Islam that treats women as receptacles of procreation and follows the Salafi/Wahabi practice.

Most al Qaeda figures that have been arrested for terrorist activities in various parts of the world have had links to Pakistan and the majority of them were not Pakistani. Over the last 25 years, Uzbeks, Arabs, Chechens, Afghans and even Filipinos have found safe haven in Pakistan, learnt Urdu and Pashto and obtained Pakistani passports. Worse still, economic conditions have forced the local population to rent out to, aid and marry these foreigners; slowly but surely Pakistan has been radicalised and also permeated with Wahabi thought.

As a young woman, I do not remember seeing flailing beards in our cricket team or army passing out parades as one notices now. Not to mention the entirely modest dupatta and shalwar kameez outfit that has been dumped in favor of the Arab hijab, niqab, gown and gloves, that also in the searing heat of Lahore.

Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and other members of Congress are questioning the two billion dollars in aid that Pakistan receives. And rightfully so. Accountability is not Pakistan’s strong point. It is conjectured that some of the aid went with Musharraf when he went overseas. The current government is mired in corruption and Prime Minister Gilani soaks up French hospitality while Pakistan burns.

The ISI most likely knew of the operation and perhaps it was decided that it would play dumb, for CIA Director Leon Panetta claims that the first response of his counterpart on hearing the news was “congratulations”. It is virtually impossible for Pakistanis to believe that one of the supposedly best secret services in the world did not know of bin Laden living in a military garrison. It is conjectured that a large part of the ISI and the army has been permeated by Taliban thought, with the unjust American invasion of Iraq as a terrible catalyst and that perhaps keeping the ISI out of the operation completely would allow it to better deal with its radicalised members.

After the London train bombings, a friend of one of the bombers said that it did not matter if bin Laden was alive or dead: “al Qaeda is inside,” he said pointing to his head. The same premise applies to Pakistan. The government and now the ISI are inept, true. But the problem is the population and with it lies the solution.

The non-radicalised face of Pakistan has an onerous responsibility. It must form coalitions and maybe an umbrella organisation to rid Pakistan of al Qaeda and the Taliban. Ironically, bin Laden and terrorists like him are easy surgical strikes. Wahabi/Taliban thought that has permeated into the population over the last 25 years may take another generation to cleanse. And by that time Pakistan may not even be the banana republic it is now. It will probably be drawn and quartered beyond recognition.

The writer is an addictionist, family physician and columnist. She can be reached at mahjabeen.islam@gmail.com

VIEW: Truth or dare? —Gulmina Bilal Ahmad - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\05\06\story_6-5-2011_pg3_3

The security establishment of the country is not doing any good to the public by not providing an answer. If they have cooperated in this operation or have provided any intelligence, then the public should know

Bin Laden, the icon of terrorism; the symbol of fear in the western world is dead. Crowds of thousands of Americans came out in jubilation and celebrated the death of the person, who was responsible for killing more than three thousand Americans on 9/11 in 2001. It was certainly a victory for that nation, but what about us Pakistanis who are still searching for an answer about what happened?

The operation ‘Geranimo’, as the Americans are calling it, was executed in such a way that the whole of our security apparatus failed to detect the incoming Apache helicopters. This situation, if true, is really alarming because if a nuclear-armed nation cannot ensure its defence, then perhaps the Americans are right in saying that there is a grave threat to our nuclear weapons by the terrorists.

However, the reaction by the intelligence agencies and the government is not encouraging for the public. How could a country’s defence forces show such a naïve behaviour when they have a constant threat not only from outside but from an internal enemy as well? This is unbelievable. The only rational answer that comes around is that our security establishment is saying all this to avoid a possible backlash from the extremist elements.

The backlash would come anyways. Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have already declared Pakistan as their number one enemy. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) have offered the funeral prayers in absentia for the slain al Qaeda leader. A country, where extremist elements are so deep-rooted, a backlash in any case is predictable.

Abbottabad is a cantonment, where not only the army is present, but due to the fact that Pakistan Military Academy is located there, the security of the area is ensured by the intelligence and the military. The compound where Bin Laden was hiding was, according to media reports, only 400 metres away from the academy. This compound was in existence since 2005 and still the answer comes that no one knew about his presence.

The Americans said that in order to avoid a tip-off that could have led to the escape of Bin Laden, they kept the Pakistani authorities uninformed on the operation. It was only after the operation that military took control of the compound. However, this explanation is not plausible because, throughout the operation that almost lasted for an hour or so, there was no reaction from the authorities or the civil administration.

The general public is dumbfounded and is demanding an answer that actually makes sense. The talk of sovereignty and independence, when foreign forces enter our airspace and conduct an operation on our soil seem like a misquoted jargon. However, the US President clearly said that the operation was successful due to the cooperation from authorities in Pakistan. Then why our security establishment is not providing a plausible answer to the public?

The level of trust between the US and Pakistan is at its lowest since the Raymond Davis saga. This was also one the reasons why the Americans did not inform the security establishment of Pakistan about the presence of a high-value target in the vicinity of our military academy. They believe that our intelligence agencies are playing a double game. On the outside they are cooperating with the Americans in this war on terror, but on the inside they provide protection to terrorist elements, which are considered as strategic assets.

If this cooperation is based on mistrust, then Pakistanis must prepare for such operations in future as well. The security establishment of the country is not doing any good to the public by not providing an answer. If they have cooperated in this operation or have provided any intelligence, then the public should know. Otherwise, this stance adopted by the establishment would once again lead to the defamation of army among the public, as happened in the ‘Musharraf Regime’.

A general sentiment that is spreading among the public like wildfire, which is also being reflected in the media, is that our security establishment was providing protection to Bin Laden and the Americans have caught them playing their double games. This is dangerous not only for the morale of our forces, who are fighting to protect this nation, but also for the public, who would once again lose trust in their defence forces.

