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Nuclear Pakistan and India can’t afford miscalculation, should resolve crisis, says PM Khan

RT | February 27, 2019

New Delhi and Islamabad cannot afford a new war with the weapons they now have, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said, adding that he and Indian PM Narendra Modi have to find a way out of the ongoing security crisis.

In a short televised address on Wednesday, Khan said neither he nor his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, would be in control of the situation, if the ongoing hostilities escalate further.

History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation. My question is that given the weapons we have, can we afford miscalculation? We should sit down and talk.

Khan added Pakistan is willing to work with India to investigate the suicide bombing of its police officers in Kashmir which happened two weeks ago and led to this week’s conflict between the two countries. The attack was claimed by the jihadist group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which India accuses Pakistan of harboring.

But just like any other sovereign nation, Pakistan cannot allow another country to act “as judge, jury and executioners” on its territory, he said. Wednesday’s attack on targets in India by Pakistani warplanes was meant as a show of force and determination to defend its sovereignty, the PM stressed.

“We ensured no casualties and no collateral damage in the operations we undertook,” he said.

India on Tuesday launched an air raid against what is said was a JeM training camp in Pakistani territory. Pakistan on Wednesday launched its own air raid, attacking targets in the disputed region of Kashmir. There are conflicting claims by the two nations on the outcomes and circumstances of both incidents.

At least one Indian fighter jet was shot down on Wednesday. Pakistan claims to have shot down more than one, while India insists it took out one of the Pakistani warplanes.

February 27, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment

Modi-Trump bromance ends on sour note

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | January 3, 2019

The highly disparaging remarks by the US President Donald Trump on Wednesday regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India’s role in Afghanistan come as a shocking revelation. Trump was talking to the press following his first cabinet meeting of 2019 at the White House in Washington. No Indian PM has been reduced to look silly like this by any American president in history.

Trump’s remarks came in the course of his rambling speech regarding the failure of the war in Afghanistan. He spoke every bit as an embittered man who realizes that the war has been lost. Part of the reason why he summarily put Modi on the mat could have been that Trump also realizes the great urgency of extracting Pakistan’s cooperation in the Afghan endgame. Trump’s thesis was that foreign leaders take America for a ride.

In this vein, Trump mocked Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan under Indian aid and bragging about it repeatedly in private conversations. (Trump apparently mistook for a library the Indian-built parliament building in Kabul, which Modi inaugurated in a grand ceremony on Christmas Day in 2015.) Anyway, Trump claimed that Modi was “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan.” He then rubbished Modi’s vanity, saying, “You know what that is? That’s like five hours of what we spend (in Afghanistan.) And we’re supposed to say (to Modi), ‘Oh, thank you for the library’. I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan.”

This is the first time the US belittled the Indian assistance to Afghanistan, which is estimated to be close to 2 billion dollars. The American mantra has been that India was rendering invaluable help to Afghanistan. But now that the war is about to end, we are probably getting a candid version of what the Americans really thought of the quality of the Indian aid.

Elsewhere, Trump said that India had a free ride in Afghanistan – like Russia and the Gulf states – because the US was fighting their war against terrorist groups. Therefore, Trump said in a snide remark that it is for India and Russia to do the fighting in Afghanistan. But he recalled that the Russians once tried to fight extremist groups in Afghanistan and failed and the Soviet Union went bankrupt as a result. The outcome was that the USSR “shrunk” into the Russian Federation.

Trump asked with indignation: “Why isn’t Russia, India, Pakistan there?” Why should America be there, “which is 6000 miles away?” He bemoaned that the Pentagon “didn’t do a good job” in Afghanistan. Referring to the former Defence Secretary James Mattis, he noted, “I am not happy with what he did in Afghanistan.” Trump alleged that he provided for a generous budget for the Pentagon but the result in Afghanistan is “not too good.”

Interestingly, Trump hinted that Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is delivering in a big way to help the US end the war. Trump disclosed, “I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakistan. We will be doing that in not-too-distant future.”

Clearly, Trump has taken note of the sea change in the Pakistani stance lately on Afghanistan after Imran Khan came to power, especially Imran Khan’s changed position that in some form – maybe, in some reduced form – the US military presence should continue in Afghanistan for a conceivable future. Simply put, the US and Pakistan are re-bonding again as ‘natural allies’ over Afghanistan.

Trump feels gratified that Pakistan has delivered the Taliban, finally, to the negotiating table. No doubt, the revival of the US-Saudi Arabia-UAE-Pakistan caucus to finesse the Taliban’s role in the future Afghan political scenario meets with Washington’s requirement. For Trump, the priority is that the US must somehow end the 17-year old war in Afghanistan before his campaign gets under way for the presidential election in the US next year.

Arguably, Trump’s acerbic remarks about Modi contained a subtle warning against any Indian attempt to be a ‘spoiler’ in the emergent scenario. On the other hand, Imran Khan becomes an irreplaceable partner for Trump. We may expect a state visit – or at least an official visit – by Imran Khan to the US in the near future.

On the geopolitical plane, things are falling in place in a familiar pattern. The US seeks transactional relationships and in the immediate future in the South Asian region Pakistan is of greater use. Evidently, Indian analysts have been daydreaming about the “Quad” and what not.

Trump’s fascination for India has been all about Modi’s utility for the ‘America First’ project. But Trump probably sees Modi now as a brunt-out case. Indeed, the Western press increasingly casts doubts on Modi’s chances of returning to power in the 2019 poll. (See a commentary by the Voice of America titled India’s Modi Facing Tough 2019 Election Year)

January 3, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Hopes and forebodings in India over the rise of Imran Khan

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | July 29, 2018

Circumstantial evidence can be marshaled to establish that a level playing field was not available to Pakistan’s two mainstream political parties – the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Pakistan People’s Party – in the parliamentary poll on July 25.

But that alone cannot delegitimize the victory of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party led by Imran Khan.

Khan likely benefited from the denial of a level playing field to Nawaz Sharif. But that is not the whole story. His mandate is authentic and he is no one’s creation. Khan astutely presented himself as the symbol of ‘change’ and his mandate reflects the Pakistani people’s craving for change.

In fact, the expectations of the people are high and Khan will be hard-pressed to fulfill them. The national program he outlined in his victory speech challenges entrenched interest groups, who will no doubt resist. Compromises may become necessary, even inevitable. If not, confrontation may ensue. The robust opposition will make the going very tough for Khan at every stage.

Three things must be said here. First, the rout of the ‘religious parties’ has been absolute. The astonishing part is that Pakistani voters displayed impeccable secular temper to reject any politician who sought to exploit religious sentiment.

Second, India did not figure as a topic during the election campaign. The focus was almost entirely on Pakistan’s political economy. Third, and most importantly, Khan managed to secure a fairly broad-based mandate, although Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remains his citadel.

Role models

The good part is that Khan has a track record of some two decades in politics. Which is saying a lot because politics in Pakistan is not for the faint-hearted. Interestingly, Khan once mentioned as his four role models Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad, Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, Singapore’s late mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula.

Doesn’t that say something about Khan? He would like to be seen as a forceful and decisive prime minister who is result-oriented – and, while being “populist,” a nation-builder and nationalist, too.

