By kind invitation of Bernard Jenkin MP, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to host Pakistani political activist, and former world cricket champion, Mr Imran Khan. Mr Khan spoke on the issue of Pakistani politics being both in a state of crisis, but also at a moment of opportunity. In spite of the corruption and failings of the past, Mr Khan enunciated his belief that democracy, supported by an independent judiciary and a free media, can take root in Pakistan, and that this was much closer to becoming a reality than many people outside the country believe.
First of all, I would like to clarify my present position, which is that I am not a current member of the Pakistani Parliament. I had been in Parliament for 5 years but I boycotted the last elections. It was not just because they were rigged – there was pre-poll rigging – but also because we had showed solidarity with the Chief Justice, who had been removed. Sixty percent of the Superior Judiciary had been removed, so in solidarity with the Chief Justice and our Superior Judiciary, which had stood up to a Military Dictator for the first time in our history, I boycotted the elections. While I was in Parliament, and at current, I lead a political party called the Movement for Justice. We are the party that started a campaign for an independent justice system. We believe that elections do not bring democracy. You have democracy when you have an independent justice system, which protects, an independent election commission and the independent media, and then you have free and fair elections that bring democracy. Otherwise, the entire third world has elections, but hardly any country has democracy. Even Saddam Hussein had elections. So therefore, we boycotted the elections on principle.
I am very pleased to say that my party is the fastest growing party in Pakistan today. It is the most popular party amongst the young on university campuses. Along the frontier province, where all our problems are now, the party was the second in terms of a vote bank conducted by the International Public Institute Survey, conducted some 6 months back. The party had 22% of the vote bank, which made it number two. Overall, it is hovering at number three, but bear in mind that we boycotted the elections. When you boycott elections, you disappear off the radar, but despite that, it is probably the only party in Pakistan that is going up, whereas others are suffering from a massive amount of disillusionment with the sort of democracy we have had in the last two years. The other parties are losing ground.
Now, crisis and opportunity: it is both in Pakistan. Crisis: Massive crisis, the number one crisis is due to the NATO occupation of Afghanistan, and the spill over into Pakistan’s tribal area. As a result of the Pakistani Army going into the tribal area, the sort of extremism – not religious extremism, but the radicalisation that is taking place in Pakistan where of course the religious extremists are also benefiting, but this is a situation where there is no end in sight. None of the Pakistani leadership knows how to cope with it. People do not always understand, basically it is the American policy that is being followed in Pakistan. Whatever the Americans want Pakistan to do, the Pakistan government does and then takes money from the Americans and as a result, it does not have an independent foreign policy. The Americans are also lost in Afghanistan. To describe the American policy in Afghanistan, there is a wonderful little line in Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road can take you there.” I still do not know the objectives of American foreign policy, or what the Americans are trying to do in Afghanistan. Are they trying to bring in some sort of democracy there, some liberal democracy? What is the objective, because if we perceive Al Qaeda to be the threat to the Western world, then according to the Pentagon there are only about 100 Al Qaeda left. So if there is only 100 Al Qaeda left, and there are 100,000 American troops, and each soldier is costing 1 million dollars a year, so 100 billion dollars, then that means about 1 million dollars is being spent to get one Al Qaeda. Clearly, it is a policy on which there is total confusion in the US on how to deal with this.
I was very clear, from day one, that this was a big blunder. They should have isolated the Taliban from Al Qaeda because the Taliban were no threat to Western civilization. The Taliban were incapable of hitting Western targets. The Taliban were these young people who grew up when the Soviets invaded, they are ‘war children’ who grew up uneducated, with a very basic – literal – understanding of Islam, then further distortions came. To expect that they would be hitting Western targets is not to know the enemy. The terrorists that are capable of keeping the streets of America and Britain unsafe are Al Qaeda, who have the education, who have the capabilities. So therefore, in my opinion, the first mistake they made was that they did not separate the two. By lumping the Taliban in with Al Qaeda, that benefited not just Al Qaeda, but they eventually made the Pashtu’s the enemy. Once the Pashtu’s were involved, the Pashtu’s on the Pakistani side of the border were also going to get involved, particularly in the Tribal Areas. Just to understand, there are 15 million Pashtu’s in Afghanistan and 25 million in Pakistan, but the real area where this whole thing is going on are with the 4-5 million Pashtu’s in the Tribal Areas. The Tribal Areas are the border areas under the tribal laws. Only 14 laws of Pakistan apply in the tribal areas. There are seven agencies, dominated by 8 or 9 big tribes. This area has never known any central authority, whether it was the British or the Moguls, despite all the conquerors they never accepted any central authority. The structure in the tribal society is such that every village is an autonomous entity and as such has its only Parliament, the Jurga, and the Jurga also is their own jury system. They do not accept central authority. Pakistan, by sending its troops into the tribal area in 2004 under American pressure, was basically a rebellion in the tribal area, and it took two years for them to start calling themselves the Pakistani Taliban. So basically it was the tribal people who rose up against a reaction to the Pakistani Army going in there and drone attacks by the Americans and the collateral damage. Revenge is an integral part of the tribal character; hospitality and revenge. Any collateral damage meant more people joining what they call the Taliban. This started in 2004; today there are about 30 groups that call themselves Taliban.
