Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mullah Military Alliance [1999-2007] - 2

Part 2:

How Pakistani Mullahs Connived with Military Regime


Western diplomatic circles foresee problems every which way the MMA goes. If it comes to power (at all) in the Provinces, they say, it may be tempted to pull the rug from underneath Musharraf and his US Allies in the country. If it doesnot, it will still form a government in the Frontier and possibly Baluchistan too that are key to US Military Operations in Afghanistan. To counter this maybe the Pashtoon- Baluch differences would be exploited to serve the selfish ends of the Establishment and US allies. The Washington based National Democratic Institute (NDI) for International Affairs was of the view that political parties lack confidence in the Judiciary which could be a forum for redressing the issue of the Supremacy of the Parliament against the govt.'s desires. Surprisingly the NDI never took the Notorious LFO for a task, which is the most controversial item of Musharraf Regime in the three years. But the Human Right Watch (HRW) report made its reservation very clear regarding LFO and general State of Affairs in Pakistan. HRW even urged G. W. Bush for democratic reforms in Pakistan and link dollar aid as a motivation force for restoring civilian and constitutional rule. Several other foreign correspondences termed Musharraf's Reform as "General Making Turkey out of Pakistan. They were also of the view that the active persecution of the Islam undertaken by Turkey's military establishment would never be tolerated in Pakistan. Despite so much support to the US the US National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice made it clear that we object to some of the move he made. Major US newspapers had predicted that "Miscarriage" of democracy is due after October 10 Election. The New York Time went to the extent to quote that Musharraf has loosened its grip on Kashmiri Militants to intercept any potential for criticism. Another view was that much before the election that Musharraf Regime is rigging the election, they even mentioned the use of Secret Services in the process.

GENERAL REACTION ON MULLAH'S VICTORY IN PAKISTAN {Intellectuals, Liberals, Academics, Media Managers and NGOs}:

Maulvis are part of our society and one should keep this in mind that during General Zia's Dark Period the media produced truly great plays, which made headlines even in India. The Clerics have come into power by vote, why there is so much alarm when they have come through legitimate means, rigging or no rigging. So much so they have declared that they will not follow "Taliban Brand of Islam", and that women's right to property and employment will be safeguarded. These American should be taught a lesson as they have started terming every wrong towards Muslims. However you can differ with MMA on their definition of morality. People should also understand that Liberalization of the airwaves for example, is not about wearing western clothes on television and inducting women anchors. If the MMA start to promulgate some unacceptable laws and policies, society will continue to do what it has always done---- resist.

One of the intellectual said "women must not be misled by the talk of the religious parties that they are concerned about preserving and protecting women's honour and dignity and that they want women to have Rights give to them by Islam. The "Islam" that is being talked about is not Quran's Islam but patriarchal Islam, which relegates women to a segregated, secondary and subordinate place". The way one is perceived depends upon the way we dress. The suppression of this most fundamental aspect of individual personality is a form of pure oppression. It is like being in Cuba or Iran. None of the parties in MMA have ever supported women's right or the rights of minorities and some have actively been involved in provoking or carrying out violence against minorities. MMA's type seek to control through ideological means, argues one expert. "As such, they are more interested in our minds than money or anything else. Through this they can wield considerable influence, not only on art, culture and NGO activism but also on the nation's mindset. The fact that the MMA is a product of times that are radically different from those of General Zia seems to have generated a fair bit of optimism among the cultural elite, including its more cynical cadre. The difference is that today, that if they extend their necks beyond a certain point, they will be slaughtered. Giving the MMA leaders what they deserve has the best chance of slowly steering Pakistan out of the current conflict between (loosely defined) Islamism and progressive and predictable path of constitutionalism that it has been grappling with for so many years. It must be pointed out for the record that when the Meerwalla Incident took place, and CNN, SKY NEWS, FOX NEWS, STAR NEWS, and BBC exploited the jaded appetites of television viewers all over the world, there wasnot even a whimper of sympathy let alone a condemnation from any of MMA leaders, the so called champions of Fair Treatment towards Women as per Islam. What could these Mullahs have in store for the right of women in this country?

