Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Putting our children in line of fire

Published in The Nation, 6 January 2013

Kargil, like every other meaningless war that we have fought, brings home lessons we continue to refuse to learn. Instead, we proudly call it our history written in the blood of our children. Indeed, our children penning down our misdeeds with their blood! Medals for some, few songs, a cross road renamed, and of course annual remembrance day and a memorial for those who sacrificed their tomorrow for our today; thus preparing more war fodder for our continuing misadventures. Since nothing went wrong, so there is nothing to learn. We shall do it again. We decide. You die. We sing.

Cut off from the reality of pain and affliction that would be brought upon the nation, the decision maker takes the course most suited to his whimsical ambitions. Possible hurdles are sidetracked, on the basis of ‘need to know’, or merely bulldozed. Never has there been an institutional decision for the bloodshed. And at the end of each fiasco, original objectives are redefined to cry, “Hurrah! We have won”.

Our leaders seek personal glory, and desire honour in the eyes of other nations. Sadly, that has become our definition of national honour; but how can we be respected when we have little self respect? So concerned have we become about how they perceive us that we openly deride our religion and all the social values that we once stood for.

The whole truth about Kargil is yet to be known. We await the stories of forgotten starved soldiers hiding behind cold desolate rocks, with empty guns still held in their hands. What stood them there could only be a love higher than that of life. Some refused to withdraw even when ordered, and stayed to fight the proverbial last man last round. Such precious blood spilled without cause!

Whatever little I know, took a while to emerge, since General Musharraf had put a tight lid on Kargil. Three years later, a study commenced by GHQ to identify issues of concern at the lowest levels of command, was forcefully stopped by him. “What is your intent?” he asked. His cover-up was revealed many years later, on publication of his book.

An unsound military plan based on invalid assumptions, launched with little preparations and in total disregard to the regional and international environment, was bound to fail. That may well have been the reason for its secrecy. It was a total disaster. The question then arises why was it undertaken? Were there motives other than those proclaimed, or was it only a blunder, as I had assumed for many years?

It certainly wasn’t a defensive manoeuvre. There were no indications of an Indian attack. We didn’t pre-empt anything; nothing was on the cards. I was then heading the Analysis Wing of Inter Services Intelligence and it was my job to know. Our clearly expressed intent was to cut the supply line to Siachen and force the Indians to pull out. This was not a small result we sought and cannot be classified as a tactical manoeuvre, where no one other than the local commander needed to be aware. General Musharraf himself writes, “800 sq kms of area was captured.... and it created strategic effects”. To say that occupying empty spaces along the Line of Control was not a violation of any agreement and came under the purview of the local commander is astounding. This area was with the Indians as a result of Simla Agreement, and there had been no major violation of the Line of Control since 1971.

The entire planning and execution was done in a cavalier manner, in total disregard of military convention. In justification, to say that our assessment was not wrong, but there was, “unreasonably escalated Indian response” is a sorry excuse for not being able to assess Indian reaction. Assumptions were made that they would not be able to dislodge us and the world would sit back idly.

There were no mujahideen, only taped wireless messages, which fooled no one. Our soldiers were made to occupy barren ridges, with hand held weapons and ammunition. There was no way to dig in, so they were told to make parapets with lose stones and sit behind them, with no overhead protection. The boys were comforted by their commander’s assessment that no serious response would come. But it did — wave after wave, supported by massive air bursting artillery and repeated air attacks. The enemy still couldn’t manage to capture the peaks, and instead filled in the valleys. Cut off and forsaken, our posts started collapsing one after the other, though the general publicly denied it.

The gung-ho mannerism, when there were no pressures, was cowed when lines started shrinking and the international setting became frightening. There was no will to stay the course. Media was hushed to silence, so that pulling out does not become a political issue. We will sing when our songs don’t tie us down.

The operation, in any case, didn’t have the capacity to choke Siachen. When this truth surfaced, the initial aim was quickly modified. Now the book reads, “I would like to state emphatically that whatever movement has taken place so far in the direction of finding a solution to Kashmir is due considerably to the Kargil conflict.” Glory be to the victors.

We continue to indulge in bloody enterprises, under the hoax of safeguarding national interest. How many more medals will we put on coffins? How many more songs are we to sing? And how many more martyrs will our silences hide? If there is purpose to war then yes, we shall all go to the battle front, but a war where truth has to be hidden, makes one wonder whose interest is it serving?

It must be Allah’s country, for who else is holding it afloat?!

The writer is a retired lieutenant general and former corps commander of Lahore.


Saturday, May 31, 2014

On whose side is Allah?

Published in The Nation, December 30, 2012.


Half-cocked measures never work. Public sentiments are echoed in slogans like ‘drone attacks must end’, ‘stop supporting Baloch separatism’, ‘Black Water and the likes must end terrorism in Pakistan’, ‘stop interfering in our domestic affairs’. But these are mere public appeasement proclamations, made in a manner not to offend our masters. The people, however, know that nothing short of a total breakaway from the US will end our plight. Half-cocked measures never work. And we cannot breakaway unless the current political order is replaced with something more dynamic. They have permeated to the very roots of this system and will control any change within it. This political carousel, irrespective of new players, will continue to remain compliant to US objectives. For any positive outcome, these shackles have to be entirely removed and a new citizen friendly order created; adjustments to fit ankle size will not reduce the pain.

The fear is that any push for a new political scenario will stir up US sensitivities and activate their involvement in the course of change, to enable them to stay on top of it. Failing this, they will be forced to commence the last phase of their plan to dismember and defang us. They cannot let this, however mild, Islamic country slip out of their grip. Without the Army’s backing, whose battle cry is “Allah o Akbar”, the push for such a change would create a scenario which could unroll towards fragmentation.

Our hostility with the US will strengthen the currently stirred up extremist sentiments, while rendering our secular state vulnerable. Both will then create chaos in the country – the US to dismember it and the extremists in an endeavour to gain control over it. Between them, we will be torn apart. We cannot remain on the current secular path and seek to rid ourselves of the US. If we must close our doors to the US, we have no option but to open our hearts to Allah and go for an enlightened Islamic government. This is our only empowering option.

Pakistan is an Islamic country and you can drag it only so far from its ethos. Our support to US occupation of Afghanistan, in clear defiance of the Holy Quran, has brought forth horrifying results: bombs exploding in mosques in the name of Allah, soldiers killing children in the name of Allah; everyone is talking in such haste, no one wants to stop and ponder. Both sides are saying, “We are the good guys, let’s kill the bad guys”, without regard to the basis of our muddled criteria. In this self righteous prudence calculus, bloodshed has become insignificant and Allah has become irrelevant. The true message of Islam has been lost in this battle between the unlettered idealists and scholars enlightened by the Western sunrise.