Under the umbrella of Taliban now are all sorts of militants. That is why Pakistan is a serious crisis. The insurgency in Pakistan is being fuelled by the tribal people, but added to them now are elements of Al Qaeda, foreign militants, the Uzbek’s, the Chechen’s – we don’t know what number because there is total censorship there and no one can go there. Then there are sectarian Jihadi’s, groups created during the jihad against the Soviets, so they have joined in. There are criminals who have joined in; there is a total economic collapse in that area so there are also unemployed youths. Since there is no centralized authority, you only need to wear a turban and have a beard and you are a Taliban. So they can extort money in the name of Taliban, there is a lot of kidnapping done in the name of Taliban. So there is total chaos in that area. The Pakistani Army is struggling, with 140,000 soldiers now fighting this war and they are as confused as the Americans are across the border because there is no clear strategy. This is the one big crisis, and it is all flowing into Pakistan. It is leading basically to an economic collapse the defence budget is going up, and bear in mind that 80% of taxes in Pakistan are indirect, the rich do not pay taxes, so the poor subsidise the rich and the poor are subsidising the war now. The amount of money coming in is far less than the amount this war is costing the country and the defence budget going up means that basically money going into education, health and to the people is now being spent on this war where there is no end. I used to ask in Parliament ‘can the Prime Minister tell me, what will they do to win this war?’ No one can answer this question. I bet you that even President Obama cannot answer this question.
So that was the number one problem and the effects of it. The number two problem Pakistan faces, and I was very pleased to know that Henry Jackson Society spoke out against this, this thing about the US patronizing dictators or crooks simply because they are pliable. Now, we have in Pakistan today a President, who has been accused by 3 governments of siphoning off 1.5 billion dollars from the country – 1.5 billion dollars from a country where the total budget for 170 million people is 25 billion dollars. So imagine what happens to a country when you siphon off 1.5 billion dollars, the amount of damage you do to it. The Nawaz Sharif government, before that the Farooq Leghari government, then Musharraf’s government, all 3 posted on a website the type of corruption Zardari had indulged in. There were Swiss cases going on, but as Musharraf got weaker, when the movement to restore the Chief Justice got stronger, as he got weaker, in that moment of weakness he ended up doing an alliance with Benazir Bhutto’s Peoples Party. This alliance was brokered by the Bush administration. They brokered this alliance, and this was one of the most unholy, immoral alliances from the Pakistani point of view because what this alliance meant was in order to get the backing by Benazir’s Peoples Party, he gave them amnesty from all the corruption charges, but not just Asif Zardari and Benazir. He also gave 8,000 people amnesty from corruption cases. Now the biggest crook in the country suddenly became free to contest elections again so as a result of the election, and an unfortunate election that was influenced by the very sad assassination of Benazir, her party did not get an absolute majority, but got the maximum number of votes and seats. Musharraf initially thought that he would be able to have the alliance, as the Americans wanted. Then there was such an outrage against Musharraf after the assassination that it became untenable and unsustainable, so in the end Musharraf had to leave and we the country have been left in the hands of, effectively, the man who is considered the biggest crook in the country, the President, Asif Zardari.