But whatever one may say but one should respect the MMA the only people take a stand on what they believe in. And also one doesn't have to worry so much even the Americans are not that worry on the victory of MMA since Washington has been negotiating with them since much before the existence of MMA, remember Qazi, Fazal and other's visits of USA in mid and late nineties. Both the referendum and election came post 9/11 and public opinion in the two provinces bordering Afghanistan in April as it appears to have been in October. Indeed, there should have been greater resentment then because the campaign was at a greater level of intensity in that period. Yet one finds that forces commonly identified with extremism and sectarianism have emerged with greater electoral backing than ever before in Baluchistan and NWFP, making inroads in the other provinces as also, clearly this phenomenon is attributable to the strong anti-US sentiments among large section of the people. The manipulation and horse-trading put credibility in doldrums, which was already in erosion since last three years of failed policies. The more far fetch idea was that if in the event of Musharraf's departure, or a right-wing coup in the army, the US will move fast to secure our nuclear weapons before they are disappeared. The MMA understands this, and their fears are probably correct. None of the parties in MMA have ever supported. One should also not believe that the triumph of MMA in Pakistan and other religious parties in Turkey is the demise of Liberalism and Secularism, it is simply a reaction of US led policies in Afghanistan and Middle East and it will pass by the passage of time.

However the Musharraf govt. played a big part indirectly in bringing up the MMA in NA in such a noticeable majority due to regime's hell bent attitude of rigidity towards PPP/PML-N and other secular forces.There is also a clear-cut message from voter (at least presently) in this election that is the Baluchistan and NWFP have comprehensively moved towards Islamic Politics. Punjab and Sindh largely show status quo. Ethnic politics and pseudo nationalists have suffered a setback. The longer the real political power is withheld from public representatives, the higher will be the level of Public Alienation from the ruling setup and greater the challenges to the Federation. The real test is of the MMA, in view of country's international and economic commitments, MMA will have to show flexibility for cohabitation and smooth running of the govt. Overnight, a solution of the long festering Kashmir dispute cannot be found nor it is possible to eliminate Riba immediately. Therefore such teps should be taken as do not deal a sudden jolt to the country's security and economic interest and also make transition to political administration as smooth as possible. The MMA hasn't defined its policy vis-à-vis Health, Social Security, Poverty, Extremism, Water Resources, Pensioners, and Culture and Tourism. But the catch is that the MMA will not be acceptable to the most powerfull player in the game--- the Pentagon.

After 9/11 the Ameircans have shown a mortal fear of anything Islamic.

They have started equating all Muslims with Terrorism and have come under the spell of a so-called Clash Civilization theory by Huntington. The Christian World is arrayed against Muslims, and the crusade is (a Freudian slip of tongue on the part of G. W. Bush) on. As such pentagon would not like the MMA to be given a share in Power even in NWFP and Baluchistan what to talk of Centre {Bag of dirty tricks has been opened rampantly by the CIA and anything is possible even the assassinations}.

Americans and the West would do what they did in Turkey where Turkish Military dismissed democratically elected govt. under American pressure and the same thing happened in Algeria where matter are worse since 1992 Elections which had brought Islamists in power but never allowed to run by France and America by pressurizing the Algerian Army who gave country a blood bath. Pakistani Military has the traumatic experience of disregarding democratic aspiration of the people in the past. It defied a much heavier mandate in 1970 of the people of East Pakistan what to talk of MMA's mandate. The establishment has reaped what it had sowed by not allowing a breathing space to PPP and PML-N now they have big trouble at their hands in the shape of formidable MMA in NWFP and Baluchistan and noticeable majority of the same in the center. The MMA seems to be here to stay and like army, could be a part of any future political setup, which will take place in the country. The MMA has an abidingly powerful grip on the popular imagination in the NWFP and parts of Baluchistan and some urban centres in Sindh and Punjab. A way must be found to blunt some of their antagonism.


