When Nancy Powell
Just Stopped From Interference in Pakistan's Internal Affairs
SPEAK in undertones. So did Nancy J. Powell, the US Ambassador
to Pakistan when she addressed the Council on Foreign Relations
in Karachi on November 13, 2003. I would not wish that she had
said a little more because then she would be accused of interference
in our internal affairs.
am positive, nonetheless, that she could say a lot more and hope
the combined opposition would state what she left out of the speech.
I am acutely aware of the unfortunate fact, however, that they
are not doing much on this count.
MMA has different plans from the others and the General's Iftar
conference of 20 November shows that he is interested in talking
to them alone as the others, who are thumping desks, he said,
are not worth talking to because "some of the opposition
groups received their instructions from abroad", the army's
standard line of dealing with the opposition of all sorts. The
General did not name names but we all know that the leaders of
all three major political forces in the country live in exile.
therefore, the Presidents of the PPPP, PML-N and the General's
Governor of the Sindh have to seek instructions from abroad. His
remarks were thus highly lamentable. It would be good if an independent
Parliamentary Commission one day determines who was taking instructions
from abroad and what.
are all witness to the Army's 360 degree twirl on the Afghan policy
following 9/11, a change that the mainstream political parties
and intelligentsia had failed to bring about despite their best
efforts. It seems that instructions from abroad did play a role
the aftermath of attack on the Indian Parliament on 13 December
2001, several steps were announced to combat sectarian terrorism.
The people of Pakistan had been perpetual victims to this carnage
but the military government had not taken substantive steps. Did
instructions from abroad play a role there? Already, the President
of ARD is facing Mutiny Trial for seeking an inquiry into what
happened in Kargil and how it led to a situation where instructions
from abroad had to play a decisive role.
Generals live in a glass house. It is a shame that they denigrate
public opinion on flimsy grounds despite their humiliating defeat
in 1971 for similar reasons. A retired civil servant, an ex-COAS,
unconstitutional usurper of power has the audacity of accusing
the people of Pakistan that they have chosen wrong representatives
simple because they are demanding restoration of 1973 constitution
including Article 6.
Pakistan strengthen its economic, social, political, and democratic
development, was the third priority area for Nancy Powell. We
need to tell her that it should be the cornerstone of the policy
otherwise the whole edifice is likely to collapse. President Bush'
speech on the forward strategy provided the punch line. She could
safely quote the passage about the definition of successful societies.
Up to us now to determine where do we stand.
Musharraf contradicted every element of the forward strategy during
his Iftar conference of 20 November. He defined the Pakistan Army
as "a national army" and "a unifying force".
We know that it is our army because we pay for it, the largest
chunk of our revenue without any questions asked. Second element
of the definition is superfluous. Political parties provide the
"unifying force". We remember that in the creation of
Bangladesh the Army was not the unifying force.
General was unnecessarily worried that the opposition was trying
to create dissent in the Army ranks and among the military commanders.
He reminded us that in the Army the boss is the boss: "I
laugh at reports that my commanders are not with me or that my
vice chief of army staff and chairman joint chiefs of staff committee
are conspiring against me." He was confusing and confounding
Boss is appointed for a term. There is no provision for extension
there. So, in fact we are dealing with a problem where the Boss
has lost all elements of legitimacy. In view of the strictly hierarchical
order, he might never know what are the real views of the officers
who have been deprived of legitimate promotions because of his
power lust. The danger is that they might express themselves in
a different language throwing the country into yet another crisis.
General also gave the people of Pakistan a lesson on the constitutional
evolution. He conceded that he might agree "to the principle
that the offices of the president and the army chief should not
be held by one man..." This does not mean that by vacating
the office of the COAS he would vacate the office the President
he usurped using that position. The country will have to live
with the consequences and accept the formal role of the armed
forces in the political power structure through NSC and the Army's
right to dissolve the assemblies vide 58(2)b. Press reports indicate
that having conquered Pakistan, he is now thinking of patronizing
the Islamic world as well.
am not sure which side of the democratic ideal Nancy Powell is
nurturing in Pakistan. Our General is working to demolish it one
way or the other. The major political forces are fighting the
pernicious idea of sharing political power with the generals.
The PPPP President said this week, again, "It cannot be the
destiny of the generals to make the constitution or rule the country.
It will not be." The General does not care.
Powell could not go far. President Bush did, pushing the forward
strategy further in his address at the Whitehall Palace on 20
November. He underscored that both the United States and Great
Britain seek the advance of freedom and the peace that freedom
brings. Amongst the pillars of security, he counted the US commitment
to the global expansion of democracy, and the hope and progress
it brings, as the alternative to instability and hatred and terror.
peace, he understood, is gained as justice and democracy advance.
He rejected many precepts that our Generals have been propagating.
To the first coup maker in post Dhaka fall era, he enlightened
that Islam was not inconsistent with a democratic culture and
reminded him in his grave that more than half of the world's Muslims
are today contributing citizens in democratic societies: "It
is not realism to suppose that one-fifth of humanity is unsuited
to liberty; it is pessimism and condescension, and we should have
none of it." For our rulers he countered suggestions that
the poor, in their daily struggles, cared little for self-government.
warning for our generals: President Bush admitted that both the
UK and USA "in the past have been willing to make a bargain:
to tolerate oppression for the sake of stability." This bargain,
he conceded, "did not bring stability or make us safe. It
merely bought time while problems festered and ideologies of violence
gave us some hope affirming that "we cannot turn a blind
eye to oppression. No longer should we think tyranny is benign
because it is temporarily convenient. Tyranny is never benign
to its victims, and our great democracies should oppose tyranny
wherever it is found."
order to make his point forcefully, he applied the forward strategy
to the closest American ally as well and stressed that Israel
should freeze settlement construction, dismantle unauthorized
outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people,
and not prejudice final negotiations with the placements of walls
Powell served in Ghana before her assignment in Pakistan. There
is a subliminal link between Ghana and Pakistan in the State Department's
career planning theology. Early 1990s, John Holzman and I were
counterparts in the Embassies of the United States and Pakistan,
across the street in Accra. He transited to his post in Pakistan
through PAB. Nancy Powell took a direct and in fact urgent flight.
The linkage is in the contours of the two societies wrestling
either directly with the military regimes or their aftereffects.
Powell knows that she has a common cause with the opposition in
Pakistan. Sure, she cannot articulate it but the opposition must
look for an incontrovertible evidence of the unheard and the unsaid.
writer was till recently a senior Pakistani diplomat