All that is good (and bad) in Memogate

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1. Whoever wrote the memo was speaking for the supremacy of the civilian, democratic setup with acknowledgement of the ground realities of a country easily swayed, even toppled off-course by the military. Kudos.

Caveat: The sentiment to preserve civilian rule may have stemmed from self-preservation rather than democratic principles – but either way it is worth applauding.

2. The fact that Osama bin Laden was found on our soil, living a stone’s throw away from the Army encampment really called for an accountable and independent inquiry along with the exposure and termination of service of those possibly involved in the whole fiasco. The memo gets it right there.

Caveat: This point is weakened considerably by the memo writer, suggesting that the US could hand-pick “independent” investigators for the enquiry team.

3. Rooting out “bad elements from our soil” is something we should all (hopefully) by now be in support of, especially the likes of Mullah Omar, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Sirajuddin Haqqani. If that requires support from the US, how is that any different from ongoing drone attacks that are obviously sanctioned by those in power?

Caveat: The memo reads like an outright admission that the above-mentioned terrorists are definitely in Pakistan (something I personally do not doubt, but it looks bad on paper). Also, the plan is ill thought out, as the possibility of a “green light” for future US operations on Pakistani soil completely ignores the extreme risk (and fallout/backlash) such action would cause. Not everything can go as smoothly as OBL.

4. An “acceptable framework of discipline for the nuclear program” and one which includes all three powers and the civilian setup in particular is something to be lauded.

Caveat: This could be doublespeak for, as another columnist puts it: “retooling the entire setup and providing unrestricted access to Pakistan’s nuclear assets to United States”.

5. If the ISI has a section charged with maintaining relations with the Taliban and Haqqani Network (and the perhaps more deadly, “etc” mentioned in the memo), it’s about time for its elimination and I am glad members of the civilian setup (or a fictitious writer as the case may be) believe so too.

Caveat: It’s all too simplistic. The memo plays into fears about the ISI, but taking a step back I wonder, don’t all spy agencies need ties and ‘ins’ with the terrorists they are fighting? Maintaining cordial relations no, but channels of communication – surely? I don’t know enough to answer this one.

6. If there are any state or non-state actors involved in the Mumbai attacks, they should be exposed and brought to justice. There are no two ways to look at this at all, and the memo rightly states this as well. This line is of paramount importance:

“We, who believe in democratic governance and building a much better structural relationship in the region with India AND Afghanistan…”

Caveat: For much of our US-bashing, ultra-paranoid nation: “…seek US assistance to help us pigeonhole the forces lined up against your interests and ours.”

Needless to say, as always in our star-crossed relationship with the US, this memo spells nothing but ill for Pakistan despite all its good intentions. The timing of this scandal, the way in which Mansoor Ijaz has come forward, Mike Mullen’s thoughtless (thoughtful?) acceptance of the existence of the memo and the upcoming local and international media onslaught are all falling in place, like clockwork.

This is orchestrated disaster.

“To be fair, civilian govt. trying save itself from coup is like a beaten wife trying to stop abusive husband. Yet somehow, we blame her.” – Sami Shah, 2011

The full text of the memo can be viewed here.

Published in Tribune Blogs.

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