Ahmed Rashid paints grim picture of Pakistan’s affairs


Ahead of President Asif Ali Zardari’s ‘private visit’ to India this weekend, noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid paints a grim picture of the state of affairs in Pakistan, according to the Wall Street Journal’s blog. He said Pakistan “must act like a normal state, rather than a paranoid, insecure, ISI driven entity whose operational norms are to use extremists and diplomatic blackmail”, the WSJ said. In an interview, Rashid said there was an internal crisis that had not been addressed and termed it a failure of the Pakistani elite, both civil and military. “The end of the Cold War presented a lot of benefits to many countries but it passed Pakistan by completely. The whole era of economic reforms, globalization, high-tech, new industries, regional trade and peace attempts, it just totally bypassed Pakistan. So we are suffering from a 20-year lag, basically, of a failure to address the problems and the advantages and the benefits that the end of the Cold War produced,” he told WSJ. Asked if it was due to Pakistan’s focus on India, he said the main problem remained internal. “It’s been a failure of the elite to want to change its monopoly on power, on income, on the lack of taxation, on the lack of responsibility the elite has for development and the people. If you look at all the major indices, they have all gone down whether it’s education or health,” Rashid said. Asked about the chances of an “Arab Spring” in Pakistan, he feared a mass movement like that could fall into the hands of the Islamic parties and extremists. “Islamic parties in Arab Spring saw freedom and reacted in a very modern way. They are talking about democracy and women’s rights and education and industry,” he said, adding that Pakistan’s religious parties were not talking about any of the issues. “They are not talking about issues that really concern the people and, if there was an Arab Spring, they are the most organized force. Civil society is certainly there in Pakistan and has a powerful voice, I would say, through the media, through the NGOs and human rights groups, but they are not organized.” He said the attraction of a new political face in Imran Khan’ persona was due to the youth being fed up of the existing political structures. “They are responding to somebody who is new, somebody who is promising an end to corruption and everything else. But the problem with Imran is that his foreign policy parameters remain almost exactly the same.” Rashid said Imran was not talking about ending tensions with India; about ending interference in Afghanistan or the crisis in Balochistan Asked about the present India-Pakistan relations, he said both had taken positive steps forward. “The ceasefire has been holding for 7-8 years. There have been trade talks, which have been encouraging. India has offered to export electricity to Pakistan. I wouldn’t exactly say a breakthrough, but there has been a huge warming up of relations compared to what was there before.” He said that the two key words for Pakistan were “change” and “reform”, but the leadership was doing none.

Zardari urges Fazl to reconsider PCNS boycott decision

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday telephoned JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, asking him not to boycott the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS). Sources said Zardari appealed the chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam to show ‘flexibility’ in his stance over NATO supply reopening. Parliamentary body, which is redrafting its recommendations for new terms of engagement with US, suffered a setback on Friday when Fazl announced that he would no more attend its proceedings, suggesting that the “government has already decided to restore NATO supplies and the committee has been asked merely to rubber-stamp the decision”. During the conversation, the JUI-F chief clarified that decision to rejoin the PCNS would be taken by his party’s central executive committee. “Few NGOs have held the entire Parliament hostage and I’m not satisfied with the legislation,” JUI-F leader told Zardari, according to the sources. Online