In the foreign policy arena, Khan appears to be more of an ‘Eurasianist’ rather than a ‘Westernist.’ Both China and Russia have shown high regard for him – probably anticipating a regional realignment under his leadership that is conducive to multi-polarity in regional and world politics. Considering that Pakistan is a major Muslim country, its strategic autonomy is of keen interest to China and Russia.

Khan’s ascendance may prove to be hugely consequential for regional security and stability. He has severely questioned the raison d’etre of the Afghan war and has called for an end to the Western military presence in the region. The US State Department statement on the Pakistan election has been noticeably critical, albeit sidestepping Khan himself.

Khan’s rise is a fortuitous happening for Tehran insofar as with Erdogan’s Turkey and Khan’s Pakistan, it gains strategic depth to counter the US’s containment strategy. Again, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will be put on fast track. On the whole, the prospects appear good for accelerating Pakistan’s Eurasian integration.

A sense of déjà vu

The big question is about Pakistan’s relations with India. Alas, Indian analysts see Khan’s rise with a sense of déjà vu. Of course, the reality on the ground is that the Pakistani army leadership will remain in the driving seat, and this is worrisome thought for Delhi. However, the flip side is that the army leadership and Khan are on the same page and Delhi at least knows who to dial if the need arises.

Delhi’s initial reaction altogether ignored Khan’s rise. Instead, the foreign ministry spokesman praised the Pakistani people’s “faith” in the democratic process. A sense of unease is palpable. But then, if Khan earned the nickname ‘Taliban Khan,’ it is for good reason. He also has a history of making inflammatory statements about Kashmir.

Khan’s ascendance comes at a time when the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir remains critical. The probability is high that Khan will not let India off the hook. Pakistan has consistently argued that an enduring settlement in Afghanistan will not be realistic so long as the Kashmir issue remains unresolved.

Fundamentally, the Indian dilemma is that it has nothing to discuss with Pakistan about Kashmir. The Modi government vows to retake the territory under Pakistan’s control. On the other hand, as long as the people’s alienation in Jammu and Kashmir remains so widespread, Pakistan will take advantage of the situation to force India to come to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, India is also heading for a crucial parliamentary poll early next year. In the backdrop of the Modi government’s waning popularity, the ruling BJP has pinned its hopes on polarizing Hindu votes. So keeping tensions with Pakistan in a state of animated suspension became the default position for the BJP.

How far Khan will acquiesce with this paradigm remains to be seen. The chances are he won’t. A troubled period lies ahead.

The Indian narrative so far has been that the late Benzair Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s two charismatic past prime ministers, could not really do much to improve relations with India due to the army’s corporate interest in perpetuating tensions with India.

However, a new predicament now arises for Delhi when the civilian and military leaderships in Pakistan get along well – having to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea.

July 30, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

Pakistan blows cover of suspected CIA chief after drone strike

RT | November 27, 2013

One of Pakistan’s major political parties has published the name of what it believes to be the CIA’s chief operative in Islamabad after a US drone strike killed five people last week. The group demanded on Wednesday that the spy chief face murder charges.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), led by the country’s cricket star Imran Khan, dropped the name of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative to police in a letter in which the party demanded that the agent face up to the “gross offence” of the drone strike.

The letter was released to the media. However, the name could not be independently verified.

“I would like to nominate the US clandestine agency CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) Station Chief in Islamabad … and CIA Director John O. Brennan for committing the gross offences of committing murder and waging war against Pakistan,” PTI information secretary Shireen Mazarisaid wrote in the letter.

“CIA station chief is not a diplomatic post, therefore he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity and is within the bounds of domestic laws of Pakistan,” the letter added. The complaint was lodged with Tal police station in Hangu district, northwestern Pakistan.

Intelligence agencies in foreign countries make a habit of keeping the identities of their agents and operatives private. If the PTI has successfully named the right person then he may be forced to leave the country.

This would not be the first time that an American operative has been outed in the country. In 2010 a former station chief was forced to leave Pakistan after his name was also revealed during a drone strike which led to the deaths of civilians.

The drone strike on 21 November was extremely provocative as it was one of the first outside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkwa province, and killed five militants – among them a senior commander of the Haqqani Network.

A separate strike at the beginning of November, which killed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, prompted Khan to react with similar fury over how continued strikes could scuttle peace talks.

“The Taliban held only one condition for the peace talks and that was that drone attacks must end,” he said at a press conference. “But just before the talks began we saw this sabotage.”

CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the Islamabad station chief’s name to the AP and declined to comment on the matter immediately.

November 28, 2013 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thousands block NATO convoy route to protest US drone strikes in Pakistan

RT | November 23, 2013

Thousands of demonstrators protesting US drone strikes in Pakistan blocked a main road Saturday in the Peshawar province used to transport NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan.

The protests was led by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which is led by Imran Khan, a former international cricketer now turned politician.

They were supported by their allies in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government and they were also joined by the Jamaat -i-Islami (JI) and the Awami Jamhoori Ittehad (AJIP) political parties.

“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told reporters.

“We are here to give a clear message that now Pakistanis cannot remain silent over drone attacks,” said Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a senior member of the PTI, addressing the protesters.

Imran Khan has been a fierce critic of US drone attacks, arguing that they violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Khan said that the Pakistani government is doing nothing to stop drone attacks except for issuing statements of condemnation and that the protest would continue indefinitely.

Khan stressed that NATO supplies would not be allowed to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly called North-West Frontier Province, and added that the province’s PTI-led government had the mandate to block NATO trucks from passing through its territory.

Earlier Imran Khan had warned that NATO supply routes will be blocked if continuing US drone strikes in Pakistan threaten the country’s peace talks with the Taliban.

An attack on November 1 killed the former leader of the Pakistan Taliban, a day before the Pakistani government said it was going to invite him to peace talks. Officials said they were enraged by the attacks, although the Pakistani government is known to have supported some of the drone attacks in the past.

Party workers from the PTI and the JI travelled to Peshawar from across Pakistan and an estimated 10,000 people participated in Saturday’s protests. The protesters shouted anti US slogans such as “Stop drone attacks” and “Down with America”.

“I am participating in today’s sit-in to convey a message to America that we hate them since they are killing our people in drone attacks. America must stop drone attacks for peace in our country,” Hussain Shah, a 21 year old university student, told Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper.

American drones are performing regular extrajudicial killings of Islamist leaders, accompanied by the collateral damage of many civilian casualties.

Strict security measures were in place Saturday, with 500 police personnel on duty. Trucks were directed to use an alternative route, although Tahir Khan, a government official, said there was normally little NATO traffic Saturday as most of the trucks arrive by Friday night to clear the border crossing.

However, protesters said that they would begin to stop trucks carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Sunday night, which could spark conflict with the federal government in Pakistan.

The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Has Imran Khan’s Political Tsunami Hit Pakistani Shores?

By M. Shahid Alam | Dissident Voice | April 26th, 2012

I have never had the patience for long-winded novels, and much less for memoirs, but I am glad I persuaded myself to read Imran Khan’s Pakistan: A Personal History. Now that Tehreek-e-Insaaf, the political party founded and led by Imran Khan, gathers momentum – after many years in the political wilderness – and may yet grow to challenge the established political parties in the next elections, it is time to take a closer look at the man who leads this party, and promises to restore justice and dignity to Pakistan’s long-suffering but mostly passive population.