The government and the electronic media are exhorting the people to stay on this allegedly middle course between the two extremes, and classify this as the course recommended by our Prophet (pbuh). However, the middle path does not lie between kufr (disbelief) and faith in Allah, but within the realms of our all encompassing deen (way of life in Islam). You cannot be a part time Muslim; after your namaz (prayers) you cannot fold and put Allah in the closet along with the prayer mat. He is part of each moment of our life. And that is what makes it bearable. And that is what makes it beautiful. Taking the true middle path is our only way out today.

Such a change requires dynamic and visionary leadership. However, our state machinery is neither designed to take a long term perspective, nor capable of taking decisive steps. Our decisions will continue to be based on immediate concerns. We are merely going along with the momentum of the tide, trying to stay afloat, without any clue or care about where we are headed. Our leaders sit back and indulge in petty political game-playing, which is all that they can handle. Without a bold initiative we will continue to remain amongst the trodden and never actualize to our potential as a nation. It is during such hard times that nations rise and shine.

The idea of standing up as a truly Islamic state is not as fearsome as some of us have been made to believe. The immediate image that comes to mind is of frenzied gun toting jihadists forcing the population to their version of Islam; of lashes and stoning; of a society living in fright and anguish: a Talibanised Pakistan. The reality could be far from it. This religion came to end tyranny and oppression; there is no coercion in it. Islam is a message of social justice, benevolence and peace, not only for the Muslims but for the entire community. If it does not bring tranquillity and serenity in the lives of the people, then it is not the true message of Islam but some distorted version of it.

Imposition of Islamic law will be a revolutionary change, but its enforcement will be evolutionary. And there is no fear of conflict in its imposition. These have already been resolved, since our constitution clearly expresses that laws shall be in conformity with the Holy Quran and Sunnah and that personal laws shall be according to each sect; so there is no dispute about “Whose Islam?”

Immediate enforcement of Islamic law on the entire population is neither practically possible nor socially conducive. Creation of enabling environment will take time; a system of justice will have to be established before we can talk of punishments – and all this has to commence from the top. Change in the economic order will take its own time. Social changes will certainly take longer.

Today, in this environment of chaos and hopelessness, an Islamic government can be the only guarantor of peace and stability in Pakistan. Allah has left us with no other option.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Searching for a just order

Published in The Nation, December 23, 2012.

Democracy is every citizen’s right and its every citizen’s right that his life, honour and property be protected by this democracy; that a just order be established. Our political structure and the entire government mechanism that supports it, does not show the promise. However, we are told that survival of the country lies in its continued existence, and that it needs time to grow. But it has so rapidly brought us to ruin, that we either correct it now or risk plunging into the abyss.

Parliamentary democracy is not suited to our psychosocial reality and political culture; its architects are its sole beneficiaries. Existence of political parties, which is the basis of this structure, is the foremost reason for its failure. They are, by their very nature, self-serving. We could do without them. There is the bookish aspect of different agendas, but what is the relevance of party agendas in our scenario? In any case, the only agenda we need now is a socially just order, which is the nucleus of our security and wellbeing.

Political parties divide the nation and create conflict. They create sub-nationalism, focus on disagreements and entangle us in disputes. They protect feudalism and perpetuate oppression; they play in the hands of financial mafias and foreign agents, encouraging corruption and crime. Parties produce professional politicians, who acquire hereditary rights. Public representative becomes party representative and does not speak in the interest of his voters, but in the interest of the party; and seldom the truth. Parties give political colour to the entire government machinery; they shackle the government. They do whatever it takes to win elections and stay in power. Finally, the ever expanding cabinet is composed of those whose only expertise is politicking. Half of Parliament works to malign and fail the chosen government. Party interest outweighs public interest.

In a presidential structure, where a handpicked team promises greater delivery, the system can be liberated from the encumbrance of political parties. A non-party Parliament’s only priority will be public interest and will collectively work for it. People will be elected on their personal strength and not on party strength. Neither will allegations fly, nor will Parliament become a fish market. Neither will bhatta (extortion money) be collected, nor will political vendettas result in street massacres. In our environment, public interest can only be safeguarded by a non-party Parliament - a democracy, which is free of ‘politics’. I am not suggesting a one party system, but a truly non-party presidential system.

Along with this, if we do away with elaborate provincial setups and have smaller provinces with elected governors, it will not only improve governance, but also substantially lower its cost.

We also need to reconsider the rapid turnover of governments, now an acceptable norm on the premise that the government, in any case, is not going to deliver. It takes vision and farsightedness to manage a country; and time for projects to mature. Here no one thinks beyond the next election. Good rulers are not available in such abundance that they should be wasted merely on time constraints. Minimum tenure should be increased from five to 10 years, after which the President should seek a vote of confidence through a national referendum; failing which, elections should be held. A non-performing ruler could be removed earlier.

Another critical aspect is that a government cannot be left without checks and balances. To safeguard public interest, it might be appropriate to create a non-political citizens’ representative body, with the highest authority in the country but no role in governance. This body should be composed of professionals from all fields like teachers, lawyers, commerce community, farmers, labourers, doctors, engineers, retired soldiers and government servants. This council of professionals should exist at each regional tier and upwards to the national level. People should vote within their own fields, to choose their representatives from amongst those whom they know relatively well.

The national council could be given three basic roles. First is to bring transparency in governance. For instance, the tiers of councillors of health department would monitor hospitals, pharmaceutical industry and other health related aspects, to ensure that all activities are being undertaken according to the laid down laws. They would also register all community complaints about health services. All this would be made public at each regional website and in their periodic published reports. They will also ensure that all government departments display their daily activities on their websites. Transparency will create pressure to perform and reduce corruption.

The second objective is to provide patronage to important national institutions. These institutions could be: institutions providing justice, armed forces, Election Commission, State Bank, FBR, regulatory bodies, including one for media, anti-corruption agency, Public Service Commission, Establishment Division, etc. These institutions would perform according to the law, but their appointments, transfers and promotions would not be influenced by the government. Important institutions will thus be able to perform independently, remaining outside political influence.

Third responsibility is political in nature. If the council through a majority vote feels that the government has become ineffective, it may recommend a change to Parliament. If Parliament approves, the President would be changed. If recommendations forwarded twice are not approved, the council would then be empowered to seek a public referendum. When the President is to be replaced, the council, in consultation with Parliament, will nominate candidates for national elections, according to a laid down criterion.

This council’s decisions will reflect collective wisdom of each field and will safeguard the interests of each professional segment. They will also add to national cohesion, since they will cut across all other boundaries.

Pakistan’s future lies in a system that ensures social justice. This must be the focus of our government and its leading priority. Current system, by its very design, remains focussed on politicking and needs to be replaced.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Seeking a new tomorrow

Published in The Nation, December 16, 2012


Pakistan is at its worst today. Our moral, ethical and cultural fabric has been torn apart; there is no justice, no security, rising costs, joblessness, unchecked street killings and abductions for ransom, pitiable governance with corruption at its historical peak and we are close to financial collapse. Karachi, with politically sponsored crimes, is simmering to explode. If the Army pulls out of Balochistan, a hostile takeover is imminent. Khyber still breaths because of Army’s presence. State decision has bound us to the US occupation of Afghanistan – strategic ally of a government that is sponsoring separatism and terrorism in Pakistan! For their benefit we are killing each other. Relations with India are being expanded at the cost of our business community, disregarding that they are fronting for the US in destabilizing us and blocking our only sources of fresh water. Kashmir is a forgotten story. Political parties, which thrive on creating divisions, are at ease with the level of public discontent; their only anxiety is seeking power. The nation has been deliberately divided on every issue and plunged into self pity, hopelessness and despair; there is no messiah on the horizon. Chaos prevails, but there is no sense of alarm. Sane voices are warning of a looming catastrophe at the end of the tunnel.

