The terrorist attack on our naval base in Karachi took me back to something I had read in 2008 about a RAND Corporation study suggesting that a war between India and Pakistan would revive the flagging US economy. At the time I filed it away as the usual wishful gibberish of think tanks. But when the attack took place it occurred to me: is someone is trying to start another India-Pakistan war?
RAND is a semi-official Corporation that receives some federal funding. On December 26, 2008, Kurt Nimmo (another ‘conspiracy theorist’?) wrote in Infowars that Paul Watson and Yihan Dai (more ‘conspiracy theorists’?), had said in Prison Planet on October 30 that, “According to reports, out of top Chinese mainstream news outlets, the RAND Corporation recently presented a shocking proposal to the Pentagon in which it lobbied for a war to be started with a major foreign power in an attempt to stimulate the American economy and prevent a recession. The reports cite French media news sources as having uncovered the proposal, in which RAND suggested that the $700 billion dollars that has been earmarked to bailout Wall Street and failing banks instead be used to finance a new war which would in turn re-invigorate the flagging stock markets…A war between India and Pakistan may provide an ideal pretext for US involvement in the region…Reportedly, the RAND proposal brazenly urged that a new war could be launched to benefit the economy, but stressed that the target country would have to be a major influential power, and not a smaller country on the scale of Afghanistan or Iraq.” The story quoted Reuters saying on December 24: “Pakistani militants have already said they would rally to help the Pakistani military in the event of war against India. Public sympathy and support for militant groups would soar as they would be seen as national defenders against the ‘real enemy’, India.”
The story goes on: “A war between Pakistan and India and Pakistan’s abandonment of the GWOT in its tribal regions would provide the US with the near perfect pretext to attack targets inside Pakistan…An earlier report of the CIA predicted a Yugoslavia-like fate for Pakistan in a decade with civil war, bloodshed and inter-provincial rivalries as seen in Balochistan.”
Literal thinking made us believe that the Taliban couldn’t carry out such a precision attack without ‘outside help’. Our navy had been turned into a ‘One Eyed Jack’. That helps India, so India must be the suspect. I’m not saying it is; I’m not saying it isn’t – not until I have proof. In today’s world the obvious usually is what America’s Deep State’s strategic communications and perception management wants us to believe.
Pause please. Why are the Taliban not capable of carrying out such an attack when they have defeated America and its NATO mercenaries and their fathers beat the Soviet Union before them? Competence is no proof of complicity.
Consider: would India, Pakistan and China too, which could perforce get sucked into such a war, not do a cost-benefit analysis before embarking on such a suicidal enterprise?
1. Given that all three are nuclear laced, all three would be losers. America would be the winner. Russia would stand by.
2. Much of India, Pakistan and a lot of China would be destroyed.
3. The economic march of China and India would be pushed back by years.
4. Millions of innocent people would be killed.
5. Entire cities would be destroyed.
6. Pakistan and India could be Balkanised because both suffer from many horizontal and vertical fissures. There are fissures in China too.
7. The entire region would be destabilised and national boundaries redrawn.
8. Terrorism would engulf the entire subcontinent, China’s Xinjiang province and spill over elsewhere in the region.
9. Terrorists of other hues would emerge, each with their own agenda.
For the life of me, I cannot see any benefit in such perfidy, only Mutually Assured Destruction – MAD. Only the stupid – and India and Pakistan have a surfeit of them – who think with their egos would consider such an enterprise desirable.
1. The country that is the engine of the global economy – America.
2. The engine of the US economy is its military-industrial complex (MIC).
3. The fuel that drives the MIC is constant new weapons orders.
4. The source of that fuel is war.
5. An additional benefit of a war directly involving America is the chance to test its latest strategies and weapons in actual war conditions.
6. War between China and India would set back America’s economic and trade competitors, helping its economy recover.
Got it? Satan wept at such perfidy for even he couldn’t better it.
America’s first constitutional president, Major General George Washington, commander-in-chief of the continental army, realised that he had won the war against Britain with British weapons. This was untenable. That idea planted the seed of what was to grow into America’s military industrial complex. The warriors of the complex are:
1. Extreme right-wingers.
2. The Pentagon.
3. US intelligence agencies.
4. Wall Street.
5. Large corporate syndicates including and other than from the MIC.
6. Christians of certain denominations.
8. Much of the US and western media.
9. Think tanks of a certain kind.
10. Certain academics.
Third World idiots and sellouts help America.
1. Most rulers.
2. Most politicians.
3. Some military officers, retired and serving.
4. Some bureaucrats, retired and serving.
5. Many NGOs.
6. Many journalists, witting and unwitting.
7. Certain academics.
8. The greedy and the stupid that provide ‘inside help’ for money or think that they are doing the ‘holy work’ of non-state terrorists when they are actually helping state terrorists pretending to be non-state terrorists.
9. Lightweight noveau riche informers who crave instant respectability after ‘making’ instant money.
They sell themselves cheap – visas, green cards, jobs, medical treatment, stints in think tanks to write books and papers the US likes since such things are more credible coming from people of the target country, admission of children in Ivy League universities...
Are India, Pakistan and China that stupid that they cannot see the obvious? Unlike America, we have histories and civilisations spanning five millennia and more. When it comes to the crunch, millennia old wisdom normally prevails.
The writer is a political analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Seventeen months before, on January 4, 2010, the Hunza river flow got blocked by massive landsliding at Ataabad, a small village of Gojal, Upper Hunza. The cracking mountain gave way to large stones that came down with lightning speed and destroyed whatever came in their way. It was night time and the dwellers of the village were sleeping after day’s hard work. Some of them could never wake up to see their paradise again- the paradise of Gojal (Upper Hunza) known for natural beauty of shimmering glaciers, fruit orchards, wild flowers, water springs, and mighty river Hunza. Nineteen people died. But this was not all; it was just the beginning of a long and tiring phase of miseries that was to transforms the economic, social, and educational fabric of this locality.
As a result of the landsliding, river Hunza’s flow was obstructed by the debris that led to the formation of a lake that swelled and expanded and covered an area of almost twenty seven kilometers. The rising water of the lake devoured fields, houses, animals, and fruit orchards. A long portion of Karakoram highways was submerged and so were some important bridges between Aaeenabad and Hussaini. According to an estimate, 47 houses were damaged and a number of fruit orchards were destroyed. Three hundred animals were killed and the cash crop of potato was ruined. This was a heavy blow to the economic structure of the area and people over night turned from haves to have-nots.
The landsliding was not just an event but an unending process of mental torture, loss, fear, frustration, and helplessness. The impact of the lake was felt at multiple levels. The immediate outcome of the submersion of Karakoram Highway was that the whole area of Gojal, containing 25,000 thousand people, got cut off from the rest of the country. After the lapse of 17 months, they are still surrounded by water.
There is only one hospital available in the locality and even that is without sufficient resources. In the absence of roads, people have to use boats for communication. The private boats, however, are quite expensive. Besides the expenditure, the catch is that the boats ply only in fair weather and in smooth waters. If there is some emergency and the weather is rough, there is no way that one could get out of the confines of Gojal and reach some hospital in Gilgit.