Once I had gotten past the Prologue – which I thought did not belong at the beginning of the book – Khan’s narrative never lost its power to sustain my interest. The book takes the reader through many unexpected shifts in the protagonist’s life – from cricket to charity work, from charity work to politics, from the life of a celebrity to a life of piety, from disdain for Islam to a deepening respect for its richness and depth, from contempt (a colonial legacy common to Pakistan’s elites) for ordinary Pakistanis to a growing concern for their tormented lives, from wilting shyness before audiences to a determination to face the glare of public life, from growing anxiety about Pakistan’s problems to an unshakable resolve to do something about them; etc. In short, the book takes the reader through the life of an extraordinary man, at first fully immersed in the privileges of his class and his cricket celebrity but slowly turning inwards, questioning the colonial mindset of his own privileged class, angry at the limitless corruption of Pakistan’s rulers, and, finally, reaching resolution in his commitment to take Pakistan back from its corrupt elites. A politician with Imran Khan’s record would be rare in Western ‘democracies.’ In a country like Pakistan, mired for decades in the corruption of rapacious elites, he is an anomaly – an outlier. Should the Pakistanis embrace Imran Khan, should they give him the chance to pick and lead the nation’s political team, this could be a game-changer for their country.

While describing his spiritual journey following the pain of his mother’s death, Imran Khan sums up his life in an aphorism, “A spiritual person takes responsibility for society, whereas a materialist only takes responsibility for himself (87).” Quite apart from the truth-value of this statement (since a ‘materialist’ or someone without belief in God or afterlife may also choose to take responsibility for society), this sentiment very aptly describes the author’s long and tortuous passage from indifference towards larger questions – both metaphysical and political – to a deepening engagement with God and the history and fate of Pakistanis and Muslims. In time, after much soul-searching, Imran Khan chooses to take “responsibility for society.” Once he has formed a conviction, Imran Khan has shown that there is no turning back for him.

Imran Khan’s autobiography contains some homespun theology too. At one point, he describes how cricket nudged him towards faith; it began with observations on cricketing luck. A game can turn on the toss of a coin; success in bowling can depend on the way the ball is stitched, on umpiring mistakes, on fortuitous injuries, on the weather, etc. In other words, “there seemed to be a zone beyond which players were helpless, and it was called luck (84).” He muses, “… could what we call luck actually be the will of God?” Is it possible, amidst the infinite complexity that produces any outcome, that God intervenes in our lives, nudges a particle here a particle there to confront us with outcomes that surprise us, overthrow our certainties, deflate our egos, forcing us to think of higher forces?

After his mother’s painful death from cancer, Imran Khan turned away from God. Questions of theodicy troubled him. He worried that his life’s accomplishments could vanish in a moment. In the face of this vulnerability, persuaded by a logic that recalls Pascal’s wager, he resumed his salaat. “This was really like an insurance policy – a sort of safety net in case God really did exist.” It is likely that Imran had arrived at his reasoning on his own, or he had encountered this argument in the Qur’an. Unknown to most Muslims, the Qur’an makes this argument on several occasions; it is then taken up by Hazrat Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, and in the eleventh century by al-Ghazzali.

Imran Khan speaks reverently of the influence of Mian Bashir on his life, an obscure but spiritually gifted man who gently led him to discover the inwardness and beauty of Islam. People who have lost touch with metaphysics will likely frown at this influence. Untroubled by such skeptics, Imran Khan recognizes this obscure sufi as the “single most powerful spiritual influence” on his life. I respect this openness to the Unseen, this divinely implanted ‘naiveté’ – if you will – that lies at the heart of all authentic religious experience, and that Western rationalism and scientism have nearly destroyed in modern man. Despite the materialism that assails us, we can stay in touch with this ‘naiveté.’ In better times too, very few men and women could reach the summits of the mystical ascent; but they sought spiritual sustenance in the baraka of the valis, friends of God. Unknown to Pakistan’s militant secularists, Asadullah Khan Ghalib too – despite his celebrated skepticism – sought intimacy with God through veneration of Hazrat ‘Ali and his family.

2.

Imran Khan is nothing if not resolute in pursuing the goals he sets for himself; and his goals have never been modest. “Over the years,” he writes, “I came to the conclusion that ‘genius’ is being obsessed with what you are doing (63).” Quite early in his cricket career, spurred by the example of Dennis Lillee, he decided to remake himself as a fast bowler. His teammates and coach warned him that he “had neither the physique nor the bowling action to become a fast bowler (118)” and he could ruin his career if he tried to change his bowling style. Imran Khan was not deterred. He remodeled his “bowling action to become a fast bowler,” and as he worked hard towards this goal – he writes – “my body also became stronger for me to bowl fast.” Most cricket commentators agree that Imran Khan went on to establish himself as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. Fewer still have combined his eminence in fast bowling with skill at batting and leading his team.

When Imran Khan set out in 1984 to establish Pakistan’s first cancer hospital – he ran into a wall of skepticism. When he presented his plans for the Hospital to the leading Pakistani doctors in Lahore and Lon-don, they were dismissive; he did not give up. Working indefatigably to collect mostly small donations from tens of thousands of people at home and abroad, Imran Khan began construction work on the project in April 1991. The Hospital admitted its first patients in December 1994, with a commitment to provide free care to all poor patients. Skeptics had warned that this policy was not viable, but generous Pakistanis proved them wrong. Now plans are underway for building two more cancer hospitals in Peshawar and Karachi.

Our author has shown the same dogged persistence in the arena of politics. When he announced his entry into politics in 1996 – with the formation of a new party, Tehreek-e-Insaaf, dedicated to fighting corruption in public life – Pakistanis ignored him. In the first elections it contested in 1997, the Tehreek won no seat; in the second election in 2002, it won a single seat. Imran Khan could draw large crowds to his rallies, but they were drawn to their cricket hero not the political leader who promised to deliver a better future for them. Perhaps, Imran Khan had not done his homework. His promise to fight corruption did not yet carry a broad appeal; his message did not resonate with workers, peasants, students, clerks and small shop-keepers. Pakistanis knew that their leaders are corrupt, but they did not see Imran Khan as the force that could pry Pakistan out of their dirty but powerful grip. Imran Khan had not begun the hard work of building his party from the ground up, creating a cadre of committed workers and donors. He spent too much time on talk shows and too little time organizing his party.

The failure of Tehreek-e-Insaaf to make an impact in the 2002 elections may well have ended Imran Khan’s political career; but he was not ready to quit the field. He persisted in his attacks on Pakistan’s corrupt elites through regular appearances on television talk shows that had proliferated following General Musharraf’s liberalization of the media. Then came the attacks of 9-11, the US decision to draft Pakistan into its so-called Global War Against Terror. Gleefully, Pakistan’s generals accepted every demand that the US made on Pakistan’s sovereignty; they gave the US air and land corridors to Afghanistan, control of one or more airbases in Pakistan, and free run of Pakistan to CIA operatives. Only the religious parties and jihadi factions opposed this surrender of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but they occupied limited political space in Pakistan. With few exceptions, Pakistan’s ‘liberal’ and ‘left’ intellectuals also supported the US War; they were happy to see the Taliban driven out by the American invaders. The political tides were begging to turn for Imran Khan. This was his opportunity to broaden his critique of Pakistan’s corrupt political classes; their corruption now veered towards treason. None of this was surprising, but it did bring out into the open Pakistan’s descent to the depths of servitude.