Not only is he sitting as the President, but his Cabinet is composed of people who benefited directly from this corruption dynasty. So essentially, we are being run by crooks. Naturally, corruption has broken all records and Pakistan is collapsing under the incompetence and corruption of the present government. Our government system has gone down. The only purpose the government is struggling with is to get itself and the President off the corruption cases because the Supreme Court struck down this amnesty, which is called the NRO – National Reconciliation Ordinance. Since it was struck down, Zardari himself and his top ministers are trying to prevent the Supreme Court from getting to the corruption. So we have this bizarre situation. Essentially, the government should have resigned. In Britain of course they wouldn’t have got there but, had they got there, they certainly would have resigned once the NRO was struck down. The Cabinet and the President are now sticking to their guns, pretending that there was no corruption, they are trying to take on the Supreme Court, and we are heading towards a deadlock between the Supreme Court and the current government. Every now and then you have the bureaucrats working under the Ministers changing because they are to go in front of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court demands that the cases should be open and the bureaucrats begin to make excuses that for whatever reason, especially in Zardari’s Swiss cases, so we have this deadlock coming out as a result and because of this there is no government at all. We have a situation where every day we have mega scams, there is a collapse in law and order, we cannot cope with the terrorism, the internal ones, and I am not talking about the Tribal areas, I am talking about the internal settled areas. Just the other day over 100 Ahmedi’s were mowed down in a mosque by what they call the Punjabi Taliban, which is basically on offshoot of the militant groups that were fighting against the Soviets.
There is a flight of capital, there is no investment coming in and the deficit is growing. Just to give you an example, our total expenditure is about 2,400 billion Rupees; our revenue is 1600 billion Rupees. So this 800 billion shortfall is growing, according to our previous Finance Minister who left, gave a statement that corruption alone, and bear in mind that our total revenue is 1600 billion Rupees, according to the Minister who left, corruption and incompetence alone is costing us 1800 billion Rupees. We face this big problem – we cannot cover this deficit, we cannot raise enough revenue. Pakistan has the lowest tax to GDP ratio in the world, about 8% to the GDP as opposed to some Scandinavian countries that have 48%, India has 16%, because of the inability to collect taxes, because people do not trust the government, the deficit is widening and we have to borrow money to run the country. The money is coming in right now through the IMF and the World Bank because we need it in this War on Terror, but the moment this money stops, the country is going to collapse. It does not have the money to pay the debt servicing. Out of 1600 billion Rupees, 800 billion Rupees goes into debt servicing. Another 600 billion goes into defence and to the Army. So the whole country is left with 200 billion Rupees, to education, health, everything. So we have to borrow the rest of the money, to borrow more money, we have to service our debts – this is unsustainable. So this is the other crisis, the governance and economic crisis we are facing.
Attached to these two crises is the law and order situation. In Karachi we have a problem because there is an ethnic situation, there is also the worry that all the Taliban, as they have gone into the tribal areas, have gone into the towns. They have moved into Karachi, and Karachi has some 2 million Pashtu’s and that makes it easier for the Taliban to operate there. So one is the Taliban issue, the other is the sectarian issue, then there is the basic break down of law and order in the country because all the attention is on the War on Terror. All the other attention is for the government to save itself from the corruption cases. So the rule of law is collapsing within the country. Tied to the government is the rule of law, which again impacts the economy and makes it very difficult for any investment to come into Pakistan. So where is the opportunity?
I think the opportunity lies in that, number one and for the first time, we have an independent justice system. This is the biggest blessing. If you look at 55 Muslim countries, hardly anyone has an independent justice system. We also have the most vibrant media to be found anywhere in the world. In Pakistan the independent television channels and the news papers are very vibrant and the whole movement for the Chief Justice was able to succeed because we had this media exposing everything. Current event programmes in Pakistan are the most popular programmes – way beyond any soap operas, Big Brother, any kind of stuff like that. Everyone watches the current affairs programmes, people want to watch the news. The level of political awareness is unprecedented in Pakistan. Which means, we now, and my party is working to get the election commission independent, once you have a truly independent election commission. Whenever the next elections come, I think Pakistan is poised to move towards a genuine democratic system. This is something I did not think I would see in my lifetime when I came into politics 14 years ago. I thought this would be a very long struggle because the status quo is too entrenched – the political mafia are entrenched in Pakistan. Politics is a way of making big money – too many people come into politics to make money and to protect that money, the laws are passed to protect that wealth. I never thought it would change because I thought they were too powerful, but because of these ongoing crises, the status quo is crumbling in Pakistan.
