Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Questions And Bewilderment In Pakistan

Cyril Almeida at Dawn has written a powerful and anguished column about the bewilderment among many Pakistanis on discovering that Osama bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad, a garrison town in the heart of the country and home to the Pakistan Military Academy. “It’s too frightening to make sense of. The world’s most-wanted terrorist. A man who triggered the longest war in American history. The terrorist mastermind the world’s only superpower has moved heaven and earth to track down. A decade of hunting. Hundreds of billions of dollars spent. The blood of countless Americans and others spilled. And when he was finally found, he was found wrapped in the bosom of the Pakistani security establishment.” “Did they know he was here? Surely, they knew he was here? Nobody has come out and said it openly yet. It’s too early, the story still unfolding. Ask the question in private, though, and with hand on heart, no one will say anything but, yes, they knew he was there,” he wrote.  “Grim questions are etched on anxious faces, but so is fear of the answers. Proud men and women, people who love and serve their country, have cried as they connect yet another dot in the horrifying trajectory this country is on.” The mixed messages given out in public or private after President Barack Obama announced…that U.S. forces had flown unnoticed deep into  Pakistan and killed bin Laden, have left many dazed about what really happened. Had Pakistan at least helped in some way by providing the intelligence that led to bin Laden? President Barack Obama had specifically mentioned counter- terrorism cooperation with Pakistan.  Or did Pakistanis have to face up to the possibility that the Americans had acted entirely alone — hoodwinking the country’s powerful army — and that perhaps, as Almeida writes, “they knew he was there”. A government statement said that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency ” had been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009 ″ about the compound where bin Laden was killed. But that statement, described by columnist Ejaz Haider as “nonsense at its most nonsensical” was even more confusing — if the ISI knew about the compound in 2009 , why did it not take action? Towards the end of the week, the “ authorised” version of events filtered out from a briefing given by Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to senior Pakistani journalists. Pakistan had not known in advance about the U.S. plans, but nor had it known that bin Laden was there, wrote Time magazine’s Omar Waraich, who had spoken to some of those present at the briefing. “Kayani was adamant that the Pakistanis had no idea that bin- Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. “We had no clear, actionable information on Osama bin-Laden,” he told the journalists. “If we had it, we would have acted ourselves. No one would have questioned our performance for ten years. It would have raised our international prestige.” Najam Sethi at The Friday Times in his account of what appeared to be the same briefing, gave the first properly coherent explanation of how the United States and Pakistan had managed to square the circle of saying they had shared intelligence while acting alone.    It’s worth quoting at length, since in the weeks and months ahead, this is likely to be the story that will have to survive scrutiny if the two countries are to carry on working together — something both countries need to do in their own interests, irrespective of the distrust. “Sometime in 2009, an ISI wiretap picked up a conversation in Arabic between a Sim card in Nowshera and another in Saudi Arabia. The conversation was brief and hinted at financial matters. This transcript was passed on to the CIA for processing. Three months later, in 2010 , the same Sim woke up to another conversation in Arabic, this time from Peshawar to Saudi Arabia. Again, the transcript was passed on to the CIA. “There were four other occasions that year when the same Sim was used, once from a location in Waziristan and the last one actually from the compound in Abbotabad, and all the transcripts and location details were passed on to the CIA. The ISI took the view that its Intel apparatus was focused on the Pashto or Punjabi speaking Taliban in FATA and elsewhere in the country and Arabic speaking Al-Qaeda terrorists were the responsibility of the CIA. “Meanwhile, the CIA analysed the transcripts and followed all the clues until the last one led them to the compound in Abbotabad. When the CIA homed in on it in February via ground and satellite surveillance in 2011 , it was convinced that a very high value target was living in it, possibly OBL. They found it unbelievable because of its location in the military’s backyard. “The consensus view was that an exclusive and secret operation should be launched to get their man because the ISI couldn’t be trusted with a joint operation. The CIA just wasn’t sure whether the ISI was hiding OBL because it was the ISI that had provided the lead to the Sim card and transcripts that led the CIA to the compound in Abbotabad. “This explains two statements made by senior US officials. President Obama said the operation benefited from ‘ counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan’s Intel agencies that led the CIA to the compound in which OBL was living’. The CIA chief said they couldn’t mount a joint operation because they didn’t want leaks in the ISI by rogue elements to jeopardize it.” The explanation has an internal coherence and brings together the U.S. and Pakistani narratives that they had shared intelligence, even as the United States later acted alone.  It does not begin to give all the answers, but it does provide some useful details to work on. In 2010 , for example, the ISI, according to this explanation, picked up a conversation in Arabic from a particular SIM card.  That same SIM card was used “once from a location in Waziristan and the last one actually from the compound in Abbottabad”.  It’s terribly easy to criticise other people’s mistakes in hindsight, but what would you conclude if you had a link between an Arabic speaker, Waziristan, and the compound?  Leave it to the CIA? Or was this a question of an overworked junior officer failing to join the dots? With every new explanation we get, more questions need to be asked.