No one doubts that elections will bring back the same amalgam, perhaps in different proportions, to mint money and gloat over this nation’s misery, guised in sickening lamentations. The only solace is that the Army, the bastion of our security, is intact. Perhaps we are waiting for some miracle to save us. No, these are not the pangs of a growing democratic order, but rather more like spasms of death. We are in the clutches of a leech like organism which is sucking the nation dry. It has to be touched with something hot to remove it. No beneficiary of the system would like anything to change; only the deprived seek change. Whoever comes up in the system thrives on it; its survival becomes their survival. They then become the ramparts of the system, and will go to any length to save it. This system can only be changed from the outside; no meaningful effort is possible once you become part of it.

A fresh entrant, seeking change, recognises the stagnant rigidity of the system only after joining it. He is caught up with a multitude of problems and has limited experience and little time to deliver, since people expect results. His cabinet comprises of professional political elites who have no capacity of handling such complex affairs and play at the hands of a corrupt and manipulative bureaucratic mafia. If you fiddle with them, the entire machinery would come to a standstill. On top of all this there is party interest to be looked after. Now add to it the colour of compelling political compromises and rampant corruption, and the mess will become too much for the blue-eyed leader to handle. He has only two options: either keep fighting with the system in an endeavour to correct it and accomplish nothing, or keep his team happy, do whatever little he can, and cover up the remaining with false proclamations. This is the route taken. And we accept it as a political necessity – the price of democracy.

Should the nation give up the dream of a just order only to save this rot? Are we to serve this system or is this system to serve the people? Makeshift arrangements like patching up different political groupings or making some electoral reforms are neither remedial nor long lasting. Whatever ad hoc arrangements we make, will fall through. Some permanent and viable solution has to be found. The entire system has to be redesigned and a new order created. Copy-paste from abroad will not work; we need to be innovative. We have our own political culture and our own psychosocial dynamics, and we need a Pakistan specific solution. There is a lot of talent in this country; given a chance they will find a way out.

The people seek change, and change will come. If the educated middle class does not rise now to save the nation, then this thrust for change could sink us into a civil war. Perhaps that is what our enemies are seeking. We need to alter the song from ‘save democracy’ to ‘save the nation’; to give an awakening call and to unite the people across the board. Unless people unite and raise their voice for such a transformation, no orderly change can come. Yes, there is no leadership on the horizon; so then this is a time for collective leadership, for all of us to play our roles – to seek change, speak change.

A citizens’ group, something like General Hamid Gul’s Council of Elders, needs to be formed which enjoys the confidence of the public. This Council should then mobilize the masses. When people in sufficient numbers come on the streets seeking a new order, which is their democratic right, the government will be forced to step aside. The Supreme Court should then authorize the Council to constitute an interim government and task experts to draft a new system. It should be debated amongst the intelligentsia and approved through a referendum. This will be the true constitution of the people, by the people, for the people. Elections should then accordingly be held.

The Army should back up this change, without interfering in the process. Given the scars of its history, it cannot now sit idly and see the nation sink. This is the only route to redemption for this sacred institution – give the nation back to its people; let the people shape their own destiny.

“The world is an evil place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing” – Albert Einstein.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The great divide

Published in The Nation, December 09, 2012


The Muslim world is in a surge of awakening. Rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen have been ousted; Syria is in a state of civil war and disturbances are spreading. The US involvement is visible everywhere, since it is their security compulsion to keep control over the region. They pursue this through political intrigues, financial arm-twisting, use of brute force and exploiting disputes amongst Muslims, the most potent being the Shia-Sunni divide. Consequently, the Muslims have come to view the US, backed by Europe, as ‘Enemy Number One’. A great divide has been created and the emotional gulf is widening. There is no going back now.

The current unrest, with a backdrop of years of resurgence in Islamic thought, carries the seeds of Muslim unification. We may not be farsighted enough to recognise this, but those who play at the global level think in longer terms. So dynamic is this awakening and so vital is this game to US ambitions that the coming few years might witness major upheavals. Obama’s last term is likely to be consequential for the Muslims, unless they can get their act together.

Although the reasons for these uprising have been tyrannical regimes, concentration of wealth, corruption and economic decline, but when a Muslim community comes under duress, it gravitates towards religion as a rallying point. This then becomes the centre of gravity of their resistance. The West recognises this, and for years has been denigrating the concept of political Islam. The notions of jihad and ummah being significant impediments in US design, colossal effort is directed to suppress these thoughts and shrink religion to mere private existence. However, such dynamics have now been created that the more they crush these thoughts, the more they spread. Muslims from all over the world rise to resist, and their numbers continue to increase.

For many years, our critical vulnerability has been self-centred rulers in reprehensible pursuit of perpetuating their hold; keeping the people at bay by creating harsh laws, maintaining self-serving systems and taking refuge behind religion or some national security hoax, like the so-called war against terrorism. The entire organism is based on subjugating the populace through oppression and deceit. Akin to any mafia, most of our rulers seek shelter from the bigger mobster - the US. However, given their tarnished regional history and current involvement, alignment with the US is now becoming a political vulnerability. For our government, it will soon amount to a political suicide.

Pakistan today stands precipitously fragmented, on every conceivable political, social and religious issue. The most damaging is the Islamist-secular divide, fashioned to garner support for our alliance with the US and title its fallout ‘our war’. The split between traditionalist and modernist outlook has been magnified by pushing secular ideals to the centre stage of our intellectual debate with such intensity that Islamic leaning expression stands inhibited, out of fear of being branded uncultured and backward. This perception is now changing.

The mantra is that there is an extremist version of Islam, which is generating militancy, so this war has actually to be won in the minds; and if this nation is to be saved, it has to be brought on to a moderate version of Islam, implying that jihad must remain short of militancy. These westernised thoughts, belittling religion, are reinforced by the heritage of intolerance and extremist ideals held in certain cleric circles, historical legacy of the Afghan Taliban and terrorism sponsored from across our border. Neither the legitimacy of the Afghan struggle is brought under debate, nor is our partnership in US massacre of our neighbours questioned. The trump card being brandished is the sustenance of our economy. No linkage of our foreign policy to our internal situation is shown and we are given to believe that domestic terrorism is a standalone issue. The man on the street, with greater religious inclinations, perceives this violation of Islamic injunctions an elitist trend and considers secularism to be the cloak under which we hide our new gods. Given the current psychosocial dynamics in the country, this has come to enhance the rich-poor divide, with explosive potentials.

