A way out of the memogate mess

Published: December 19, 2011
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The writer is a defence and political analyst who retired as an air-vice marshal from the air force

The writer is a defence and political analyst who retired as an air-vice marshal from the air force

Salala was an unqualified tragedy. Period. But did it alter the strategic equation in any way? Consider: Pakistan’s strategic environment is still the same, what with the war on terror still raging. Afghanistan is as unsteady and unstable as any other weakling nation mired in strife — and as a consequence, Pakistan, too, is stumbling and unsteady, in desperate need to right its own balance. Thus, what were Pakistan’s objective strategic concerns pre-Salala continue to remain so post-Salala.

For a moment let us go back to Salala. The dominating sense of it all as an inquiry goes through its paces, is that the incident was indeed an error. A well-embedded source within Washington’s strategic community says it was an “induced and infused” error. The Afghan National Army (ANA) elements leading the operation with the support of US Special Forces misled Nato’s air response against the Pakistani posts, in a deliberate and intended provocation. For the moment, an answer is easier to find in the popular assertion that Afghans at most levels share a deep-seated animosity for Pakistan. It seems though that such Afghans are usually those that either live in Kabul or are heavily influenced by the western presence in parts of Afghanistan. That is equally bad for it preordains Pakistan’s policy objectives even if Nato/US were to exit tomorrow and leave a remnant sentiment of Pakistan having been a problem rather than a part of any solution to the Afghan predicament. This then, too, becomes an Afghan policy imperative — apart from bringing closure to the war in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal regions, and in helping forge bilateral and region peace and stability. If these are the imperatives of Pakistan’s Afghan policy — and indeed these should be — what then is the fuss? Come December 23, the findings of a Nato/US inquiry will outline miscommunication as a the more likely cause and provide assurance of instituting foolproof mechanisms to prevent such things from happening again. Apology or no apology, the inevitability of strategic compulsions will keep the three principals — Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US — bound into a collective association to resolve the muddle, each working for its own interest, though. Better get back to work, the sooner the better, and forge an early end to an imposed war that is going nowhere.

But, what is our current fancy? The Mansoor Ijaz and Husain Haqqani drama played out in print and in Pakistani living rooms through compulsive idiocy every evening what else, the idiot box. It makes for a convenient Pakistani diversion from what remains our most urgent issue at hand — the disabling 10-year-old war. Mansoor, more likely, is a conman and may even be in the service of some, but why allow him to distract us from issues that will help determine our long-term health. I, for one, feel that what he claims this time round may just be true enough because it has with it the accompaniment of another genius who knows what the 1971 moment is, but then, is it too much for some to treat it as an administrative process and await the findings?

The sight of some humbled down from their lofty abodes and an inevitable clash of a few, even if it be at the cost of direly-needed stability in a nation beset with some existential challenges, is the sign of immortal adventurists. Don’t be fooled though, by this exquisite skullduggery. Each has, like the inimitable Haqqani, their pound of flesh to extract. Some do it under the larger rubric of the progressive libertarians — see how the fancy of General Pasha’s resignation has beheld the spark in their eyes even if it be of an imagined attempt at seeking the concurrence of Middle Eastern Sheikhs to unseat Zardari (absurdity notwithstanding).

It is more than likely that Haqqani has a boss in this entire episode and if an honest inquiry is allowed he just might be his literal boss. Even if it be so, there are political fallbacks for this entire episode. It is but common sense that when politics is so polarised the Constitution should be permitted to beget a solution. But again, we venture into the unknown. The nation, and that includes the military for God’s sake, have been down this route before and are unlikely to seek similar reparations as indeed was the fate meted out to an unfortunate Bhutto. The usual recourse when nations fall into disarray is to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate. That isn’t failure; in times like this, it is smart politics. A tradition of agitational politics may be the comfort zone of the PPP but undue paranoia makes for a sorry state.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 19th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Nadir
    Dec 19, 2011 - 12:40AM

    Yes, so the politicians will get a fresh mandate. And what off the generals? they seem to continue to lord over us and award themselves extensions. So the generals can contribute to a situation that forces an election but wont resign themselves? What happens if the outcome of the result is not “satisfactory”? Then what? What if the PPP is voted back into power, will the generals flex their muscles again? There is nothing absurd in Pasha going and seeking the blessing of ME royals as they were gurantors of first Benazirs and NS return to Pakistan thanks to the dictatorship of another general. And the eventual resignation of Musharaf. In both cases our very own COAS first instrumental in negotiating the NRO and the pushed out his former master, was involved. Why shouldnt Kayani resign? His name pops up repeatadly in these affairs. Pasha going and plotting a coup amongst foreign royals is absurd, then again so is the contents of the memo, and so is Pasha meeting a foreign national, in a London hotel, who had publicly in his op-ed in the FT called the ISI a terrorist organizations. Great stuff!

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  • Max
    Dec 19, 2011 - 12:52AM

    It is a deliberate effort to give a bad name to the army and we are quite good on jumping up and down when strings are held by others through a remote control system.

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  • Umer
    Dec 19, 2011 - 1:01AM

    The usual recourse when nations fall
    into disarray is to seek a fresh
    mandate from the electorate.

    Why is it that politicians are always made the scapegoats? Why not this time we ask the security establishment to start being accountable to the people of the country who provide them hundreds of billions of their hard earned money, in return for little or no security from the security establishment? When will that happen?