Except Jamat-e-Islami no other group in MMA has any idea about these donor agencies and their ruthless policies. The JI being a very organized party has many Economists in their Shoora like Former Senator Khursheed Ahmed and Jamat Islami can also provide active well-planned protesting force against any objectionable policy of these agencies otherwise they have no idea about the working. The Reforms which the IMF and the World Bank is trying to enforce in the name of Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) and Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) have ruined Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Honduars, Kenya, Nigeria, and Far Eastern Tigers of Super Economy. Time and again the Finance Minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz (a would be Prime Minister) and Dr Ishrat Hussain (Governor State Bank of Pakistan) have claimed through articles and TV talk shows in Preppy English and Ivy League Manners in Designers suits to hoodwink the General Masses that the Economy is safe and the three years of Reforms have saved the country but then why People are not happy and everybody is complaining of Unemployment and Rising Cost of life. If that was not enough the IMF has hired a former SBP governor Dr Yaqoob who was in the so-called Clean Cabinet of Musharraf after 12 Oct but sacked due to unknown reason and he is complaining about Banks performance when he himself was responsible of the failure of Bankers Equity Ltd, Indus Bank, Platenium Bank and and not taking action against the responsible of Mehran Banks! He could not be absolved from the Crime of Foreign Exchange Reserves flght from Pakistan at the eve of Nuclear Blasts (during Nawaz Sharif Regime 1997-1999) and that too of those who were from Govt/Establishment and half hour after that he freezed the FCAs and still those Pakistanis who saved their life time savings are nowadays runnig from pillar to post to have their life time savings back in the shape of Green Bucks. That is the integrity of IMF which has hired a banker who himself was involved in mismanagement and several of his toadies of Foreign Multinational Banks were hired in 1997, 1999/2000 respectively in Nationalised Commercial banks in the replacement of low paid Pakistan based Bankers and yet after 5 years he is again complaining of Non-Profit in Pakistani Banks from the mighty desk of IMF. So who created this mess at the first place. Half of the King's Party and supporters of the reforms are those very politicians who were part and parcel of the so-called Corrupt Politicians Ms. Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Nawaz Sharif during the governemtns of much maligned Lost Decade of Dr. Ishrat Hussain's brand which he so vehemently condemns in the English dailies of Pakistan. Should we expect that after another 10 year there would be another Adventurist to lambast the would be Politicians who would be forming the Government in the near Future with the help of Forward Block of every Political Party in Pakistan like PML-N, PPP, MQM, MMA etc.etc.

There is no clear cut policy on IMF and World Bank Reforms from the so-called Secular, Democratic, Progressive and Religious too Parties so should we also expect that they would lend their some members in the name of Forward Bloc to continue these Draconian Reforms of these donor agencies in the name of Natioanl Interest. How can one call it a National Interest when people are not happy. Should we also expect that these Religious and not so Religious Political and Secualr and not so Secular Political Parties would alter Islamic and Secular Democratic Principles/Manifest oes to jump on the bandwagon of the would be Future Consensus Government. Mr. Klaus Enders (Head of IMF Six-Member Review Mission), who had met Minister for Finance, Shaukat Aziz, was told that President Pervez Musharraf will himself ensure that his economic and financial policies were not reversed. If the assurance for not reversing the reforms were so important then what was the need of General Election 2002 in which the Political and Religious Parties promised Moon, Milk and Honey with the people and who would agree with these reforms of these donor agencies which ensures the Sky-Rocketing Utility Prices (Electricity, Gas, Water, Telephone and Living a life for example the Power Rates were raised 16 times by this Military Regime in three years.