For the first time we see an opportunity, and we see a movement for change amongst the youth, which is very visible – universities are actually the perfect place to gauge the temperature of Pakistan. I feel that the economy can be fixed, all we have to do is cut down on our expenditure – a lot of that is wasteful – have an independent accountability commission, like you have with the National Audit Commission in Britain, it has to be independent. The moment you have an independent accountability commission in Pakistan, corruption can be tackled, but it needs the top leadership to not be corrupt. I feel that they way the system is headed, we are going to have a major revolution at the ballot box. I feel that, never before, have you been able to see such signs of change in country as in Pakistan today. For me, this is the worst of times and the best of times. We actually feel that you can see it. I am the only politician who is going around, because most of us face threats, but I am going out in the public, and I can feel in the public the desire, the realising of that survival instinct and people realizing that we are facing disaster if we keep going on as we are. So that is where the hope lies.
My only worry is the Americans – and what I expect from President Obama is that he must understand one thing: backing discredited dictators or manipulating elections and getting people like Zardari in power is not beneficial for the Americans. The Americans need credible partners. The Americans have to get out of Afghan quagmire and get credible partners. The failure of the Jurga, not just in Afghanistan, should make it obvious. If you have puppets there, who are perceived by the people as puppets, they are not going to be credible partners for you, they are not going to do you much good. You are much better off backing the democratic process. When we were fighting for the movement of the restoration of the Chief Justice, the US was not standing behind the democratic process; it was standing with a military dictator. Again, by standing by and propping up someone like Asif Zardari, he is not going to help the US because he is not a credible partner. The US should look for friends, not lackeys and toadies, because they cannot deliver when the time comes. As we see right now, they cannot deliver in Afghanistan, neither Karzai nor Zardari can deliver. He has abdicated all responsibility and has given the Army the ability to do whatever it wants to in that area. As Churchill said ‘war is too serious a business for generals’. Generals have these short term goals, they end up doing long term damage. What is happening in Pakistan’s tribal areas and in Afghanistan is actually making the streets of America and Britain more unsafe. The danger is not from the Taliban who can be spotted anywhere – they cannot even cross borders. The danger is Muslim nationalism – not Islamic extremism, not what you need to be worried about. Its Muslim nationalism – the radicalisation of the educated Muslim youth in Western countries, that is what you need to worry about, and this radicalisation is increasing.
I am the Chancellor of Bradford University, I have spoken to a young, hurtful, generation of Pakistanis in Bradford, and I see anger because they have been brought up in the education system here. They understand human rights, they understand international conventions and they see these double standards. They see these drone attacks that are violating Pakistan’s sovereignty, and the government makes noises ‘stop the drone attacks’ all the time it’s tacitly supporting it. The Americans do not care because they know this is a client state, but the government tries to absolve itself from responsibility, hence blaming the Americans for the drone attacks. They are sanctioning extra-judicial killing of suspects, and not just suspects but wives and children and everyone is killed along with them and anyone who comes in on their radar. This is creating hatred, and not just in our country, but we still do not have democratic norms so people think that the powerful can get away with it. In the Western countries, there is anger amongst the youth who are educated, who see what is going on and think there are double standards, one for the West and one for Islam. This is where your problem is going to be. Eventually it is going to be from this that the danger will be to the streets of Britain. When they claim these actions are keeping the streets safe, in reality they are making them very unsafe. One of the biggest surveys by Gallop, of Muslims all over the world, stated that according to the survey the greatest radicalisation is the educated Muslim youth.
After 7/7, The New York Times stated that 67 of the most lethal terrorist attacks, only four where from Madrasa schools – 51% were university graduates. In my opinion, this war is insane. It is heading nowhere and it is actually making the world a more dangerous place, and certainly from Pakistan’s point of view, we are becoming the collateral damage of this war. We are becoming the Cambodia as it happened in Vietnam – we are the fallout of this war. I keep reading that Pakistan is the most dangerous place and everything and that the nuclear weapons will fall into the hands of extremists – absolute nonsense. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11. Al Qaeda, trained by the CIA, was in Afghanistan – how did we get into the middle of it? To date we have 40,000 casualties in this war and according to the government, we have $43 billion lost in our economy. We have millions of people displaced, and we have a total collapse of the economy in the Northwest Frontier Province. What is happening in FATA, the Tribal areas, you just cannot imagine what is going on there. Everyone coming out of the tribal area is considered a terrorist. In this situation, Pakistan is the biggest casualty, and this is unsustainable – Pakistan cannot sustain this. If this goes on, my biggest worry is that something will happen from within the Pakistani Army. How long can you keep bombing your own people and think that through propaganda that you can keep your people mobilised? The attack on the GHQ where a lot of Generals were killed – was an inside job, by the lower officers, the lower ranks. There was another attack, near the GHQ, where again a lot of army officers were killed – another inside job. Two assassination attempts on Musharraf were inside jobs from within the Army. As long as this goes on, the more there is a chance that something in the Army will happen and that is when it will become a problem for everyone else. If something happens within the army, in my opinion, in this unsustainable war, the longer it goes, something will certainly happen and it will become a total problem for Pakistan, but certainly it will become a problem for here and the US.