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  • hedgefunder
    Dec 19, 2011 - 2:04AM

    Sir, you could not have put it any better !!!
    The problem this nation faces are so severe and yet everyone seems to be concerned about issues that really are not as significant !!!!!
    No doubt, this memogate matter needs to addressed, but considering the other issues on hand, which really are fatal for the long term interest of this Nation, it seems as if no one really cares !!
    Let’s start with problems , foreign policy, economy, possible social unrest, poor relations with global and regional nations etc…..
    Its obvious that, the Govt and Army have different agendas and both actually lack the vision for development and progress of the nation, and yet there is a game being played out to achieve one upmanship, while the people actually suffer !!!

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  • explorer
    Dec 19, 2011 - 2:30AM

    It is really unfortunate for the nation that chief of its main intelligence agency himself meets a person who has left no stone unturned to blame Pakistan and its security agencies. If it was necessary to meet such a person, any low ranking officer from agency should have done it. Such an importance to an unsigned memo is of concern. It is the time questions and nation wants and should demand investigations in to crucial failures of our security agencies to protect the motherlands sovereignty, and measures should be taken in light of the finding to safeguard our homeland from any aggressions in future.

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  • You Said It
    Dec 19, 2011 - 5:50AM

    Pasha’s attempt at seeking the concurrence of Middle Eastern Sheikhs to unseat Zardari must be “imagined” and “absurd”.
    Ijaz is a conman, but his claims “this time round may just be true enough”.
    “Haqqani has a boss in this entire episode and if an honest inquiry is allowed he just might be his literal boss”

    Why is Pasha’s attempt to seek the blessing of Arab sheikhs to seek Zardari’s ouster absurd? Didn’t Musharraf pay heed to the sheikhs when Nawaz, Benazir and Zardari were sent to exile. Didn’t he yield to them when Benazir and Nawaz were allowed back? Didn’t Pasha go to the mid-east immediately after the May 2 attack? Wikileaks records Adel Al-Jubair stating “We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants.”

    While Pakistan’s sovereignity is easily violated by the US, involvement of the sheikhs in internal affairs is not just accepted, it is welcomed and sought by both the civilians and the military.Recommend

  • N
    Dec 19, 2011 - 6:36AM

    You can always count on khaki types to get us in and then out of every problem caused by them. The travesty is that we non- establishment folks have to always bail them out. If we don’t, their military garrison state will make sure that we fall in line.

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  • Feroz
    Dec 19, 2011 - 1:26PM

    The free Media is heavily into self censorship of views that are divergent. No wonder the number of comments posted seems so low.

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  • Author
    Dec 19, 2011 - 1:55PM

    @Nadir:

    Have a heart friend. You accept that the ME Sheikhs nanny our politicians and make that the basis why Pasha may have gone to the ME. I don’t even know if he did. Even if he did could it have been something related to OBL who had been found and killed at Abbotabad; like seeking info on OBL’s wives extended families and to manage the aftermath of a certain relationships with the extended family. I conjecture of course. The thought of Pasha seeking a clearance for unseating zardari is as ludicrous as someone in Washington assuming that Mullen may actually have been able to interfere in Army’s plan to unseat the government if it wished to. The Memo is hardly a problem for its quixotic content, what is troublesome is the BBM traffic though. That is the rub – to every Pakistani I might add – perhaps not to some. Let the courts work that out. if there is a basis the courts will pursue, if not it shall be so disposed.

    As for the generals needing to be sacked. Why not? They work under Rules of the Service where early retirement and Removal from Service are part of the deal. The authority lies with the civilians, the office of the Prime Minister and the President, to order removal of one or two, or all. If they need some spine to do so, and that doesn’t come without pain – sometime even having to mount the gallows, I am afraid that remains within the sacred precincts of each being.

    And yes, I neither speak for the generals nor on their behalf. I own this country as much having given it my very best years. And I was not a general. Learn to look at the message not the messenger, though there too you are far off the mark.

    Cheers.

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  • Author
    Dec 19, 2011 - 2:00PM

    @Feroz:

    Could you clarify the divergence part – with the general train of comments? or, with the basic Article. I haven’t found anything that is supportive of the tenor of the Article in the posted comments! So, what is the rub?

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  • saleem ullah
    Dec 19, 2011 - 2:48PM

    Reasonable analysis ; but the visualized solution in the shape of a new vote is not the answer . Because; in every routine stand off in the country , one can not afford it. Here..; solution may be through; the Parliament and then the Judiciary; and that is a way forward.

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  • amlendu
    Dec 19, 2011 - 4:40PM

    @Author:
    Sir, It sounds absurd to you that ISI DG will go to ME to get approval of ME rulers for coup in Pakistan. But at the same time you conjecture that he would have gone there to inquire about OBL’s wife’s extended family or to arrange for her reparation. Couldn’t that be done by some ISI operative posted in ME. I think status of OBL’s wife should have been a most mundane thing and certainly could not have forced DG ISI to fly to ME.

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  • Salahuddin
    Dec 19, 2011 - 7:06PM

    I think, for all our failures as a state, our generals should also take the blame. Although, we know that our enemies want to weaken our institutions like Army and ISI and we are not going to let this happen but at the same time, internally we need to put our house in order. Its time for our generals to stop championing as sole saviours of the nation and they should be sub-servient to people of Pakistan. This will actually make the civilians to stand against every conspiracy against army. Pakistan Zindabad.

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  • Salim
    Dec 19, 2011 - 9:04PM

    I am amazed at the people who think that a letter written by an American and sent to US Joint Chief of Staff can weaken our country or its institutions.Is Pakistans sovreignty or integrity so fragile that a letter can break it.We can boast to be a nuclear power but we are really a shaky and underconfident nation. Nuclear weapons in the hands of such a country is dangerous for itself.It does not augur well for the region also.

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