The debate on the Iraq war in the Senate in Islamabad has made the usual sparks fly. While all the parties are agreed that the war is unjust and must be called off, there was disagreement over the content of a proposed joint resolution in the Senate. The opposition led by the religious parties alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) wanted a fiery text clearly "condemning" the United States as an "aggressor against Islam". But the treasury benches insisted on retaining the language they have already used to avoid supporting a second American resolution at the UN Security Council: that the war is unjust and Pakistan can’t support it. In the event, the government has succeeded in clinching a unanimous resolution that uses words like "shock" and "dismay" to express the nation’s feelings and "deplores" the fact of the war…
But the MMA is pressing its advantage home. It is riding the crest of a wave of anger against the United States. It has held three mammoth "million marches" supported by people from most walks of urban life in Pakistan. However, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-QA) party thought that by allowing and facilitating these rallies it would demonstrate its participation in this national consensus…
The Senate has rung to the speeches made by our representatives on what Pakistan should do next… Parallel developments in civil society demonstrate how the jihadi militias presumed to be banned by General Musharraf under American pressure are reassembling under the banner of Pakistan’s new-found unity. Newspapers are reporting this new mobilisation after a number of religious parties began to issue fatwas for jihad and started recruiting warriors for Iraq. In fact, a number of banned leaders heretofore holding their peace under pain of house arrest have begun addressing rallies calling for jihad against the United States. We understand that the largest jihadi militia in Pakistan, so far quiet under the ban placed on it, is about to announce it revival under a new name. What is going on? Is this the right way to go?
- Editorial, Daily Times, Lahore, April 3, 2003.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the US-led war against Iraq is not going according to plan. Almost two weeks into the war, American and British troops find themselves bogged down, with very few spectacular gains to their credit. Wherever the troops have advanced, they have come up against stiff resistance - something they had not anticipated and were obviously ill-prepared for. Among the biggest shocks for the coalition was the resistance they encountered in the south of the country, where the Shia population was believed to be fiercely anti-Saddam…
The unexpected resistance and overstretched supply lines have now forced the US to call for reinforcements, entailing a pause in the fighting… Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, widely considered one of the architects of the war, is now coming under fire for embarking on this high-risk adventure with not enough ground troops… The most fundamental point is that there was simply no need to rush into this adventure when the weapons inspectors were already doing their job of disarming Iraq peacefully…
The most misplaced assumption was that the people, specially in the south, had been so deeply alienated by Saddam Hussein's tyranny that they would welcome US and British troops as liberators. It was also wrongly believed that Iraqi troops in their thousands would surrender or flee at the first sight of the allied forces… The war against Iraq is a tragically unnecessary adventure that will entail the loss of countless lives. It will also further destabilize a region that is already extremely volatile.
- Editorial, Dawn, Karachi, April 1, 2003.
While the war is still on, Colin Powell's latest statement on Iraq throws light on the kind of post-war political dispensation America has in mind for that country. In a larger context, it could give an insight into Washington's intention for the entire region. Speaking to the House of Representatives' budget subcommittee, the US Secretary of State made it clear his country would not allow UN control over a post-war Iraq… The outlines of a post-war Iraq have not been spelled out. But going by whatever has appeared in the American media and the views which the brains behind the Bush administration have aired from time to time, one can expect Iraq and the Middle East to be placed under a new mandate on the pattern of the notorious Sykes-Picot pact… Whether Iraq will be split into three states - a Shia south, a Kurdish north and a Sunni canton in the centre - is a moot question. But whatever the scheme, it is obvious that America will craft it, enforce it and run it entirely on its own.
- Editorial, Dawn, Karachi, March 29, 2003.
