Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Politics of a Scandal -- Hamid Mir, TTP, Leaked Phone Conversation

The English translation of the alleged Hamir Mir-TTP conversation can be seen here. The Urdu tape is available at this link (for the time being, at least). According to various news sources, Hamid Mir claims that the tape was doctored.

Toward analysis, on the politics of this scandal, I want to quickly comment on the points made by Ayesha Siddiqa, renowned analyst and political commentator, in her recent blog post, which was widely distributed on the net. I believe that her narrative focuses on the establishment and its internal politics too much at the expense of other relevant players in this game. The establishment, of course, has a long history of cultivating and planting its people in the media. This no news. But proper consideration should also be given to the current civilian government and those "foreign hands" behind it (see here) and the ongoing behind-the-scene tussle between the establishment and those foreign forces, all quite relevant for understanding the politics of this scandal.

Still, there are some quite useful points in her analysis - which I copy below - that should be engaged closely. The readers may also want to read her full post to evaluate the context of these points and related assertions.

The readers may also like to read a previous IS post that looks at the Ashura Bombing in Karachi last December and raises similar questions about the involvement of various players. One thing should be quite evident for any discerning reader that the current turmoil is Pakistan is more than simply an issue of mindless, religious fanaticism. There are larger interests and forces at play here.

Writes Ayesha Siddiqa (May 16, 2010): "There is not a single journalist, especially on the electronic media who comments on national security and is not fed by the military. I remember one very popular journalist who even writes for foreign press. He is considered an authority on military affairs. The poor chap cannot tell the front of a submarine from its back. Planting people in the media and intelligentsia is an old trick. The only matter of concern really is that how and why is the audio recording made available on the net? The real story is the disclosure rather than the conversation."

Further, "This telephone conversation could have been tapped by several intelligence sources including the ISI, MI and IB and the question is which one leaked it and why. Is there anything interesting happening between the PPP government and Hamid Mir due to which the conversation was leaked? The other possibility is that one of the army-run agency leaked it. The first explanation is that they wanted to deflect attention from themselves on Hamid Mir. It seems from the conversation as if Mir caused Khalid Khwaja's death by instigating the alleged Punjabi Taliban. The insistence on KK's links with Ahmedis and Americans could do the trick of inciting the Taliban against KK. But I am sure that was not Hamid Mir's intent. He was just trying to show-ff to the Taliban the superiority of his information. Such show-off comes with the territory that he operates in. But the conversation was then conveniently leaked so that it may appear as something in which the intelligence agencies had no involvement thats is in the killing of KK.

The other explanation is that the conversation indicates some chasm within the intelligence establishment. The conversation basically signifies the presence of multiple groups within the intelligence agencies. There are, at least, three ideological groups within the agencies: (a) the Islamiscsts, (b) the pro-West, and (c) pro-China. These groups exert influence and lobby for their perspective. This means that the flow of information to the top brass is conditioned by the ideological bias of the groups."

And, "The dealings with the US or even China reflect the military's utilitarian approach. It will happily use any of these states to build itself. Most countries behave this way. The name of the game is realpolitik which focuses on power of the state rther than power of the people. The Pakistani state had begun to steer towards Islamism at a very early stage after its creation. Naturally, the ideology rubbed on different elements in the society as well. This is what we can see in Hamid Mir's conversation."

Also, "The discussion of his involvement in misleading Maulana Abdul Aziz does not make sense because Abdul Aziz led his funeral prayers. There is something that doesn't make sense in the story. Whats more important to remember are that the jihadis (aka Pakistani Taliban) are well-entrenched in Pakistan's intelligence system and even its establishment. No wonder, Pakistan's courts have been acquitting jihadis like Lashkare Jhangavi's Malik Ishaq. Recently, the courts acquitted those accused of involvement in the Marriott bombing case and the suicide attack against Lt. general Mushtaq Baig. These decisions could have been changed if the agencies were willing to sort out the jihadis."

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