As events unfolded, the charge of treason would gain greater plausibility. General Musharraf’s government kept the Americans happy by killing the Taliban who had sought refuge in Pakistan; others were captured and handed over to the Americans. In open violation of Pakistan’s constitution, the government also began to disappear Pakistanis who were then secretly transferred to the Americans. Pakistan’s involvement in America’s war entered a new phase in 2004 as the CIA mounted its first drone strikes on Pakistani territory. On American demand, the generals also directed the Pakistani military to attack Taliban sanctuaries in Waziristan. Pakistan’s political classes had now privatized the army. Pakistani soldiers now killed the Taliban and Pakistanis to enrich the country’s political elites.

While the generals collected cash from the US, Pakistanis would pay the price for this treason. Pakistan’s war against the Taliban and their Pashtun hosts produced a frightening backlash that has continued to grow. The logic of this backlash was simple, as Imran Khan also explains. No doubt encouraged by the Afghan Taliban, the families of the Pashtun victims – calling themselves the Pakistani Taliban – mounted devastating retaliatory attacks against military and civilian targets in Pakistan, but mostly against the latter. There was no change in Pakistan’s commitment to America’s war when a civilian government, led corrupt politicians rehabilitated under a deal hatched in Washington, replaced General Musharraf in 2008. While Pakistan’s liberal and left intellectuals wanted the government to exterminate the Pakistani Taliban; they insisted that the Pakistani Taliban was an Islamic fundamentalist movement to take power in Pakistan and had nothing to do with the war Pakistani military had unleashed against the Pashtuns. Imran made the opposite argument. Terminate the war against the Pashtuns and Afghans, and the Pakistani Taliban would cease their attacks; they would disappear as quickly as they had appeared.

After a long delay, Imran Khan’s strategy began to pay off. As Pakistan escalated the war against its own people in two of its four provinces, as Pakistani capital fled and foreign capital shunned the country, as the economy worsened, as poverty deepened, as political factions in Karachi engaged in bloody turf battles, as power outages persisted, as supply of cooking gas be-come intermittent, the anger and desperation of Pakistanis also grew. Who could lift Pakistan from this descent into chaos? Pakistanis knew better than to expect a savior to emerge from the military or the established political classes: for they had produced the mayhem and were its chief beneficiaries. In this gloom, Imran Khan beckoned to Pakistanis. His calls for justice grew louder, his jeremiads against corrupt politicians became sharper, his critique of the generals became unsparing. Slowly, his message began to resonate with Pakistani youth and the urban middle classes in Pakistan. Starting in mid-2011, the polls signaled a surge in his popularity.

On October 30 2011, Imran Khan was ready to take a measure of his popularity with a rally in Lahore. The rally was a great success; more than two hundred thousand people showed up. Most people agreed that nothing like this had been seen since the days of the charismatic Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the 1970s. On December 25, the Tehreek organized a second rally in Karachi, the stronghold of a local ethnic party, with the same results. Finally, some sixteen years after his entry into politics, people were beginning to rally around Imran Khan and his party. This surge in his popularity suddenly changed the political map of Pakistan. It also produced some unwelcome results; now that his prospects looked brighter, some members of the established political class began to knock on the Tehreek’s door. Imran Khan was now a political force; after wandering for many years on the margins, he had arrived with a bang on Pakistan’s political scene.

Imran Khan offered a more optimistic assessment of his prospects. He described the surge in his popularity as a political tsunami that would in time sweep out the old corrupt order. Was this a case of excessive self-congratulation? This would depend on whether the Tehreek could sustain the momentum it had generated, whether it could capitalize on this surge to build a grassroots organization, whether it could expand its program to incorporate the interests of workers and peasants, and whether it could create an intellectual cadre that would disseminate its message through print, television and the internet. Can Imran Khan energize the people, raise their hopes of change to a fever pitch, so that attempts to defeat them by extra-legal means could backfire and persuade the Tehreek to lead an uprising? I will return to these questions; but first, I wish to turn to the increasingly shrill and frenzied attacks against Imran Khan by Pakistan’s putative liberal and left-leaning intelligentsia; these attacks are most visible in the English-language print media. Their shrill commentary suggests that they are beginning to take him seriously.

3.

Pakistan’s ‘liberal’ and ‘left-leaning’ groups bring three related charges against Imran Khan: he is an Islamist (or fundamentalist), a partisan of the Taliban, and a rightist. They rely on less than half-truths in making their case.

Imran Khan is certainly Islamic in his thinking, inspiration and identity but he is not an Islamist, a term that generally applies to Muslims who subscribe to a literalist interpretation of the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet. Unlike many Pakistanis who identify themselves as liberals or leftists – and take a Kemalist view of Islam as a backward religion that must be rigorously excluded from the public discourse and even public space – Imran Khan derives his identity from Islam and seeks inspiration in the Qur’an and the Traditions. In regards to the relevance of some of the legal aspects of the Qur’an, together with Allama Iqbal and Fazlur Rahman (for many years, a professor of Islamic Studies at University of Chicago), he recognizes the need for revisiting some of the rulings that were given currency by the consensus of a previous age. In this sense, it would be appropriate to describe Imran Khan as an Islamic modernist; but unlike most Islamic modernists he also feels a strong affinity for the sufi tradition of Islam that has emphasized the spirit and inward content religion without neglecting its outward practice. In both respects, I doubt if there are Islamists who would admit Imran Khan into their inner circles.

Is Imran Khan then a partisan of the Taliban? The United States has used its hegemonic control over mainstream global discourse – especially since launching its global military offensive under the cover of the Global War Against Terror – to smear all freedom fighters it does not support as terrorists. The discourse on terrorism is very cleverly designed to focus the world’s attention on the relatively insignificant acts of violence by oppressed peoples and thereby legitimize the massive acts of violence perpetrated by Western nations against the rest of the world. In American demonology, anyone fighting against the US occupation of Afghanistan is a terrorist – whether he is Afghan or Pakistani. Most ‘liberal’ and ‘left’ writers in Pakistan have internalized this American rhetoric; it follows that the Afghans and Pakistanis fighting the US occupation do not have a legitimate cause regardless of what fighting tactics they employ. In describing Imran Khan as Taliban sympathizer, then, these writers hope to smear him as a terrorist-sympathizer. This smear will not stick. Most Pakistanis recognize that Imran Khan supports the right of Afghans to rid their country of US occupation; other than that and his ethnic kinship with the Pashtuns, there can exist little affinity between him and the Afghan Taliban.

It is time now to explain the scare quotes surrounding the political labels left, right and liberal. In much of the Islamicate, politics has moved into strangely dubious territory, where these labels retain very little of their original meaning. As the liberal or left-oriented political elites in much of the Islamicate began to lose their legitimacy starting the 1970s – because of their dismal failure to create free, sovereign and prosperous polities – and faced growing opposition from various Islamist movements, they chose to sacrifice their ideology in order to cling to power. They had risen to power on an anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist and, in some cases, socialist platform. Starting in the 1970s, the survival of the increasingly repressive regimes they led was tied to the support of Western powers in return for keeping the Islamists out of power; this was the pact they made with the devil. It was an enduring pact that crushed any opposition to these regimes until the recent Arab uprising. The liberal and left factions in Pakistan also reprogrammed themselves after the end of the Cold War. Under Benazir Bhutto, the Pakistan People’s Party, once left-leaning, anti-imperialist, sought legitimacy in Washington and quickly embraced its neoliberal program to open the economy to Western capital.

