Message from Almaty

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

WAS the Conference for Interaction and Confidence Measures in Asia (CICA) summit at Almaty a failure? That is how many in Pakistan feel.

If the expectation was that diplomacy on the sidelines of the summit would bring India and Pakistan rushing immediately to the negotiating table to discuss the future of Kashmir, CICA was a disappointment. But this organization which has been born after a long gestation period of a decade has achieved more than one could have hoped for in its very first high-level moot.
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Nuclear war: an insane option

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

MAY 28 is the fourth anniversary of Pakistan’s nuclear tests at Chaghai. On Yom-i-takbir, which the government celebrated in a big way in 1999, it informed the people through boastful newspaper ads: “We are the seventh nuclear power of the world”.

Today, as war clouds gather on the horizon, this nuclear status gives us no joy or confidence. Those in power might reassure us that nuclear weapons will not be used. But who will believe them? Can states, which possess nuclear arsenals, keep their confrontation limited to warfare with conventional weapons?
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Globalization of terrorism

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

LAST week, Pakistan experienced the horror of its first case of suicide bombing in which 14 people were killed, 11 of them French engineers working on a naval submarine project.

This act of terrorism will have far-reaching implications for Pakistan’s politics, economy, security and foreign policy, apart from the effect it has had of besmirching the country’s image even further at a time when a turnaround was thought to be near at hand.

The authorities had no definitive information about the identity of the attacker, his motive and his connections with a terrorist network, if any. Yet the knee-jerk reaction in official circles was to point an accusing finger at India for this horrendous crime.

These allegations surprised no one, for it has been the traditional practice for the two countries to make the other the scapegoat when such criminal incidents occur.
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Elma’s choice

By Zubeida Mustafa

It was April 6, 1992, Eid for the Muslims of Bosnia, when the Yugoslav army struck. The Serbian soldiers had been taking up position on the hills surrounding Sarajevo since winter and we sensed that something out of the ordinary was taking place. However, we never really anticipated a war. Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic society but we had never been conscious of our ethnic distinctiveness. Many of my friends were Serbs and Croats with whom I had grown up, and none of us believed that we would fight each other.

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Many myths dispelled

By Zubeida Mustafa

OUT OF AFGHANISTAN: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal by Diego Cordovez and Selig Harrison. Published by Oxford University, New York.450 pp. $35/-.

In December 1979 the Soviet army entered Afghanistan and installed a pro-Soviet government in Kabul. This was no ordinary event. The USSR was at that time a superpower locked in a cold war with the United States. Its entryinto Afghanistan introduced a grim dimension to the power struggle between Moscow and Washington. In fact this event will go down in history as a  4 .turning point in the international politics of the twentieth century.The series of developments that followed transformed the pattern of the global political, economic and security system.

As is normal practice when such momentous events occur, there comes a spate of writings to report, analyse and interpret the happenings. The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan produced a similar impact on the wielders ofthe pen. But there was a difference. Given the deep polarization between the two sides which naturally influenced the thinking of writers and scholars as well, the literature on Afghanistan has tended to proceed from fixed andpre-detennined premises.

For instance it has always been believed that the Soviet Union “invaded” Afghanistan as a part of its expansionist policy designed to extend its controlBy Zubeida Mustafa over Asia. The Saur revolution of 1978 was seen as having been the result of Moscow’s machinations.

Similarly, another myth is that all the sides involved in the Afghancrisis acted as monolithic powers which took decisions with unanimityin their ranks. The battle lines were perceived as being 0sharply drawn — the Soviets and their protege in Kabul were being challenged by the mujahideen and their supporters in Islamabad. And now comes Out ofAfghanistan to dispel many of these myths. Written by Diego Cordovez, the UN representative who was the driving force behind the proximity talks onAfghanistan, and Selig Harrison, a researcher who has worked onthis region, the book tells the inside story that has never beentold before.

In a nutshell what emerges clearly is that Moscow was not the only power to be blamed for the protracted Afghan crisis which defied all attempts at  resolution for nearly a decade. Others also contributed to the mess. The Soviet Union was not a monolithic  power where the decision to invade Afghanistan was taken without much dissension. If the pro-interventionists succeeded in prevailing over those who hesitated it was because the fear wasreal in Moscow that the Americans would use Afghanistan to neutralise Soviet power. Haf izullah Amin’s ambivalence promoted the suspicion thathe was angling for American support. Small wonder, the Russians first ensured the elimination of Amin before installing their man (Babrak Karmal) in Kabul.

It is clear that the Americanstried to exploit the Soviet dilemma in Afghanistan to their own advantage. The Reagan Administration was divided between the bleeders and the dealers. The first were the hardlinerswho did not want to end the war since their strategy wasto drain the Soviets through a protracted war. The dealers werethe moderates who wanted to negotiate. The first school provedto be more influential and they hampered the peace process atevery stage. Even indirectly, their impact was an adverse onefor they gave encouragement to the hardliners in Moscow andweakened the hands of those advocating a Soviet withdrawalfrom Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s role emerges in a sorry light. General Ziaul Haq’spolicies helped prolong the Soviet occupation since that suitedhis regime. Pakistan could obtain massive military aid as thefront-line state.lt also assumed uhe key position of the power brokeramong the various mujahideen factions. But regrettably Islamabad did not use this position for the cause of peace. At time it actually promoted discord among the guerillas and prevented them from uniting on a common platform. It also persistently changed its stance in the negotiations and thus blocked progress.