What has happened since January 4, 2010? During the long period of 17 months, the people of Gojal suffered economically, socially, physically, and psychologically. Nothing much has happened that brought any tangible improvement in the lives of the people of this paradise. Have we forgotten the 417 families that were internally displaced? What happened to the promises made by the government to these people? The rehabilitation process that required prompt action has been going through the mazes of bureaucratic steps. The IDPs needed the money urgently to construct their own houses and leave the temporary abodes. A number of parents are unable to pay the school fees of their children. Hunza, that boasted an exemplary literacy rate, was struck badly by the Ataabad disaster. Seven schools were damaged and the alternative arrangements are not ideal at all.
Seventeen months after the incident, we are still facing an uncertain situation about the artificially formed lake. Initial promises, that the obstruction would be removed in a couple of months, evaporated in the air. The FWO despite their long engagement with the lake could dig only 15 feet. Their biggest success could be the creation of spillway which equaled the magnitude of inflow and outflow. This is certainly not the ultimate solution. The lake is still there and so are the problems related to it. The most recent happening is melting of Ghulkin glacier that has increased the level of water in the lake. With summer setting in, the glaciers have started melting which would certainly mean increased inflow of water that could prove dangerous to the population living in the area.
There is an urgent need to confront the issue on an emergency basis as the delay is adding to the gravity of problems. There is a growing realisation on the part of the local people that the work on the lake, which has been underway for the last one and a half years, is slow in pace and needs to be accelerated. If there is an issue of lack of resources, we should seek help from the neighboring country China that has superior technological capacity to deal with the challenge more effectively and efficiently. Meanwhile, the announced money for the IDPs needs to be dispersed as soon as possible as it is already too late and the anxiety is building up in the local community. There are protests on the streets to highlight their demands and the government cannot afford further delay. Let’s not forget our beautiful paradise of Upper Hunza and the stranded people there who deserve a better and quicker response from the local and federal governments.
The writer is Professor & Director of Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan. He can be reached at email@example.com
When there was so much criticism, you can’t find anything kinder than that. Prof Noam Chomsky’s observation that Pakistan Army is efficient, reliable and capable of defending the country’s sovereignty came at a time when our defence forces and their intelligence agencies were experiencing their most embarrassing moment. The terrorist attack on PNS Mehran has heaped humiliation on our security establishment still reeling under the fallout of the Abbottabad operation.
The mere fact that six militants entered the Mehran base, destroyed two multi-role P-3C Orion aircrafts and killed 12 security personnel during the 18-hour-long siege was another devastating blow to our armed forces in less than a month after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in the US Navy SEALs attack at the compound not far away from Pakistan Military Academy. This has not only thrown up questions of intelligence failure but also over whether the attackers had inside links.
As the military and intelligence agencies were strangely silent for some time, there were conspiracy theories going around about the shadowy hand of foreign elements in the attack on the naval base with some so-called television talk show hosts suggesting that India stands to gain most from the destruction of the Orions. Perhaps they had no answer for intelligence failure and the help the terrorists got from inside the base. Or they simply ignored Rehman Malik’s statement that the raiders took advantage of a blind spot that was not covered by the security cameras.
There were conflicting reports about the number of attackers and it varied from four to twelve. Notwithstanding the Interior Minister’s bizarre statement that the terrorists resembled Star War characters, he listed far fewer assailants than the media reported while insisting that all of them had been killed. The figure differed from the one quoted by the Navy’s spokesman that was again not the same as mentioned in the FIR. There was also no official word about the attack on the bullet-proof vehicles that had been pressed into service to evacuate the foreigners – six Americans and 11 Chinese – from the Mehran base.
Then there’s a rather amusing statement from Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir: Pakistan Navy jawans conducted a successful operation under a well-coordinated plan, though the terrorists who assaulted PNS Mehran late Sunday night were highly trained. So much for the navy’s capacity to fight out half a dozen militants. Let's reconstruct the events leading up to the terror strike. The assailants covered an approximate distance of one-and-a-half kilometers from the boundary wall up to the hangar where two P-3C Orion aircraft were parked. They then moved on and occupied two nearby buildings where they took positions and fired at the security personnel who tried to move towards them.
The assault was the worst since the General Headquarters was besieged in October 2009, and the fourth on the navy after three bombings late April killed nine people. Everyone will be justified to know how was it possible that a few militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and explosives could enter such a highly secured facility without the collaboration of someone from inside. Does it mean the militants can carry out an action whenever they want? These questions will keep haunting the military while dealing with the most serious existential threat to our security.
The world is becoming increasingly concerned about the rising levels of militancy in Pakistan and about the network that had allowed Osama Bin Laden to live untraced in a garrison town hardly 100 kilometers from the federal capital The American counter-terrorism experts did not directly accuse our security establishment of sheltering the world’s number one terrorist but they were getting suspicious about the complicity of some rogue elements in our intelligence apparatus.
This view was also endorsed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was here on a daylong visit to discuss how both countries can rebuild trust to fight the ongoing war against terrorism. Following talks with officials in Islamabad she said there was no evidence that Pakistani government leaders knew where Osama Bin Laden had actually been hiding. This must have come as a great relief to the military high command which has implicitly been pleading incompetence rather than complicity.
Ms Clinton and Admn Mullen’s visit may render some help in putting the US-Pakistan relations, which have been at the lowest ebb since the May 2 strike in Abbottabad, back on track. But that is not going to address the genuine concerns the people of Pakistan have about the capacity and competence of their armed forces to defend the country against growing militancy. This is about time the intelligence agencies must be held accountable for the recent fiascos.
The writer is Executive Editor, Pakistan Today
The rich are, as was well said, different from you and I: they have more money. In India, they have more lawyers. Does this mean that they are also more guilty? The law must take its course; no argument about that. What happens, however, when law becomes part of the public discourse?
Justice is not merely judgment, but also process. If the process is flawed, the verdict is vitiated. Courts accept this and warn against the inequity inherent in a ‘witch-hunt’ or ‘trial by media’. Civilised jurisprudence is based on evidence and statute, not individual or collective emotion.
Justice rests on a fundamental principle: you are innocent until proven guilty. No wrong can be corrected by an absence of rights. The concept of pro bono has been devised to help those who cannot afford legal counsel, so that they can defend themselves in a trial. A police charge-sheet is the start of a trial, not its conclusion.
If DMK MP Kanimozhi consults astrologers, then she has probably been told that every planet in her constellation has turned retrograde. In the summer of 2009, she was a queen in Chennai and a princess in Delhi. Today, she is defeated in Chennai and the most high-profile prisoner in Delhi. But she is in jail as an accused, not as a convict. There is a world of difference between the two. If she is found guilty after due process, the judges must send her to prison as long as the law permits. But until that decision is made, she is innocent. In the interim, custody can only be a minimalist option, for a special set of reasons, for a finite and reasonable period. Instead, the CBI is demanding, and getting, what seems to be turning into an infinite extension of custody. This is injustice.
India lives by a Constitution that guarantees life and liberty. Bail is not a gift from those who wield temporary power (fortunately, power can only be temporary in a democracy); it is a right. Otherwise, we are one step away from a police state, in which any citizen can be locked up at the arbitrary will of authority. This has happened before, during the Emergency. We thought it would never happen again.