There was an unusal delay in summoning of National Assembly Session due to the Search of Puppets (which they have found in Jamali who has now been sacked) to enforce these Draconian Reforms which any Politically Mature Political Party would not like to enforce as these would be contrary to their Election Program which has promised that Pakistan would be Hong Kong with in no time. A similar had delay had took place in 1988 as well in the interest of 'continuity' the first Benazir government was arm twisted by both the US State Department and Pakistan's establishment into endorsing the candidacy of Ghulam Ishaq Khan for the office of the President. Next, she was forced to appoint Sahibzada Yakoob Ali Khan foreign minister to ensure continuity of the then US-Pakistan Afghan policy. And then she was also forced to own an agreement with the IMF which was signed by the outgoing interim government of GIK. The then US Ambassador to Pakistan Mr Robert Oakley was heard heaving a sigh of relief when the PPP finally came through and voted Ghulam Ishaq Khan into the Presidency for the next five years. Mr Rober Oakley expressed his opinion on the matter at a small dinner hosted by his Economic Counsellor . During the dinner several Pakistanis present there argued heatedly with Mr. Oakley over the IMF prescriptions imposed on the new government. The Ambassador who was nicknamed by his detractors in the Pakistani Press as the 'Viceroy' had taken the position that IMF's prescription was the panacea for all the economic ills with which Pakistan was afflicted, therefore, according to him the new government would be far better off owning the SBA agreement signed by GIK government. Many had disagreed with him with some passion on the grounds that no developing country in the world so far had benefited from these prescriptions. He named Turkey.

Now we know how the economy of Turkey fared after 1988. History, indeed, is repeating itself. And as we all know nobody learns from history Freedom to make this choice should be the privilege of the incumbent government rather than that of the previous or outgoing one. The issue is that some of the previous government for example in finance, may be added on to the incoming government with the result that the key economic issues would be dealt with like they have been during the last three years. Is this why people went to vote?


The continuity chorus rings loud and sonorous for all to hear. General Musharraf says he will like to see the continuity of reforms. In the first instance, there is an urgent need to put the record straight, at least on the economic front: there are no reforms taking place. The only new thing happening is that the programs (and conditionalities) that the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have tried so long to institutionalize are now being applauded by the government without reservations. So when continuity is mentioned, rest assured that continuity of policies almost two decades old is what is meant. As the tedious wait for a government to be put together extends into its second month, it becomes even more important to understand the importance of this talk of continuity. On the one hand, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) and the People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP) dispute the Legal Framework Order (LFO). On the other hand, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q has no intention of disputing anything now in place. But the extremely important issue of continuity of economic policies seems to have been lost. While the MMA and the PPP are content to employ run-of-the-mill rhetoric about the economic problems and hardships facing ordinary Pakistanis, they have little knowledge, and apparently, concern, about the very nature of policies that are fast pushing more and more people into the mire of poverty.

Indeed, the PPP has made it clear that it will continue to be supportive of both the international financial institutions (IFIs) and the US on both the foreign and economic policy fronts. Although the MMA has made much of the issue of US presence and bases in Pakistan, it is likely to back down on its demand relating to these for expedient reasons. To it continuity of the economic agenda can only be a secondary concern.

It is another matters, however, that if either of these two parties were to sit in the opposition, they would likely oppose IFI-dictated policies tooth and nail. It is unfortunate that such a stance would not be based on any principle, but tied to the expediencies of circumstances and therefore one has to be content with what one gets, especially given our political parties' unwillingness to resist the so-called neo-liberal economic order. That being so, it is important to understand why this particular economic agenda is a problem. It is clear that at least some people think that continuity of the military's economic agenda is desirable. After all, everyone in the glamorous world of global capitalism seems to be extending kudos to Finance Minister Shakat Aziz {now PM}. But simply, the IMF is maintaining its decades-old principled stance that fiscal stabilization is the key to growth and poverty reduction. Fiscal stabilization is necessary because a high budget deficit is unviable over even a relatively short period of time, as recent history has proven in Argentina. The rest of the story is fairly simple. The burden of generating revenue falls on the poor because the state that is levying taxes comprises elite groups that most definitely will not tax themselves. Export-oriented commodities are given precedence over food security. And since the priority of defence spending, debt-servicing and high-level government overheads is almost a foregone conclusion when the budget is drawn up - again mostly because of the unchangeability of the status quo – it is by raising prices of utilities and basic commodities, selling off public assets, and slashing public sector jobs that the deficit can possibly be contained.