If the formerly liberal and left leaning forces completed this metamorphosis with little difficulty, this is not entirely surprising. Even when they proclaimed socialist ideals or employed anti-imperialist rhetoric, the thinking of the politically dominant classes in much of the Islamicate had been shaped by an Orientalist narrative. After the Western powers had destroyed or marginalized the traditional learned classes – judges and jurisprudents trained in Shariah, theologians, physicians, engineers, architects and artists – this created space for the emergence of new intellectual classes that were beholden to their colonial masters. More often than not, they were secular and nationalist in their politics, and, following their Orientalist mentors, they blamed Islam for their backwardness; as a result, even when they paid lip service to Islam, they were determined to exclude it from their political discourse. In keeping with their colonialist thinking, they affected Western styles and mannerisms but did little to acquire the institutions, sciences and technology that were the motors of Western power and prosperity. It is no exaggeration to assert that these new elites – despite their nationalist rhetoric – felt closer to their colonial masters they had replaced than to the people they claimed to lead.

In consequence, as Islamist opposition movements began to reject their claims to leadership, the failed political elites retreated into the arms of their former colonial masters. They sought to convince the Western world that they faced a common enemy; the Islamist parties eager to replace them would turn the clock back on human rights, women’s rights and the rights of minorities. Worse, should the Islamist opposition gain power they would pursue policies openly hostile to Western interests. Despite the about-turn in their policies, however, these elites continued to sport their old political labels. They were ‘nationalists’ but owed their survival to Western arms, money, diplomatic support, intelligence, and advice. They were ‘liberals’ but they were happy to use the police state to suppress opposition to their regimes. They were ‘socialists’ but eagerly embraced the neoliberal dictates of the IMF and the World Bank.

In Pakistan, different factions of the ruling elites – who variously claim to be ‘nationalists,’ ‘liberals’ or ‘leftists’ – strenuously lobby the Americans or the British to gain power or to keep it. They outbid each other in sacrificing vital national interests; they never tire of proclaiming that the nation’s economic salvation depends on attracting foreign investment; they have backed unconditionally America’s so-called war on terrorism; they oppose the Afghans’ right to free their country of foreign occupiers; they cheered when General Musharraf used Pakistan’s military to fight Pakistanis who aided the Afghans; they privately assure the Americans that – despite their public stance – they stand firmly behind the deadly drone strikes against ‘targets’ inside Pakistan. Disregarding Pakistan’s Islamic sensibilities, a tiny minority of ‘secularists’ in Pakistan want to impose Western sexual mores on Pakistan; they have campaigned to abrogate the nation’s laws against blasphemy, not prevent its abuse or mitigate its penalties; they refuse to defend the rights of Muslim minorities in Western countries; they support America’s demands to shut down the madrasas in Pakistan but have long supported a colonial system of education for the elites that uses syllabi and exams designed in Cambridge.

Indeed, recently, one columnist at Dawn – a leading English newspaper – lampooned Imran Khan for refusing to share the podium with Salman Rushdie at a literary event in India. I do not know what inner demons drove Rushdie to produce his obscene caricature of Islam, but it does seem odd that a writer – that any person with imagination – would seek to sully and shatter a sacred treasure of humanity only because he finds himself excluded from its deep mystery. Needless to say, I did not support Ayatollah Khomenei’s call for Rushdie’s assassination; nor do I support the death penalty for apostasy. Islam supports free choice in matters of conscience, but the state may limit the activities of well-funded foreign missionaries that use pecuniary inducements to gain converts.

4.

Imran Khan has a great deal to say about the canker of Pakistan’s colonial legacy; the cultural divide that separates the class of brown sahibs and the great mass of Pakistanis who remain anchored in their history and traditions; and the new American masters this class has served since the departure of the British.

He also writes about his own struggles to overcome the Orientalist culture into which he was born, the culture of the brown sahibs, their sneering contempt for Islam, their denigration of the ‘natives’ and their culture. He describes his long and distinguished career in cricket that reveals a perfectionist and a man undaunted by failures. He shares with the readers his personal discovery of God, about growing spiritually through his own struggles in cricket and his charity work; finding inspiration in Islam’s great thinkers, poets and sages – most of all the great Islamic poet, visionary and philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal – but also seeking the blessings of nameless sufis, who prefer to live in obscurity and poverty despite their spiritual gifts. This review can only look at some of these issues; to accompany Imran Khan on his life journey, to walk through the many stages of his life, to explore his personal narrative of Pakistan’s political failures you have to read his Pakistan: A Personal History.

Quite rightly, Imran Khan blames the brown sahibs – a few thousand of the most powerful military officers, bureaucrats, and influential landed families – for never giving Pakistan the chance to develop into a self-respecting, sovereign and prosperous country. This class had retained or acquired its social rank, wealth and power during the colonial era by rendering loyal service to the British rulers; demonstrating their servility to their foreign masters by adopting their dress, mimicking their life style and mannerisms, and gaining familiarity with the history of British royalty, British place names, and British writers. They turned to jaundiced Orientalists for their knowledge of Islam, the history of Muslims and of India; and from them they acquired their deep contempt for Islam, the Muslims and their languages and traditions. Like their British masters, they interacted with the ‘natives’ – those who did not speak English or spoke it with a native accent – only as social inferiors, as clerks, peons, servants, peasants, low-ranking military officers and nameless jawans in the army.

Imran Khan provides several vignettes from the social life of these brown sahibs in Pakistan. “In the Gymkhana and the Punjab Club in Lahore,” he writes, “Pakistanis pretended to be English. Everyone spoke English including the waiters; the men dressed in suits; we, the members’ children, watched English films while the grown-ups danced to Western music on a Saturday night (43).” At Aitchison College, where the sons of Punjab’s landed elites were trained to become brown sahibs, boys “caught speaking in Urdu during school hours were fined, despite it being the official language of Pakistan (47).” Elsewhere, he writes, “When I was a boy I remember one of my uncles asking a cousin of mine, who was wearing shalwar kameez, why he was dressed like a servant (49-50).” Asked if he could speak Urdu – I can recall – the son of a leading civil servant who served during General Ayub Khan’s tenure, shot back, “Only a little, when talking to the servants.”

Led by Iqbal, Jinnah and a small band of dedicated leaders – from the various provinces of British India – the struggles and sacrifices of ordinary Muslims had created a country they had hoped would make them proud, a country that would be guided by the highest Islamic ideals of justice, a country where they would be safe, where they could prosper, a country that would be a source of strength for the Muslims they had left behind in India, a country that would offer inspiration and leadership to the Islamicate. This was not to be. Within a few years of gaining independence, the brown sahibs in Pakistan seized control over the affairs of the country. That was the beginning of Pakistan’s descent into a shameless kleptocracy in the service of foreign powers.

“Far from shaking off colonialism,” writes Imran Khan, “our ruling elite slipped into its shoes (43-44).” Our brown sahibs made no significant changes to the colonial structures developed by the British to keep their Indian subjects on a tight leash. This omission was deliberate: the intent was to keep the ‘natives’ down, to continue to smother their long-suppressed energies, to stifle their creativity. As a result, the economy that Pakistan’s elites promoted soon became dependent on foreign loans; its capitalist class built its wealth on defaulted loans; its manufacturing sector could not move too far beyond processing raw materials; the educational standards at state institutions were allowed to deteriorate so that quality education was confined to the rich; and sixty years after independence more than half the population remains illiterate.