The CBI wants all the accused in the 2G case be kept in jail indefinitely, despite the fact that their interrogation is over, or should be. The courts comply, citing two reasons. One of them is “gravity of the case”. This is inaccurate. As it stands, there is only the gravity of an accusation, not the gravity of the crime. Crime is yet to be proven.
There is more than one opinion about what happened.
The Government of India’s official stand, stated in parliament by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, is that there was no loss to government.
We all want to, and must, end corruption. But should we destroy the legal process in this effort?
The CBI is selective. There is evidence that Congress ministers were complicit in the decision through which 2G licences were granted. No action has been initiated against them. There is, however, neither administrative restraint nor legal constraint against the DMK, an ally which has been turned into a scapegoat to appease an outraged public.
The second official reason for denying bail is that the accused might tamper with evidence, or pressurise potential witnesses. A. Raja and Kanimozhi were free for many weeks after proceedings began. If they did not tamper or pressurise then, how can they do so now? This excuse is too thin to stand without an artificial prop.
Indian courts honour the right to bail. Wazlul Kamar Khan, whose name was on Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s “Famous 50” list of wanted “terrorists” sent to Pakistan, has been given bail in Maharashtra. Terrorism, one presumes, is more worrisome than corruption, whichever way you want to draw the chart of judicial gravity. No one has called Raja or Kanimozhi a terrorist. Why should an accused in a terrorist case be given bail, but not them?
Very Important People get into trouble everywhere. The police are rarely polite; it isn’t in their training manual. But the law respects the rights of an accused. Former IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested from an airplane, locked up in a small cell and paraded before cameras, unshaven and haggard. He has been indicted on seven counts, including sexual molestation of a hotel maid. But he is out on bail. Recently, American billionaire Raj Rajaratnam became the face of financial corruption when he was convicted for insider trading. But the New York police did not seek to jail him before judgment.
There is one prison in the free world where you cannot get bail: Guantanamo, America’s preferred penitentiary for suspected terrorists. We are, fortunately, nowhere near that ominous stage yet. But the road to many destinations, including hell, can be paved with good intentions.
The columnist is editor of The Sunday Guardian, published from Delhi, India on Sunday, published from London and Editorial Director, India Today and Headlines Today.
We hear that the Pakistan Navy hierarchy is so embarrassed about the PNS Mehran terrorist attack and follow up questions about embedded support for terrorists that it is actually working on a salvage plan. The idea is to find national heroes within its ranks. Since BMW-driving chiefs with bumbling statements do not fit the picture, it is thinking on the lines of a Nishan-e-Haider for at least one of the young officers killed in the horrific incident. However, there is another view that the bosses should shed their billionaire life styles, close down shadi ghars and other “milbus” activities, stop counting free plots, freebies and personal investments and get down to doing the job they are so overpaid for. Will some one take a vote on this?
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We hear that during last week’s visit to China, PM Yousef Raza Gilani bared a secret that may come as a surprise even to those who claim to keep a close eye on his past and present. It all unraveled at Beijing University. While addressing an audience of students, he confessed that his earliest career choice was medicine not politics. However, he did not get the required marks to make it into medical college. Not to be deterred by such minor details, our PM’s father approached the governor of the province and requested that he adjust the young Gilani on the Governor quota in medical colleges. Guv did not oblige either and so the young Gilani registered at the journalism department of Punjab University, entered politics and the rest is history.
Lesson of the story: If you get high marks, you become a doctor; but if you do not, you can always become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
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Could one rumour doing the round of “Osamabad” qualify as “There is no smoke without a fire”. It goes that after the US Navy SEALs’ operation in Abbottabad, Clinton rang up the Man on the Hill in Islamabad and gave him an offer that he did refuse. She told him that if Islamabad wanted to take credit it was welcome to do so. If it did not, that too was also acceptable to Washington. The Man said no thank you. You are welcome to own it. And so they looked like Rambos and Terminators and so we looked like the idiots we probably are.
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There were a number of key decisions taken in the past by military generals which amply indicate that the army lacks the capacity to look at vital issues in a comprehensive manner. These decisions subsequently had a highly negative impact on Pakistan’s security, social structure and economy.
Zia-ul-Haq and his generals simply failed to visualise the consequences when they decided to provide all out support to America’s proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan. The ISI helped CIA bring in thousands of jihadis from all over the world and accommodated them in the tribal areas and in what is Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The involvement in the civil war brought in millions of Afghan refugees and tens of thousands of lethal weapons. The country was turned into a conduit for heroin trade and a big consumer of the drug. This original sin gave birth to a chain of negative consequences, some of which still continue to pester the country.
The military establishment ensured that the policy of support to the extremists and militants was not abandoned even after Zia’s removal. A number of top security officials got transformed into extremists as they groomed the international jihadi brigade.
Musharraf and the generals under him failed to realise the dangers of continuing to back the Taliban regime which was harbouring OBL and turning Afghanistan into a launchpad for the terrorists to destabilise the region. Thousands of Pakistanis were encouraged by extremist organisations to get training in bomb making, sabotage activities, guerilla warfare in camps run by Pakistani instructors. These elements were to subsequently turn their guns against their trainers and patrons.
Musharraf and the GHQ under him again failed to realise the long term implications of yielding to the US demands. In a misconceived attempt to ‘turn the calamity into opportunity’, Musharraf handed over bases inside Pakistan to the US, from which drones were to subsequently fly.
The army leadership is still taking vital decisions relating to security and foreign relations despite an elected government being in office. Instead of allowing the government to decide how to react to the Abbottabad affair, the generals issued a policy statement maintaining that another raid of a similar kind would prompt a review of military cooperation with the United States. The Prime Minister who had supported the US action earlier was made to look like a fool.
Meanwhile the decision by the parliament to conduct an independent enquiry into the Abbottabad failures has not been implemented for opposition from the powers that be. What appears is that the army wants the parliament to be no more than a body which takes responsibility for army’s decisions and lends support to it whenever the army faces the unhappy consequences of its faulty policies.
The policies have led to a point where over 35,000 civilians and about 5,000 security personnel have been killed by the terrorists; the economy is in tatters and, except for China, Pakistan is left with no friend.
Meanwhile, retired senior military officers and pro-establishment politicians and commentators have launched a barrage of criticism to malign the civilian government for a sellout to the US, maintaining that the war on terror is not Pakistan’s war but a US ploy to take away the country’s nuclear assets. The critics conveniently forget that the army leadership continues to remain, as before, the sole author of the policies regarding terrorism and relations with the US and Afghanistan. If the CIA has interrogated OBL’s wives, or the US helicopter destroyed in Abbottabad is being returned or the CIA allowed to scour OBL’s Abbottabad compound, this is happening courtesy the non-political powers.
The problem with the parliamentary leadership is partly lack of initiative and partly fear of the army. However, unless the parliament is ready to assert itself, policies will continue to be formulated by the off-stage players.
The work done by the parliament in modern times is both varied in nature and considerable in volume. A good deal of its business is, therefore, transacted by what are called the parliamentary committees.
The parliament has set up three committees to deal with security and defence. They however suffer from a number of shortcomings. As a recent PILDAT study points out, the absence of parliamentary leadership in defining policy and overseeing its implementation is most stark in the present national security scenario. It is time parliament demands its right to be informed on security related issues.