Today we stand divided and disputing; with the nation in total disarray. Our disagreements have become more meaningful to us than the future of this country. Either we unite or we sink. Unless we hold on to our moorings, overcome our differences and carve out our own destiny, we cannot prevent a Syria type catastrophe that is looming on our horizon.

Instead of a leg in either boat, we need to decide which side of this great divide we stand on as a nation. True that there is no Muslim unity to stand with, but here is our opportunity to lead. If we want peace in the region, the US must leave and Afghanistan must get stabilised. Both these objectives are achievable, if Pakistan and Iran unite.

The embrace of historical rivals in Afghanistan is the only means of ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan as well as inside Pakistan. There is no other way of putting this genie of terrorism back in the bottle and driving the US out. Afghanistan will automatically become part of this alliance. This block will emerge as a new regional power centre. It will prevent our isolation and economic collapse, on parting ways with the US. It also carries the seed of greater Muslim unification and will be a precursor to phenomenal changes in regional and global dynamics. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad made a significant remark (offer?) during his recent visit to Pakistan, saying that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was neither Sunni nor Shia but a Muslim, and if Muslims unite under this one point, there will be no strife or sectarian problem. The only beacon of hope for us, as for the rest of the Muslim world, is this reconciliation. And its time has arrived.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The red on my collar is your blood

Published in The Nation, December 02, 2012


My jet streaks across the cold blue sky towards Muslim dwellings. Perched up so high above the ground, I cannot see much from here; everything seems so small, so insignificant. I am glad I will not see those who I am going to kill - children with soft brown eyes. A lump rises in my throat. What am I doing here? But I am not responsible. Blink. It is not my judgement; I’m only doing a job; those who have given the orders bear the responsibility. And these children, they are merely collateral damage. Yes, this is acceptable terminology. But the hollowness in the pit of my stomach doesn't go away. 

We are now closing up with the target. I need to focus. I’m only a soldier - a killing machine doing its job. “Phantom formation, check switches air-to-ground,” I call out to my Wingman and turn my master armament switches ‘On’. I am glad I will not see their torn bodies, or hear their screams. I tip my nose down for the attack, “Phantom lead is in. Visual target.” My palms are sweaty. The houses keep growing bigger as I lose height; my soul keeps shriveling as I descend. Steady now. I take a deep breath and press the red button. A shiver runs down my spine along with a slight lurch, as the bombs are released. “Lead is off, pumping, turning right.” In a high-g turn, over my shoulder I can see the fire and smoke rising from demolished homes. No shrieks, only silent smoke. Collateral damage. And I head back home, to my children. I will not tell them about the medal I wear. I will read to them a fairy-tale.

Hissing through the air bombs hit their target. Collapsing walls, falling roof, debris, dust, smoke, calling voices searching loved ones, moans and silenced agony, all mingle to make one eerie spinning world of pain and anguish. A young man rises from dust and disentangles his sister from twisted steel and masonry; bloodied but still breathing, clasping her motionless child to her chest and murmuring something inaudible - perhaps, a prayer. The doctors say she will live, but has lost her sight and hearing. And that is a blessing; for she doesn’t want to see anything if not her baby, and she doesn’t want to hear anything if not the sound of his gurgling laughter. And what is there to see anyway, but more homes burning? And what is there to hear, but shameless Muslim rulers babbling? Is there sanity to be found here? For this young man, his madness is sanity enough. He will now cross over to the other side. He will die, but he will take along with him all those pretenders of sanity who have sold their souls to the devil. He now knows no fear and has no bounds. He now recognises the real perpetrators of terror.

Pictures coming out of Palestine have been heartrending: smouldering rubble once called home, crushed bodies being dragged out from the debris, dead infants lined up on the sidewalk, a withered grandmother crying helplessly. At each of these, I wondered if they were not from somewhere in Pakistan; if this pilot with suppressed conscience was, perhaps, not one of our own.

How strange that returning home from Palestine, we switch mode from emotional to self-serving expediency and suddenly switch sides! Can we separate emotions from prudence if it is our loved ones at stake? Souls that are not moved by the agony of others are dead. Twenty killed in Karachi, 40 massacred in Dalbandin, 80 in Dabori; only numbers to be added up. Not worth much more. And frigid hearts pursue life as usual.

The cold discussions one hears on TV channels bear witness to the callousness threshold that we, as a society, have reached. The unending exhortations to continue on the same ‘sensible’ path are deafening. We have put everything on sale - our honour, dignity, sovereignty, security and our thoughts; even God! And what have we gained in return?

For 12 years, we have been brainwashing our people into believing that this is our war. For 12 years, we have been killing each other, and rejoicing in our wisdom; while the marionette master plays with our souls. And is there an end in sight, or even a glimmer of hope? Yes, this is our war, but unfortunately we are arrayed on the wrong side.

And the worst is yet to come. They are now readying us for implosion. The era of non-violent political subjugation is coming to an end; now the time is nearing for their final move - creating sufficient infighting and chaos resulting in fragmentation of the country, as a prelude to its denuclearisation. And in this devastation, the government collaborates. Their plunder is itself part of the US game, but beyond that they play in the hands of our enemies maligning everything that is held sacred, creating fissures in the society, pitching discontent and hopelessness to its peak, burning Karachi, allowing Balochistan to be destabilised and creating terrorism on both sides of the divide. This game is not being played without subservient insidious collaboration. The perpetrators will escape; they have no stakes here. We must recognise the true worth of conspiracy theories; for what is observable is conspiracy, and what is being concealed is the truth.

It is time we got our bearings right, time to look for newer horizons. For each one of us, it is time to speak. If we remain silent, then tomorrow a new people shall rise from our ashes; people with courage of conviction, who see truth and stand by it; who do not switch sides to suit their convenience. Those who will not be afraid to say: “To Allah alone do I bow.” And they shall live!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Paying the price of democracy

Published in The Nation, November 24, 2012


We are the chosen ones. We are the voice of people, the guardians of their interests and we are here to remedy their misery. We know what hurts them and what is good for them. We are their saviours. The people have chosen us and that is the ultimate accountability. We are now accountable to no one. Our word is the law and we are above it. We are the godfathers of this nation.” Weigh this against the reality on ground and you shall recognise the mafia that rules behind this facade. This is our political reality. Will your vote change anything?

The other side of the coin is equally corroded. A military government is worse than a political setup, since in a democratic environment at least there is that lingering daydream that ‘eventually’ something positive will emerge. But the only fruit we reap from either is disgust. Dejected and disheartened, we fall from the lap of one to the other. Every few years we seek change, any change. When the pain of living crosses all thresholds, even death is preferable. And the pain is now crossing thresholds rapidly.