Over time, the emerging middle classes too began to mould themselves in the image of the brown sahibs. Since Urdu or the regional languages would get them nowhere in Pakistan’s private or public sectors, they began sending their children to English schools. Under colonial rule, the Muslim middle classes had abandoned Arabic and Persian, thus losing contact with the classics of their civilization; in the sixty years since gaining nominal independence, the new generations that attended English schools have become strangers to Urdu as well. Were it not for the logic of audience ratings – most viewers do not understand English – that forced the proliferating television channels to run their programs in Urdu, spoken Urdu too would be on its way out. Nevertheless, many of the actors who play lead roles in the Urdu serials can scarcely carry on a conversation in Urdu; the credits for these serials too are often presented in English. A growing number of commercial billboards in the cities also display their Urdu slogans and jingles in Roman letters.

The style of education at Aitchison College – the elite boarding school that he attended – Imran Khan writes, transformed Pakistani students “into cheap imitations of English public school boys.” These students adopted Western sportsmen, actors and pop stars as their role models. Only much later did Imran Khan come to understand how much this “education dislocated our sense of ourselves as a nation.” A generation later, this cultural dislocation is being reproduced on a much larger scale in dozens of elite schools – all run as profit-making enterprises – that prepare their students for the Cambridge O-level and A-level exams. As a result, writes Imran Khan, “Today our English-language schools produce ‘Desi Americans’ – young kids who, though they have never been out of Pakistan, have not only perfected the American twang but all the mannerisms (including the tilt of the baseball cap) just by watching Hollywood films.” In imitation, poorer children too are deserting the state-run Urdu schools to attend poorly staffed English medium schools run out of apartments but carrying exotic labels. Some are named after Catholic saints, in a tawdry attempt to bask in the prestige of Christian missionary schools. Others carry more hilarious names. One school, less inclined to borrow the halo of Catholic saints, calls itself, Oxford and Cambridge Islamic English-Medium School. I am aware that this faux Anglicization is being driven by global forces as well, but – in the Islamic world alone – Turkey, Iran and Indonesia continue to give primacy to their national languages.

A slavish Westernization among the elites has forced Pakistan into intellectual sterility. Over the past century, these Westernized classes have produced little world-class scholarship on the country’s history or social and economic structures; their scientific production too remains mostly meager and mediocre, if not worse. Nearly all the great Muslim thinkers and writers of the previous hundred and fifty years in South Asia had received their early education in wholly or partly traditional setting; and this includes Ghalib, Hali, Syed Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Iqbal, Abul Kalam Azad, Shibli Nu’mani, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, Syed Abul ‘Ala Maududi, Saleemuzzaman Siddiqui, and Faiz, to name only a few illustrious figures from that period. Yet the growing cohorts of Western-educated Muslims since the 1900s have produced scarce any thinker or writer who could stand comparison with their predecessors. As the middle classes too increasingly submit themselves to the same shallow Westernization, this has deepened the poverty of Muslim intellect in South Asia. As the shift towards Western education has drained the Madrasas of recruits from the middle classes, this has produced another deleterious effect: the coarsening of the Islamic discourse that flows from the madrasas. Imran Khan is deeply cognizant of this intellectual malaise. “If our Westernized classes started to study Islam,” writes Imran Khan, “not only would it be able to project the dynamic spirit of Islam but also help our society fight sectarianism and extremism… How can the group that is in the best position to project Islam do so when it sees Islam through Western eyes? The most damaging aspect of the gulf between the two sections of our society is that it has stopped the evolution of both religion and culture in Pakistan (340-1).”

The coarsening of religious discourse in the West too flows in large part from similar causes: the abandonment and denigration of religion and its mystical traditions by the intellectual classes. In the West this process began with the Renaissance and the Reformation, gained strength with the Enlightenment, and reached its apogee in the nineteenth century with the launching of Darwinian evolutionalism. As a result, over the past three centuries, Christianity has increasingly adopted hard fundamentalist positions – especially in the United States – that draw their inspiration from the conquest narratives of the Old Testament not the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Over the past half century, especially, the more fundamentalist variants of Christianity have become the refuge of whites who have been marginalized by the rapid economic and social changes in the United States. They vent their anger at immigrants, blacks and Muslims, at women who take charge of their bodies, and – paradoxically – at ‘big’ government, the only institution that could help reverse their economic marginalization. Increasingly also, they have been led by Christian Zionism and Israel’s military successes to identify with Jewish colonization of Palestine. In their commitment to Israeli expansionism, these messianic Christians are more intransigent than the Israelis themselves.

5.

Imran Khan blames the Westernized elites for Pakistan’s deepening problems. Quite early on, these elites ensured that independence would merely exchange one set of white masters for another: the Americans for the British. Unlike the British, the Americans would rule over Pakistan through local surrogates; the brown faces of these surrogates would maintain the happy illusion that Pakistanis were in control of their destiny.

Although this neocolonial relationship has seen some ups and downs, starting in the 1990s, the top echelons of Pakistan’s governments have been appointed by Washington and, accordingly, their activities are monitored and supervised by the US ambassador in Islamabad. In turn, the Pakistani rulers and their cronies use the government to capture rent, much of which is transferred to foreign bank accounts. Pakistan’s subordination to the US reached a new low after the 9-11 attacks as the rulers – civilian and military – rented the country’s ports, highways, airspace, air bases, and, soon, its military to the US for moneys that have largely gone into private coffers.

Although Imran Khan does not spell out the manifold linkages that bind Pakistan’s corrupt rulers to the United States, he understands that Pakistan cannot move forward unless it ends its neocolonial ties to the United States. To this end, he sets himself several interrelated tasks. A Tehreek government will pull Pakistan out of America’s so-called war on terrorism; this means stopping the drone attacks on Pakistani territory, revoking all the territorial concessions General Musharraf made to the United States, and ending Pakistan’s war against its own people in Pakhtunkhwa. “Pakistan should disengage from this insane and immoral war,” writes Imran Khan (360). If this could be done, the chief factor that has been destabilizing Pakistan, pushing it to the edge of a civil war, will disappear. Pakistan’s military disengagement from the US will be followed by efforts to end Pakistan’s dependency on foreign loans to pay for government programs, much of which have been diverted to private coffers in the past.

Is all this doable? Despite the dire warnings of slanted commentators, should Pakistan withdraw from the US war against terror, it is extremely unlikely that it would face a war. At present, the US has no stomach for starting another war even as it and Israel threaten to start a war against Iran. The US will certainly stop payments of the blood money, but this should not hurt Pakistan since most of this money finds its way back where it came from. China too will oppose any US attacks against Pakistan, and will stand ready to tide Pakistan through its balance of payments difficulties.

Pakistan can gain economic independence – Imran Khan argues – by ending tax evasions; this alone will double the government’s revenues. Ending corruption at the highest levels of government, therefore, is the Tehreek’s signature policy goal. Imran Khan has sought to develop a culture opposed to corruption in his own party; the Tehreek requires the party’s office bearers to declare their assets and tax returns; it has set in motion steps to elect all office bearers to the party; it will deny the party’s ticket to anyone with a record of corruption; and, it has promised to make all elected and unelected officials accountable to an independent National Accountability Board. Ending corruption at the top – Imran Khan maintains – will banish corruption from lower levels of government. I am afraid this is a wish not a well-considered expectation. It will take a lot of hard work – a variety of administrative reforms – to push back against Pakistan’s rampant corruption.