It is ironic that while the US Congress undertakes a periodic review of its strategy in Afghanistan, Pakistan chooses to remain confined to just responding to events.
The comparison with other parliamentary democracies, such as India and the UK, shows that our committees lag far behind in efficiency. They need to hold more meetings, publish more reports and send more recommendations to parliament than they have done so far. Sustaining democracy requires eternal vigilance by parliament which is presently lacking.
The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.
There is much talk about the debacle at PNS Mehran airbase. Divergent opinions have been flaunted with regard to the security failure at the site and apportioning. There has even been a demand for convening an open joint session of the parliament to discuss the terrorist attack on the naval base in Karachi.
First to the call for a joint session of the parliament: I think the demand defies logic in the wake of the non-implementation of the decisions taken at the last joint in-camera session of the parliament, specially the one relating to the constitution of an independent commission to look into the US incursion into Pakistan on May. Not only that there has been no movement on the issue, there also appears to be no hope of the same happening any time in the future. Then the resolution about the blocking of the NATO supply route if the drone strikes continued: the predator attacks have persisted unabated, but the government and the parliament are in deep slumber. Are these parliamentary sessions only about scoring cruel political points, as they appear to be or, are they ever going to carry any meaning to restoring the much-trumpeted ‘sovereignty of the parliament’ – a trick that is jointly employed by the two leading political parties of the country to perpetuate their self-serving claim on power.
Saying that there was a security breach at PNS Mehran would be an understatement. Anyone defying that reality, as indeed some experts have attempted to do, is tantamount to saying that the sun rises in the West. What is, however, obvious is that if the kind of security mechanism that was in place at the base is persisted with, breaches would continue in the future. Given that a successful terrorist attack has taken place in a high security zone resulting in immense human and material loss would also be incentive for the miscreants to undertake such operations in the future. So, what are we doing about it? On the face of it – really nothing! Just about everything, the pre- as well as post-incident, has been faulty. As always, the interior minister’s briefing was comic in content and presentation. The Chief of Naval Staff’s contention that Navy was not to blame for the breach needs a commission of enquiry of its own. What is even more worrisome is that, according to media reports, he blamed the adjoining air force establishment of the security lapse. Is it that, in addition to the political players enacting gruesome scenes on media channels, we are also going to witness our services chiefs blaming each other in public for such incidents? Wouldn’t this be construed as violation of service discipline?
Pakistan seems to be losing the battle to control violence which seems to be increasing both in frequency and intensity. The death of Osama bin Laden has further incensed the extremists who now seem bent on taking their battle into a different zone. But, the fault lies squarely with us and our myopic and servile ruling clique – including the inept and clueless opposition. The very concept of Pakistan being part of the US-led ‘war on terror’ is grievously wrong. This was never Pakistan’s war and will never be. Pakistan’s leadership has only made it so because that is why they were inducted into power in the first place – vide the inimitable National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). They were brought in as replacement for an errant dictator so that they could improve upon his sell-out. That they have done so impeccably is a testament to their having bartered Pakistan’s sovereignty for a stint in power to advance the US cause. It is them that the people of Pakistan have to deal with first. Everything else would fall in place as a natural sequel to their ouster.
What is frightening, though, is that there are increasing question marks about the army’s conduct. The fact that the army played a role in the framing of the NRO is a given. But, what is disturbing is that the so-called ‘democratic’ government is being allowed to barter Pakistan’s strategic interests without a check either from the parliament or the judiciary. The former has been rendered totally irrelevant as all decisions are being taken in the presidency, while the edicts of the latter have been flouted blatantly and repeatedly. One understands that the army is not interested in playing a political role – and for a number of good reasons, too. One also understands that the democratic process should not be impeded. Should it, therefore, follow that the game of selling Pakistan out would continue unabated?
The government having lost its legitimacy, the parliament having rendered itself subservient to the will of an individual and the judiciary having been deprived of its moral authority, what are the options that the state of Pakistan has been left with to ultimate extrication from this abominably erroneous concept of a ‘war on terror’ which, by all logical descriptions, has degenerated to becoming a ‘war of terror’? There is only one two-pronged solution to this advancing demonic incursion of Pakistan’s security paradigm. First, immediate induction of a credible, legitimate and sovereign government under a fully independent Election Commission and transparent voters’ lists that would re-evaluate Pakistan’s security interests and formulate a mechanism for their protection and advancement. Second, in an environment of a steep and rapid degenerative cycle that Pakistan seems caught up in, and much that one would want the army to stay out of this, it cannot shy away from playing a role that is clearly envisioned in the constitution vide Article 190: it has to lend unquestioned support for ensuring implementation of all judicial decisions. Some of them have awaited implementation for long while others, one understands, are not being issued because of fear that they, too, would meet a similar fate.
In the event the above is not undertaken without any loss of time, one fears Pakistan would be rapidly sucked into a whirlpool of self-engineered catastrophe. That would be truly tragic and a waste of such enormous potential! So, account for now, or be held accountable – by history.
The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com
The Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) met May 25, three days after the brazen attack on PNS Mehran and reportedly directed the “security, defence and law enforcement agencies to use all necessary means” to fight terrorism. The DCC, we are told, wants all state institutions to coordinate their efforts to this end.
A statement after the meeting said that “The DCC expressed full confidence in the ability and the capacity of the armed forces and law-enforcement and intelligence agencies in meeting all threats to national security.” This was the second meeting of the DCC in a month, the first called after the US incursion into Pakistan which, according to reports, killed Osama bin Laden.
I ask this because while it is good to see the DCC active, two points need to be considered. One, the DCC’s current activeness is not proactive but reactive. It has responded to two events, both different in nature but of extraordinary nature. The DCC, as I have written elsewhere, needs to become proactive – i.e., it must not wait to be convened in reaction to extraordinary events. It must, given what we are going through, meet regularly to monitor and calibrate the counterterrorism policy.
Two, not only is it not sufficient to respond to audacious attacks by expressing confidence, full no less, in the ability and capacity of the security apparatus, it goes against all available facts. The security apparatus, as configured currently, is ill-suited to the kind of war we are fighting and it makes no sense to sweep facts under the carpet. Consider.
The enemy has repeatedly proven that he is confident, audacious, highly trained, motivated and ready to strike at will. While this war is not of the regular kind, the one basic postulate of victory applies here as much as to inter-state war: victory comes when the enemy’s will to fight has been broken. By no stretch of the imagination have we been able to do that so far. The enemy’s actions prove this.
Let me here state for clarity that military operations in Malakand and other parts of FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), which captured territory, comprise just a fraction of what is needed. Terrorist groups, when faced with a superior force, will not try to hold territory. Those operations were important. But they do not constitute victory. They are a necessary but not sufficient condition to gain advantage over the enemy.
In fact, the enemy has now dispersed to prevent the security forces from finding and engaging a concentrated centre of gravity. By losing territory the enemy has gained his essential advantages – dispersal, surprise, mobility. It retains enough trained numbers to form small cells and inflict disproportionate losses on the state. PNS Mehran is a case in point: four highly trained terrorists, backed by meticulous planning and security loopholes, managed to inflict terrible financial and human loss on the state.
