Army vs Nawaz Sharif: Is it a deja vu moment for Pakistan?

8 Apr

NSIn Pakistan, history is repeating itself again. It’s a déjà vu moment and the Pakistanis are watching the unfolding events with their fingers crossed. Whatever is happening proves one cardinal rule; mediocre leadership, with focus on personal vendetta and narrow political interests, cannot grow. Only yesterday, a journalist predicted that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was planning to make Jehangir Karamat out of his hand-picked army chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif.

Jehangir Karamat was the army chief when power-drunk Nawaz Sharif [Unlink], encouraged by cronies and close relatives, sacked him for no reason. He wanted to demonstrate, in Lahori-Kashmiri style, his contempt for the most power institution of the state, an institution which made the mistake of making a politician out of him. He then appointed Musharraf and when the latter was in the middle of his tenure, and his home-bound international flight, Sharif struck again and dismissed him. The rest is history.

Not only army chiefs, Sharif has a history of seeking confrontation with other institutions, president and the chief justice, so much so that he had the Supreme Court attacked and vandalized in 1997 to deal with a top judge who was adamant at prosecuting him for contempt. The judge had to go as did the president who felt humiliated.

When Sharif was sworn-in as a third-time prime minister, people genuinely expected that after having spent 14 years in political wilderness, he would have attained maturity and demonstrate some semblance of statesmanship. He proved everyone wrong and with less than a year in office, he started daring the armed forces through different means, and through more mediocre political nobodies. He unilaterally decided to enter into dialogue with terrorists who have blood of 70,000 Pakistanis on their hands. He gave them concessions; the most disgusting of these was surrendering the sovereignty of the state and giving them their much desired recognition of a stakeholder of peace in Pakistan. He ordered unilateral release of hardened terrorists and has promised to release more.

As if this was not enough, he initiated legal proceedings against Musharraf to get even with him at the moment when his government had utterly failed to deal with terrorist attacks on the eve of Aashura. Apart from the fact that Musharraf trial is selective, smacks vendetta and has become laughable, his team started bashing army; an army which is at war. Those laying down their lives for the defense of the country were upset and apprehensive at all these moves. They were genuinely fearful that at the time when they are offering supreme sacrifices, the prime minister was busy stabbing them in the back. It was at this moment that army chief had to pacify his soldiers saying army would protect its honor and prestige at all costs.

Was this a veiled warning? Will Sharif do some damage control or will he repeat what he has already been doing? A part of the media is busy creating further misunderstanding between him and the army, painting Gen. Raheel as a villain. The very same media is already busy in army-bashing on one pretext or the other.

For Pakistanis, it’s a déjà vu moment again.



The “genocide” in East Pakistan of 1971: Separating facts from fiction

15 Dec


Hussain Saqib

Recent executions of pro-Pakistan JI activists by Bangladeshi government of Hasina Wajid has opened up fresh controversies about who had perpetrated the so-called genocide in the events leading to cessation of eastern wing of Pakistan in 1971. History is the best judge though nations and groups try to justify their deeds and misdeeds on the strength of rhetoric for the time being. What Abdul Qadir Molla and others like him have done to earn this fate 42 later is what any patriotic citizen should have done; fighting a foreign force of insurgents to protect his own country. But the question of atrocities in East Pakistan in what has now turned out to be an India-funded separation movement is much wider and cannot be answered in Molla episode alone.  

There could be no denying the fact that there was political victimization of Bengalis, the largest ethnic group and by far more politically literate community. In the UP-dominated bureaucracy and Punjabi armed forces ruling the roost, Bengalis did not get a fair share of natural resources and political clout that they deserved. Their disappointment with the Central government was, therefore, justified and had there been a true constitutional democracy in vogue, it would right political wrongs. This is a fact borne-out by history; but rest is all fiction.

India had set its sights on East Pakistan from the very beginning and was looking for an opportunity to sow the seeds of discord between Bengalis and the rest of the country. The initial mandate of India’s Research and Analysis wing (RAW) was to work for separation of East Pakistan on the basis of perceived and doctored, largely exaggerated, accounts of maltreatment with Bengalis. Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh and father of incumbent prime minister was recruited by RAW as early as 1960s and he was the major player for dismemberment of Pakistan which took place a decade later.