Reforming the country’s education system is a fundamental goal of the Tehreek. The country’s three-tiered system – consisting of private English-medium schools, public schools using Urdu and local languages, and the madrasa system – is divisive. The English schools reproduce the class of brown sahibs and spread their pernicious culture to the growing middle classes; the poorly staffed and poorly equipped public schools deny the great majority of the country’s population a decent education; and the madrasas have become a welfare system for the poorest children. The plan is to replace this multi-tiered educational system, one that has perpetuated the colonial mindset, with a uniform system of education for everyone that will embrace mathematics, the natural and social sciences, and history while giving their proper place to the Pakistani languages, English, and the Islamic sciences.

Another important policy goal of the Tehreek is to create a system of local governance for Pakistan’s 50,000 villages. This will take local development funds out of the hands of politicians and put them in the hands of elected village councils, who will decide how this money is spent. They will also serve as the local government for the villages, with responsibility for maintaining municipal services, including a registry of births, deaths and marriages; and reviewing the work of local officials responsible for policing, health, irrigation, and education. In addition, like the panchayats of the pre-colonial era, the village councils will provide cheap and quick adjudication of local disputes.

Imran Khan has not articulated – at least in his book – an economic policy. Most likely, this omission is deliberate; he has had many occasions to set forth his economic policies but he has persisted in reiterating his position on a few signature issues, including corruption, lawlessness, and the betrayal of Pakistan’s , national interests by the rulers. As a result, we know very little about what policies he favors on infrastructure, industry, agriculture, urban labor, urban transportation, exports, energy, water, R&D, etc. This appears to suggest that he takes a rather Adam Smithian view of economic development. If you provide honest governance – I have heard him say this a few times – this will create the right incentives for all other matters to move in the right direction; the proverbial invisible hand will sort things out for the best. With their property rights secured, private individuals, pursuing their own interest, will generate savings, investments, innovation and, therefore, rapid economic growth. It is possible that Imran Khan has not had time to formulate policies in these areas; or he believes that the focus on a small number of core issues will best help to energize support for his party. In either case, it is this writer’s view, that he should quickly remedy this neglect. For good governance alone will not energize Pakistan’s people to become active economic agents of change. In addition, from an electoral standpoint, he is more likely to expand his support base by articulating his position on issues that are vital to the interests of workers, peasants, ordinary citizens anxious for their health, and prospective investors in Pakistan’s economy.

Certainly, better governance will be a hugely positive thing for Pakistan; it can start to reverse the ruination produced by decades of rampant corruption. But good governance alone will not lift Pakistan out of poverty nor will it produce economic miracles. Objectively considered, no one will contest the British claim that they instituted ‘good governance’ in India once the rule of the East India Company was replaced by representatives of the Crown. Nevertheless, the evidence is also clear that during their long stay in India the British produced a great deal of economic misery; unfettered British imports destroyed India’s manufactures; British capital displaced indigenous capital from the most vital areas of the economy; their destruction of indigenous educational institutions produced mass illiteracy; and they pauperized the Indians. Good governance alone will not produce economic development if that governance is not used to encourage the growth of indigenous capital, institutions, technology, education and skills. Good governance must also be used to correct past social inequities and the new ones that a capitalist system is certain to produce. If good governance is used only in support of markets and capital, it will very quickly be overthrown by the inequities produced by the capitalist system. Let us not forget that Western democracies – especially in the United States and Britain – are now mostly hollow institutions; they are tolerated by corporate leaders only because they can game these systems to perpetuate their wealth and power.

6.

Notwithstanding the surge in his popularity in the cities, what are the chances that the Tehreek, if given the chance, will be able to form the country’s next government?

If Pakistan had a presidential system of government, it is more than likely that Imran Khan would sweep the polls; the rivals that any party might place against him would look like cretins. Under Pakistan’s parliamentary system, however, he faces an uphill task. In this decentralized system, where elections have to be won in several hundred local constituencies, the Tehreek candidates will have to fight against the power of corrupt local incumbents who will use their traditional authority, their money, dirty tricks, thugs, and help from their foreign masters to defeat a challenge that threatens to end their plundering binge. Winning a majority of these local contests cannot be easy.

On his path to power, Imran Khan will have to face a showdown with several factions of Pakistan’s corrupt elites. Many top generals, bureaucrats, politicians, media barons, loan-defaulting mill-owners, journalists, television anchors, and leaders of civil society have become entangled with American interests: they have cultivated ties with various US agencies; they or their close relatives hold green cards; they or their relatives work for subsidiaries of Western corporations; they have advised or worked for Western think tanks; their NGOs have thrived on foreign funding; and they have become rich and are hungry for more. Perhaps, the corrupt elites may concede victory to the Tehreek, since they may soon engineer a return to power; but it appears more likely that they will fight back, since this will end even if temporarily the bonanza they have enjoyed since 2001.

If it appears that the Tehreek is going to win the next elections scheduled for 2013, will these elections be held or, if they are allowed to proceed, will they not be rigged to ensure the Tehreek’s defeat? Alternatively, the political parties in power may try to increase the chaos in Pakistan’s cities, and thus pave the way for a military takeover that may end Imran Khan’s political career. More simply, the CIA or some segment of the corrupt elites, or the two working together, may assassinate Imran Khan. Can Imran Khan forestall these subterfuges? None of these options are certainties, but not to anticipate them and have contingent plans to deal with them would be reckless.

The power of the corrupt elites will be hardest to dislodge in Pakistan’s rural hinterlands that are still dominated largely by traditional power barons: the landlords, dynasties of so-called pirs, and tribal chiefs. Despite his tremendous charisma and notwithstanding his populist rhetoric, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto chose the easy route to electoral victory by co-opting the traditional rural power barons. This compromise brought an easy victory but, bending to the power of these barons, Bhutto proceeded to marginalize the left block in his party. At the same time, he implemented his farcical ‘socialist’ agenda of destroying Pakistan’s nascent capitalist class; he seized and handed over their industries, banks and even schools to the stalwarts in his party. Imran Khan too is aware of the handicap he faces in a parliamentary system; and – on a smaller scale so far – he too has opened leadership positions in his party to the old power barons. This compromise is certain to alienate the old workers in his party, but it also carries the more serious risk of alienating the young voters who have pinned their hopes for change on the Tehreek’s commitment to establish a just order in Pakistan. The propagandists of the old order are already hammering home this point. It does not inspire confidence when the Tehreek takes a strong stand against drone strikes but appoints a former foreign minister – who supported these strikes during his tenure – as the vice-chairman of his party.

Imran Khan’s defense of these compromises is not convincing. These old politicians – he parries – are welcome to join his party but he will vet them for corruption before he awards them the party’s tickets to the national and provincial assemblies. If the Tehreek cannot win the rural constituencies without enlisting the local power barons, he will have to embrace many more of their kind. Should he do this, however, he will surrender his chief strength – the unwavering commitment to reform the old order. Once the scions of the traditional political families begin to fill his party – even if they look less corrupt than others – the Tehreek cannot implement the reforms that will hurt the economic and political interests of this class of people.

