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?
Continue reading “Nuclear war: an insane option”

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.
Continue reading “Globalization of terrorism”

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.

Continue reading “Elma’s choice”

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 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.

Tales of silent war victims

By Zubeida Mustafa

ARMS TO FIGHT, ARMS TO PROTECT; Women Speak Out About Conflict, edited by Olivia Bennett, Joe Bexley and Kitty Warnock. Published by Panos Institute, London. 282 pp. ₤I 0.95.

This book, recently published by the London-based Panos Institute,should be of special interest in the context of the grim crisis which has gripped Karachi for the last several months.

Arms to Fight Arms to Protect: Women Speak out about Conflict records the testimonies of 200 women from 12 countries who have been affected by war in one way or another.

By Zubeida Mustafa

war-victims-18-08-1995ARMS TO FIGHT, ARMS TO PROTECT; Women Speak Out About Conflict, edited by Olivia Bennett, Joe Bexley and Kitty Warnock. Published by Panos Institute, London. 282 pp. ₤I 0.95.

This book, recently published by the London-based Panos Institute,should be of special interest in the context of the grim crisis which has gripped Karachi for the last several months.

Arms to Fight Arms to Protect: Women Speak out about Conflict records the testimonies of 200 women from 12 countries who have been affected by war in one way or another.

The conflict in Karachi might not have escalated to the scale of the aimed confrontation in Bosnia, Lebanon, Somaliland, Sri Lanka, Liberia, Uganda, Tigray, Nicaragua and El Salvador (some of the countries where the studies were carried out) yet. But the firsthand accounts of the women who have been victims of war should serve as a warning to those who control the destiny of this strifetorn metropolis in Pakistan.

It emerges clearly from the harrowing tales of women who have been active participants in the .armed struggle or silent victims of the violence perpetrated by power-. hungry men that recourse to force does’ not always pay. Wadad, a Lebanese woman whose husband was kidnapped, says, “the damage is done, what’s happened to the country (in terms of) victims and ruins and twisting of minds. But the more dangerous thing that I fear is that we are building for a new war.”

Others fear that their sacrifices have been in vain. Sabaah from Somaliland speaks of another war that was inflicted on the widows of the first war.

Significantly, quite a number of the women interviewed by Panos did not show any involvement in the decision to go to war. Some like the women from Uganda perceived the war to be a struggle between power-hungry men wanting to get rich by force. Even where the women identified with their men because of ethnic or ideological factors they were not generally a party to the decision-making which led to the conflict. But that does not imply that all women are peace-loving and do not take up arms. They, • however, by virtue of their roles as carers and mothers in the home and organisers of peace and rehabilitation in society are less inclined to take up arms.

Rarely have conflicts led to the liberation of women. On the contrary, the repercussions of war on women have been traumatic. They have been more vulnerable especially when rape is used as a weapon of war to demoralise one side. In many cases, the agony oft women has intensified after the** war has ended. They have had to bear the ‘brunt of surviving in a shattered economy and, destabilised and fragmented society.

Marie of Lebanon put it suecinctly when she said, “War is what happens afterwards.” The task of rehabilitation and reconstruction” is after all not an easy one, especislly when women continue to be the victims of social prejudices and discrimination.

Panos has done an excellent job in putting this book together. For the women who participated in the project the process of sharing their experience and recalling their past was a valuable exercise to ease the*- pain many of them continue to feel years after the war has ended as in Vietnam and when the fighting still continues as in the Balkans. For the readers the book is important to help them understand and learn from the experience of others. If this book can preempt even one conflict, it would have served a use-‘ ful purpose.

The price of neglecting social sectors

By Zubeida Mustafa

The state of the social sector in a country is an accurate measure of the value it attaches to human life. For howsoever strong a state might be in terms of military power and rich in economic resources, its institutional greatness will be judged by the quality of life it ovides its citizens.

This is basically determined by the social policy of the government, that is, the priority it gives to providing education, health care, housing and family planning facilities to the people. Pakistan’s performance in this context has not been one of which one can be overly proud. Of course, it depends on how one defines progress. If it is simply a matter of moving forward in terms of absolute numbers from a given baseline — a very low one at that — the country’s achievements over the decades since 1947 might appear to be very impressive. Continue reading “The price of neglecting social sectors”

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”

Pakistanis in Canada an isolated community

By Zubeida Mustafa

“A major factor which accounts for the inability of Pakistanis in Canada to adjust to their social environment is their inflexibility and intolerance of anything alien and attitude of moral superiority. Since they have been taught that they must not eat pork or drink wine, Pakistani Muslims are inclined to regard a person who does so as necessarily evil.

But it is wrong to judge people or assess their character on the basis of, their eating habits and lifestyle. This only creates a gap between the immigrants and the locals which makes life more difficult for the Pakistani settlers.” Continue reading “Pakistanis in Canada an isolated community”

Pakistan and CENTO: need for reappraisal

By Zubeida Mustafa

TO withdraw or not to  withdraw from CENTO is not a new question for Pakistan. The membership of the pact has been debated ever since this country decided to link its defence with the Western sponsored military alliance, originally called the Baghdad Pact.

However, recently this question has acquired a new meaning in view of the developments which have been taking place in the international politics of Central and South Asia. In this context some rethinking on Pakistan’s membership of CENTO should indeed prove to be quite timely, and it is a worthwhile idea to encourage a free and frank public debate on the issue. Besides being educative, this could promote a broad consensus on foreign policy. Continue reading “Pakistan and CENTO: need for reappraisal”