The attack also shows the enemy will now target equipment to try and degrade the capability of the state to be effective against it. This is its reaction to losing territory; it has brought the war to the urban centres and will strike at hard targets to signal to everyone that it retains the capability to attack security forces. What we will see now is urban war and we are totally unprepared for it: bomb attacks; suicide missions; armed raids; and even assassinations. All of this has already happened; the impetus will now increase.
This kind of war first and foremost requires effective intelligence and policing. The police has very little capacity to respond to this threat. Nor are its intelligence agencies up to the task, lucky breakthroughs notwithstanding. The force needs drastic reorganisation.
What about the army? The answer again is no. No part of the security apparatus is ready for this phase of the war. The government cannot ignore this. Therefore, it is not enough for the DCC to come up with platitudes about what great work the security apparatus is doing and, in the same breath, emphasise the imperative of coordinating efforts. At the minimum it shows that currently that is not happening.
We need for the DCC to tell us (a) whether there is a comprehensive counterterrorism policy ( if there is, its declassified parts should be up for debate); (b) is there a proposal to reconfigure the security apparatus, or at least those forces that are to be directly involved with counterinsurgency and CT; if no, why not? If yes, what are its contours; (c) if a reconfiguration is on the cards or is being done, what kind of budget is provided for it; is there a thought about the equipment that is needed; if yes, is it being procured etcetera. This last point is important especially if it is accepted, on the basis of some reports, that in the case of the attack on Mehran, the attackers were equipped with NVGs (night vision goggles) while the responding force was not. And this is just one example and at the low end of the spectrum.
Of course, not everything can be put out in the public domain. For instance, some capabilities, in order to be effective, must remain secret. But the issues up for debate are the broad ones. They may not deal with finer details which for reasons of secrecy should remain hidden from the public eye. However, an informed debate does not always require perfect information; nor does it deal with the minutiae. What it does require is some information, the irreducible minimum, to help one understand what is happening.
Moreover, the government, as I have suggested at another place, needs to put together a group of experts from various fields which can liaise between the government and the security apparatus. This is a must. This group can not only give external input but also carry the information necessary for interaction with the public through the media. It is crucial for the government to dominate the narrative, something it has thus far failed to do. And that is why we have not even gone past two basic questions: whose war is it, and why we are fighting it.
The writer is Contributing Editor, The Friday Times.
Even if the $72 million pile of smoldering debris at PNS Mehran was cleared up in the blink of an eye, the debacle has given rise to too many questions that simply cannot be brushed under the carpet. The onslaught at the Navy’s largest Airbase is bound to give sleepless nights to Pakistan’s military planners. Given the fact that it is located in what is assumed to be a highly secure area is only part of the problem. What is particularly worrisome is the apparent sophistication and planning behind the commando raid. The attack itself was marked by rocket bombardment and involved a highly trained assault team that easily infiltrated the site before purposefully attacking the aircraft.
This takes on greater significance when one considers the shocking vulnerability of Pakistan’s prized defense assets. Given the venerable status of its Atlantique fleet, Pakistan’s anti-ship capability is now almost entirely dependant on the P-3C Orion. Costing a cool $36 million each (it is unclear whether this includes the cost of regular upgrades), they constitute a vital component of Pakistani naval strategy. In tandem with its powerful Harpoon missiles and ability to range out at will over the Indian Ocean, the Orion has a significant edge over its Indian counterparts and represents the only genuine counter to India’s naval preponderance.
But the most potent and expensive of warplanes are powerless against any threat while stationary on the ground. Furthermore, the incident is marked by more than a passing resemblance to a spectacular raid conducted by the Tamil Tigers against the Katunayake Airbase in July 2001. The suicide mission destroyed twelve combat aircraft within minutes, nearly incapacitating the fledgling Sri Lankan Air force. The infiltrators then moved on the civilian side of the facility and blew up half the national air fleet.
While the attack on naval base was thankfully not as severe, we may be on the cusp of a disturbing escalation in terms of the targets being struck in the terrorist campaign. Militants seem to have come to a decision that they will hurt the military more if they target its assets in contrast to its personnel. This is a breathtaking move not only in terms of audacity but also in terms of the damage inflicted on the military as an institution. The concept of strategic balance in the context of regional rivals becomes even more fluid, when this factor is considered. Pakistan’s most vital defense installations are apparently exposed and the danger posed is dire.
Take for example, the potential arms that militants could deploy in the near future. In terms of the defense of Pakistan’s airbases, a very major threat comes in the form of the Anti Material Rifle (AMR), a large caliber sniper rifle which fires an armour piercing round designed to disable armoured vehicles. Coupled with a telescopic sight, it allows the user to disable a military aircraft, hitting vulnerable sections such as the engine with devastating accuracy from a mile away.
If for example, a PAF airbase is subjected to a similar attack, terrorists armed with these rifles will have Pakistan’s precious F-16s or AWACs at their complete mercy and all for the cost of a few bullets. This nightmare scenario becomes even more plausible when we consider that such rifles have proliferated and are now being produced not only in China, Russia and the US but also by as unlikely candidates as Azerbaijan, Croatia, Hungary and most worryingly, India.
There also seems to be a lack of planning with regards to handheld surface to air missiles (SAMs). These potent weapons are designed to home in on the infrared signature of an aircraft which is most exposed when it is either landing or taking off. A major shortcoming of the system is its limited range. But this disadvantage is negated by the fact that a majority of defense installations are located in densely populated areas often at the behest of military authorities that create lucrative housing schemes in the first place which are disturbingly close to sensitive sites.
Hopefully, this attack will serve as a wake up call for the military to drastically beef up the security of its facilities taking into consideration non-conventional threats. Merely taking precautionary measures such as storing the Orions in hardened air shelters (HAS) with limited access which would have gone a long way in reducing the disastrous impact of the raid. Given the cost to the public entailed by the procurement of such prohibitively costly equipment, there needs to be firm commitment not limited to meaningless cant. It is time to up the ante; the militants have drastically raised their game, it is time for us to do the same.
After all, ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’ was not said in vain. The unraveling in all the principal pillars of the state that we are now witnessing was to a significant degree our own doing – a consequence of the flawed policies pursued by the establishment for three decades on the trot.
In the afterglow of success against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, unleashing jihadists was the stratagem devised by that evil-spirited Cromwell in the mid 1980s to bleed India on the cheap in Kashmir and elsewhere. There have been reminders all along of how terribly tarnished this policy of ‘proxy war’ was, nothing putting it in sharper relief than the weekend’s devastation at Karachi’s Mehran Naval Air Base. Our chickens have finally come home to roost.
A further two deadly suicide attacks in the North, the first killing 98 FC recruits and injuring well over a hundred, the second demolishing the CID police building at Peshawar three days after the one at Karachi, were other demonstrations of the reach and the frequency with which the terrorists can torment us.
The Frankenstein that our bright strategists had created and let loose in the neighbourhood, ironically destroyed a brace of the Orion P-3C air craft – our navy’s premier possessions meant to be used to counter Indian aggression from the sea.
Coming close on the heels of the Abbottabad fiasco, this blow has left our forces with so much egg on their face that hosing it down would take some doing. Well and truly hoisted by their own petard, the guardians of our security would be so insecure in their own lair that half a dozen terrorists could wreak such havoc and for so long, is so contrary to the image of our forces that it has left the whole nation despondent.