Aware of these risks, Imran Khan is seeking to strengthen his hand by organizing his base, consisting of younger voters. He has launched a drive to register them as members of the Tehreek. Once the membership rolls are ready, he promises that they will elect their local, regional and national leaders. It is a formidable undertaking; it has never been done by any party other than the Jamat-e-Islami that restricts membership to practicing Muslims. If the Tehreek succeeds in this endeavor, this may begin to alter the dynamics of power at the local levels. As a grass-roots party with a strong organization, it could stand up more effectively against the power of the local barons. This will reduce the need to bring these rural barons into the party; the Tehreek could use them selectively to win a few seats in districts where its support base is weakest.

The Tehreek has a chance to extend its populist appeal to the rural areas with its plan to institute thousands of elected village councils. This is the only program that carries the prospect of mobilizing the peasants behind the Tehreek, but for this populist appeal to take root, the party has to do two things. It must ensure that the rural population hears about this program and understands the benefits it can bring to them. More importantly, the Tehreek has to come up with a plan to assure the rural poor that these village councils will not be captured by the local power barons. How is this to be done? If the party members can be organized at the level of the villages, they can pit their organized strength against the bullying of the local thugs. The Tehreek should also create mobile brigades of young idealist college students who will be ready to travel and deploy to the villages to support – with their disciplined but non-violent presence – the rural poor during the elections to the village councils. The elections can be staggered to ensure that these college volunteers are available at the village elections. In addition, these elections should be held only after the Tehreek has had time to reform the police force.

Since it began drawing crowds, its rivals have accused the Tehreek of receiving support from the ‘establishment,’ a code word for the security agencies working under the umbrella of the Pakistan army. This is a smear. The Tehreek‘s support has grown because the people can see more plainly than before their country being pushed ever closer to the brink by the unbridled corruption of their rulers: and they see Imran as their only real chance of reversing their country’s slide into chaos. The Tehreek should continue to distance itself from any material assistance of the security agencies, but I hope that that it enjoys the tacit sup-port of the mid-level and junior officers and the jawans in the military, who cannot be too happy at having to kill other Pakistanis and whose lives were sacrificed by the military leadership so that they and the civilians leaders could collect blood money from the United States. In 1996, the Pakistan army faced a spate of desertions from its ranks as they were asked to fight the Afghan resistance and their Pakistani hosts. Although these desertions were contained, it cannot be doubted that resentment still simmers in the army’s rank and file against the military leadership for their readiness to do the bidding of the United States for pecuniary gain. One hopes that as the Tehreek ratchets its campaign, it will work in subtle ways to win the esteem of the rank and file in Pakistan’s army. The knowledge that their own rank and file have their eyes on their backs will restrain the generals who may want to extend their profitable partnership with the United States.

The Tehreek should also send out signals – convincing signals – that it has a second arrow in its quiver. It must let Pakistanis know that it is ready to mobilize its ranks for more forceful action if the corrupt political elites will use dirty tricks to extend their corruption binge for another five years. Pakistan cannot survive another five years of their depredations. In times of crisis – and Pakistan has never faced a greater crisis than it does now – the movement to save the country must be ready to proceed along two tracks: change through the electoral process but if that is obstructed the people must be ready to bring down the corrupt rulers through massive and sustained but non-violent protests. Victory only comes to those who are prepared to broaden their democratic struggle if change becomes impossible through the ballot box.

~

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. His latest book is Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan, November 2009). He may be contacted at: alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

April 29, 2012 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Has Imran Khan’s Political Tsunami Hit Pakistani Shores?

Evidence in British court contradicts CIA drone claims

By Chris Woods | The Bureau of Investigative Journalism | April 24th, 2012

A major case in the British High Court has revealed fresh evidence of civilian deaths during a notorious CIA drone strike in Pakistan last year.

Sworn witness testimonies reveal in graphic detail how the village of Datta Khel burned for hours after the attack. Many of the dozens killed had to be buried in pieces.

Legal proceedings were begun in London recently against British Foreign Secretary William Hague, over possible British complicity in CIA drone strikes.

Britain’s GCHQ – its secret monitoring and surveillance agency – is reported to have provided ‘locational evidence’ to US authorities for use in drone strikes, a move which is reportedly illegal in the United Kingdom.

Sworn affidavits

The High Court case focuses in particular on a CIA drone strike in March 2011 which killed up to 53 people.

Sworn affidavits presented in court and seen by the Bureau offer extensive new details of a strike the CIA still apparently claims ‘killed no non-combatants’.

Ahmed Jan (pictured) is a tribal elder in North Waziristan. On March 17 2011 he was attending a gathering with other village elders, to discuss a mining dispute.

‘We were in the middle of our discussion when the missile hit and I was thrown about 24 feet from where I was sitting. I was knocked unconscious and when I awoke I saw many individuals who were dead or injured,’ he says in his affidavit.

Most of those who died in Datta Khel village that day were civilians. The Bureau has so far identified by name 24 of those killed, whilst Associated Press recently reported that it has the names of 42 civilians who died that day.

Pakistan’s president, prime minister and army chief all condemned the Datta Khel attack. A recent Bureau investigation with the Sunday Times quoted Brigadier Abdullah Dogar, who commanded Pakistani military forces in the area at the time.

We in the Pakistan military knew about the meeting, we’d got the request ten days earlier. It was held in broad daylight, people were sitting out in Nomada bus depot when the missile strikes came. Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that Jirga – they have their people attending – but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?

Yet the US intelligence community has consistently denied that any civilians died.

Last year an anonymous US official told the New York Times: ‘The fact is that a large group of heavily armed men, some of whom were clearly connected to al Qaeda and all of whom acted in a manner consistent with AQ [Al Qaeda] -linked militants, were killed.’

The sworn affidavits seen by the Bureau offer a very different perspective. Imran Khan’s father Ismail was another of the elders who died that day. Imran says of his father: ‘He always did the right thing for the community and the tribe. He opposed terrorism and militancy and was not himself in any way connected to these things.’

Khalil Khan’s late father Hajji Babat was a local policeman who was ‘not an enemy of the United States of America or any other country.’ His son describes in his affidavit how he rushed back to his village to find his father dead, the bus station and surrounding buildings still burning six hours after the drone strike.

And Fateh Khan, who once worked for British Telecom, lost his 25-year old nephew Din Mohammed in the CIA attack. He reports that his nephew’s body had to be buried in pieces, and that ‘he left behind four children, all of whom now live in my house. His eldest child is currently only five years old.’

‘Absolute lie’

The most senior tribal elder to die that day was Daud Khan. Initially he was claimed to have been a senior Taliban figure. His son Noor told the Bureau that this was ‘an absolute lie’.

‘My father was not a militant but an elder who was working day and night for his people. There have been many children who have been killed in drone strikes. I ask the US if they think those children were militants and combatants and dangerous enough to be killed in such a manner?’

The CIA declined to comment when asked whether it still believed it had killed no ‘non-combatants’ in Pakistan since May 2010, or that no civilians died in Datta Khel last year.

In London, legal campaigners are seeking a judicial review in the High Court – a process by which senior judges can question and even overturn any government policy on aiding US drone strikes.

The case is being brought by legal charity Reprieve, and by the Islamabad-based lawyer Shahzad Akbar and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, which focuses on civilian victims of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

The British government is understood to have firmly challenged the grounds of the case on a number of fronts.

Follow @chrisjwoods on Twitter

April 26, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments