Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blocked roads

By Imtiaz Gul

Published: January 1, 2014
The writer is Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of Pakistan : Before and After Osama
In countries such as Pakistan, the military and civilian elite often bend, break or altogether ignore the law when it comes to self-preservation. Closure, block-off or suspension are often the preferred tools to blunt or neutralise a perceived threat. In Peshawar, for instance, the British-era complex housing the corps commander, straddles the major artery that connects the old town with the Cantonment. Adjacent to the only five-star hotel of the beleaguered city, the corps commander’s residence also overlooks the extremely busy Judicial Complex, as well as the government secretariat. Inconvenienced commuters often ask why, instead of creating additional security barriers inside the huge residence, the extremely busy thoroughfare has been truncated? Already congested, a few hundred metres of the road leading to the residence is occasionally blocked and traffic is diverted to the other side of the road. But this section of the road remains closed — daily — from sunset to early hours, and one side functions as a two-way road.
The barricading of the US consulate in the city tells a similar tale of blatant disregard for the public at large. Routes leading up to the consulate are not only highly guarded, but also dotted with security barriers — erected with or without the consent of the authorities. This has turned the area into a virtual military zone.
Some 40 kilometres south of Peshawar, short of the Kohat Tunnel, you come across a similar situation; a section of the highway has been closed and the other side has been converted into a two-way road to secure a military-led Frontier Corps facility. The heavy traffic emerging out of or heading towards the tunnel is forced to move on the same side of the road. Surprisingly, the military facility is large enough for constructing a protection wall or barrier inside the compound.
The Quetta Cantonment offers a similar sorry tale; here, commuters endure humiliating questioning, and at times, insulting physical checks by the personnel deployed there. This has also virtually turned the British-era Lourdes Hotel into a prison because the hotel can only be accessed by going past the security check posts. On every visit to Quetta, you come across new regulations and barriers — all in the name of security. And ironically, hardly any of these measures prevented terrorists from executing their plans. Most of these measures also reflect the reactive nature of state institutions, which work to the great inconvenience of the public. Preemptive surveillance has yet to take over as the most efficient way of countering anti-state forces.
Similarly, cordoning off roads to facilitate VVIP movement is another nuisance that citizens must endure. Recently, I almost missed my flight to Karachi because the police had brought the traffic to a standstill around the Islamabad airport to clear the road for a VVIP cavalcade. And when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently visited Lahore, residents suffered similar hassles. The authorities simply went for the kill, closing certain busy thoroughfares without prior information.
This context also explains the bedlam around Bilawal House in Clifton, Karachi. On the face of it, the PTI-led protest against the protective wall next to Bilawal House appeared ill-timed and politically motivated, but the premise of it is certainly fine. The protest flows from the basic rights of citizens to unhindered movement in public places. What played out on the road between PTI and PPP workers in Karachi was ugly and uncalled for. But it also exposed the propensity, even among top leaders, to use violence as the preferred way of protest.
This episode also underscores that closing public space for the common people to create safety valves for ‘elected VVIPs’ is not in sync with the public interest as enunciated in the Constitution. The civilian and military elite must stop behaving like monarchs and must begin to respect those who elect or select them into positions of power. They must safeguard the public’s interests, not boot it.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2014.

Hurrem Sultan for president? An captivating review of the year 2013 by the author.. Must Read

Hurrem Sultan for president?
December 31, 2013

As Pakistan mourns the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, a review of the year 2013 shows we have several potential leaders who can replace him. Following detailed background interviews and surveys, this scribe has compiled a list of the most iconic leaders of the year.
The most influential politician:
Analysts were surprised this year with the unexpected rise of a new political player in Pakistan, who bedazzled the entire country with both looks and conviction, and won the dedicated support of the sections of the society that had once been skeptical, but are now defending their champion on all kinds of forums with a passion that borders on violence. This year’s most influential politician was Hurrem Sultan.
“Love her or hate her, she is the most influential political player of the country, with a remarkable impact on the Pakistani society,” a strategic analyst said. “Hurrem Sultan has singlehandedly managed to bring families together every evening, participate in deep political, social and philosophical debates, and encouraged people to explore history.  No other leader – progressive or conservative – has been able to achieve so much in the country’s history.”
A number of religious leaders of the country have accused the Turkish television series featuring the character of promoting obscenity. Analysts see that as a key indicator that it is doing something right. A cleric was not available for comment despite being contacted a number of times between 9pm and 10pm, and then again at 11pm to 12am.
The most significant contribution towards the war on terror:
Performing better than his key contender Imran Khan who was supporting the other side, defense analysts agree that People’s Party legislator Zamurad Khan made the most significant contribution towards the war on terror this year.
“His key impact is not in proving that despite the risks even a less than perfect operation against terrorists can resolve the problem more quickly and completely than prolonged negotiations,” an expert said while repeatedly playing video footage of his encounter with a gun toting extremist. “His real contribution from the point of unarmed victims of violence is how he ran away when he was fired at. That is the most effective way of giving an important message to the people of this country. When under attack, run away.”
His critics disagree however that if you arch your back while running, it would increase the distance a bullet fired from close range would have to travel – at least not significantly enough to lessen the impact.
The most widely read author:
Despite the controversy surrounding his writings and the sexual and violent nature of the content, network analysis and other quantitative data reveal that the most widely read writer of 2013 was a boy who wrote abusive comments on newspaper articles, blogs and several unrelated web pages before and after the 2013 general elections.
The PTI supporter “sincerely believed that he will bring a peaceful revolution by making inappropriate references to the private parts of female relatives of writers and politicians who appear to oppose Imran Khan”, a close relative told this scribe.
Analysts say his success lies in the fact that he wrote the comments indiscriminately, without reading the articles, often treating his supporters and rivals in the same manner. “He seems to be exploring this new emancipatory power that the anonymity on the internet gives him – the fact that his opinion will count no matter what his social background is, if he has the ability to creatively use filthy language with perseverance,” a social media expert said.
In an exclusive comment to this scribe, the boy said he was now exploring hurting America by ripping off the shirts of drivers of Afghanistan bound trucks. A day before the interview, he was injured in a peaceful protest in Karachi, when a PPP worker hit him with the same shovel that he had brought to a peaceful protest to tear down the walls of Bilawal Bhutto’s house. “This is against the teachings of Nelson Mandela,” he said.

The author has a degree in Poetics of Prophetic Discourse and works as a Senior Paradigm Officer

Editorial from The Nation!

Walled in

All hail Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for its persistent display of vision and wisdom. Here we were, all of us, united in our ignorance, adamant to prove that issues such as terrorism, economy, misgovernance and corruption demand our undivided attention. We were wrong to believe that Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, is held hostage by its law and order situation, rising religious militancy and ruthless politics. But, thanks to PTI, we have now seen the light. The root of all evils is the “Berlin wall” in the city. The less dramatic and considerably less misguided know it as the Bilawal House wall. And, it is this very wall that the PTI desires to run into, and bring it down with the sheer power of thick skulls.
On Sunday, workers of PTI and PPP clashed as the former held a protest outside Bilawal House against the wall. Police joined in and baton-charged workers of both parties. With the local bodies elections approaching, one wonders whether the spectacle helped voters decide which one of the two sides quarrelling over a wall they would elect, to better their difficult lives. There should be no doubt that the PTI is right in principle as far as this particular issue is concerned. The structure is indeed a public nuisance and the courts have declared its construction illegal. But, let us not for a moment pretend that this barricade culture is exclusive to PPP.
There are countless similar structures, which surround the residences of various high-profile personalities, many amongst them who face a far less imminent threat to life, compared to Mr Bilawal Bhutto. They say that timing is everything in politics.
The fact that the PTI appears to be concentrating all its energy and anger on a single structure, just after Mr Bilawal’s address which criticized Mr Imran Khan’s apologetic stance on terrorism, raises serious doubts over the motives behind its latest ‘mission’. Is it being done to ease the lives of ordinary commuters, or to make Mr Bilawal’s life difficult? Perhaps, a little caution should be exercised considering the reports that allege Mr Khan’s own residence in Bani Gala is not CDA approved. It is understandable that the party leadership needs to keep its ‘passionate’ crowd indulged in one ‘cause’ or the other. It’s clearly addicted to opposition. And, it is from the self-cultivated sentiment of blatantly obvious self-righteousness and victimhood it derives its momentum from. It cannot and will not work for too long. Sooner or later, everyone will get tired. PTI is assured that it doesn’t stand on the moral high ground it believes it does, and its ongoing displays of selective outrage and vigilantism fool no one.

Defacto Prime Minister: Choudhry Nisar Ali Khan

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Is Pakistan a Secular State?

Balochistan’s sorry existence

By Sanaullah Baloch

Published: December 28, 2013
The writer was a member of the Senate from 2003 to 2008 and of the National Assembly from 1997 to 1999. He tweets @Senator_Baloch
Despite tall claims by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the humiliation, rights violations and systematic oppression of ethnic groups is in full swing. From Lahore, we receive glossy pictures of shows, ceremonies and concerts, including visits of high dignitaries of foreign countries; but Quetta, Peshawar and Karachi, the blood-capitals of oppressed provinces, represent a very grim story. A country envisioned to address the grievances, inequalities and suppression of oppressed Muslims and other communities is now becoming a symbol of mass oppression.
This country is currently ruled by an ethnically-dominant establishment and anyone who dares to speak or demand truth, justice and fair treatment is deemed a ‘traitor’, ‘foreign agent’ and an ‘enemy of the state’, and treated with brute and inhuman methods, such as enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killing and collective punishment.
Balochistan, being the least populated province, has suffered immensely. Contemporary accounts of human rights violations and killings of political activists, leaders, human rights defenders and journalists are shocking. From 2002 to 2013, thousands of people have gone missing in Balochistan and nearly 800 tortured bodies of Baloch activists have been recovered from different parts of the province. In stark contrast, the number of missing persons reported from Punjab is negligible, even though the province is home to some of the deadliest extremist outfits.
On December 20, 2013, Pakistan’s interior minister, in a written reply to the Senate, tried his best to conceal the facts when replying to Dr Karim Ahmed Khawaja’s question concerning the number of missing persons in the country since 2001 with a province-wise break-up and mutilated bodies found during the said period. A vague reply was prepared by the interior ministry, with no substantive data given. Despite the tall promises made by this government of ending brutal practices, it is complicit in hiding shocking facts related to extra-judicial killings.
It seems that ending enforced disappearances is not a priority for the government and the security establishment because Punjab is unaffected by them. Enforced disappearances are a socio-physiological trauma not limited to affected family members but are also used as a method of collective harassment to create mass fear. Our country has turned into a hell forreligious minorities, sects and ethnic groups. Unrepresented in the country’s powerful establishment, the Baloch are on receiving end when it comes to human rights violations. To some extent, Sindhis and Pashtuns are also bearing the brunt.
Today, Balochistan with its cosmetic government is nearly a volcano of human sufferings and emotions. Although countless women and men are not part of the rallies and the long marches because of unprecedented intimidation and threats, each and every Baloch family has been affected.
As hopes for the recovery of ‘disappeared’ persons fade, relatives of individuals subjected to enforced disappearances continue to suffer hardships, isolation and despair, in some cases made worse by threats and false promises from government officials. Causing such sufferings to family members of disappeared persons is also a human rights violation.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2013.

Dr Alvi to the rescue

By Kamal Siddiqi

Published: December 29, 2013
The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune
I  am very fond of Dr Arif Alvi, who happens to be my MNA from the now well-knownNA250. I have heard good things about him in his capacity as a dental practitioner and welcomed his election as my representative in parliament. I wish he spoke more on issues that confront this multi-ethnic constituency, but that would be digressing.
We need more professionals like him in parliament. I must confess, however, that the whole controversy surrounding the voting from that constituency makes me wonder who actually won that seat.
Given this, I was pleasantly surprised to see him take a stand against the blocking of a main road in Clifton, an up-market Karachi locality, which comes under his constituency. I support his point that public thoroughfares should not be blocked in the manner in which this road has been barricaded, that too at public expense. It takes me extra time to take de-tours when I am in the vicinity because the high and mighty have deemed it within their right to block this road on account of security threats. The residents of the area suffer on a daily basis.
I am all for doing away with such illegal encroachments on our public thoroughfares. I have been a strong supporter of our diplomatic missions being put into one place like has been done in Islamabad so that city roads are not blocked as a consequence. Then we have our politicians. I remember how Zulfikar Mirza had the road in front of his house blocked some time back and was only opened after the DHA took a firm stance against this. Or at least this is what we were told.
Two comparisons come to mind. I recall walking to a park in DHA Lahore and passed a row of houses that were the residence of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The road wasn’t blocked. There was just extra security on the sides. Similarly, no one actually knows where the Karachi residence of president Mamnoon Hussain is, except possibly his neighbours. More so, because the road outside his house hasn’t been barricaded.
Doctor sahib has gotten the principle right. The problem, however, starts with who he has chosen to apply this. I have seen Bilawal House evolve. For many years, the house with high walls remained unprotected from any attack. In fact, I recall when Benazir Bhutto returned to Karachi in October 2007 and her convoy was attacked on Sharae Faisal. The next day Benazir Bhutto told us that her house had also been attacked by unidentified persons. The house was very vulnerable. Given this, one can expect the house to be barricaded when the party came to power. Bilawal House is also the rallying point for the PPP Jiyalas, or what is left of them. Now this issue is being turned into an attack on the house itself. But there is more to it.
Bilawal Bhutto’s recent speech shows a stance to take the militants head on. It was a brave speech he made at Garhi Khuda Bux. Possibly that also makes him a target and given that he lives at this place when he is in Karachi, maybe it makes sense for some extra security. Neighbours tell me of underground bunkers now at the place. Lets hope they are.
I would be happy to see the wall go down and the road opened to traffic. But not just at Bilawal House. We should also make this the case in other parts of the city. For example, there is a street in PECHS where a courier company operates. This too has been blocked for reasons best known to the government.
A part of Clifton has been barricaded because of the consulate of a friendly country. Maybe we can also break down those fences too. There are also gates and barricades on streets off Sharae Faisal. What about the media? One media house has actually eaten up an entire city road.
But is this all politics we are seeing ahead of the local bodies elections? Maybe that is indeed the case. Either way, in all this, a middle ground may be the best way to move ahead. Security should not come at the cost of public convenience. And a comprehensive plan should be in place so we ensure compliance by all, not just a few.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2013.

Time for business partnerships in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas

By Curtis S Chin

Published: December 28, 2013
The writer served as US Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and is managing director of advisory firm RiverPeak Group, LLC.
As Afghanistan struggles to break free from a turbulent modern history that seems to keep that nation mired in the past and as Pakistan continues its own fight against poverty, China joins the US and the former Soviet Union as only the third nation to soft land a spacecraft on the moon. The contrasts could not be starker. Yet, even as Asia looks skyward to the success to date of China’s multi-billion-dollar space programme, much more needs to be done here on earth to bring business growth to some of the highest parts of Asia and the Pacific, a region which is still home to the vast majority of the world’s poor. That was a clear message in Nepal at a recent conference on poverty reduction, which helped mark the 30th anniversary of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Headquartered in Kathmandu, it is an intergovernmental knowledge and learning centre founded in 1983 to serve the eight member nations of the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. But it need not be a tale of moon vs mountains, if greater efforts are made to increase the effectiveness of development efforts and of policies to foster a better enabling environment for business.
Poverty remains a persistent challenge in some of the world’s most remote mountain regions in Asia. Limited economic opportunities still characterise sparsely populated communities on the Tibetan plateau, as well as Himalayan villages that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa once passed en route to the first successful ascent of Mount Everest.
In Pakistan, according to an ICIMOD analysis, poverty rates are significantly higher in rural mountain areas. The three divisions of Makran, Kalat and Zhob were reportedly considerably worse off, with Kalat and Zhob having at one point almost twice the proportion of households living below the poverty level as the mountain average. The reality remains that while government has been the key driver in putting a man on the moon, it is the private sector that is key to sustainable economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction. That is as true in the plains and lowlands of Asia, as it will be in its remotest mountain regions, typically home to indigenous peoples and characterised by inaccessibility and fragile agricultural ecosystems. To address this, business, government and civil society must come together and move beyond the politics, stereotypes and animosity that have for too long divided the region. Steps must also be taken to address the ‘little bric’ constraints to growth of bureaucracy, regulation, interventionism and corruption.
At the recent ICIMOD conference, I joined with several business and chamber of commerce counterparts on a panel moderated by CSR Asia. Together, we outlined three important areas that must be addressed to spur private sector engagement in Asia’s remote mountain regions. The first is innovation. The private sector is often ready to explore partnerships, but joint activities and plans for engagement must be innovative, with a business model that is not purely philanthropic, but structured to ensure both end beneficiaries in the community and the private sector can benefit. This will include an assessment of risk and return, something that the private sector is long accustomed to, and which government and civil society should also integrate into their own efforts in increasing accountability for time and money spent.
The second is involvement. Too often, the business community is invited to ‘participate’ in a project or asked to fund a piece of research that already has been outlined and decided. The message is in essence, we want your money, but any other involvement is not welcome lest it ‘taint’ the effort. Instead, the private sector must be engaged early on. An innovative partnership would go beyond business as usual, and involve the private sector in fashioning programmes that also leverage a commercial partner’s market experience and knowledge. Such innovative, involved and engaged partnerships can be to the long-term benefit of both mountain communities and the bottom line. This is critical to success and sustainability of any private sector involvement. One spotlighted example of private sector intervention discussed in Kathmandu was a pilot effort to work with marginalised farmers in South Asia, helping catalyse linkages — just as other programmes have facilitated cooperatives — to share information, improve agricultural products and yields, and ultimately build better supply chains and profits.
The third is impact. For the business community, impact assessment is critical. Unlike government, business depends on past success to fund future successes. Results must be measured to ensure there is rationale for sustained business involvement. The remoteness of mountain communities cannot be an excuse for the lack of financial returns on a business investment. When a pilot programme is brought to the business community for assessment, its impact and scalability must be clear and transparent. Pilot projects help demonstrate that something is possible, but impact assessment is necessary for the business community to decide on scaling up an engagement. Don’t throw good money after bad, as it were. While governments typically drive basic infrastructure investments such as rural electrification and farm-to-market roads, the private sector is well positioned to help mountain communities by providing financing, market linkages, knowledge and other services.
The innovation, involvement and impact of government in a nation’s initial journeys into space are clear and unquestionable in the United States, in Europe and now in Asia. As China sends forth a rover onto the lunar surface, an Indian spacecraft is en route to Mars, and Japan has long launched satellites from a space centre in Kagoshima. But here on earth, and even in space where the private sector has become increasingly involved in commercial satellite launches, it is clear that business can be a powerful partner in any endeavour. This must include the fight against poverty in Hindu Kush-Himalayas. Even as Asia reaches for the stars, let’s not forget the poorest of the poor still at home, in the shadows of Asia’s tallest mountains.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2013.

Mera Leader ZindaBaad by Talat Hussain

Bilawal k Liye Muft Mashvray

Saazish against Govt by Mansoor Afaq

3 Taaleemi Mughaaltay by Yasir Pirzada

Friday, December 27, 2013

Disneyland Pakistan by Ayesha Siddiqa

  By Ayesha Siddiqa

Published: December 25, 2013

The magazine, Hello!, has just published a special edition for Pakistan highlighting a list of ‘Hot Hundred’ — profiles of 100 Pakistani icons ranging from brilliant writers, playwrights, novelists, polo players, fashion designers, actors, singers, models and many others. The message is simple: Pakistan is not only about terrorists and extremists but also about very promising people, who can compare with their counterparts in any part of the world. One is, however, intrigued by the Disneyland or Hollywood characteristic of this Pakistan — very clean and tidy, English-speaking, educated, urban and upper and upper-middle class.
This Pakistan is not complicated either because it doesn’t want to bother with the uncleanliness of poverty or the chaos of nationalisms and beliefs. So, why be surprised to see that all the bad Pakistanis in the recently released and much-applauded film, Waar, are lower middle class, while all the good ones are physically modern, speak English and can even be seen in one scene with goblets? This progressive Pakistan has an even simpler and easy to manage politics. We need to build a dam to progress and anyone that opposes it has to be a foreigner (preferably RAW) agent. And we shouldn’t even bother with the fact that a lot of opposition to a large dam is because those displaced as a result of the Mangla and Tarbela Dams were never fully accommodated or compensated, or that there are serious issues of inter-regional distribution of water. But why get into such complexities when you can simply boil it down to poverty or the ill will of the under-privileged and the poor. A good-looking country can’t deal with poverty. However, given the ambition and hunger for strength and power of the upcoming upper-middle class, why waste time with reducing poverty and why not just not look at the poor and poverty.
Recently, at a conference on terrorism, I heard a Pakistani police officer, now working with an international donor agency, talk about how the poor had greater propensity towards violence. A similar conclusion was also made by an Islamabad-based NGO a couple of years ago, linking food insecurity with militancy. The conclusion was that there was violence in Fata and Balochistan because of scarcity of food. The analysis did not even bother to explore the fact that the level of violence in these places is not proportionate to the amount of hunger. Also, what about focusing on the negative role played by the state? But then, why should we forget that simple conclusions are appreciated by even multilateral aid donors. The conclusion that sectarian violence is basically class warfare makes for donor-friendly analysis. Why bother explore that the source of sectarian evil in south Punjab, for instance, was selective manipulation of the poor by some elite groups and families to sort out differences with their rivals. The state machinery and some prominent families had combined their strength during the 1980s to create militancy and encourage sectarian hatred. It certainly doesn’t pay to argue that the issue of terrorism is far more complex than poverty or the poor people.
Since it is all so simply poverty driven, we can also have simpler solutions that aid donors and NGOs can easily fund. The other day, an English-speaking icon of a pir family lectured me on why festivals were good for alleviating poverty of the poor since such events create opportunities. So, instead of opening industries, creating job opportunities, increasing meaningful education that would increase employment opportunity of an individual, we would probably like him to set up temporary kiosks on festivals to earn small change. Perhaps, it is not necessary to bring structural changes in alleviating poverty because why invest in the enemies of the state. Catching up on this formula, donors also find it easy to invest their taxpayers’ money in rebuilding shrines or holding random youth workshops. The former activity is to invest in a reliable class and the latter to help this class sort out their sense of guilt in keeping the poor deprived.
Returning to the issue of terrorism/extremism, it is easy to believe that the poor and his frustration generate all of this because it is difficult for the upper-middle class to admit that their attitudes and perception of religion are equally problematic and contribute to radicalism that, in turn, feeds extremism. A week ago, the imam of the mosque in Westridge, one of Rawalpindi’s posh neighbourhoods, was lecturing people about how Muslims must not respond to greetings by a non-Muslim with a ‘Wailaikumus Assalam’. The mindset created thus can be found in the views of those that claim to be moderate Muslims. They speak English and wear religion on their sleeves. However, their person is seemingly both moderate and modern. This is like Dubai where the Western-liberal and traditional-Eastern culture seems to come together. What is missing in this narrative is the story of how the powerful in Dubai then finance violence elsewhere in the name of protection of their belief system or usurps rights of the dispossessed and not allowing them to rebel.
The new elite in Pakistan are radical in their thinking. They often experiment with these views by manipulating the poor who then tend to get blamed for the violence. The upper-middle class is equally connected with the radical elements which are then used to help the powerful exploit resources. The common denominator between the religious clergy, which is also now part of the elite, and other powerful segments of the state and society is that none want to empower the dispossessed. Tragically, in watching the picture of extremism and violence, we never get to see and recognise the real faces. In this Disneyland of ours, it is so convenient to pin it all on the poor.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2013.

Firqa Wariyat by Tanveer Qaiser Shahid

Bhutto se Inteqam

Ai meray Wattan k Logo!

Does Musharraf Deserve to be Called a Traitor??

Does President Musharraf deserve to be called a Traitor?

My Indian friend asked me a direct question sipping his coffee “What do I think is keeping Pakistan away from oblivion?”. I smiled , looked at him. Sipped on my delicious French Vanilla and replied to him in two words . “Pakistan Army!”. “ Well in that case it’s ironic but no doubt its true though the last General i.e. Pervez Musharraf almost made us bite the dust!” replied my Indian friend. “Ironic is my friend that his enemies cherish him but we test his patriotism”, responded with my head down with a feeling of remorse. Looking at me my friend just said “Maybe they are afraid of the change that he started. It always is the case. After all these political parties or dynasties have to survive” . “ True! Maybe he really shook the hornet’s nest” , I replied and looked on at my watch as I did not want to miss his i.e. The General’s first TV appearance after being bailed. Being in sales and trained well. I wanted to see if his spirit is still alive and kicking or has the unseen establishment of Pakistan managed to break it down as well.
Whilst I drove home. I recalled the days post Laal Masjid and I remembered the onslaught President Musharraf received. No day passed by when the day ended with an anti Musharraf political circus unabated. What I feared at that time unfortunately turned out to be true! He had to go. Lucky for me that I got transferred abroad. But I remembered the day that I landed and went for my Umrah. I touched the Holy Kabah. Cried aloud and prayed to the Almighty. “Save my Pakistan as a Wolf Pack is about to attack and our hands are tied as many amongst us have their eyes shut and hearts closed and see that that the tune of Dajjal is their salvation. Save my Pakistan Allah”. This prayer of mine echoes in my ear till today. People ask me that whilst Mashallah life is a blessing . I still have that feeling of missing something in my eyes. “I miss my Pakistan” . I don’t want to go back to a country ruled by those hypocrites. I don’t want to see my nation eaten away by bits sometimes in the name of Democracy, sometimes in the name of Patriotism and sometime in the name of Religious Righteousness. To be honest the day I saw President Musharraf humiliated after all he did for Pakistan. I just decided to pack my bags and leave.
I reached home. Switch on the TV and saw the General sitting firm in front of the camera. Whilst his spirit was high. His soul looked damaged as he must be asking himself that does he deserve this treatment after all he did for this country. Where he boosted the economy. Where he gave rights to the people at grass roots. Where he empowered the women. Where he gave freedom of speech. Where he gave respect to us. Where he put Pakistan on the world map. Where he stood eye to eye with the enemy and defined our boundaries. Where he helped heal the wounds of an injured Karachi. Where he started a journey for this country in line with the vision of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. His soul looked dented. And why not? How many of us turned up after all what he did for us. How many of us now turn up for him whilst he fight the system for giving us back or trying to for what was rightfully ours.
Yes, he stood up against dynasties of Sharif’s and Bhutto’s . Yes , he stood up against tyranny, Yes, he stood up against those who were looting this country. Yes, he stood for a Pakistan which deserved more and where its rulers were cutting it down by bits and pieces. On Oct 12th 1999. He was the one attacked and he retaliated. What else would you expect from an Army Chief and a Commando. Would you as Pakistan and Pakistanis like to see your commander in chief put his tails between his legs and surrender. Like the way General Niazi did in 1971. Would you have wanted a political dictator like Nawaz Sharif who almost took over all the key roles of the country became an absolute leader. Were all of you enchanted to see Pakistan being pushed in political isolation with your dollar reserves fluctuating around a Billion dollars. Yes, his men of honor. His Army took a stand for their commander in chief and over threw a political system which was pushing away the nation towards another disaster. I remember seeing my brethren being butchered every day in Karachi and branded as terrorists and dacoits. I remember those days that being a Mohajir I was seen as a Traitor to Pakistan just because not being a son of the soil. I remember dancing to the news when I heard Nawaz Sharif was gone . I remember bowing my head to Allah knowing that our Pakistan Army did the right thing on that day of October 1999.
So what if on November 3rd 2007 ; President Musharraf held the constitution under abeyance on advice of his Prime Minister under the constitution of Pakistan to wade off an arrogant selfish judge who promised heavens to the poor ignorant masses of this country which sways with any circus it comes across. What this judge gave us nothing but yes he became a father of a multi millionaire. He never took a suo motto against the same corrupt lot which pushed Pakistan to the edge. The Circus went on in 2007 joined by thugs, hooligans, hypocrites, terrorists etc etc because they could see that they would not be able to loot Pakistan until and unless President Musharraf is there . Unfortunately, for us as Pakistanis . The Circus was successful and we were all enticed by it so much that we took our eyes for what was right for this nation. I remember his last words as the President with tears in his eyes. “Ab Pakistan ka Allah hi Hafiz” and so truthful was he on that day.
The war against terror which many of the legacy of that circus brandish as not our war forgetting Pakistan was already a victim of this terrorism without check before we sided with the world to stand against it. This war has killed thousands of Pakistanis on both sides in the most brutal manner. Let them be killed by bombs, let them be killed by beheadings, let them be killed by bullets or let them be killed by drones. By preaching that it’s not our war and not letting us address the core issue. We have gifted the nation thousands of dead Pakistanis, a destroyed economy, a divided nation and in fact a religiously polarized and a confused nation. President Musharraf was addressing it in a way by keeping the casualties to the minimum.
Today, when I heard the most corrupt President in the history of Pakistan call upon President Musharraf in an unsavory manner . Today , when I heard him and his son challenge the army between the lines and trying to drive a wedge in the nation and its unity by abusing its Generals of the past but trying to appease the soldiers. Trying it to give at another shot to create disharmony amongst our Army the only thing which keeps this nation united. I sometimes wonder who the real traitors are? Those who had to chant the slogan Pakistan Khappay or those who fought for this nation with their blood and the sweat.
Who are traitors? Those who for their personal lust for power broke Pakistan into two. Who are traitors? Those who sold Pakistan and its soul to control on the power.
After all what President Pervez Musharraf did for Pakistan and an ailing Karachi. The last thing he deserves is to be called a traitor. It’s been the history of us the Muslims . When Caliph Haroon Rasheed was in power due to his progressive ways. People use to despise him and conspired against him. His day and age is now remembered as an Golden Age. Today , the poor Pakistani who has gotten nothing out of the Dynastical Democracy remembers President Musharraf with tears in their eyes. Today, the professionals who saw Pakistan growing repent his going and await his return. Today any patriotic Pakistani await their patriotic son to return to power to avenge the ill their tyrant leaders has bestowed upon them in the last few years. Where their lives, their honor and their money has been taken away. They all await their patriotic son to return. The drama which would go on in an unconstitutional bench would only give an un-constitutional decisions and that’s it. Today, I await the day when The General would return and take command of this nation and put it back on track. Today, I live everyday when the true sons of Pakistan come in power not those who just come in power to loot and plunder. I am sure that the prayer I made holding the cloth of Holy Kabah years ago would Inshallah! come true and I would return to my motherland breathing to build it for my posterity under the right and patriotic leadership. Pakistan Zindabad!

Jurm e Zaeefi

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A new direction in Strategy?

An army that was reluctant to retaliate to the killing of its serving general officer commanding in the recent past has hit back against those who targeted and killed five of its soldiers in an attack on a military check post in North Waziristan on December 18. 

A new direction in strategy?

The writer is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the Pakistan Army and is currently pursuing PhD in civil-military relations from Karachi University

Let this be read and understood as a clear policy guideline and a military commander’s declaration of his military intent. The first policy statement on the all-important issue of the war on terror by the new army chief reflects on how the army in Fata will now fight under his leadership. Visiting the Corps Headquarters Peshawar on December 21, the army chief declared that the “military will not tolerate terror attacks and effective response will be given to the terrorists”.
A clear decision seems to have now been made about the circumstances under which the army will retaliate. With no breakthrough in the peace process and in the absence of a clear political commitment for initiation of a military operation, the deployed army in Fata cannot afford to act like a sitting duck.
With a change in the leadership of the army, will its strategy and method to fight this irregular war also change? This was an important question that irritated many minds. The clear deterrent message by the COAS suggests that the army, which so far was fighting a war of containment, will now respond with devastating retaliation every time terrorists attack it, something it has already proven by initialling the recent military action in North Waziristan.
Over the years, military deterrence faded away as our policymakers juggled with the prospect of holding peace talks with militants. The short-sighted policymaking that has been more tilted and focused on creating an environment for holding dialogue seldom took into account the prolonged deployment and the resultant vulnerability of our army. Resultantly, more troops of the army lost lives in defending against targeted attacks and ambushes than attacking and conducting combat operations against militants.
An army that was reluctant to retaliate to the killing of its serving general officer commanding in the recent past has hit back against those who targeted and killed five of its soldiers in an attack on a military check post in North Waziristan on December 18. If this is not a sign of the changed military doctrine, courtesy its change of leadership, then what else is?
What the army failed to achieve under the combined leadership of General Musharraf and General Kayani was to consistently degrade the enemy and weaken its capabilities. The current warning and retaliatory response by the army speaks of a renewed resolve in this regard. Retaliation against militants is not an initiation of a military operation. It amounts to implementing a different military strategy in an ongoing operation.
Launching an announced military operation will, in any case, create multiple spillover effects. There will be a large-scale political backlash by the right-wing parties led by PTI Chairman Imran Khan. He is already referring to the current retaliation by the army as the initiation of an army operation and asking the government to “take control and bear responsibility for any planned military operation in North Waziristan”. Accusing the government of “abandoning the All Parties Conferences- mandated option of dialogue”, Imran Khan’s statements are a reflection of our long-held political bankruptcy on reaching a consensus and giving a thumbs-up to the army to launch a military operation. Retaliation by the army is a militarily legitimate action, unlike an announced military operation that warrants political legitimacy.
It is up to the new COAS now to live up to his words. Having spoken them at an appropriate time, he has put himself on the spot. In the coming few days, we will all be able to judge the new ‘sipah salar’. Does his action speak louder than his words? Time will tell.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2013.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Quaid ka Pakistan

Lest we Forget by Dr Atta ur Rehman


Like any human being, President Musharraf too made some mistakes, the major one relating to the National Reconciliation Ordinance. The period from 2000 to 2008 was also full of certain outstanding achievements.

Let us take the economy first. Pakistan was financially in a very difficult position in October 1999. By 2008 it was included in the N-11 (Next 11) group of countries that were predicted to join the most powerful economies of the world. During 2000-2008, the GDP grew from $63 billion to $170 billion, and there was an annual GDP growth of about seven percent, better than most economies of the world.

Per capita income increased from $430 to about $1000, and the foreign exchange reserves that had slid to $0.5 billion in 1999 grew to $16.5 billion by 2008. The revenue generation grew from Rs. 308 billion in 1999 to about Rs.1 trillion in 2008. The debt-to-GDP ratio improved from 102 percent to 53 percent. The exports grew from $7.8 billion to $17.5 billion. Foreign direct investments increased from $400 million to $8.4 billion.