Amid all this, the chief of naval staff had the cheek to come in front of the cameras and claim that there was no security breach, which reflects the world of make-believe and absolute lack of accountability that permeates our forces.
Quite contrary to the naval chief’s assertions in the news conference, the security at the base was so sloppy that even the retired army officers could pull rank and take a short cut through the base on their way to Hawke’s Bay or Sand Spit. No guard towers, no floodlights all along the perimeter of the base in these days when our forces have been under relentless attack by a cunning foe, was inexcusable. That there were no defences inside the base in case someone slipped through the easily accessible perimeter when some of our most valuable naval assets were parked there – an inviting target for the terrorists – also points to carelessness.
Another issue that the attack brought to the fore is whether this was an inside job. The ease with which they could make it to the base, from the spot most vulnerable, to heading towards the naval part of the base while giving a wide berth to the area under the air force’s control too makes one infer that insider information was available to the assailants. One news report suggests that everyone at the base is a suspect at the moment.
Horrifying as it seems, this by no means would be the first instance when members of the security establishment were found to be in cahoots with the militants. But then how could one imagine that our armed forces would remain immune to the division of the society, say on sectarian lines– a division carefully created by our master spooks, with the help of entities that apart from their continued patronage also draw sustenance from a number of Arab countries and the more pious from our trading and mercantile class.
For the second time this month, further accentuating public despondency and cynicism was the apparent rudderlessness of state institutions. The political class, including the president and the prime minister, either went into hiding and the federal defence minister proceeded on a foreign tour. And when someone did speak out, such as that eternal optimist and blithe spirit, the interior minister, he only managed to add to the existing confusion. Was this perhaps the revenge of the politicians, who are otherwise browbeaten into toeing the military’s line in all matters under the sun – especially on defence, foreign affairs and now increasingly finance, but at the same time are also expected to bail out the forces when there is a disaster like the Abbottabad raid?
A paradigm shift is therefore urgently needed in order to put the tottering house in order, both as regards the internal balance of power, which implies civilian ascendancy over the military and not the other way round, in rooting out the extremist elements that may have penetrated the armed forces over the years and in reducing radicalism in the society.
The writer is Sports and Magazines Editor, Pakistan Today.
Very soon, if serious and positive action is not taken, we will be hit by a tornado inflicting severe damage to the existence of our country. While some of us enveloped in ‘denial sheaths’ were busy organizing ‘dharnas’ protesting the OBL incident, those conspiring to debilitate Pakistan were rampant in attacking our very core. Following the massive loss of life in Charsadda comes this onslaught on the naval airbase at Karachi.
In what is fast becoming another unresolved mystery in Pakistan’s armour, an audacious group of terrorists arrogantly attacked and took “partial” control of the premier combined air force and naval airbase in the very heart of Karachi. Coming in the wake of an expected post-OBL increase and government directives for enhanced surveillance and security measures, this attack has exposed the inherent flaws prevailing in the process.
The attack has hit an already shocked nation even harder than the Abbottabad event. It confirms without any doubt that this war is ours and no one else’s. Some circles have been trying hard to deny this fact despite all the evidence. One hopes this is the clincher that will put an end to that ridiculous notion and unite this country on the reality factor.
The official release on the event has been very weak. No one is ready to believe that this is not a security lapse. Nor is anyone willing to accept that this not part of a conspiracy that involves an “inside” factor. And that preposterous statement, “all naval assets are safe” needs strong condemnation. Are personnel, aircraft, installations and structures not assets? Is the violated security of the entire base, a very important asset that includes the entire air force southern command, not affected by this breach? So let’s be absolutely clear, assets have been compromised.
An unknown number of attackers, some say four, killed ten and injured fifteen during an operation lasting sixteen to seventeen hours. It is worrying that despite deployment of air cover, elite commandos, security personnel and civil armed forces, not one attacker was captured. Two apparently even escaped according to reports. One paper has also reported that even the bus evacuating foreign personnel from the base was attacked and riddled with bullet holes.
The numbers of questions this raises are uncountable. What is most important though is the level of readiness and the delayed response time. This begins to affect the invincibility of our forces. And when a retired senior uniformed officer goes on television and says that the attackers had planned better than the forces, it sends shock waves down our spines.
Why does this happen repeatedly is a question doing the rounds right now. The answer does not need any special intellectual input. It is simply because we have historically not taken punitive decisions tough enough to send a loud and clear message. There have been numerous serious incidents involving security forces that include two attempts on the life of the current head of state at the time. Whereas one cannot say there have not been investigations and enquiries, the results have been wanting.
Current action pending investigations needs to be positively acknowledged; however considering the proximity of the base to the air force base, it is hoped that the enquiry encompasses the overall security of the base and not just the naval end of it. Of course shrouded in secrecy and security as internal issues within the forces are, we will probably just get a whiff of it in due course. One can only hope that the people of Pakistan are given a clear and transparent rendition of this outrageous event when findings are available. This will enhance the reputation of forces and remove any doubts creeping in.
It goes without saying that the hitherto cautious rumbles hinting at infiltration within the forces are now becoming a loud growl. There is an immediate need to profile those serving the nation. While one acknowledges the immense service rendered to the nation and the devotion and dedication to the state by the majority, there is little denying that certain elements have succeeded in brainwashing a minority and it needs to be filtered immediately.
Internal security needs to move precisely and urgently to quell this storm before it spirals out of control. Action needs to be taken without any level of compromise. There are times in the life of a nation that require life-saving measures; that time has come for Pakistan. A decade of uninterrupted war has left the country wanting in many spheres. Faulty and self-serving reasoning has swayed actions and decisions. The nation comes first.
Despite dharnas and some preposterous dialogue by holier than thou participants and retired officials on television, the last few days have seen some pretty solid defences of Pakistan by television anchors and the majority of participants. Reality appears to be setting in finally that this is our war and that the storm is rising on our horizon. The majority will hold steadfast to defeat a tiny majority that is making a wild attempt to take us hostage. Pakistan Paindabad.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
The details regarding the attack on the PNS Mehran base are splattered all over the media. Pakistan’s defence forces are in a bit of a tight spot. We need to encourage them and not put them down further. Their mistakes are many. But the time for criticism was when these mistakes were being made. I am surprised that the sycophants who spent their time in power buttering up generals and begging them are now the vanguard of its critics. When Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf were in power, nobody dared opened their mouth in front of them. Many were in fact eulogisers. I, poor mortal, also had to face the dictatorial wrath of these three generals. Not many journalists can claim to have been the first target of the benevolent gaze of each of these dictators once they came into power.
Yahya filed a case on me under clause 16-A of the martial law and had me rot in the veranda of People’s House Lahore (where the proceedings of the martial law courts were held) for days on end. Zia-ul-Haq threw me in such a dungeon that the floor was a bed of piercing pebbles for seven days; it felt like I was in paradise when I was shifted to Kot Lakhpat after those seven days. Whereas Zia-ul-Haq claimed that I would be hanged upside down from a tree, Pervez Musharraf chose the PM house as the place for my sequestration. I went there on 12th October to make some changes in the PM’s speech. I had to spend 20 days in the drawing room. These military governments have subjected me to many ignominies. I haven’t forgotten them. But I’ve always kept an important distinction in mind: when the army has defended the country, I have nothing but tributes to give to it; it was the object of my criticism only when it meddled in politics.
