Dr. Shireen Mazari, who has returned to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, once again finding merit in the party and its policies, has penned a response to my article, “Khan in Wonderland,” which was a response to her party chairman’s musings in The News. My purpose was to try and debate the points raised by Imran Khan. Regardless of my objections to some of his approaches, Khan has emerged as a leader with a strong following and it is only right that his positions on issues of national importance are scrutinized.
However, in an environment torn by conflict, debate seems to have given way to partisan attacks, like Dr. Mazari’s response. Below, I respond to her letter, point by point, occasionally also presenting passages from my original piece to put things in perspective.
MAZARI: It is amazing what some people will do to criticize Khan. Haider is clearly unable to offer a counterargument to Khan’s conviction that military force is always a last option, especially against one’s own people.
I had originally written that my “…position on the normative aspect of this statement is not far from Khan’s. I shall go a step further and say that the use of force even against another state must be an option of last resort. [However], this should establish two facts: one, it is never a happy situation where one might have to resort to the use of force; two, one may yet do it and states have done it, not just against other states but also against internal threats.”
As should be clear to anyone except the pea-brained and the partisan, the two categories very often imbricating, far from rejecting Khan’s “conviction that military force is always a last option, especially against one’s own people,” I not only accepted its normative significance but took it a step further and said the use of force even against another state must be an option of last resort. It is a matter of historical record which cannot be ignored for the sake of partisan politics that states have gone to war and continue to do so not only against other states but also against those who challenge their writ. Dr. Mazari will have to do more than attack me to disprove this. Indeed, she will have the onerous task of rewriting history. Based on her book on Kargil, I dare say that’s not really a task she is up to.
So instead [Haider] tries to argue as to why East Pakistan was able to break away—because of external military intervention—without understanding why this doorway was opened to them through our own military action.
I had written that “…because the argument above must not be misconstrued as taking away from the sociopolitical and economic grievances of East Pakistan, it is important to note that the debacle in that wing was not a military one. In taking a snapshot view of what happened in East Pakistan, Khan is losing the longer, political trajectory that led to the use of force, even if we grant, with hindsight, that that policy in its details and planning could have been better, if not entirely different.”
While I don’t think Dr. Mazari is up to the task of rewriting history, it seems from these lines that she will, nonetheless, give it her best shot. The “doorway was [not] opened to them through our military actions” but military action was the result of the doorway that had been opened because of over two decades of political, administrative and socioeconomic mismanagement and suppression. This resulted in an insurgency, supported by India through military and nonmilitary means, starting in the early 60s. Whether the conduct of the East Pakistan operation was good or bad is another topic altogether. Dr. Mazari will do herself much good if she reads up on the literature available on this part of our history. The question is: does she want facts to disrupt her partisan narrative?
In trying to refute the cases of the IRA, Balochistan, LTTE, Haider claims they were secessionist movements and the Taliban are not! Bizarre logic that you can dialogue with those seeking to break up your country but not with those who have no secessionist designs. He chooses to ignore the point made by Khan—that military action against your own people is not a viable option and should be a last resort.
“Haider claims” they are secessionist movements? Is Dr. Mazari telling us that Baloch sub-nationalist groups or the Tamil Tigers are/were not secessionist movements, and that is just my claim? As for the Irish movement, I never said it was secessionist. It was a movement against British occupation. In addition to the events of 1971, it seems Dr. Mazari needs a refresher on Ireland too. I recommend reading W. B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Seamus Dean and Brian Friel, among others. My point about Ireland was that “the examples [Khan] gives either refer to foreign occupations or to secessionist movements. Pakistan is neither in illegal occupation of its territories nor is the TTP a secessionist force.”
Now to her reference to my ‘bizarre’ logic: I am sure Dr. Mazari, as a political scientist, has read Hans Morgenthau, who once told his students that “appeasement is a legitimate strategy in dealing with autonomist movements; give them their own self-government within the established state, but the worst possible strategy when dealing with those who are bent on taking it over.”
If she is not convinced that the self-styled Pakistani Taliban want to translate the ideological space they have created for themselves into physical and political space, then the reader has to decide whether it’s I, Ejaz Haider, who lives in Cuckooland or Dr. Mazari. The parallel, according to Morgenthau, is with territorial aggressors: if their ambition is limited, then a border adjustment is possible (medieval European wars are a good example of that). But they may also have an insatiable appetite, in which case appeasement is a disaster (the appeasement of Hitler is a case in point).
Even leaving aside Morgenthau and the logic of history, let me inform Dr. Mazari that she has tried to sweep a bouncer by implying that a state will use the same strategy of appeasement against those who want to secede as against those who want to capture it. That upends everything theoretical and practical in statecraft.
Haider also chooses to deliberately confuse two issues: the military presence in FATA for traditional defense purposes and the use of the military specifically in actions against the tribal people. But the worst is that he accuses Khan of supporting the notion of leaving the tribal areas as an anachronism. Nothing could be further from the truth as the PTI position is clear: end the colonial system of FCR and bring FATA into the mainstream of Pakistan. Had Haider chosen to actually read the PTI manifesto—if not the earlier writings of Khan—he would have been less ignorant of Khan’s position on FATA.