And so more of the same continues to happen in the name of poverty reduction (because poverty reduction must be preceded by growth, which must be preceded by fiscal prudence, austerity and stabilization) . The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) continues to be quoted as the document that outlines the country's defining economic strategy for the foreseeable future. IMF representatives are quoted as having said after October 10 elections that there will be some leeway in the final shape that the PRSP takes, and that the new government will not simply be forced to toe the military line. This claim fits in nicely with a history of meaningless rhetoric, especially since the interim-PRSP (I-PRSP) has already outlined a policy matrix detailing specific fiscal targets for the next three years.

The I-PRSP also speaks of numerous other troubling plans, including that of corporate farming, extension of the mega water project syndrome, and further liberalization of the agricultural markets. There are already medium-term agreements that have been signed with the IFIs binding the government to implement such policies in the near future. The whole paradigm at work is intensifying. For example, there are more and more instances of hasty privatization taking place such as that of the United Bank Ltd. It would be unrealistic to think that the incoming government will have anything very radically different in mind. Pakistan's PRSP is spiced with rhetoric about participation and inclusiveness. PRSPs are also being prepared by over seventy country governments that are debtors of the IMF and World Bank. In almost all cases, there is little evidence to suggest that there is anything in the way of a substantial shift away from the long-standing adjustment paradigm. In some ways it is shocking that this uniformity of approach has not been challenged in our political discourse. On the other hand, perhaps one should not be surprised at all given the manner in which our political process continues to be manipulated by external forces and self-centred elites within the country. But the question that must then be answered by the MMA, PPP and even the obeisant PML (Q) is how they will face up to the challenge of increased rich-poor polarization that is bound to ensue if this economic policy agenda remains unchanged. Remember that politicians and democracy itself have been dragged through the mud by the military and their political collaborators over the past three years. It will not take long for the people to start putting the blame on the politicians again when it becomes clear that higher foreign exchange reserves can not cover up the structural deficiencies of the economy. It is the establishment that continues to perpetuate economic inefficiency, disparities, rent-seeking, and corruption. People cannot support policies that legitimize these bad ractices and allow for more failure. The history of policy adjustments over the past two decades is a history of failure.

Socio-economic disparities are the sign of a sick economy, and potentially of a very sick society. And the inability, or worse still, unwillingness, of those with the means to challenge such a situation is a definite indicator that the sickness is at n advanced stage. Because our sovereignty is now circumscribed by the political and economic interference of the US and the IFIs, there is even a greater need to understand the predicament.

The fact that everyone seems to be ignoring is that the military's ability to introduce sweeping amendments and ordinances to consolidate its role in politics in the name of policy and reform continuity is premised on the stamp of approval it gets for the economic policies prescribed by the IFIs and western governments. The interplay between Pakistan's reinduction into the gentlemen's club of global power politics and the close relationship between the military and the IFIs has be seen and understood in perspective. Political parties need to recognize the importance of resisting the dictates of the IFIs. They need to do so even if they are not particularly committed to the welfare of the Pakistani people. They need to do so because it will help their own cause. There is a major vacuum in the policy discourse within the country and in the world for that matter. If we choose to live with this, we are accepting the fact that decision-making about our lives is not in our hands. If and when the PRSP comes to the parliament and if and when the parliament has the time and inclination to focus on it - it is essential that he issues relating to our economic future be debated seriously. We are being carried along by the global tidal wave of neo-liberalism and if we do not take a stand on it now, we may lose whatever little grip we still have on our fate and future.

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