The fact that the politicos and media persons fed and patronised by the Army are now its most vociferous critics should be lesson enough for the generals that politics and media gaming are not for them. If the army had restricted itself to its professional duties, nobody would have dared point a finger at it. All the censure being thrown around these days is the result of the political role of past generals. Recently turned critics are striking while the iron is hot for trying to avenge their fecklessness in the face of those generals.
This is not the time to settle scores. Pakistan is facing very real dangers. The institutions of our army are now the prime target of terrorists. But all and sundry are hell bent on evening the count with the army. Why were those who remember currying favours from the army in the form of bakeries, wedding halls, trading factories, free bungalows, and free agricultural acres silent when all of this was taking place? It wasn’t a while ago when Ayesha Siddiqa couldn’t find a place to launch her book about the non-military activities of the army. That was the time when one couldn’t find many to publish their views. Contrast that with now when one is hard pressed to find someone who is not talking against the army.
The way our foolhardy generals and politicians gave the country to the US on a platter was a basic and historic mistake. They did not realise that a superpower is much more ruthless and bloodthirsty than an enemy neighbour of the same pedigree. It isn’t concerned with the travails of those that feed off its aid. All it cares about is their geo-strategic importance and using their resources. It doesn’t care what happens to the dependant country in the process. We threw ourselves to the lions in the process of saving ourselves from the wolves. Pakistan has been pushed into this state by the US through its acolyte generals. Our society was destroyed through Zia as the cancerous problems of violence, corruption, drugs, arms, occupation of land, crime and smuggling spread throughout: it was like a rot to the core.
The last stage of destruction was led to completion by General Pervez Musharraf which left us at a virtual cul-de-sac. The nuclear power, gaining of which led to Pakistan and India deciding to solve the Kashmir issue, is now a burden to bear for us. And that for the sole reason that Pervez Musharraf closed all doors to reconciliation by covertly initiating the Kargil operation. Terrorists are now the boulet of Pakistan. None of our cities, institution or sensitive installments is off-limits for terrorists.
Our generals thought that we could fool America and also take their dollars. But there is one rule of engagement with a superpower: Don’t have close relations with one and if you do, then don’t try to trick it. Henry Kissinger once famously quipped that it is more dangerous being America’s ally than its enemy. What General Musharraf did, and what later became a policy, was nothing but chicanery with the US. Now a wrathful US wants its pound of flesh. The conciliatory statements that emanate from US officials are mere emollients. Even if relations with the US are restored fully, will the army be able to reverse the damage done to its public image? The mistrust between the public and army has been created by the US which is also taking steps to prove that our defence capabilities are ineffectual.
No war has impacted the image of the army the way the attack on the GHQ, the Abbottabad operation and the Mehran base attack have. The more Pak-US relation improve, the more the army will move away from the public. We are now stuck badly. America’s good favour is also trouble for us and its enmity is also nothing but trouble. The only option for us is to begin with a clean slate and work to formulate a joint policy. Right now, we are self-devouring our own organs. In such a case, you don’t need an enemy. The humiliation we are being subjected to in the American media and political circles would be enough to shame anybody. Satirical talk shows are saying that a ladder is enough to penetrate sensitive areas in Pakistan and if you want to access the nuclear arsenal, then you need merely a donkey cart in addition to a ladder!
To conclude, I would like to present the gist of what an American analyst said about us: “The army itself is targeting its own institutions, that it played gracious host to OBL, the politicians over there support the terrorists that blow innocent people to smithereens, that the army doesn’t trust the politicians, the politicians don’t trust the army and they engage in trickery with each other. The media is at the forefront of misguiding people. Despite this, this country is surviving. We Trust in God”
The writer is one of Pakistan’s most widely read columnists.
Thousands of people gathered at Karachi’s Native Jetty bridge on Saturday to block a NATO supply route in response to a call by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf chairman Imran Khan. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan was not present on the occasion.
Responding to the call of the thousands of people, the PTI chief arrived several hours later. Sources following the developments on TV told this scribe the reasons for the delay were security related. “The greatest threat to peace and security and the biggest hurdle in the path to revolution is the heat,” they said, adding that the popular leader joined the protest as soon as the sun had set.
Strict security arrangements had been ensured against this threat with tent roofs for protesters who were more equal than others. “Now I know why Mahatma Gandhi didn’t wear clothes,” a less equal protester said.
Workers of religious parties joined the protests at night, after the threat from the sun had set.
A popular rock singer and other celebrities also joined the protest, but sat in on comfortable chairs on the stage - a move aimed at upholding their sovereignty. “They were provided with chairs in an effort to protect their sovereignty from direct contact with the ground,” an organiser told this scribe.
TV footage showed Imran Khan laying down on a sheet on the ground talking to reporters with his head on a pillow. He was flanked by a number of supporters without sheets or pillows. An organiser said only the PTI chief was allowed a pillow because of concerns that a pillow fight might break out and lead to untoward incidents. Sources said on condition of anonymity that this was not the first time Imran Khan had been found lying on the ground late on a Saturday night. “However, he has learned from his mistakes,” they said.
In his speech, Khan said US drone attacks on terrorist hideouts in Pakistan were the cause of terrorism in the country. Asked if there had been any terrorist attacks before the predator strikes began, the PTI leader pretended not to listen. In a similar argument, Khan said his hair had been falling because he was worried, and he was worried because his hair was falling. “Please do not forget to come again tomorrow,” Khan told the protesters at the end of his speech.
Leaders of his party said hundreds of thousands of innocent Pakistani civilians, including women and children, had been killed in the American drone attacks. The people killed in suicide and car bombings by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups were mostly terrorists, they said.
The schedule for the two-day sit-in to block the supply route was as follows.
Saturday 2pm-5pm: protest against America
5pm to 6pm: lunch at McDonalds
6pm to 9pm: continuous two-day sit in
9pm: end of day one of protest and reopening of the route
Sunday 6pm: Imran Khan’s speech
Monday morning: NATO transporters resume work as weekend ends
Late on Sunday, more than a dozen gunmen attacked a Naval base in Karachi. Defence experts were not immediately available for comment. Retired military officials began posting comments online by Monday morning. “Worst. Hangover. Ever,” one expert posted on his profile early on Monday.
A PTI leader said the raid had been orchestrated by America to divert attention from his party’s sit-in.
Earlier on Sunday, political and religious leaders had warned of US designs. They said the US was behind all terror attacks in Pakistan. Asked if in that case, withdrawing Islamabad’s support to Washington would worsen the attacks, a religious leader among the protesters reached for his shoe. This scribe escaped from the scene, citing security reasons.
The writer is a media critic and the News Editor, The Friday Times. He can be reached at email@example.com
Politicians often make loaded remarks to convey what they have in mind without spelling it out explicitly. However, when a country’s Prime Minister takes to such an exercise, it means he wants to say something specific but does not like to face the storm it might evoke.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at Kolkata a few days ago that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has given more jobs to Muslims than the Left government in West Bengal. He may be factually correct. But does this lessen Modi’s crime of planning and executing the killing of Muslims in 2002? Roughly 3,000 Muslims were killed and many more thousands looted and ousted from their homes and lands.
