PAKISTAN CHRONICLE • Friday, March 07, 2014
Dangerous liaisons HUMA YUSUF
LAST week, the Foreign Office spokesperson caused a stir by questioning the intelligence of legislators critical of Pakistan’s shift on its Syria policy. Following a visit by the Saudi crown prince, Pakistan came out in favour of Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, a realignment to match the kingdom’s stance. Previously, Pakistan’s Syria policy focused on the humanitarian crisis and called for a political resolution to the conflict. The Foreign Office may think that questioning Pakistan’s decision to abandon its position of neutrality on Syria to side with Saudi Arabia is an indication of stupidity and foreign policy naiveté, but it is in fact a sign of astuteness. Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has always lacked transparency, been defined by subservience on the Pakistani side, and resulted in intense domestic challenges, not least of which are radicalisation, growing sectarian strife, and a national identity
crisis. Cheap oil and the occasional Saudi handout are somehow meant to compensate for this fallout. This is a bilateral relationship that deserves to be interrogated, particularly at this crucial juncture when Pakistan is grappling with the internal Taliban threat, playing its final hand in the Afghanistan endgame, and starting to question the wisdom of its security policies that for too long have relied on religious rhetoric and jihadis. Given that Pakistan’s moment of reckoning is unfolding against the backdrop of a fragmenting Middle East, the public deserves to know what the kingdom is asking of Pakistan in terms of its domestic and foreign policies and military use. While legislators have rightly taken up the issue of Pakistan’s Syria policy shift, they have not asked more pertinent and urgent questions about Pakistan’s position vis-à-vis Iran. Even those with the lowest intelligence lev-
tition was reversed under pressure from the Indian National Congress in 1911. It was perhaps that history that may have persuaded British Prime Minister Clement Attlee to convey to the House of Commons in July 1947 his hope that “this severance may not endure”. He expected that the dominions of India and Pakistan his government had agreed to create would “in course of time come together to form one great Member State of the British Commonwealth of Nations”. That, of course, the government in Karachi was not prepared to let happen. But the Pakistani leadership believed that it needed external help to keep in place the line of partition the departing British had drawn. Very early on, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his associates turned to the United States for help. There was good reason for this early tilt towards Washington. The Second World War had resulted in a massive restructuring of the global political order. Although Britain was one of the victors, it had been seriously weakened by the long war effort. It could no longer assist its old colonies. The United States was the clear winner, especially when the
Constitutional Islam FAISAL SIDDIQI
THE basic criticism of the Pakistani Taliban militants is that the 1973 Constitution, with its laws and courts, is not an Islamic constitutional system. The response by the non-militant Islamist elite (ie JUI-S, Jamaat-iIslami etc.), is a denial of this critique. They point out that the Constitution and the legal system is Islamic because of the categorical commitment in Article 227 that all existing, and future, laws must be in conformity with the injunctions of Islam, that there is a functioning Council of Islamic Ideology (CCI), a Federal Shariat Court, a Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court and the enactment and implementation of numerous ordinary civil and criminal Islamic laws. But what the Taliban and non-militant Islamist elite have in common is the concept of a theocratic constitutional structure. This would have a religiously dominated political, bureaucratic, military and judicial elite. Their interpreta-
tarian lines. Snapping at legislators, the Foreign Office spokesperson last week said that foreign policy should represent national interest. Given that the crippling energy crisis is one of Pakistan’s greatest challenges right now, sidelining Iranian oil and gas supplies to dabble in dubious geopolitics seems like an unwise decision. Pakistani and Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan is also crucial as the international troop withdrawal deadline approaches. Both countries have a stake in Afghan stability, but also a history of opposition in Afghanistan’s civil war. In the past decade, both countries have sought to increase their influence in Afghanistan by cultivating different constituencies, the Tajiks and Pakhtuns. Working against each other, Pakistan and Iran will only further destabilise the region. But by collaborating and building trust, the two countries could circumvent a return to proxy war in Afghanistan. Speaking at the Lahore Literary Festival, academic Vali Nasr rightly cautioned Pakistan against being on the