Musharraf was the biggest con man I had come across, and for two years I supported him. All the problems we face today in Pakistan are because of Musharraf – all the problems that are happening in the Tribal area. I am probably the only politician who has been all over the Tribal area, and I even wrote a travel book, I stood up in the assembly and warned him ‘don’t do this’. There is an 80-year history of the British troops in the tribal area. The Mogul army, which was a super power of its time, 62 years, there was a rebellion in the tribal area against the Moguls. If you understand these events, work with the tribes, but you do not send the Army in. He then called me a terrorist without a prayer. Today, it is all up in flames and everyone knows what is happening in the tribal areas. He is also responsible for getting this current government in, he spent 2 billion Rupees to convict Zardari – to give you an idea it is 85 Rupees to the US dollar – and then he gave him amnesty to save himself.
What I propose is to have an independent justice system, you cannot have a democracy, you cannot have good governance until you have the judiciary as a check on the executive. Number two we need an independent election commission, we need independent accountability because the corruption is done within the government. To check them you need an independent body, at the moment we have Asif Zardari’s own officers trying to convict him. The government is not working and the Supreme Court is clear clashing with the accountability process. When the national accountability bureau is clashing with the Supreme Court because the Supreme Court says ‘where is the evidence’ and so on and so forth, and they are making excuses because they are trying to convict their own man. You need an independent body, we need a police system that is de-politicised – which is not used by the government to victimise opponents – we need a bureaucracy that is de-politicised, this is not re-inventing the wheel, these are just things for good governance. You need institutions which function. I will give you a quote – about 15 years ago, the Lahore High Court asked the police chief ‘why are the police so corrupt?’ The Chief of Police said that the police are corrupt because there have been 25,000 political appointees in the police, some of which are criminals that have been appointed to the police – this is a statement that was recorded in the high court. To clean this we need to build institutions – it is not rocket science, but only a government that is not scared of accountability can do it, only that type of government can de-politicise the police and not use them to rig the elections or victimize the opponents. You need a clean government, and the Pakistani people need to pay taxes. Pakistan can be a very viable country.
Pakistan is a country that per capita gets the highest charity in the world. I am a beneficiary, I have built a hospital, I have built a university, and I am building another hospital. More money comes into Pakistan than I can imagine. It’s the only private cancer hospital in the world where 75% of the patients are treated for free; every year the huge deficit is covered by the people of Pakistan. If they have trust, they give money, but they give the lowest amount of tax because they do not trust the government. Pakistan’s viability depends on collecting revenue and taxes; they will not give taxes to people like Musharraf or Zardari.
The greatest pain is to watch this sectarian violence in Pakistan, and what they are going through, sometimes words cannot describe it. The situation in Pakistan is so extreme now, the radicalisation that is taking place at such an extreme pace that I would then be defending myself again, as I have over the last six years, that I am not part of a Jewish lobby to take over Pakistan. I do believe that every human being has an equal right in Pakistan to practice and live their religion, go to their sacred places, Mosques, etc. This was a statement given by my only role model in Pakistani Politics, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who I try and follow as much as I can because he was a giant. Our policy is that all Pakistani’s, whatever their religion, whatever they belong to, have equal rights to protection under the law.
The 18th amendment to the Pakistani constitution, there are some good things in that amendment, but there are many things in it that are very undemocratic. Number one, they have allowed the politicians to get together in the Assembly and pass an amendment saying there will be a traditional commission to appoint the Judges – I strongly object to this. In the commission, four will be judges, and three will be politicians. The whole idea is to have a check on the politicians, yet these three politicians would be sitting there. In my opinion, that negates the separation of power, which is in our constitution. Secondly, there is going to be a Parliamentary commission with eight people – four opposition, four government – which can actually veto any judge. Now, if you look at that scenario in Pakistan, the four opposition and the four government, the head of the opposition has corruption cases against him, the head of the government has corruption cases against him. Four men get together and veto any judge. What the people have done with their street movement, to establish an independent justice system, has been stabbed in the back by the political system.