A plausible answer would certainly help calm down the people. It is also imperative to avoid any backlash from the extremist factions. It is evident from the past few years that activism has gone a different level in our country. People come out in the streets even for the smallest of cause and perhaps that is what the democracy is all about. But this issue is not similar to the shortage of electricity or gas load shedding that can be neglected. The concerned authorities would have to devise a strategy for the future, so that the situation could be brought under control.

The implications of Pakistan being branded as a safe haven for terrorists would be dangerous. The public does not want it and is looking forward for an answer that could satisfy them.

The writer is an Islamabad-based consultant. She can be reached at coordinator@individualland.com

ANALYSIS: Osama Bin Laden and after —S P Seth - Friday, May 06, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\05\06\story_6-5-2011_pg3_4

In their confident advocacy of the ending of “the legend of the so-called superpower that is America”, Osama and his band of fighters, who became al Qaeda, were inspired by their victory against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s

The wild popular jubilation in the US over Osama Bin Laden’s killing is indicative of the need for a demonstrative victory. The successful execution of a limited operation against Osama in his hideout in Abbottabad could not have been more dramatic. It had all the hallmarks of a Hollywood thriller resulting in the good guys (the US special forces) prevailing over the evil (Osama Bin Laden), with his deserved death. As President Obama said, justice was done for the 9/11 bombing of the New York Trade Centre, with Osama as its mastermind. Or to put it in the cowboy/Indian analogy, as the Sydney Morning Herald did editorially: “For the moment, America is walking tall back into town with the body of the outlaw [Osama] thrown over the saddle.”

However, Geoffrey Robertson, a well-known international law practitioner, is not happy with the way Osama was killed and disposed off. In a newspaper article, he writes: “...It [Osama’s death] endorses what looks increasingly like a cold-blooded assassination ordered by a president, who as a former law professor, knows the absurdity of his statement that ‘justice was done’.” As we know now from the US Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA’s) director, the order was to kill him. Osama was unarmed at the time of his execution, and his young wife was shot in the leg but not killed.

Osama Bin Laden’s death is a great morale booster for the US at a time when much of the news about the country is not all that encouraging. The economy is languishing, the dollar is sliding, its credit rating is no longer top notch and the grind of the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking its toll on the US in all sorts of ways. Whether the positive impact of Osama’s killing will be fleeting or lasting remains to be seen. The reaction in the US, both at the public and official level, is self-congratulatory. President Obama, in his victory speech to declare Osama’s death, was keen to highlight his personal role. With his polls sliding, this should help him to regain the popular ground, though it is too early to make any confident prediction. Because, in politics, even a week can be an eternity. In Obama’s case, his re-election still has quite some time to go.

Apart from the news and commentary on Osama’s death, the second most discussed related issue in the global media is whether or not the Pakistan government was complicit in hiding Osama bin Laden. The clincher for those who believe in Pakistan’s complicity is that Osama could not have lived in his Abbottabad house for an extended period without being detected in a garrison town with its elite military academy and other military facilities all around. The Pakistan government is simply trying to shrug off the whole affair with varied explanations. But it might have some explaining to do to the US, even though the latter, at its highest levels, is seeking to emphasise their shared anti-terror commitment and credentials. It is common knowledge that, of late, the relations between the US and Pakistan have been more than usually tense, especially after the Raymond Davis affair. The Davis episode aside, the US has been suspicious of Pakistan’s perceived duplicitous dealings, seeking to keep their options open with the terrorists while professing a common cause with the US.

Osama’s death is likely to lead to random acts of violence by assorted terrorist outfits professing ideological inspiration from their former mentor. A large-scale terrorist attack is likely to take time, if it does eventuate. In the Arab world, supposed to have been the centre of Osama’s Islamist revolution, his message has already been overtaken by the popular revolutionary upsurge to overthrow the region’s dictators and replace them with a democratic dispensation. In a sense, in the heartland of Islam, Osama’s massage has become irrelevant for the time being. But in the medium and long term, if political democracy does not lead to economic betterment of the people, there is a danger that people might find refuge in religion, looking for targets of hate and violence elsewhere.

The question then is: what made Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda tick? Because, if it was relevant then, it might still be lurking. An insight into this is provided by an interview he gave CNN in 1997. He said, “It [US] wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose agents on us [Arab kings and dictators] to rule us, and then wants us to agree to all this.” He added, “If we refuse to do so, it says we are terrorists.”

Osama’s rage on the Palestinian question is still relevant. He said, “When Palestinian children throw stones against the Israeli occupation, the US says they are terrorists. Whereas when Israel bombed the United Nations building in Lebanon while it was full of children and women, the US stopped any plan to condemn Israel.” Israeli intransigence and US support of it remains a provocative issue for the Muslim world.

In their confident advocacy of the ending of “the legend of the so-called superpower that is America”, Osama and his band of fighters, who became al Qaeda, were inspired by their victory against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Once the Soviets were forced to quit Afghanistan, the US did not appear invincible to them. And Osama’s thesis/ideology found resonance with many Muslims in the world, where al Qaeda franchises to kill people became popular.

Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda provided the trigger against the US and western powers’ perceived injustices against the Muslim world. Susan Sontag, a US writer, had the courage to articulate this soon after the 9/11 attacks in a short essay published in The New Yorker. She wrote on September 24, 2001, “The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licenced to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilise the public.”

And she added, “Where is the acknowledgement that this was not a ‘cowardly’ attack on ‘civilisation’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions?”

Her withering criticism of US self-image and policies, for which she was pilloried relentlessly in her country, remains relevant.

The writer is a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney, Australia. He can be reached at sushilpseth@yahoo.com.au