Pakistan and the United States
By Shahid Javed Burki
Pakistan, ever reliant on external financial assistance, faces a very different international situation as the government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif heads towards completing its first year in office. It would be helpful to recall history a little bit in order to understand the external environment in which the country must operate in the second decade of the 21st century. Much has changed since the birth of the country in 1947. Then the Pakistani leadership felt that the country it had founded faced two serious problems. The Indian leadership’s attitude towards the country it had agreed to create with enormous reluctance posed a serious issue for Karachi, then the capital. The partition of the British Indian colony was the price the Indian National Congress headed by Jawaharlal Nehru was prepared to pay in order to secure London’s withdrawal from the area. Many in the top echelons of the new Indian government were convinced that the act of division could be reversed. This had happened before. In 1904, the British Indian government had agreed to partition the province of Bengal along communal lines, creating a Hindu dominant West Bengal and a Muslim majority East Bengal. That par-
els know that alignment with the Saudis leads to estrangement with Iran. It is not surprising that Pakistan’s pro-Saudi Syria shift comes at a time when Pakistan-Iran relations are strained: trouble has been brewing around the pipeline project, which has stalled as each side blames the other for failing to fulfil obligations regarding project financing and implementation. The recent suicide attack outside the Iranian consulate in Peshawar, and prickly exchanges following the abduction and transfer to Pakistan of five Iranian border guards in February have also not helped matters. As ready as the Foreign Office is to lecture legislators on foreign policymaking, it must be aware that this is not the time to isolate Iran for several reasons. Sectarian violence is already soaring in Pakistan, and a return to the proxy sectarian wars of the 1990s between Saudi Arabia and Iran would ravage the country. A governmental shift towards one side could lead to further radicalisation and weaponisation of the other, particularly at a time when the Middle East is dividing along sec-
tion of Islam would be the predominant source of law, superior to all constitutional provisions, and Shariat courts would have pre-eminence over all other courts. The difference between the Taliban and non-militant Islamist elite is one of strategy. The non-militant Islamist elite believe and hope that such a constitutional structure is possible through incremental Islamisation using constitutional and legal means, combined with political mobilisation and pressure. Such a strategy, predominantly through peaceful means, of the non-militant Islamist elite, is based on the acceptance of their political weakness of not being capable of unilaterally imposing such a theocratic structure. For the Taliban militants, such incremental Islamisation does not work and is a ‘constitutional trap’ set by the liberal ruling elite; they believe that only a militant strategy can create a theocratic state because it would require the removal of the present structure
PAKISTAN CHRONICLE • Friday, March 07, 2014
wrong side of history. He pointed out that Iran has emerged as one of the more durable powers in a destabilised Middle East. He also said that Iran’s reach had to be taken seriously given that it has demonstrated its ability to support Assad’s regime despite facing international economic sanctions. The shifting US position towards Iran in light of nuclear negotiations and renewed optimism around a deal is also likely to empower Tehran in the near term. Pakistan would be foolhardy not to accommodate for Iran’s resurgence. Like a circus acrobat, Pakistan enjoys balancing acts when it comes to its foreign policies: US-China; ChinaIndia; India-Afghanistan; AfghanistanUS. We cosy up to one ally when the other is recalcitrant, finagle gifts from one when the other is tight-fisted, and elicit kind words from one side when the other is blunt. Few of these balancing acts have as serious implications for Pakistan’s security and social fabric as the Iran-Saudi dynamic. Pakistan would be wise to perform well, with a safety net in place. The writer is a freelance journalist.
