Cigdem Akti/ World Bulletin
Ijaz Shafi Gilani, an expert on Pakistani public opinion and international relations, shared his views on the important issues in Pakistan and the region with worldbulletin.
From 1991 to 1993, Gilani served as a special adviser to the prime minister of Pakistan and was chairman of the prime minister's committee for research and analysis, an in-house think tank. He also served as project director at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, where he is an honorary senior fellow.
After receiving his doctorate from MIT, Gilani taught for 10 years in the department of international relations at Quaid-I-Azam University in Islamabad before moving to Gallup Pakistan.
worldbulletin talk to Gilani about domestic politics in Pakistan after Musharraf, relations with India after Mumbai attacks and new Amerikan administration`s possible policy changes in the region.
Q- Let`s start with politics in Pakistan. What`s the situation in Pakistan after Musharraf?
A- Political atmosphere in Pakistan changed. Today, political parties cooperate with each other more, not looking into issues just ideologically, but for Pakistan`s interests. There have been a growth in civil society in the country as well. Lawyers have been staging peaceful protests recently, these are not like previous violent protests. There also doctors, students, civil servant`s movements in Pakistan. These are very important factors for democracy`s growth and no one wants to go back to martial law years.
Q- How abour the army? We know army is a strong force in the country...
A- Yes, that is a fair question. Army is strong in Pakistan, but its strenght comes from the support and respect from the people. Without that kind of support, army will not act freely. And during the Musharraf era, army felt that it lost this crucial support and respect. So, army has to be in tune with with public opinion, with general feeling.
Q- What can you say about American role in this situation? What do you expect Obama administration`s policies?
A- Unfortunately, undemocratic pressure always comes from the US. Public image is that the US is against the rule of law, because it is seen that the US always weighs on the negative side, undemocratic side.
For example, in 2007, government removed judges from Higher Court, more than 60 judges out of 80 were removed. Thıs was undemocratic and wrong in the eyes of everyone. But, US officials were the only ones supported that desicion. Same kind of attitude happened when General Musharraf decided to uphold constitution. Everyone rejected this desicion except the US.
Q- So, why do you think the US behave like that?
A- I think, big powers make rational choices, not good choices. Like many other examples has shown, declining empires make wrong desicions. Now, with Obama, his slogan of "change" is good, it`s promising. But, tehre are no real indications that things will change. He still wants to dominate, he still says if you support our policies we are with you, otherwise we will act contrary to public opinion.
Q- Let me ask Hollbrooke`s appointment as the Obama`s representative in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India at this point. He started his tour in the region, but his office also announced a short time ago that Keshmir will not be on Hollbrooke`s agenda. What is your perspective on Hollbrooke`s mandate in the region and his desicion not to talk Keshmir?
A- When Hollbrooke is initially approved it, his mandate linked the two. Then it became a patterned that Indian government lobby, at least it was presented at the press like this, Indian government lobby pursuaded him that Keshmir issue will be removed from the agenda. This is again, contrary to what Obama said initially.
If this is only positioning purposes, that tyeh wanted to placate India by saying we have removed it from the list, from the terms, then it is a different matter. But if the substances are removed, then I do not think it will be much progress. Hollbrooke`s mission can make some progress, but providing the mix of two issues.
Q- Can you say same things also true for Afghanistan, are they connected?
A- They are connected in the sense that as long as there is discontent in Pakistan. There will be the kind of activities, kind of people that US considers oppose to the Afghan peace will find a room to be. So, if you want to bring peace in the area, you have to come to terms with different political forces. İf there is a genuine effort to compromise a solution, that is always the one that wins in such situation. You can not defeat the other one completely if you want to have peace. So, I think the two issues are linked and Obama`s recognition of the two issues are linked at the beginning is greatly appriciated. To have removed it from the agenda is a set back, and whether on paper or in substance, issues should be brought back.
Q- Of course, one of the most important events in last couple of months between India and Pakistan was the Mumbai attacks. What happened there? Why do you think that attack took place?
A- To tell you the truth, these last ten days that I`ve been here, I acquired a better way to describe this, what is your asking me. I`ve been reading about the "deep state" here, and I keep reading about the "Ergenekon syndrome" here.
To answer your question, it is difficult to answer it except the look for the operations of this "deep state", The Mumbai operation is not a straight forward operation. If we look for straight forward explanations, ıt is not go to Pakistan`s interests. If we go to straight forward explanations, it is not seem to be an Indian intelligence agency operation. So, this is something which is concealed from the eye. And it is increasingly becoming clear for regional issues, as well as for domestic issues, there are some aspects, which are not explainable, they do not make sense. But it might make sense someone we don`t know. It does not make sense someone who has governance of the country as an objective, ıt does not make sense to someone whose interest is the public, people in mind.