I think this will be struck down in the Supreme Court. Secondly, a party head can de-seat any Member of Parliament if he thinks he is violating Parliamentary discipline – any Member of Parliament. Again, this is anti-democratic. If I were re-elected, but do not agree with the head of the party, I can be kicked out of Parliament and this violates democratic norms. For instance, the two chairman’s of the party, one is Nawaz Sharif, the other is Asif Zardari, are sitting outside Parliament but Zardari, as the head of the party, can de-seat the Prime Minister. It violates the principles of a Parliamentary democracy where the President is only suppose to be a figure head, like the Queen here in the UK. Yet, it has made the unelected President even more powerful to where he can actually control the Prime Minister, and at the same time it has strengthened Party dictatorship. Thirdly, there was a provision, put in by Musharraf, that there should be elections within the Party, but in Pakistan, all the major parties are family parties. Benazir Bhutto supposedly left in her will to her 18-year-old son should become Chairman of the Party. I thought it was a good provision by Musharraf, for once I agreed with him, for elections within the Party, but they got rid of that clause in the 18th amendment. There are other things that are anti-democracy, for instance, the President can issue new ordinances, and through those ordinances, bring in new laws, which are again anti-democratic.
With regard to the Army, I do not think there is a political head that can stand up to the Army and tell them that there should be cuts in Army expenditure or at the very least ‘cut the fat’ in the expenditure. The President cannot tell them, because he is corrupt, and the ISI – the Pakistani Army Intelligence Agency – know about all the corruption being done in Pakistan. I do not think anyone has the moral authority right now, but if you had the moral authority, and there was a general austerity campaign, which the country badly needs because we need to cut expenses to balance our budget, I think the Army will only go along with someone who has the moral authority. Since General Zia was killed in the airplane cash, the democracy we have had since then, all the governments were accused of massive corruption – and who was finding out about all this corruption? It was the ISI, the intelligence agency and they were releasing it to the press. The government was not strong enough morally to take a stand against corruption. I reckon that out of the crisis and opportunity is this: Pakistan is headed down a path where it will have to take extreme measures. When you have to cut down on expenditures, the Army will have to follow because otherwise it is unsustainable. The Army, for the first time, realizes that the reason we are stuck in a war right now, knowing it is a disaster for Pakistan, is because they desperately need the US assistance in getting the IMF and World Bank loans, plus aid. They worry that if this dries up they will not be able to pay the bills. I think we are reaching a stage where we will be forced, the whole country will be forced, into a massive austerity campaign and the Army will become a part of that.
I think there was a brilliant article by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian the other day; it is a very critical time for David Cameron not to follow where Obama went. I think Obama deliberated for a month and a half or so on what to do about Afghanistan, until he decided to go along with the surge. That was a critical time where I kept saying this was the time for Pakistani leadership to go to the Tribal experts on that area and the entire Tribal Belt, so that those experts could explain why not to go on with the surge. It was a golden opportunity, but unfortunately our leadership relies so heavily on US dollars that in their mind, as long as the war goes on, the dollars will keep flowing in – at least for them, never-mind that the rest of the country is sitting in poverty. More and more people are falling below the rate of poverty in the country. I think it was in the interests of the ruling elite to keep this war going because it was not hard to explain to someone that this was a disaster for the people of America and it is a disaster for the people of Pakistan because they are following a failed strategy. This is the same strategy that has been going on since 2002. It went from 10% of the land being under the control of the Taliban to the majority of Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan being under the control of the Taliban, especially rural Afghanistan. So what was the surge to do? There was not going to be any decisive battle, because it is guerrilla warfare, they come out attack and disappear and when the soldiers go, they will wait. I feel it was a big mistake, and I feel that Cameron, at this stage, does not need to own up to Brown and Blair’s war. All I can see is more British troops dying; I cannot see any positive result coming out of it.