No one with money or power really wants anything to change; they thrive on the current status quo. The powerful elite have a unique set of values, and consider corruption and such other issues as ‘middle class blubber’. As Chairman NAB, I was usually affectionately counselled to grow up and step into the real world with such wisdom as, “which Governor or Minister in the world is not a rich man? This is the way of the world, learn to live in it.” And another favourite was, “corruption and development go hand in hand, you stop one and the other will come to a standstill.” And at another time, “what is wrong if the Chief Minister has given a road making contract to his brother? You have the road, don’t you? If he cannot even do this, what is his incentive for making the road?” This is the ethos at the highest echelons of authority. Unbridled power certainly alters the parameters of wisdom.

A good measure of this insatiability is the new anti-corruption law that is being pushed for adoption; a law that in fact encourages corruption, instead of fighting it. Our political system perpetuates corruption and deceit, since it can only be sustained in this environment. You can either remain clean or succeed as a politician. Clean politics is a misnomer. I once dined with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the ex-Prime Minister of Singapore, who praised our nation, saying: “I had so much difficulty in finding a Minister, no one wanted the job; but in your country, it is amazing that so many are willing for public service.”

For us, public service means liberty to plunder. Not a shred of justice is visible anywhere. All injustice stems from corruption, and all wretchedness emanates from injustice. Look deeply and you will discover that today this is at the core of every problem facing our country; be it failure of governance, the mayhem in Karachi, Balochistan imbroglio or being part of US carnage in Afghanistan and the resulting terrorism across the country. All have roots in self-perpetuation for illicit gains. This is the entire focus of our leadership.

Since every social disorder starts from the top and seeps down, the entire nation is rapidly being engulfed by corruption. When the powerful have the liberty to live above the law, then the people will emulate. The greed for material benefit has overtaken all else. The principles of commerce, devoid of any moral or ethical considerations, have brought us to a point where every step is measured in terms of profit and loss, and nothing else matters; means are irrelevant, only the end counts. We are being transformed into a nation of tricksters and swindlers. They are becoming our new heroes, our role models. The rest are losers!

Our political legacy is strewn with leaders serving self-interest at the cost of the nation. Each one of them thrives on this corrupt political organism. Today, we have reached a point where we are being made to believe that these are our political compulsions and we need to learn to live with them. It is the price of democracy; and since continuance of this system has been directly equated with survival of the country, we have no choice but to pay the price. Sadly, the middle class has now been conditioned to accept this as a political reality and as our destiny. But take heed, greater wisdom flows in the streets.

There is systemic deformity in our political order. The fault lies in our system, which does not cater to our environment of total disregard for law. We dream and pray for a ‘good leader’. But even if such a man were to miraculously reach the top, he will be isolated in this contaminated environment and bound by its mandatory political compromises, the system will drag him down. The difference he can make will only be nominal and ephemeral. Elections are, therefore, inconsequential.

For a meaningful change, the entire dynamics of our political system have to be redefined, creating a new order that does not only bring forth competent leaders, but also ensures that they can and do perform effectively. This is the promise on which a military government steps in, only later to become part of the same system; making merely peripheral changes, to claim success through cosmetic gimmickry. We have repeatedly had the opportunity for transformation and missed it. Change has to be brought from the top and has to be across the entire spectrum of governance; the whole has rotted. A good system is not leader dependent; the leader draws strength from it. Good leaders don’t last, good systems do.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Remembering Mike

Published in The Nation, November 17, 2012


Brigadier Mike was an ‘old timer’. But he did not want to stay anymore, so he left. Along with him passed away all that the army stood for - the pride in uniform, the self-respect, the grace and chivalry, the measure of an officer - his ethical and moral standards and, of course, the small courtesies. Mike left us to continue to fumble in the dark, for standards! 

His are times long forgotten. Commissioned in the British Indian Army, when he set foot on this sacred soil, he declared, “my claim was Pakistan, and I got it”, refusing to make any further claims. He has now departed, leaving behind a pocket watch, reading glasses, and a walking stick as his sole worldly possessions; and, of course, a copy of the Holy Quran. Along with all this, he also left behind memories of some soldierly values now considered outmoded. May Allah bless his soul.

Such was the confidence placed in him by the Army, that on promotion to the rank of a colonel, he was placed as head of the Welfare Directorate at the GHQ, handling all allotment of lands to army personnel and managing its welfare budget and activities. Once settled in his new office, he initiated a detailed report, revealing how their substantial accounts placed with the Standard Bank were on terms most unsuited to the Army. The same evening he was ‘advised’ by the well informed President of the bank to withdraw the report, which he declined. The next morning brought his unceremonious departure from GHQ. This was 1971 – the country was under military rule!

After the change in government, the Standard Bank scandal came to light, as did the man, who had tried to protect institutional interest, at personal cost. He was promoted brigadier, out of turn, and brought back to GHQ. However, the environment does not change merely with change in command; and eventually, with much heartburn, he decided to ask for premature release from the army. The same year, he was due to be considered for promotion to the rank of a general.

I remember a time in 1960, when he made purchases from a store in Quetta and started to write out a cheque. He was then a major. And I merely a boy, queried with some uncertainty: “Will he accept your cheque?” He looked at me with surprise, “of course, he will; I am an officer.” And the storekeeper thanked him with a smile. Such was the credibility of an officer, once upon a time. Yes, it does seem like a fairytale now.

The storekeeper has not changed. We, the soldiers, have! True, that over the years there has been a national ethical nosedive, which has also left its mark on the army. Nevertheless, a quarter century of filtration through its tight assessment and promotion system should enable the Army to produce generals, who cannot be pointed at. But somehow, every other day, a new tale crops up. This is not the consequence of our social milieu alone; martial laws have, most certainly, taken their toll.

Whatever good or bad military governments bring with them, they leave the army diseased and scarred, with a systemic deterioration in the command environment. The Army Chief has little time for the Army, leaving it to be managed by a Vice Chief, whose wings are so drastically clipped that he ends up basically overseeing the GHQ, and that too partly.

The military ruler, meanwhile, needs to keep the army happy, so an atmosphere of forgive and forget prevails. Misdemeanour at senior levels is brushed under the rug, purportedly to save the good name of the institution. And there, hidden from public view, it thrives and grows, and spreads like cancer, seeping down to the lowest levels.
Another facet of the same sickness is that in a military regime the system becomes irrelevant; personal submission and loyalty counts. The Army gets thoroughly politicised. In this setting, which breeds yes-men and where sycophancy abounds, it is difficult for the ruler to identify fidelity. An easy shortcut is to spot the dishonest. Their submission and loyalty is prepaid and guaranteed, and no questions asked. Thus, corruption thrives. The cleverer one goes as far as advertising his vices.

Despite the handicap of repeated martial laws, the army is still the best institution in the country. If there is 80 percent rot in the government, there is 80 percent good here. It is a disciplined and professional force, not easy to be reckoned with on the battlefield. What little grime comes to light should neither be believed at face value, nor be taken as the norm. One should leave a substantial margin for the undercurrents that are operative in our environment today.