My reference to military deployment in the federally-administered tribal areas was in response to the argument, often trotted out by the PTI, that the Pakistani military went into the tribal areas for the first time in 2004. No more or less. That this argument has been made repeatedly by PTI leaders, members and supporters is on the record. As for the ‘subtle’ distinction Dr. Mazari is making about deployment for traditional defense purposes and deployment for specific operations, she chooses to ignore, just to score a point, two important issues I highlighted. One, the Army was deployed in the internal security role because there was a clear threat of ingress into the area by foreign militants being supported by some local tribes. Two, it is a state’s primary task to ensure its complete writ in its territories. Would Dr. Mazari disagree?
Second, the Army did perform internal security duties in the area, as the final line of defense, even before this war began, in support of khasadars and the Frontier Corps. This too is a fact which, had Dr. Mazari done some homework, would be clear to her.
When I argue that Imran Khan wants to retain FATA as an anachronism, it relates to his assertions—again, on the record—that the tribal areas never had military deployment and they have gone bad because of it. I am not sure if Dr. Mazari understands the FCR, because it was not brought here from London .In fact, it is grounded in rivaj. Further, there is a thick document on the jirga system—it’s near extinct but I have a copy and can share it with Dr. Mazari—which governs life in the area. I dare say, from Imran Khan’s own writings, that he even wanted to extend the jirga system to rest of Pakistan!
It is important to note that there is significant difference of opinion among Pakhtun analysts themselves over whether the FCR is bad or should be retained. Even if we were to argue in favor of getting rid of the FCR and the jirga system, how will such a transition—rather, transformation—be possible at this stage given the radicalization of the area?
Haider then shows how close he is to the military by saying he witnessed military operations himself in FATA. Well he was one of the few privileged souls since most of the media and the ‘analysts’ have not had that access—but given the increasing terrorism across the country, the continuing IDPs from FATA, how he can say military operations have improved the situation is mind boggling.
The ‘Haider being close to the military’ line, I must confess, had me in fits! For that good laugh, I must thank Dr. Mazari, who wrote a military-sponsored book on the Kargil War during Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s tenure, when she was the director-general of the primarily state-funded Institute of Strategic Studies. What people much smarter than I thought of the quality and content of that book is again a matter of record, as is the fact of who has been ‘close’ to the military.
As for access to the tribal areas for analysts and journalists, Dr. Mazari is again wrong when she says that the areas were out of bounds for them. Journalists have had access to both sides. I could list many names here. We traveled in those areas when they were controlled by the Taliban, and also during and after military operations. Dr. Mazari should know this.
Dr. Mazari is supposed to be a political scientist and a security expert. Her assertion that terrorism has increased because of military operations, without contextualizing it, is what is “mind-boggling.”
Here is my original argument: “That brings me to another point that Khan and his party stalwarts raise—i.e., military operations have not been effective. Having witnessed many of these operations, I can assure Khan that the physical landscape of the tribal agencies and frontier regions today is very different from what it was in 2007 and 2008. The relevant point, however, is this: why has the physical dominance of these areas so far not entirely resulted in social-psychological and economic-fiscal dominance, which is the only way to successfully build the strategic triangle? … Formulating a strategy requires, foremost, a full evaluation of the responses available to the state and answering the question of whether the state, in fact, has utilized them. In our case, that has not happened.”
It is good to support the military, which has seen thousands of its soldiers and many of its officers martyred by terrorists, but let us not close our eyes to the ground realities. With drones also—there is a blowback that cannot be denied. Haider may not want to upset Uncle Sam, but he would do well to meet some drone victims’ who survived as well as their families to understand the drone impact on the inhabitants of FATA—let alone the illegality of the drone attacks under international law. It is fashionable in self-declared ‘liberal’ camps to target PTI and Khan but at least they should get their facts right. It is time for these critics to come out of a U.S.-created Cuckooland!
Dr. Mazari wants us to “not close our eyes to ground realities.” Good. Perhaps she should start by opening her own that seem to be wide shut.
Expectedly, she has talked about drones. Clearly, she has never read a word of the several pieces I have written on the issue. In fact, I don’t think she is likely to read anything that doesn’t begin with “Khan in Wonderland” in response to the “strategic insights” she has been delivering to that rather hapless man.
Then, expressing fully the paucity of her thought, she accuses me of not wanting to upset Uncle Sam. Again, it is clear as day that she has never read a word of what I think of U.S. policies. Finally, she brackets me as a liberal, even though I am a realist, a fact anyone who has ever read me will vouch for. The problem is that Dr. Mazari, like most on the right, conflates ideologically-driven leanings with realism. The difference is taught in IR 101.
Finally, a word about talks, something I have been at pains to point out. Talking and fighting are not either/or options. Irregular war requires multiple strategies. There have been talks before, resulting in deals; there have been multiple deals in various agencies at local levels. The issue is not talking per se, but the timing of talks and whether they signal strength or weakness. How and why in God’s name can PTI and its leaders/activists not understand that is beyond me.
I consider the PTI to be a national party and I am very happy that Imran Khan has managed to galvanize the youth of this country. I wish the party success, but I can also see where it is headed now, in a direction that’s not good either for the party or, by extension, for this country. Dr. Mazari can help right the course by not misleading the youth, who form the PTI backbone, with harebrained ideas.
Haider is a senior journalist who has held various editorial positions. His areas of interest include defense, security, foreign policy, statecraft, political theory, and literature. You can follow him on Twitter for updates.