This uncalled for praise of Modi is ominous in many ways. The Supreme Court had appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to reopen the cases of fake encounters and other crimes. The Gujarat government and, more so, Modi were in the dock. Do the Prime Minister’s remarks reflect in any way the central government’s thinking on the judgment? The verdict was yet to be delivered and Modi had already started preparing the ground for criticising the judgment.
Some 14 policemen, who were being prosecuted, had said that they had no faith in the SIT inquiry. Another disclosure has tumbled out of the State’s cupboard. This time the state Inspector General of Police Sanjeev Bhatt has spilled the beans. He has said in an affidavit that Modi wanted the police to let Hindus “ventilate their feelings” and “teach a lesson to the Muslims.” The police officer was referring to a top-level meeting on February 27 after the Godhara incident when a train compartment was set on fire.
I have had no doubt about Modi’s involvement from day one. When I visited Ahmedabad two days after the killings and talked to men and women in refugee camps, I could reconstruct a story of a pre-meditated murder of Muslims in the entire Gujarat state and their forcible eviction from homes and hearths. It was a familiar pattern of killing and looting, with police staying at distance.
Looking back, it is apparent that India’s secular polity did little even after knowing Modi’s culpability. Seven years ago, the Supreme Court took notice of fake encounters for the first time. It appointed SIT under its own supervision. Even though late, the entire conspiracy is being peeled out like the skin of an onion. SIT has submitted the report to the Supreme Court this week with the finding on whether Modi had actually ordered police officers to take no action against rioters.
One person who could have taken action against Modi was Bhartiya Janata Party’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee but he did not have the political support to take on the RSS and Advani at the same time. However, lack of action does not change the fact of Modi’s involvement. A police official has said that Bhatt was not present at the meeting. But Bhatt’s driver has told the media that he drove his boss to Modi’s bungalow for the meeting.
However, lack of action does not change the fact of Modi’s involvement. A police official had said that Bhatt was not present at the meeting where Modi had given the instructions. But Bhatt’s driver had told the media that he drove his boss to Modi’s bungalow for the meeting. Strange, the entire campaign of government was directed at denying Bhatt’s presence at the meeting. More important was his affidavit which leaves no doubt about Modi’s guilt.
All eyes are focused on the Supreme Court, although there are allegations that SIT has been selective in admitting evidence. Whether his fresh affidavit was taken into account before SIT gave its report is not known.
The question which the government of India has to answer is whether it would take any action at all. If it were a matter of moral responsibility, the chief minister should have quit long ago. Instead, Modi built a campaign to show how Gujarat had achieved 12 per cent growth rate and how his tight administration was an example for the rest of the country.
Ultimately, the centre will have to decide how to punish Modi. I do not think that the Manmohan Singh government or, for that matter, the Sonia Gandhi-headed Congress has the gumption to do anything even if the Supreme Court passes strictures against Modi, without directly blaming the chief minister. The Prime Minister’s remark at Kolkata gave clear indications about his attitude.
What the nation has to worry about is that one Modi has distorted India’s ethos of pluralism. That he has brainwashed most Gujaratis is a dangerous development. He won the state election even after “ordering” the massacre. The very ideology of secularism is endangered if Modi gets away with what he did. This is the reason why the constitution makers had laid down that the centre could impose President’s rule if there were the breakdown of law and order in a state. Political considerations came in the way of what should have been done nine years ago. His government should have been dismissed. Should the centre be dependent on political exigencies?
It would be a tragedy if such planned killings as happened in Gujarat are decided in a way where he gets the benefit of doubt. Modi’s is a test case for the entire nation, particularly the minorities. Neither the court nor the centre can afford to play with India’s basic structure of the constitution.
The writer is a senior Indian journalist.
We’ve been there, we’ve done that. We even bought the oversized T-shirt and then sold it. For over three years, secure naval facilities smack in the center of our cities have been targeted by terrorists; so why does the attack on PNS Mehran feel like a surrealist nightmare? One would have thought that after attacks on the War College in Lahore’s Government Officer’s Residence area, a slew of bombings in Rawalpindi, and a few buses in Karachi, our sailors would have made the necessary arrangements to defend naval facilities and be hardened enough to take on the terrorist on home ground. Fortunately or unfortunately, after the incident at PNS Mehran we have definitive proof that neither of these objectives are being met. Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to incompetence, but with the recent attack it feels like the confidence we reposed in our government has reached new lows. What exactly is everyone up to?
In many ways the attack on PNS Mehran is comparable to the Abbottabad operation it was meant to avenge. For one thing, both operations succeeded in achieving their objectives with surgical precision. While two holes in OBL seems like a bargain compared to the loss of our long range surveillance Orion aircraft, the attack itself confirms our worst fears—the guards really are asleep. And what’s worse is that the people we have entrusted our national security to appear to be more interested in flashing Harley street smiles and Zegna suits than telling us the truth. The public interest appears to have lost out to commercial interests that have become so ingrained within our organs of state that all manner of shenanigans are said to take place behind the walls of PNS Mehran.
While live footage of the battle in Karachi stands in stark contrast to the information blackout over OBL’s dispatch, here again we have proof of ineptitude. After seventeen hours of failure, the institutional response to the terrorists has cost us several lives and many hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage. And we still can’t say with reasonable certainty whether four, or six, or maybe twelve terrorists managed to take over such a sensitive facility. The incompetence normally associated with Pakistani terrorists is also attributable to the government and its handling of national security issues. How else could any self-respecting terrorist attempt to lay siege to the fortress that is (or was) PNS Mehran?
Few have any idea of the budgets of our national security institutions, and the common man is left with nothing but to ask what all those road blocks and police pickets are in aid of? Surely the citizen standing for hours at a check post waiting to be frisked has the right to know exactly where taxpayer money is going if it’s not helping out those who get a large chunk of it. If seventeen hours and the ensuing confusion is all this government is capable of, then we are probably better off just privatizing our security services. As it stands, commercial interests have gotten so deeply entrenched within the military that marriage halls and other such profit making ventures are operating within PNS Mehran. So we may as well outsource the protection of our facilities to those that are able to discharge that duty effectively.
So here we are again, trying to comprehend the internal struggles of our government agencies as the myth of security explodes around us. Perhaps they all deserve to stand in the corner as the citizens of this country initiate the debate on how to resolve our security lapses with a degree of finality. What is certain is that the nation needs to take drastic measures to ensure security. Shall Pakistan go down the path of the United Arab Emirates and hire a professional security force to protect military infrastructure and facilities. Or given the existing state of affairs, are we going to let some clown try and convince us that military and nuclear assets are secure? After PNS Mehran, it seems the government has lost its credibility and such claims can only make us uncomfortable.
Until we begin to refute the lies continuously being perpetuated by the government, citizens remain as silent victims of the disruptive nature of the war against terror. One thing is for certain though. The sovereignty and honor which Pakistanis are so eager to uphold will not keep this country secure. So perhaps the time is right to condemn such words to the dustbin and call them for what they really are—dirty words for the Land of the Pure.
The writer is a consultant on public policy.