Nonetheless, the Army needs to extract itself from this quagmire and chart a firm and decisive course to halt the moral and ethical decline within its ranks. Strong corrective measures at the highest levels are needed - a gigantic task for a post-military government Army Chief. The Army as a whole has to be sensitised to their predicament. The officers need to take courage and speak up. This has always been the hallmark of professional soldiers, who recognise the clear distinction between good discipline and moral courage.

Blind obedience has never been the norm of the Army. No one will carry the burden of your misdeeds; you are yourself answerable. And when you have joined this profession that seeks the greater shahadat, then why shy off from the smaller shahadah? The strength of an army lies in its young officers having the pluck to call a spade a spade. Speak up, for no one from the outside can save you. And yes, this ability does deteriorate with rank, as does everything else with age. “Surely, We created man in the best mould; then We reverted him to the lowest of the low, except those who have faith and do righteous deeds.......And counsel each other to hold on to truth and counsel each other to be steadfast” (Quran 95:4-6 and 103:3).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

National security, indeed!





Published in The Nation, November 03, 2012
October 12, 1999, was a fateful day. Those involved in the mechanics of the military takeover did not argue about the mission, or even the consequences. They were soldiers trained for the battlefield, taught to obey. They did not ask “why?”, only “when?” There could only be the inhibition of a legal nature - the prohibitions of the constitution. However, when those who had created it and also sworn to uphold it, did not consider it sacred and violated it at will, the soldiers did not think they were making any greater mischief.

Yes, there was the issue of the death penalty for such violation; that was daunting. But soldiers are also taught to take great risks. And, contrary to general belief, they are also trained to think, at least within limited and defined parameters. And they wondered why only the shaking of the throne entitled one to the gallows, while every other violation is overlooked - the abuse of power, plundering of national wealth, oppression of its citizens, killing sprees on streets, desecration of the corridors of justice, and all else that suits the appetites of the rich and powerful. At that level, mercilessly, there are no qualms of morality or ethics. Even divine laws are irrelevant. The only question is: “Can I get away with it?” And the soldier thought he could. And did!

When national security is at stake, the soldiers are alerted. After all, it is our bread and butter. And for the soldiers, their commander defines national security. And aren’t the people the nation? So, with the given promise of our Chief of throwing away the shackles of this rotten political system and replacing it with a better democratic structure, we took it upon ourselves to go for it. The immediate concern proclaimed was saving the army - the prime institution safeguarding national security - from being politicised and thus ruined. Little did we realise how vigorously an insider politician will politicise it. So our Chief became the ‘number one’ politician of the country. And once in those shoes, as opposed to the black boots, he came to relish the liberty with which he could now wield power. The army, in comparison, was limiting. But our political system was designed for unlimited liberty to the ruler, as long as the minions are allowed their pieces of the national cake - you know, the one you get after you bake the nation. But he had more guts, because he still had boots on, and guns, and powerful agencies to terrorise, and later a powerful friend in Bush.

Consequently, he exercised this liberty with greater freedom. And little did we realise that our commander will fall from the high pedestal of a soldier and become a politician. So, the army got politicised and bruised, since the supreme ruler defined “loyalty of ideas” as the highest form of loyalty - standard sovereign mindset. And, eventually, the same rotten system got more deeply entrenched, with greater public support for its continued sustenance. Military rule wrecked what it came to save.

The military is a closed society, with its own parochial interests to safeguard - structurally compartmentalised and layered. And mama knows best. It does not show you its wounds. But alas, does not even lick them. So, they don’t heal. Four dictators and half a country later, when national sovereignty has shrivelled to the person of the sovereign, regretfully, some are again looking towards the army for a solution. Don’t! The army is already out of its barracks, fighting someone else’s war, and has no more patience to indulge once again in this political pandemonium. And no solutions for our malaise.

Someone once said that politics is too serious an affair to be left to the politicians. A soldier, however, should be the last person to comment on it, particularly if he is the one who helped bring in a politician in uniform. But national security is another issue. One wonders, if our constitution provides sufficient safeguards against breach of national security. In every military takeover, the issue hyped was that national security was at stake, be it in the form of political mayhem, economic meltdown, corruption or threat to critical national institutions. (Every time the decision was that of the Army Chief and never an institutional decision, although the brunt is borne by the entire institution - for generations. Today’s young soldier carries the stigma of losing half the country, at the time when he was not even born.)

Likewise, the dismissal of every political government, even where the military had remained in the background, was motivated (so to say) by similar concerns of national security - retention of nuclear capability being one of them. True, that national security has never essentially been the reason for military takeovers, but also equally true is that national security is always at stake. However, we have no institutional method of defining national security or the threats to it. In our environment, power structures being what they are, those in power pick their own definitions that suit the moment and their intent.

Certainly, this is too serious an affair to be left either to the politicians or the soldiers. There has to be a constitutionally created mechanism, which suits our setting, to define national security and means to safeguard it. Short of a total constitutional overhaul, which is inescapable for our national security, it is essential that for the time being such a mechanism be created before it is too late and some bizarre definition of threat to national security derails the entire system.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Has the countdown begun?

Sequel to ‘Is there War on Terror yet?’ published in The Nation 14 Sept 2008

The Nation, September 21, 2008 Lt Gen (Retd) Shahid Aziz

Will US physical entry in to Pakistan actually help in suppressing the resistance to occupation of Afghanistan and bring peace to the region? If yes, let’s do it. However, it will only radicalize the population, leaving no other option with Washington but to declare Pakistan a ‘rogue state’. The premise for US entry is that Pakistan Army is either incapable or unwilling to ‘clean up the mess’. Then, does the US Army plan to do this in conjunction with Pakistan Army or in spite of it? It should now be abundantly clear that joint US-Pakistan ground operations in side our borders are not acceptable to this nation and its armed forces. Any other idea is wishful. Even aerial targeting is now not tolerable. We cannot, any more, continue to pretend that this was not happening. We were slowly and helplessly maneuvered in to such a compromising position that we even owned up some of their strikes killing many innocent citizens, and paid heavily in reprisals. Has this seven years’ strategy made any headway? 

Today, the US Dept of Defense and the Pentagon accept that they are not winning, but given more of the same they could do it. Afghanistan is not controllable, and they insist that if the war were spread into Pakistan, peace would prevail; Vietnam logic? Have the consequences been forgotten? Will this spread be controllable? Will the operations then extend into Peshawar and beyond? How many more men and dollars will be pumped in, and coffins pumped out? Is there an end in sight? Does this make sense? Is anyone listening? Hello!