Soviet Union stayed out of the deliberations to fashion a new economic and financial system that was put in place at Bretton Woods, a resort town in the American state of New Hampshire. The conferees at the Bretton Woods meeting agreed to create two institutions to rebuild war-ravaged Europe and develop the nations that were emerging from decades of colonial domination. It was clear from the very beginning that notwithstanding the participation of the British economist John Maynard Keynes in the New Hampshire talks, the Bretton Woods system made up of the Intentional Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (now called the World Bank Group) would be dominated by Washington. However, in 1947, the Pakistani leadership was not thinking of assistance from these two institutions. It looked for direct American help. It sought this support on geopolitical grounds. In a revealing interview given by Jinnah to Margaret Bourke-White, a writer for the now-defunct Life magazine, Pakistan’s first governor general said that “America needs Pakistan more than Pakistan needs America”. With a
flourish that was uncharacteristic of him, he described Pakistan as “the pivot of the world” since the country was placed on “the frontier on which the future position of the world revolves”. In writing about this interview, Bourke-White described Pakistan as the “creation of one clever man” and that “in Jinnah’s mind, the brave new nation had no other claim on America than this — that across a wild tumble of roadless mountain ranges lay the land of the Bolsheviks. I wondered whether the Quaid-e-Azam considered his new state only as an armoured buffer between opposing powers.” Pakistan attempted to forge a relationship with the United States based on the concern about India’s perceived intentions towards the country the Pakistani leadership had founded and the perception that the United States could be made to take interest in the well-being of the new state. The Pakistani leadership of the time and the generations of leaders who followed looked for two types of help from the United States: economic assistance for developing a country that was woefully short of domestic resources and building up the military to keep India at bay.
A relationship based on this fear of India and perception about the likely interest of the United States was to govern the relationship between the two countries for almost seven decades. As Husain Haqqani puts it at the very beginning of his account of the relationship: “Amid frequent Pakistani charges of American betrayal, few Americans remember that Pakistan initiated the US-Pakistan alliance primarily to compensate for its economic and political disadvantages.” This was a transactional relationship on the part of Washington and a strategic one on the part of Islamabad. It is not surprising that it remained on a roller coaster the entire time. The United States got engaged whenever it needed Islamabad’s help. For Pakistan, however, given the resources Washington could send Pakistan’s way, it made strategic sense to cultivate America. During the first couple of years of the administration headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, we are likely to see a fundamental transformation in the way the two countries look at one another. The writer is a former caretaker finance minister and served as vice-president at the World Bank.
with its ruling political, military and judicial elite. Is the Taliban theory of a ‘constitutional trap’ correct? Ran Hirscl, in his book Constitutional Theocracy, tends to agree with this theory by stating that “The ‘constitutional’ in a constitutional theocracy … brings theocratic governance under check, and assigns to constitutional law and courts the task of a bulwark against the threat of radical religion”. Islamist parties have had some success in Islamising criminal laws, some critical successes in socio-economic legislation like striking down land reform laws but they failed to capture political and state power through Zia and his remnants. Nevertheless, in accordance with Hirscl’s thesis, the Constitution and courts have generally controlled the threat posed by a theocratic structure because of the following reasons. First, Article 227 (all laws must be Islamic) does not apply to constitutional provisions, so it cannot even be examined as to whether any other provision of the Constitution can be
labelled un-Islamic or not. In short, all constitutional provisions (including those relating to fundamental rights, judicial independence and democracy) are equally superior and Article 227 has neither pre-eminence nor predominance. Second, any decision of the Shariat Court can be challenged before the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court, which is composed of a minority of two ulema judges and a majority of three ‘non-ulema’ Muslim Supreme Court judges. Third, the CII is a toothless body, whose appointments are controlled by the government. Fourth, the Islamised qualifications criteria for the political elites, enacted in Article 62 of the Constitution, are too vague for strict enforcement. But the Ran Hirscl thesis has its problem: why can’t the Pakistani constitutionalist experiment, as enacted in the form of the 1973 Constitution, be seen as a genuine dialogue of trying to negotiate between constitutionalism and religion and why can’t such a dialogue be seen as a genuine reflection of
the people of Pakistan, whose identities are multiple, contradictory and confused, and who are on a religious and constitutional journey, with no destination in sight nor any end pre-determined? No wonder such a contradictory, confused nation does not vote into power either the Islamist or liberal parties with their definitive ideologies. This is because the real religious divide in Pakistan is not between the Islamist and liberals but between the conservatives and non-conservatives. The former are not Islamist but they do see a limited role of religion in state power as in criminal, cultural and personal matters, eg PML. The non-conservatives, meanwhile, are not secular liberals but those who see only a formal role of religion in state power, eg PPP. Therefore, regardless of the desires of the Islamist and liberals for an outright victory of religion over constitutionalism or constitutionalism over religion, it appears that such a constitutional dialogue, or constitutional stalemate, is bound to continue. The writer is a lawyer.
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