A Fallacious Constituent Assembly

The state order of our people's republic needed to be constituted accommodating the interests of all sections of the people. The Constitution is for all the people, not for any particular group of people. Constitution- making, therefore, should not be biased towards any party, political interest or narrow outlook. It is imperative that all sections of people, different occupations and various shades of opinions are represented and involved in the constitution-making process, so that there is unanimity on the basic principles and there is no hesitation or controversy over constitutional practices. It may be mentioned here that for framing the Indian constitution, the constituent assembly where, provinces (states) were represented proportionately on population count, and the major religion, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh were also represented in the ratio of the sizes of their respective adherents. The 403 members of the Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh in 1972 were never elected specifically to prepare the constitution. Usually qualifications for a constituent assembly member differ from those required for a member of any normal legislative assembly. It is certainly desirable that constitutions are written by specially convened assemblies of qualified people and not by a legislative body, even more so that it shall not be dominated by a single group. Moreover, these are the same people who would be seeking party nominations soon after the constitution approved by them as constituent assembly was to be dissolved and new elections would be held. The 34- member committee which was constituted to prepare the draft constitution had only one member from the Opposition. Records do not show that the framing of any chapter or part of a chapter was entrusted to sub- committees to prepare the draft or to analyze the issues in depth for rationality. Evidence shows that in the recent past, countries which established the constituent assemblies to rewrite or prepare new constitutions chose constitution makers largely dominated by intellectuals, academicians, politicians, social workers, environmental specialists, leading human right activists, minority leaders, community leaders, business leaders and professionals which also include lawyers. In Bangladesh, a particular drawback in constituting state order was that too many lawyers dominated the process. Evidence shows that lawyers usually formulate phrases in an ambiguous manner to arrive at a consensus on any issue, keeping scope of manipulative arguments in their interpretation before Benches of higher judiciary. It was unfortunate that the main framers of the Bangladesh constitution were mostly lawyers-turned-politicians, and others only politicians. Hence, it is understandable why so much ambiguity, subjectivity and qualifications were incorporated in relation to fundamental rights, Iiberties, separation of powers, checks and balances, as well as non enforceability of fundamental principles of state. Various fundamental rights embodied in the Bangladesh Constitution phrased idiosyncratically. Every fundamental right was riddled with so many exceptions and qualifications that the provisos ate up the rights altogether. Apart from two basic motives, namely considerations of party interest and matters of self-interest the Bangladesh Constituent Assembly members had a third interest. It was to comply with the wishes of the supreme leader. Everyone knew that as soon as the constitution was approved and enacted, the constituent assembly would be dissolved. Since all the constituent assembly members were politicians and belonged to the same party, they needed the support of the Supreme Leader to be nominated for the next election. Therefore upholding the wishes of the Supreme Leader must have been the paramount concern of practically all the constituent assembly members. Evidence from many case studies overwhelmingly supports this hypothesis. For that reason even the most impartially-minded framer may have had to take into account partisan interests. By an order on 11 th January 1972 , the Constituent Assembly was established. The same order also changed the system of government from presidential to parliamentary. The impact on the psychology of the constitution-makers can easily be surmised. Changes in governance structure at such a crucial time must have prejudiced the minds of the constitution-makers as to the "form of government" suitable for the nation. This constitution was soon amended to transform the government to a Presidential System on 25 th January 1975. Had the process of making the constitution been free from constraints and democratic, possibly there would not have been the need for the Fourth amendment to be added to the constitution so soon afterwards. The constitution is the fundamental law, and that is the reason why it is also the supreme law. It is the source of legal and moral authority for the rule of men by men. It is also supposedly a dynamic document, but its