The American and British forces in Iraq have been facing tougher military resistance than they had anticipated. No major Iraqi city has so far fallen, and the Anglo-American forces are suffering casualties. By the end of the war's fifth day, even Nasiriya had not fallen, and the British forces had to "withdraw to regroup" - an admission that the advance had not only been checked but that the British contingent had been repulsed… However, despite the brave fight being put up by the Iraqis, no one is in doubt about the ultimate outcome of the war. The disparity in the armed strengths of the two sides and the firepower of the coalition forces and their technological and manpower superiority are so overwhelming that a victory for them is only a matter of time…
The whole world is against this aggression against the Iraqi people. The most tragic aspect of the altered world scenario is that the United Nations, which represents the hopes and aspirations of the world community, has no option but to watch helplessly the unfolding drama of death and destruction in Iraq from the sidelines… This war is against the fundamental principles of the UN. America bypassed the world body in utter contempt, because it knew the UN was not willing to sanction Washington's aggression against a country that was settling the issue by peaceful means.
- Editorial, Dawn, Karachi, March 26, 2003.
The war in Iraq has begun in earnest. The sudden decapitating strike to take out President Saddam Hussein and the top Baath leadership was not part of the original plan. It was made on a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) tip-off. Following the strike, the US only mounted relatively light missile and air strikes on Baghdad hoping the initial attack had killed or wounded Saddam Hussein and thereby changed the power dynamics within the Iraqi regime… But air power and missile strikes will not win this war. Removing Saddam Hussein requires capturing and holding ground. It also requires entering and occupying Baghdad as well as Tikrit, Hussein's hometown and the power centre of the Tikriti clan…
The final battle will therefore be fought by the ground forces. US military experts say they expect coalition casualties to run anywhere from "high hundreds to low thousands". Given this resolve and the mobility of the coalition forces, it may be wrong to assume that body bags might deter the coalition military from its objective. Some analysts in Pakistan are predicting a quagmire for the US military. That assessment does not seem to factor in the respective military capabilities of the adversaries.
- Editorial, Daily Times, Lahore, March 25, 2003.
Hundreds and thousands of people across the country have been taking part in demonstrations against the US-led war on Iraq - part of a global wave of anger and resentment aimed chiefly at America and Britain. The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) has been in the forefront of the protests, organizing demonstrations in major cities. Mobilizing supporters for them seems to be not a difficult task since the issue is a highly emotive one, with a distinct religious overtone. Representatives of secular society and non-religious groups such as students, activists, lawyers and journalists have come out on the streets but in far smaller numbers - quite unlike the trend in much of the rest of the world…
As the war and the bombing of Iraq linger, the magnitude of the rallies could well rise. So far they have been orderly and peaceful with no reports of violence. However, emotions run high and it is important for the protesters to remember that the point of taking part in an anti-war rally is to show support for, and solidarity with, the Iraqi people. There is bound to be immense anger and frustration, and perhaps hatred, directed towards America and Britain, but no purpose would be served if these were to lead to acts of violence or vandalism inside Pakistan.
Calls have been made by some religious leaders for launching a jihad against American interests. However, it needs to be remembered that most past attacks inside the country on western interests have caused more harm to innocent Pakistanis than to anybody else.
- Editorial, Dawn, Karachi, March 24, 2003.
As the world watches in helpless horror, bombs continue to blast the lives and limbs of the people of Iraq in a "war" which is a far more farcical mismatch of power than it was in 1991… For the people of Pakistan, these momentous events carry a multiple significance. They share with the thinking and feeling people of the world the anguish at the humanitarian fallout of the crisis. They share with the Muslim world the agony of seeking a land which once was the citadel of Muslim glory being ruthlessly reduced to dust and ashes. But they also share with other potential victims the increasing worries about an uncertain future. Regardless of the debate whether the Bush administration is driven more by religion, regional politics or profit motives, there is an overwhelming consensus that the American juggernaut will not stop at Iraq. One of the potential targets could be Pakistan's nuclear capability.
Have we really faced up to this stark reality? Thus far, there have only been confirmations from the corridors of powers of the apprehensions long being felt on the streets of Pakistan. Unfortunately, there are few indications that the gravity of the challenge has been realised by the civil and military rulers and efforts set afoot to preempt unfolding events rather than letting them drive us helplessly to a conclusion not of our choosing or liking.
- Editorial, The News, Islamabad, March 22, 2003.