 There is no way out, but to talk to Mullah Umer, who once controlled Afghanistan. Having lost territory in battle, and unlawfully declared ‘terrorists’, the Taliban have not yet been defeated, for that is a state of mind. There can be no peace without their involvement. Peace deals with local Taliban are a meaningless pacification fa├žade – just closing our eyes and pretending that we are doing what we can. And so is our economic development and education package, of which very little has materialized in seven years. Hundreds of suicide bombers are ready to lay their lives for a cause – do they recruit them for money? Were the 9/11 bombers madrassa students or poor and hungry? And this is quite well understood by Washington and by Islamabad too; but they are such spin masters. If Osama and Mullah Umer were dead, would it make any difference to this war? Would the Afghans and our tribals then accept US occupation of Afghanistan? There is no other option: the US and NATO have to leave this region. Taliban will accept peace only under a neutral peace keeping force without regional players, and a time frame for internationally conducted elections. In today’s environment not many countries would be willing to send a peace keeping force, but when Taliban accept a negotiated settlement, peace can return; and neutral players will step in to save the world. Yes, to save the world, for that is the potential of devastation that lies hidden in this imbroglio. 

But this is not the Washington way of doing things and will, therefore, not come about. They will continue to propagate fear of Islamic radicals amongst the American public, regardless of change in government. Their build up in Afghanistan and along our coastline will continue. CIA, already grown to fearful proportions with sanctioned liberty to enroll agents from within our unsuspecting population, will continue to connive with RAW and destabilize Pakistan. No wonder the ISI is being discredited, for they understood and were resisting their game plan, and General Musharraf refused to “do more”, which literally implied that he sacrifice our core security concerns for unspecified US agenda. 

It is, at best, irrelevant to address concerns like burning down schools and bomb blasts. The issue at the core of the problem must be discussed. All the rest is its fallout, and only relevant for propaganda. “The Taliban are coming! They will take over the country! They will whip us into submission!” What rubbish are we being made to believe! It took two decades and billions of dollars to radicalize Afghanistan under a deliberate scheme. The only extremism in Pakistan till 9/11 had been sponsored sectarian terrorism. There is no possibility of a cleric takeover in Pakistan. However, this is a country created in the name of Islam; has been and will remain as such – The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. This is our faith, this is our constitution and this is our destiny. And our Army’s battle cry has always been “Allaho Akbar”.

Since there is no US intent to find peace, we must fend for ourselves, as best as we can. To begin with, let’s call our Tribal Areas: Pakistan, when we talk to the US. This is not alien entry into Tribal Areas but into Pakistan. The distinction will be a great folly. They would like us to back off from the Tribal Areas and leave it as ‘No Man’s Land’. This will not happen. For us, there is no choice but to formally declare US entry into Pakistan as an act of war. We must move to the UN and elsewhere to seek assistance, and meanwhile cause military deterrence to US incursions. If the diplomatic battle does not succeed, which is likely, we have no option but declaration of neutrality in the US Afghan war. This is the note on which our journey started. It will imply closing all support to the US and also tightening our belts. That is the price of sovereignty. Else we can continue to pretend that we are fighting our war, till we are splintered, subdued and defanged. 

Within the parameters of current internal dynamics of Pakistan, the US cannot remain in indefinite occupation of Afghanistan. There is no option for them but to subdue Pakistan, and this cannot be brought about without a major upheaval. Their policy is stagnating, and they have little patience left. There is no possibility of militarily denuclearizing Pakistan. A clean sweep is not a practical proposition, we are beyond that point. Pakistan will have to be politically subdued into surrendering its capability; even though the political surrender is brought about through military means, without escalating to the nuclear dimension. The time is, perhaps, not yet ripe for this end game, yet they hurry into it. Continuing peaceful political subjugation should currently be their preferred option. But they have made the mistake of an early entry, perhaps due to incorrect assessment of our reaction to their intrusion, and misreading the military and public response; or perhaps out of arrogance of their might. If we wait too long we will be internally exhausted and unable to cope with their design, when it unfolds. We must tackle them now. 

Their possible design is to destabilize Pakistan through spreading militancy across the country, causing internal fissures, political chaos and economic meltdown, generating total breakdown of law and order resulting in despondency and hopelessness in the nation, and then engineering a military confrontation with India, and creating a global uproar about a destabilized Pakistan not in control of its situation and the possibility of nuclear weapons falling in the wrong hands, with a view to push for a UN Resolution under Chapter 7 to take control of Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Under the circumstances of the Resolution being vetoed, escalate the military situation to maul Pakistan’s infrastructure and military capacity, while backing the militants to take over the now exposed areas of Balochistan and Frontier Province. The US then intervenes, as a friend, to prevent India from pushing Pakistan over the nuclear threshold. Pakistan, at this point, would stand devastated, fragmented and disillusioned, with no capacity to sustain itself. Nuclear disarmament under the UN would follow, since the world would have been brought to the brink of a nuclear holocaust and barely saved by the US. An irresponsible and now an unviable state cannot be left in possession of a nuclear arsenal. 

Were such a design to materialize, Pakistan will have no option but to reverse the conformist wisdom of first fighting a conventional war and then, on reaching the threshold, bringing up the nuclear card. The US will, in any case, intervene at this point. Their game would have been played and Pakistan would stand shattered. Under such multi dimensional threat, we would have no option but to avoid a conventional engagement and open up with the nuclear card. A declaration that an attack by India would be considered an attack also by its ally the US and anyone else who cares to join the game, and therefore all US interests in range would be engaged. A nuclear warning shot in the Bay of Bengal, across India, demonstrating our circular range capacity would be most appropriate. You don’t mess with a nuclear power and get away with it. 

This or something like this is what our enemies might be contemplating. The US cannot continue its domination of the region without subjugating the Pakistani nation. A nuclear Pakistan cannot now be subdued through political means alone; therefore some violent methods will have to be employed to end the game. May Allah grant us the wisdom and strength to handle these issues. This is not a time for political bickering and infighting. Perhaps this is the most critical period of our history, a time when we need to be giving strength to each other; a time to hold hands. We have never been confronted directly by an enemy this size. Our internal cohesion is critical to our survival. We have no friends around who would come and put things right for us. Lets’ do it. 

The author served as Chief of General Staff of Pakistan Army from 2001 to 2003. 

Email:azizshahid10@gmail.com

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Is there war on terror yet?

