Author Archives: Arif Nizami

Bracing for the budget

The rumpus in the national assembly the other day was perhaps a taste of things to come. The debate, meant to be a precursor to the finance bill for the upcoming fiscal

Breaking bad

The fighting between the PPP and PML(N) is gradually degenerating into the type of the no-holds-barred struggles that characterised their relations between 1988 and 1999. On Wednesday, the National Assembly resounded with

Droning on

The boiling cauldron of public opinion against the drone strikes in the tribal areas has crystallised in a protest movement spearheaded by Imran Khan’s PTI. While those who mounted a blockade of

Jagged alliance

They don’t call it the art of the possible for nothing. An alliance between the PPP and the Q League would have been hard to imagine a couple of years ago. Today,

Haven’t beaten them

Breaking the terrorist’s back. A popular term used by militaries the world over when they are describing a measure of success against shadowy militant outfits. The term’s popularity stems from the fact

Arif Nizami

‘Frenemies’ or Friends?

Despite being one of its foremost allies in the so-called war on terror, Pakistan is being increasingly referred to as America’s ‘frenemy’ rather than a friend. Even the Chief of Army Staff General Kayani while complaining about Washington’s consistent arm-twisting has often called Pakistan “the most bullied ally”.
And this was before relations hit an all time low after the Raymond Davis fiasco. The ostensibly fruitless visit to the US of the ISI chief General Shuja Pasha is

Arif Nizami

Beyond the ‘Crisis State’

The volume Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ in the words of its editor, Dr Maleeha Lodhi, is a product of a ‘virtual’ conference – in cyberspace – that has led to a meeting of minds amongst some of Pakistan’s top media practitioners and scholars. The book is based on the optimistic assumption that Pakistan’s problems are solvable and its challenges can be overcome.
Resilience of the Pakistani nation is the central theme of the book. Dr Lodhi, journalist, diplomat, scholar and

Arif Nizami

The Ides of March

President Zardari having the sole distinction of addressing the joint sitting of the parliament for the fourth consecutive year, the PPP government has completed three years of remaining in power. It is a rarity in our political milieu that elected governments are allowed to complete their terms. Most, except those under the wings of a military strongman, have lasted less than three years.
One of the reasons why Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Benazir Bhutto’s government in November

Arif Nizami

Reality check

As if walking free of the rogue CIA agent Raymond Davis under a clandestine deal was not enough to inflame anti-American feelings in Pakistan, US drone attack targeting a peaceful jirga in North Waziristan has proved to be the proverbial last straw.
General Kayani, perhaps already under pressure owing to the perceived role played by the Army and the ISI in brokering a deal to whisk Davis away to the US scot free, has unequivocally condemned the attack. In an unusually harsh

Arif Nizami

Troubling times

The Supreme Court sending the NAB chairman Deedar Hussain Shah packing and the virtual breakdown of ongoing talks with the IMF for setting new benchmarks to revive the stalled $11.3 billion standby arrangement are not good news for the already beleaguered PPP government. Its talks with estranged coalition partner, the MQM, virtually deadlocked and having been already ousted from the PML(N)-led coalition in the Punjab, the PPP-led government is in all kinds of trouble.
The gunning

Arif Nizami

Winds of change

As Libya teeters on the brink of a chaotic civil war, its strongman Muammar Gaddafi obstinately refuses to quit. Delusional about his invincibility, he has vowed to die a martyr rather than step down or go into exile.
Will the process in Libya be an exception to the winds of change blowing over the Middle East that have swept away corrupt and autocratic regimes in Tunisia and Egypt? Gaddafi is counting on tribal loyalties and his narrow support base to stick to power around

Arif Nizami

Dangerous course

The PML(N) has embarked on a dangerous course. It has joined hands with turncoats and charlatans in order to show the door to the PPP, its erstwhile coalition partner in the Punjab. By giving ministries to the ‘unification group’ (an oxymoron in this case), Mian Nawaz Sharif can no longer claim the moral high ground. In this sense he is no better than Musharraf and his cohorts who carved PML(Q) from the PML(N) when the chips were down for the Sharifs and the Patriots, a breakaway

Arif Nizami

The fallout

Former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has thrown a spanner in the works by claiming that the detained American national Raymond Davis never enjoyed blanket diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention. Despite immense pressure on the government by the US, domestic constraints have made it virtually impossible for Islamabad to hand him over to the US at this stage.
The government is between a rock and a hard place on the issue. If it releases the private security

Arif Nizami

Most bullied ally

Whatever credibility the US had amongst ordinary Pakistanis has been inexorably eroded by the Raymond Davis incident. The American, certainly not a diplomat in the traditional sense of the term, by his act of murdering two Pakistanis has unwittingly unleashed currents and cross-currents which have exposed the inherent weaknesses in Islamabad’s “strategic partnership” with Washington.
The manner in which the US has gone about seeking the release of its citizen and the refusal of

Arif Nizami

Governance sans consensus

In a brainstorming session organised by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development (PILDAT) the other day, participants were asked to suggest the way forward in the light of the multifarious challenges of governance being faced by the country. In the words of its executive director: endemic corruption, weakening writ of the state, growing economic crisis and deteriorating law and order posed a real danger to democracy.
The participants, which included a former governor, a

Arif Nizami

Not quite Jasmine

Fred Halliday, the celebrated specialist on Middle Eastern affairs, taught international affairs at the London School of Economics until his death last year. A few decades ago, he wrote a book titled “Arabia without Sultans”, which from a Marxist point of view, lamented the fact that the kings, sultans and sheikhs still lorded over it. In the context of the present turmoil in Tunisia, this excellent work is still very relevant as nothing much has changed in the region.
With the