The Surge was considered a success in Iraq because there were completely different realities on the ground. In Afghanistan it is completely different, one of the best articles on this whole Afghanistan-Pakistan issue was written by a former CIA Chief called Graham Fuller. He wrote in the International Herald Tribune, sometime last April, and it was a wonderful piece where he noted this is no longer an Islamic movement, this is one of Pashtu nationalism and the moment it is Pashtu nationalism – it is a war of liberation going on. How many people will you kill? The more people you kill, the more people will go to the other side. People did not like the Taliban, people on the Pakistan side never accepted the Taliban ideology, but this is no longer about Taliban ideology, it is about Pashtu resistance and liberation – the war will just keep going. The US has spent over 100 billion dollars – a fraction of the money, if they would just decide to pull out, could be used towards infrastructure, form a government of consensus, just 20 billion dollars, the Taliban might even be Pro-US, and this war could end. They will hand over whatever is left of the actual Al Qaeda, the 100 that are left, over to the Americans. This is an insane policy of going on in the same manner in the hope that it will change. I hope that Cameron can understand because you see the Generals will listen to him. The Generals always think that ‘if I had a few more soldiers, I might be able to do this.’ What they do not realize is that they cannot see the bigger picture.
For the way Christians are treated in Pakistan, I have always believed that my God is the God of all people, and I do not distinguish between human beings. When you say Christians are attacked, and that it is an injustice, it is an injustice for everyone. My party is called the Movement for Justice – it is a rights movement. It is not a rights movement for Muslims, Shia or Sunni. The abuse of Christians is a very unfortunate thing that has been happening in Pakistan. This war is actually driving the divisions between, not just Shi’ and Sunni, Muslim and Christian, but between all minorities and the majority. It is going from bad to worse. So therefore, when I talk about Justice, it is for everyone – that is the only way. We will only have peace in Pakistan once Pakistan pulls out of this war. We will only be able to have peace, and control the country when we can control the militants. The majority of this war is fuelled by those in the tribal areas. Just so you know, there are between 800,000 to one million armed men in the tribal area, they do not need any training camps. If you had been in the tribal area, a 12-year-old boy will be able to find a Kalashnikov. Every man is armed, this has been the tradition for centuries – it even pre-dates Islam and that is why they have fought every conqueror that has come their way. This is what my thesis has been throughout; they must try and isolate the people from the real ideological extremists. By lumping them all together, the beneficiaries are the Islamic extremists which actually a very small minority of people in this whole insurgency that is going on. It is madness to lump everyone together. It is sensible to offer mediation. I went on television and said that I would mediate; I would start talking to the Taliban, the 30 different groups and ask them why they are fighting, and at least try and isolate the tribal element from this insurgency. If we do this, we can actually isolate the real extremists and eliminate them, but at the moment, the beneficiaries are the extremists.
My final comment is going back to the idea of Dynasty politics. I am completely against it. The idea of democracy in Pakistan was to get the right leadership up. The reason that democracy succeeded against Monarchy was because even if a King was brilliant, it did not mean that the son would be the same. The whole thing about democracy is it is the process, you have to go through the process and when you go through the process, that is what makes people realize who the real leader is. The fruits of democracy are that everyone should be able to go through that process. Unfortunately in the dynasty politics in Pakistan, how can an 18-year-old inherit a political party? So it negates democracy, and I’m afraid that this dynasty politics, and not just in Bhutto’s party, but in Nawaz Sharif’s, his son controls Lahore, and it goes all the way through Pakistan. How can this be democratic? In Pakistan, there were two reasons why we could not break through this. Number one, we kept having the Army come in as the democracies started floundering, rather than having a cleansing election process. We had the Army come in, which would set the whole process back, and the Army would then select the leaders. The leaders were not chosen because their capability but because of their pliability – only a leader who could be controlled was elected. By definition a leader is not someone who can be controlled, a leader has to have vision – the moment someone else is pulling your strings, you are no longer a leader. They never allowed leadership come out; they were puppets, like Nawaz Sharif who was manufactured by a dictator. Literally, he was picked out not because of his capability but because of his pliability. Benazir Bhutto was picked because she was her fathers’ daughter, and it was her first job being Prime Minister. How could we expect to succeed her? Poor Benazir, but even an Army major has to go through a process. How can you have someone go immediately from doing nothing in their lives, to being a Prime Minister? We have problem of leadership, and the problem lies in that can the democratic process continue like that? The cure lies in that we have a very vibrant media, which does not allow anyone to get away with anything. The media is actually exposing the dynasty politics in Pakistan and that is where my optimism lies, in the exposure of the dynasties by the media, having an independent judiciary, and a politically aware public.