Published in The Nation, September 14, 2008
The search for Osama bin Laden is a hoax. The US has been in occupation of Afghanistan for seven years, and not one Allied soldier is involved in this search. Thousands of Afghans have been killed, but not one has lost his life defending Osama. NATO is here only to crush the resistance to illegitimate US occupation of Afghanistan. And Pakistan was slowly coerced to join, as an abettor in the crime.
When we talk of War on Terror, we are only concerned with the method of waging war, not the reasons for the conflict, which for Afghanistan, lie buried in close to three decades of brutal exploitation. Acts of terrorism are mere tactics. If we dispute tactics with the Afghan Taliban, how else do they fight an international US-European coalition in occupation of their homeland? It is being said that “discussion of root causes can blur the immorality of terrorism and encourage it”, and that “any group utilizing terror, regardless of their goal, makes their cause illegitimate”. Tactics are under dispute, but the cause of war is not to be debated. The only solution accepted by the West is use of brute force to terrorize the population into submitting their will. If this is ‘war’, then in war ‘suicide bombing’ is a legitimate weapon. There can be no debate on methodology of war; the Kamikaze pilots were war heroes and not criminals. Whether this is sanctioned by religion, is another matter altogether, and of no concern to the Coalition Forces. What targets are chosen – the rules are applicable to both sides, as are for collateral damage.
Pakistan was a reluctant collaborator in this war. The reason for its entry was simply state terrorism: we were terrorized into supporting this war on ‘terrorism’, which has now become “our war”, since we have no other way to justify it. The US threatened to declare us a terrorist state and “bomb Pakistan into the stone ages”. India, meanwhile, lobbied and offered to provide bases for simultaneous tackling of Pakistan and Afghanistan – “get over with both problems in one go”, was their bid. Pakistan was isolated and without confidence to defend itself. Then, we were lucky that the US decided to tackle one problem at a time. Now, the second step is unfolding, as we sit back and continue to pretend that we are fighting for our own good.
There was never a formalized considered decision by the Government of Pakistan to join the US War on Terror, as an ally. It came in bits and pieces and grew over time, starting from neutrality and non interference, and growing up to the level of our current no-holds-barred involvement. To begin with, no agreements were made and no terms of engagement finalized. Neither the end goals nor even the enemy was identified. It was decided that we would stay out of the conflict. The fact that this conflict was in our neighborhood and had roots within us somehow didn’t seem to matter. Such were the imperatives.
The first role assigned to the Army was to search out the Tribal Areas and to “empty the pond of crocodiles”. Great emphasis was laid on this by the CENTCOM. The Army engaged with the tribes in Waziristan to search out and seek eviction of foreigners – mostly Arabs and Uzbeks. Meanwhile, the US invasion unfolded from the north and swept towards our borders, with no information to us about their plans and whereabouts. Their operations halted when they closed up to Tora Bora, allowing the Taliban to fall back to these cave hideouts. Then, in one huge push, all the remnants were driven into Pakistan. All this while, we were being harassed to go house to house in search of ‘crocodiles’, and could not prevent this influx of militants from across the border. It ended in more bitterness and more distrust between the two armies.
Why the operation was not launched from the south, to sever the Taliban from their base and push them against the anvil of Northern Alliance was an enigma, since the air bases were to be located here, the supplies were to move through Pakistan and even an amphibious landing was to be staged on our shores. This could only be understood in retrospect – a built in design to push the militants into Pakistan.
Indians were the first non allied elements to arrive in Kabul, after it was secured. They were allowed ingress into all that was happening, and asked to assist the Afghans in establishing various government departments and security apparatus. Today, there is a large Indian presence in Afghanistan, with a number of consulates operating along Pakistan’s border and functioning as intelligence bases. India, the only country with which Pakistan has a history of hostility, was brought in and established behind our back, by our own coalition partner — the US.
Under US patronage, Indians are training, arming and financing Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which was declared a terrorist organization by most countries, less the US. Truck loads of arms and ammunition has been flowing into Balochistan from across the Afghan border, for a number of years. The involvement of Indians in our Tribal Areas with the Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has also been known for some time. Government of Pakistan has repeatedly declared the “presence of foreign hand” in sustaining them, without having actually named India or their sponsors, the US.
When the Kashmir Jihad was at its peak, Israeli advisors, with vast experience of handling Palestinian freedom fighters, arrived in Srinagar. Our intelligence reported that on MOSSAD’s advice Indians were to raise their own ‘mujahedeen’. And soon, there were bomb blasts in market places, rape, arson and plunder by these Indian ‘mujahedeen’, and cases of throwing acid on unveiled women. All this was done, in the name of Islam, to discredit the struggle in the eyes of the population. Today, the same theme is playing in our Tribal Areas and from there into the rest of the country. Perhaps, this is only the visible tip of the iceberg. The presence of Indians on our Western border is a strategic dilemma for Pakistan, created by our so called friends. What nefarious forms of threat generate from here, today, is quite visible; what will unfold in the future is yet to come.
With no end goals or specified objectives and no visible intent to find a solution, it is now understood that the US has established a permanent presence in the region. In addition to the double envelopment of both Iran and Pakistan, it has placed itself at the strategic cross roads – once enviously sought after by the Soviets. They would not only contest Russian and Chinese influence in the region, but also retain the ability to magnify trouble in Chinese Muslim territories, thereby sowing seeds of conflict between China and the Muslim World – a strategy in waiting. And of course, one cannot overlook the disarmament of Pakistan, in connivance with its accomplice India.
Current US strategy for the war on terror, adopted by Pakistan, has produced devastating results for the country. It has increased extremism, violence and terrorism in Pakistan and the government has lost credibility since it is playing the US game in the region. Besides the focus on use of military instrument, other steps like education, economic development and measures adopted under the ‘visionary enlightened moderation’ are long term and cannot influence the current situation. Our strategic alignment with the US war in Afghanistan has no support within the country, other than in elite drawing rooms. US meddling in our internal affairs has further disillusioned the people from the government. Frontier Province is almost out of hand, Balochistan is simmering to explode, and Karachi has been taken hostage by Altaf Hussain and Baitullah Massud, who are jointly prompting a great massacre. Is a ‘foreign hand’ goading them on? Or do we simply explain it by saying that we are in habit of externalizing our problems?
By deliberately spreading extremism and terrorism in Pakistan and through intense exhortations on the media, we are trying to rally the people behind ‘War on Terror’. Given the social, political and economic milieu, as well as the state of governance in Pakistan, the government’s support for this war cannot last very long. It is time to drop the pretentions.
The Bush administration’s new policy of denying sanctuary in Pakistan to Taliban, not constrained by concerns regarding Pakistan’s stability, is already unfolding and showing the strains it is causing on our polity. Entry of US troops in Pakistan is an attack on our national sovereignty, or whatever is left of it. The consequences could be horrendous, both for Pakistan and the US. Militants would multiply by the thousands. Pakistan Army would not be able to support US operations, or else its command structure would collapse. Financial crisis and street unrest would create chaos in the country. Extremists would be pushed deeper into Pakistan and war will spread, making the US far more vulnerable. Pakistan would be destabilized, presenting the US with the final challenge, or perhaps the opportunity, to tackle Pakistan and attempt to denuclearize it by having our nuclear arsenal declared dangerous under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter and ordered to be placed under safe custody of the IAEA. When the Army is fully committed on internal security duties, will the Indian Army be, then, deployed on our borders to complete the scenario for dismembering the country? One wonders if an implosion is being engineered.
 There is no war on terror going on in the region. US presence is creating more hatred and more ‘terrorists’. There is no solution to be found on this road. The solution lies only in search for peace, but that has been forbidden by the US.
‘War on Terror’ has come to mean defeating and destroying the concept of political Islam as an ideology. The more the Muslims are cornered, the more political will Islam become. You cannot kill this idea with guns. Religions cannot be destroyed through force, not even brute force.
There is no search for Osama going on here. Osama will be found only when the US has created another greater threat to be presented to the world. Then Osama will not be needed any more, as an alibi. Then, a new drama of terror will unfold.