amendment procedures need to be rigid. At least a two-thirds majority vote of the total number of members is usually needed to pass any amendment. In the recent past, in some countries where constitutions were rewritten, a three- fourths majority was necessary to pass a constitutional resolution. In Bangladesh, to approve the constitutional resolution required only a simple majority of total members of the constituent assembly. This is unquestionably unusual and it is difficult to find any previous example. It may be mentioned here that to approve the Indian constitution three-fourth majority of members of the constituent assembly were required. One of the fundamental requirements of a constitution is the process of debating the provisions, particularly on the fundamental principles of state, fundamental rights, issues related to freedom, type of government, separation of powers, checks and balances etc. The debate can be open or close-door. Either way, it is important to carry out a full-fledged debate and discussion, so that future generations can have high regard for the weight of ideas and thoughts that dominated the minds of the constitution makers. In many countries, the Supreme Court while deciding on constitutional issues regularly consults the proceedings of the various stages of relevant constitution-making to understand the reason, logic and philosophy of such wording and phrasing. In the making of the Bangladesh constitution, the proceeding of the committee debates is not to be found in any great detail. There is also evidence that all constituent assembly members were acting in a subservient manner to the supreme leader. Indeed members never debated the issues to determine what type of government would be suitable for a newly independent country or what type of separation of powers and checks and balances were necessary. Many articles in the constitution are vague and complicated. Too many administrative issues, details and procedures have been unnecessarily included in the Constitution, such as the Public Service Commission, the Election Commission, legislative and financial procedures and the services of Bangladesh. AII these items could have been regulated by laws enacted by the parliament. Many of these items can be traced to the Government of India Act, 1935 , which was designed essentially to rule colonial subjects allowing limited self-determination, not liberty.

Impact Of Mamata's Victory On Bangladesh

On May 13 , the unofficial result in West Bengal assembly elections show that the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) was decimated after 34 years of rule. Trinamool Congress (TMC) led Ms. Mamata Banerjee and her ally the Congress Party won 226 seats out of 294. The outgoing Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and 16 ministers of the Left Front lost their seats. The Left Front secured only 62 seats. Ms. Banerjee declared her party's success as "the new day of independence for the people of West Bengal." TMC in West Bengal is a partner of the Congress-led government in New Delhi. Ms. Mamata Banerjee has been the union railways minister. She is expected to become the chief minister of West Bengal. The historical defeat for the Left Front in West Bengal, after three decades in power, is the product of perceived arrogance and political blunders where party convictions and and commitment were ditched. The popular 56- year-old Banerjee, who is the founder and chairperson of the Trinamool Congress which she set up in 1998 after falling out with the Congress Party in West Bengal, can now have the satisfaction of being a victorious party leader. For years the face of the opposition in West Bengal, Banerjee, known to her supporters as Didi (sister) has been the nemesis of the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Front over the last 23 years and has earned the reputation of being a street-fighting politician. Banerjee, a firebrand orator, coined a catchy slogan Ma, Mati o Manush (mother, land and people) before last year's Lok Sabha polls and played on the anti-incumbency factor after more than three decades of Left rule and the creeping disillusionment among several sections, like Muslims, to decimate the Left in partnership with the Congress. Her nondescript residence -- a tiled single-storey house in a dingy lane close to the Kalighat temple -- and equally simple attire comprising cotton saris, jhola bags and cheap hawai chappals, endeared her to the masses. The Left Front leaders say it will play the role of a responsible opposition by accepting the people's mandate. "A majority of people wanted us to sit in the opposition. We respect the people' s verdict. We will act responsibly, we will not act like them (the Trinamool Congress)," said West Bengal state secretariat member Gautam Deb, who was housing minister in the Left Front government. Why did the Left Front lose the election? There are many reasons but those below deserve mention: * India is so large, with 1.2 billion people, that regional interests override national interests. That