Initially, Islamabad demanded the withdrawal of Soviet troops while refusing to consider the issue of who should rule in Kabul When the Soviet Union indicated its willingness to pull out its forces, General Zia developedcold feet since he had convinced himself that the Russians would never leave Afghanistan.

Therefore, the issue of the composition of the government inKabul came up and became the focus of controversy. It has yet tobe resolved. The in-fighting in Washington, Moscow, Islamabad and Kabulmade a settlement in Afghanistan more difficult. In Pakistan’s casethe divisiveness was so great that the ISI could chalk out its own’Afghan policy which was at loggerheads with the government’s.As a result peace became difficult to enforce — and.still is —since a number of forces were working at cross-purposes andthere was no responsible authority which could prevail over them.Out of Afghanistan is an excellent book. Written in a lucid stylemarked with clarity, it makes interesting reading.Although thecentrepiece of the book is Afghanistan, it gives a masterlyinsight into the Soviet system on the eve of the collapse ofCommunism, establishing the Kennan thesis that it was notAmerican military power and strategic policy that broughtabout the disintegration of the USSR but the political, economicand social changes that took place in the country as a result ofurbanistaion and industrialisation. This is a book which isstrongly recommended as compulsory reading for every scholarand general reader interested in South and Central Asia.

Pakistan to repeal discriminatory laws against women

By Zubeida Mustafa

NEW DELHI, Dec 14: Women were the focus of discussion on the second day of the pre-summit ministerial meeting on education for all organised by UN1CEF, UNESCO and UNFPA. But all that was highlighted about the low status of women has been said ad nauseam at conference dealing with women and female education.

UNFPA executive director, Dr Nafis Sadik, spoke of the link between women’s education and low fertility and low infant mortality. She called for literacy and education being made easily accessible to women.

It fell to Shabana Azmi, the Indian film personality and social activist, to explode the myth that education by itself improves the status of women.

In a hard-hitting and powerful speech, she said economic emancipation does not come automatically for a woman who earns. Women’s education should be so designed as to lead to their liberation and empowerment, Shabana said. Continue reading “Pakistan to repeal discriminatory laws against women”

To go nuclear or not is the question

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE suspension of American aid to Pakistan has produced one positive result. It has for the first time brought into the open the nuclear debate in this country.

Given the categorical linkage Washington instituted between the flow of economic assistance to Pakistan and nuclear non-prolif eration, Islamabad never encouraged a public discussion on the atom bomb.

To use Stephen Cohen’s term, a policy of ‘designed ambiguity’ was adopted. In other words, the capacity and the will of the government to go nuclear are deliberately kept ambivalent. Continue reading “To go nuclear or not is the question”

Foreign policy

By Zubeida Mustafa

August has been an eventful month for the Soviet Union — perhaps no less eventful than October 1917 which brought the Bolsheviks to power. The coup that toppled Mr Mikhail Gorbachev — though temporarily — his return to power, the rise of his arch-rival, Mr Boris Yeltsin, as the champion of the anti-coup forces and the danger of the unravelling of the Soviet federation have come at a breathtaking pace.

Most importantly, the coup and its aftermath have transformed the situation in the USSR.

Seemingly the three eventful days in August were like an interlude when the Soviet Union’s fledgling democracy was put on hold. However, what emerged later was not the status quo ante but a new power structure in the Kremlin which will change the course of international relations in the months to come.

At the time of writing, three contradictions have come to the fore which have profound implications for the USSR’s standing in global politics.

58-30-08-1991

For one thing, it has become clear that the long-held apprehension of a conservative Communist backlash can actually materialise with all its dire consequences for the West. In the present geopolitical context, when one superpower is virtually falling apart, there is no possibility of a return to the posture of military confrontation that was a constant threat of the cold war years. But the prospect of destabilisation and a reversal of the policy of detente is a potential factor in Soviet foreign policy today, which no world statesman worth his salt would disregard.

For another, the victory of the pro-democracy forces which led to the collapse of the coup has strengthened perestroika and glasnost giving an impetus to the pro- Western liberal thrust in the Soviet Union’s external relations. Continue reading “Foreign policy”

No ambassador can be greater than his country

By Zubeida Mustafa

It had been a really windy day. The Karachi University campus wore a dusty look. That was not unusual. In those days there were few trees and greenery to shield it from the sprawling sandy wastes where Gulshan-i-Iqbal stands today. When we reached the University we found the tables, chairs and blackboard in the Seminar Room coated with dust which had also drawn wavy patterns on the floor.

We had learnt to ignore the natural elements as the price we had to pay for the spaciousness of the campus. This day was no different until Dr Khurshid Hyder reached the University in time for her class. She was teaching us International Relations. No sooner had she arrived, that every one was acutely made aware of how unacceptable it was for academics to be in unclean surroundings. She went straight for the broom and without much ado began sweeping the room. Of course that stirred every one into action and the students promptly took over the clean-up operation. She had given the lead. Continue reading “No ambassador can be greater than his country”

War and peace — why are women not concerned?

By Zubaida Mustafa

The issue conspicuously missing in the debates that take place in women’s forum in Pakistan is that of war, peace and disarmament. Somehow these topics are considered to be of masculine interest only and one hardly comes across women leaders speaking about them — least of all, in meetings of women’s organisations.

That women should keep off such issues in our country is not difficult to understand — though by no means easy to justify. Women have traditionally been kept out of the higher decision-making process or statecraft. Continue reading “War and peace — why are women not concerned?”