Do this serve the interests of the people we do not see?
In 1960s, there was a discussion about "invisible government". There was a very famous book written in early 60s on the affairs in South Amerika in particular, which is titled "The Invisible Government". Then last 40 years, we have less discussion of this "invisible government". But now, when I`m reading your papers in here, this issue of deep government, I was reminded that actually a serious issue that we ignore sometimes. And the Mumbai operationhas something to do with that deep government.
There are interests that do not want India and Pakistan to achieve peace with each other. Therefore, whenever there are practical steps...This also happened in 1998-1999, when Pakistan was very close to having a reaproachment with India. Then suddenly, we had this Kargil operation, headed by General Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan lost a great deal from this operation. General Musharraf gained a great deal from it, he was in government for the next ten years. Similarly, someone on the Indian or Pakistani side has probably gained from the Mumbai operation, we still do not know unfortunately. So I cannot answer your question...
Q- But what you have said is really interesting...
A- There is something that invisible from our eyes, which explain such acts do not go well with interests of anyone we can identify.
Q- How about the discussions around nuclear weapons and the Mumbai attacs? Do you see any relation between two?
A- Yes, there is a strong relation with all kind. First of all, Pakistani public opinion... In this case, the public opinion was very calm, we have not seen that kind of a calm attitude. Pakistanis generally did not want to escalate the situation.
On the Indian side however, there was a lot of war mongering, very emotional attitude, and a lot of public opinion in India saying "attack Pakistan". But Pakistan showed, in my view, in the past Pakistan has been also very emotional on the issue, but in this case Pakistan said "we should be defensive not offensive". There was a strong fear that if there was a war, nuclear weapon would be used. There is a feeling that nuclear weapons have produced a result that it is suppose to produce, which is deterrence. İf İndia has not been able to exercise superior military muscle against Pakistan, because there is the nuclear deterrent. India took the war atmosphere, pschology to a very high level, then it is subsidied. And it is subsidied perhaps less because of the international atmosphere, and more because of the nuclear deterrent.
What it does, it raises, unfortunately in my view, the value of the nuclear weapon. So, there is a strong feeling that it is the nuclear weapon that forced India away from its very hostile attitude towards Pakistan. As a Pakistani, on one hand, I feel a great deal of gratification for this, but on the other hand, I also feel that for the world opinion to allow India to engage this kind of adventurism raises for other nations to acquire nuclear weapon.
Q- Let`s go back to internal politics. After all these, after Mumbai, after Obama, after Musharraf, what do you think it will happen in Pakistan?
A- I think, it will be probably, of corse this is only looking into future and therefore only a conjecture, my guess of the situation is that there will be another political change in the country. It can either be a democratic change or a military take over. But before the situation moves ahead, there will be a political change. Last one was a situation of paralysis. This time, paralysis is unlikely to continue.
Between the two changes, whether a political change or a military change, my guess is the possibility of a political chance is higher than military take over, for some of the reasons I spoke to you earlier.
This political change is likely to bring Navaz Sherif in power. Because, in the popular vote, even during the last election, the Muslim League had substantial edge over the People`s Party. It did not win enough seats for two reasons: One, which was very critical, was the Benazir Butto`s assasination. We have a political system in Pakistan which is slightly different from Turkey and closer to the UK, which is winner takes all. We do not have a proportioned representation and we have a national system. In that, about 5% of the vote is enough to tip the balance. So, the People`s Party gained just this 5% additional vote out of the sympathy for the assasination, which is enabled it to win more seats. But this was not a normal situation.
Second, Musharraf made every attempt and used all the state machine to divide the Muslim League into two parties. So ıt contested the election as two not as one. Now Musharraf has gone, majority on the streets is clearly on the Muslim League side.
Q- And there are also negotiations between two sides of the Muslim League...
A-There are not only negotiations, voter was already with one faction. It was by use of the state strong arm that elections happened the way they did. So, as soon as the strong arm is removed, then with or without the negotiations, voter is already with Sharif`s faction. This comes out of public opinion polls very clearly: less than 20% of the Muslim League vote is one faction and 80% is with the other. So, when the voter is mostly on one side, we can have political stability only one of two ways. One is, the People`s Party came into power by extraordinary circumstances, but now it respects the opposition, recognizes the opposition has higher support among public. İf it can be statesman-like to that extent, then things can work. But if it is not statesman-like to that extent, then political change is to come about. So, the political change is inevitable, whether it is come through the political process or extra-political process is another matter. My own guess is, it will come through the political ways.