The drama of death and destruction in Iraq has now been going on for 48 hours, and by all accounts this is just the beginning… The world has also been told that the war planners have taken precautions to ensure that collateral damage is minimal. This is nonsense. There is no war in which there is no collateral damage, especially in a war where the attacking side is relying on a devastating aerial campaign to pulverize the victim's defences and then ask the land forces to perform the coup de grace… The civilian death toll is not yet known, but one can well imagine how horrendous the level of civilian deaths and damage to non-military installations will be as the war progresses.
Other things remaining equal, it should not take the Americans too long to destroy the Iraqi armed forces and then occupy the country. What fate President Saddam Hussein and his family suffer, whether the occupation will meet with serious organized resistance from mobile guerilla forces and for how long, and how soon the invaders can cobble together a coalition of dissident forces to give a civilian face to foreign occupation are questions that cannot be answered with any degree of precision at this stage. What is certain, however, is that we are soon going to witness just the first phase of America's long-term plan for the Middle East… A break-up of Iraq is full of "possibilities" for America and Israel. An independent Kurdistan under Washington's auspices, for instance, could enhance America's leverage with Iran, Turkey and Syria - the first two with large Kurdish minorities. Also depending for sustenance and survival on America could be a Shia statelet in the south and a Sunni one in the middle. To these client mini-states, America would want to bring democracy!
- Editorial, Dawn, Karachi, March 22, 2003.
…. the weapon used to destroy people is war because only mad men start wars. Thus a war for which there is no justifiable reason to wage has been started. Its political objective is the overthrow of the Iraqi leadership. The military objective is the destruction of the military machine. The natural objective will be human suffering on an unprecedented scale. Military censorship will ensure that the ugly face of the war will not be made public. Only the glorious moments will be publicised like victory ……the ferocity of the war, which is apparent from official releases on the strikes and weapons used, indicates that the outcome will be far worse than calculated.
The United Nations' failure to prevent a meaningless war, marks a collective defeat for the international community …. There were too few states involved in the task of countering United States war plans in the United Nations ….. It was the lacklustre opposition in a world that generally bowed to peace that encouraged United States to push ahead with its scheme. The peculiar set up of the United Nations made the issue a problem of only fifteen member states of the Security Council….But even the importance of the fifteen members was reduced to five permanent members... Thus the diplomatic contest was played out in the convoluted formalities of the Security Council resolutions between the veto powers.
It is difficult to forecast the outcome of the war and how long will it take. But what is eminently clear is that this is just the beginning of a season of conflicts that will become a part of the international political landscape. The world will now have to live with the reality that war and not peace is the desired norm.
- Editorial, The News, Islamabad, March 21, 2003.
THE worldwide opposition, both from the general public and governments, has failed to dissuade the pigheaded coalition of a pugnacious handful of nations from inflicting a totally unjust war on Iraq. Tens of millions of protesting voices and the prospect of serious cleavage in their relations with close friends have been of no avail. When US Navy vessels anchored in the Gulf, Red Sea and Mediterranean launched 40 Tomahawk missiles on Baghdad Thursday morning, 95 minutes after President Bush’s deadline for President Saddam to leave Iraq expired, it heralded easily the second most unequal fight ever (the worst being Afghanistan).... While the USA spends more money on arms than the eight next biggest spenders, Iraq has been virtually under siege for 12 years…. The cost of the current war on the military campaign, reconstruction of battered Iraq and impact on oil and economy has been computed to be of the order of a whopping $2 trillion.
Pakistan should have come out with a forceful denunciation of the aggressor and not remained content with the simple reaction that there was ‘no justification for war’ and that it would not make its airspace or sea available to the coalition forces. Pentagon already has at its disposal our air-and-sea space, ostensibly for its operation against Afghanistan. To reinforce our reaction we should not hesitate to ask Washington to wind up these facilities immediately. It was also sad to see the National Assembly unable to come up with a unanimous resolution on the issue. While the Opposition can be faulted for not fulfilling its responsibility of maintaining the quorum in a session it had requisitioned, its being pointed out by the Treasury showed lack of commitment to achieving and expressing a national consensus, especially when, according to the President himself, it might be next.
- Editorial, The Nation, Lahore, March 21, 2003.