is the reason why regional parties, based on caste or state-issues, do well in states. Regional parties are often personality-based and personality clash exists within the states; * The economy of West Bengal is poorer than that of northern and western states. Private sector was hesitant to invest in West Bengal because of their political ideology. In recent years, many factories shed their workers and unemployment increased in West Bengal; * The density of population in West Bengal is quite high (almost 900 per sq kilometre) and, as such, land allocation per person is quite meager. In 2007-08 , West Bengal had witnessed large-scale agitation spearheaded by Banerjee in Singur and Nandigram over land acquisition, which alienated the Left Front from the masses. It dented the compassionate image of the Left Front when police with firearms assaulted the farmers, including women, who protested the acquisition of their lands; * In 2008 , Nobel laureate Prof. Amartya Sen, who described himself as a Leftist, also questioned the policy of land acquisition for industrialisation which was being pursued by the Left Front government. "Land acquisition for setting up industries should be the last recourse," he said; * Ms. Banerjee was able to project herself as leader of the poor and the rural have-nots, a friend of the minorities, a champion of inclusive growth and one genuinely interested in delivering the goods; * The long-term rule of the Left Front had created an impression of tiredness and stagnation, and people wanted a change from its 34- year rule. The Left Front was not able to convince the voters during the election campaign because of its past record. It had lost its credibility to the majority of the people. Out of our 4 ,096 km border with India, 2 ,216.7 km lies along West Bengal. Farakka Barrage is located in West Bengal and was constructed to flush the silt of the Hoogly River for navigability of the Kolkata sea port. New Delhi may not be able to force West Bengal to do what the centre perhaps wants. For example, the delay in handing over the Tin Bigha corridor to Bangladesh enclave Dhahagram and Angopota was reportedly partly due to the opposition of the West Bengal Assembly. It may be recalled that the 30- year old Indo-Bangladesh Ganges Water Treaty of 1996 was possible because of the active participation of the then chief minister late Jyoti Basu. Again, reportedly the interim Teesta Water Agreement with Bangladesh could not be signed until the West Bengal election was held. Transit from Bhutan and Nepal through Bangladesh involves territory of West Bengal. The attitude of the West Bengal government toward bilateral issues with Bangladesh plays a major part in implementing whatever decisions New Delhi agrees with Bangladesh. Now that TMC, a partner of the Union Congress-led government in New Delhi, will be in power in West Bengal with the Congress, West Bengal-New Delhi relations may be on the same wavelength. Whatever New Delhi decides may not face bottlenecks in West Bengal. It is hoped that some of the issues with Bangladesh that involve West Bengal will be resolved in the days ahead.

RAW & MOSSAD : The Secret Link

Thirty-five years ago, in September 1968 , when the Research and Analysis Wing was founded with Rameshwar Nath Kao at its helm, then prime minister Indira Gandhi [ Images ] asked him to cultivate Israel's Mossad. She believed relations between the two intelligence agencies was necessary to monitor developments that could threaten India [ Images ] and Israel. The efficient spymaster he was, Kao established a clandestine relationship with Mossad. In the 1950 s, New Delhi [ Images ] had permitted Tel Aviv to establish a consulate in Mumbai [ Images ]. But full-fledged diplomatic relations with Israel were discouraged because India supported the Palestinian cause; having an Israeli embassy in New Delhi, various governments believed, would rupture its relations with the Arab world. This was where the RAW-Mossad liaison came in. Among the threats the two external intelligence agencies identified were the military relationship between Pakistan and China and North Korea, especially after then Pakistan foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto visited Pyongyang in 1971 to establish a military relationship with North Korea. Again, Israel was worried by reports that Pakistani army officers were training Libyans and Iranians to handle Chinese and North Korean military equipment. RAW-Mossad relations were a secret till Morarji Desai became prime minister in 1977. RAW officials had alerted him about the Zia-ul Haq regime's plans to acquire nuclear capability. While French assistance to Pakistan for a plutonium reprocessing plant was well known, the uranium enrichment plant at Kahuta was a secret. After the French stopped helping Islamabad [ Images ] under pressure from the Carter administration, Pakistan was determined to keep the Kahuta plant a secret. Islamabad did not want Washington to prevent its commissioning. RAW agents were shocked when Desai called Zia and