The Karachi Stock Exchange Index shot up from about 950 points to 16,500 points. The annual development budget increased from Rs90 billion in 1999 to Rs520 billion in 2008, while poverty was reduced from 34 percent to 17 percent. The dollar value was maintained at about Rs60, thereby controlling the rate of inflation.

The communication infra-structure also saw a rapid improvement. The major new roads built in this period were: Coastal Highway Karachi–Gwadar 700KMs, (M1) Peshawar to Islamabad Motorway, (M3) Pindi Bhattian to Faisalabad Motorway, (M4) Faisalabad to Multan Motorway, National Highway (N5) dualised Karachi to Peshawar, Quetta-Zhob-D I Khan road, Quetta–Loralai-D G Khan Road, Gwadar–Turbat-Rato Dero road, Chitral linking with Gilgit over Shandur Pass, Gilgit linked with Skardu via Astore – Chillum–Deosai Plains, Lowari Tunnel linking KPK to Chitral, Kaghan Valley linked with KKH at Chilas over Babusar Pass, Kohat Tunnel, Lahore-Sialkot Road, Lahore-Faisalabad Road, Karachi-Lyari Expressway, Karachi Northern Bypass, and Lahore Ring Road.

The strategically significant Gwadar Port was developed with Chinese assistance. A number of airports were developed and expanded. The Lahore airport was completed, the new Islamabad airport was started, the new Sambrial (Sialkot) airport was built, the Multan airport was expanded, the Gwadar airport was developed and the Quetta airport was expanded.

In the agricultural sector a number of important irrigation projects were initiated. The Diamer Bhasha Dam was launched. The Mangla Dam was raised by 30 feet increasing 2.9 maf water storage capacity and 100MW electricity. A number of new dams and canals were built (Mirani Dam for Balochistan, Subukzai Dam for Balochistan and Gomal Zam Dam for KP; Kachi Canal from Taunsa to Dera Bugti and Jhal Magsi to irrigate 713,000 acres of barren cotton producing land, the Thal Canal for Punjab, Rainee Canal for Sindh).

Overall three million acres of barren land were brought under cultivation. The Right Bank Outfall Drain (RBOD) was constructed through Sindh, thereby saving Indus River and Manchar Lake (Sind) from pollution. The steps taken led to an increase in wheat production from 14 million tons to 22 million tons, and increase in cotton production from nine million bales to 13 million bales.

Price control was exercised on essential items. The prices of edible household items (flour, naan, milk, tea, sugar, meat, vegetable oil etc) have tripled or quadrupled in the last five years. A rotational loan system was introduced through banks for poor farmers and loan facility for farmers increased from Rs35 billion through ZTBL only, to Rs160 billion from all other private banks.

Overall 2900MW of electricity was added to national generation capacity. The new energy projects initiated included the Ghazi Barotha hydro electricity project (1600MW), the Chashma-II nuclear electricity plant (300MW). The Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectricity project was initiated (1800 MW), the Satpara Power project in Skardu, and the Naltar power project in Gilgit.

A true revolution was brought about in the telecommunications sector. The number of mobile phones increased from 600,000 in the year 2000 to over 7 crore in 2006. Tele-density was increased from 2.9 percent to over 70 percent, and millions of jobs were created in the telecom sector. The IT sector also saw a phenomenal growth with internet connectivity spreading rapidly, particularly during 2000-2003 from 40 cities to over 2000 towns of Pakistan.

Fibre optic connectivity increased from 30 cities to over 1500 towns of Pakistan in the same period. The bandwidth cost of two megabytes was reduced sharply from $86,000 to $3,000 per month. Pakistan’s first satellite PakSat 1 was placed in space. Industry prospered as never before and industrial growth was in double figures throughout the nine-year period.

A revolution was brought about in the higher education sector with the establishment of the Higher Education Commission. The annual allocation for higher education was increased from only Rs500 million in 2000 to Rs28 billion in 2008, thereby laying the foundations of the development of a strong knowledge economy. Student enrolment in universities increased from 270,000 to 900,000 and the number of universities and degree awarding institutes increased from 57 in 2000 to 137 by 2008.

This rapid transformation deeply worried India and a detailed presentation was given to the Indian prime minister on July 22 about the dramatic progress in Pakistan.

A number of steps were taken to strengthen democracy at the grassroots. A large number of new TV channels were allowed and the media given full freedom. The local government system was launched to empower the people through a third tier of government. Women were empowered politically through reserved seats at all tiers of government. Minorities were provided with the system of joint electorate.

In the field of defence, the production of Al Khalid tanks for the army and JF 17 Thunder Fighter jets for PAF was carried out. All missiles were tested and proven for nuclear capability and our nuclear arsenal was strengthened and protected through an impenetrable command and control system. The Army Strategic Force Command was created to protect these strategic assets.

The position of president is purely ceremonial. The power lies entirely with the prime minister. The president can only act on the written ‘advice’ of the prime minister. He acted on the advice of the PM and only after wide consultations with his cabinet colleagues and the corp commanders. The guilt, if any, lies with all of them.

The writer is the president of the Pakistan Academy of Sciences and former chairman of the HEC.

Email: ibne_sina@hotmail.com