told the Pakistani military dictator: 'General, I know what you are up to in Kahuta. RAW has got me all the details.' The prime minister's indiscretion threatened to expose RAW sources. The unfortunate revelation came about the same time that General Moshe Dayan, hero of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, was secretly visiting Kathmandu for a meeting with Indian representatives. Islamabad believed Dayan's visit was connected with a joint operation by Indian and Israeli intelligence agencies to end Pakistan's nuclear programme. Apprehensive about an Indo-Israeli air strike on Kahuta, surface-to-air missiles were mounted around the uranium enrichment plant. These fears grew after the Israeli bombardment of Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. Zia decided Islamabad needed to reassure Israel that it had nothing to fear from Pakistan's nuclear plans.  Intermediaries -- Americans close to Israel -- established the initial contacts between Islamabad and Tel Aviv. Israel was confidant the US would not allow Pakistan's nuclear capability to threaten Israel. That is why Israeli experts do not mention the threat from Pakistan when they refer to the need for pre-emptive strikes against Iraq, Iran and Libya's nuclear schemes. By the early 1980 s, the US had discovered Pakistan's Kahuta project. By then northwest Pakistan was the staging ground for mujahideen attacks against Soviet troops in Afghanistan and Zia no longer feared US objections to his nuclear agenda. But Pakistani concerns over Israel persisted, hence Zia decided to establish a clandestine relationship between Inter-Services Intelligence and Mossad via officers of the two services posted at their embassies in Washington, DC. The ISI knew Mossad would be interested in information about the Libyan, Syrian, Jordanian and Saudi Arabian military. Pakistani army officers were often posted on deputation in the Arab world -- in these very countries -- and had access to valuable information, which the ISI offered Mossad. When young Israeli tourists began visiting the Kashmir [ Images ] valley in the early nineties Pakistan suspected they were Israeli army officers in disguise to help Indian security forces with counter-terrorism operations. The ISI propaganda inspired a series of terrorist attacks on the unsuspecting Israeli tourists. One was slain, another kidnapped. The Kashmiri Muslim Diaspora in the US feared the attacks would alienate the influential Jewish community who, they felt, could lobby the US government and turn it against Kashmiri organisations clamouring for independence. Soon after, presumably caving into pressure, the terrorists released the kidnapped Israeli. During negotiations for his release, Israeli government officials, including senior intelligence operatives, arrived in Delhi. The ensuing interaction with Indian officials led to India establishing embassy-level relations with Israel in 1992. The decision was taken by a Congress prime minister -- P V Narasimha Rao -- whose government also began pressing the American Jewish lobby for support in getting the US to declare Pakistan a sponsor of terrorism. The lobbying bore some results. The US State Department put Pakistan on a 'watch-list' for six months in 1993. The Clinton administration 'persuaded' then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif [ Images ] to dismiss Lieutenant General Javed Nasir, then director general of the ISI. The Americans were livid that the ISI refused to play ball with the CIA who wanted to buy unused Stinger missiles from the Afghan mujahideen, then in power in Kabul. After she returned to power towards the end of 1993 , Benazir Bhutto [ Images ] intensified the ISI's liaison with Mossad. She too began to cultivate the American Jewish lobby. Benazir is said to have a secret meeting in New York with a senior Israeli emissary, who flew to the US during her visit to Washington, DC in 1995 for talks with Clinton. From his days as Bhutto's director general of military operations , Pervez Musharraf [ Images ] has been a keen advocate of Pakistan establishing diplomatic relations with the state of Israel. The new defence relationship between India and Israel -- where the Jewish State has become the second-biggest seller of weapons to India, after Russia [ Images ] -- bother Musharraf no end. Like another military dictator before him, the Pakistan president is also wary that the fear of terrorists gaining control over Islamabad's nuclear arsenal could lead to an Israel-led pre-emptive strike against his country. Musharraf is the first Pakistani leader to speak publicly about diplomatic relations with Israel. His pragmatic corps commanders share his view that India's defence relationship with Israel need to be countered and are unlikely to oppose such a move. But the generals are wary of the backlash from the streets. Recognising Israel and establishing an Israeli embassy in Islamabad would be unacceptable to the increasingly powerful mullahs who see the United States, Israel and India as enemies of Pakistan and Islam.