Details of what happened to East Pakistan under the RAW and its so-called Mukti Bahini, claimed to be composed of freedom fighters, can be read in a blog post titled: Fall of East Pakistan and massacre of Bengalis and non-Bengalis by RAW and Mukti Bahini. Mukti Bahini was not all about “freedom fighters” alone. It was trained and led by RAW with RAW operatives manning this insurgent organization. It not only massacred non-Bengalis and pro-Pakistan Bengalis, it also killed and raped Bengali population. And they did all this while wearing the uniform of Pakistan army to drive a wedge between people and the armed forces.

The claim that three million Bengalis were massacred in 1971 has now been questioned through a very well researched book of a Bengali author, Sarmila Bose herself. In her book, Dead Reckoning, she has calculated the figure of dead between 50,000 to 100,000. This includes miscreants largely brought in from India, some Bengali non-combatants and non-Bengalis who had adopted East Pakistan as their home after 1947. This also included Pakistani soldiers and their families. Bose claimed that fewer, sometimes far fewer, died than claimed.

According to a review of the book by Martin Woollacott published in the Guardian, when she underlines how stretched the Pakistani forces were, how unready they were for the role of suppression that was thrust on them, and how perplexed they were in the face of a Bengali hostility that seemed to them so disproportionate, what she writes rings very true. According to this review, the wider revision of the conflict’s history she implies exonerates the Pakistani government of any plot to rule the east by force, suggests that the Bengali leader Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman let the genie of nationalism out of the bottle but could not control it, and insists that the conflict was a civil war within East Pakistan. The killings by Bengalis of non-Bengali minorities, of Bengalis who stuck with the idea of a united Pakistan, and even of some Hindu Bengalis – all of whose deaths were attributed at the time to the Pakistani army – needs to be reckoned in any fair balance.

A dispassionate analysis of history shows the facts in clear light four decades later; the movement to separate East Pakistan was not home-grown, it was funded, fanned and manned by India’s RAW, the figures of casualties were doctored and largely exaggerated, those killed and raped were both Bengalis and non-Bengalis and the killing was not perpetrated by Pakistan and its army. It is the verdict of history that massacre of 50,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis was carried out by the RAW. Patriotic Pakistanis who fought the foreign insurgents were in their national right to fight and the case of Molla and others like him stands vindicated by history. He has been executed 42 years later on trumped up charges and on political rhetoric by a kangaroo court. The motives of his killing are no more wrapped in mystery.

Anti-drone sit in: Is it a genuine protest?

5 Dec

PTIIf Pakistan’s cricketer-turned-philanthropist-turned-politician Imran Khan, widely perceived as a pro-TTP fundamentalist was hoping to arm-twist the US into stopping the drone strikes through his party’s sit-in to block NATO supply routes, he has not only failed to achieve what he stated to be achieving, he has failed his party as much as the country he so loudly claimed to change for the better. The initiative fizzled out; first through a drone attack when the sit-in was in progress and through US decision Wednesday to stop, temporarily, using Pakistani overland routes for retrograde movement of equipment out of Afghanistan. Bulk of trucks carrying US military cargo pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a North Western Pakistani province where Khan’s party ruling in coalition with another pro-Taliban religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

Was this sit-in organized to protest against the drone strikes and was it a sincere protest?

The answer, so far, is not in affirmative. Khan has to answer some more serious questions being asked by the people echoed through Social Media. The terrorists, who are the actual target of drone strike, have killed around 50,000 Pakistanis including security personnel and have established their own writ in a part of Pakistan’s restive tribal area but Khan has never protested or even condemned these deadly beasts. Drones are a weapon against terrorists which they find themselves unable to stop. The drones have killed around 3,000 of which 410 were identified as non-combatant. But opposing drone strikes and forgetting thousands of deaths of innocent civilians place Khan with the terrorists.

Another serious question that Khan may not be able to answer is that why those Afghan Taliban leaders, killed in the latest drone strike on a Hangu seminary, were allowed by his government to enter into settled areas of the province without valid travel permissions and why their dead bodies, a fundamental evidence in any crime, were allowed to disappear? Khan’s party was quick to nominate CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, by name, as the principal murderer in the drone strike. This information, the identity of the CIA chief is privileged information only available to top security outfit of the country. By blasting the cover, the angry politician has caused embarrassment to security establishment.

So far, there are the following outcomes of the sit-in to block NATO supplies; (a) The US has remained undeterred and will continue to hit targets at the time and place of its choosing, (b) Pakistan will continue to be internationally isolated by annoying US and NATO countries, (c) the US could be forced to pursue other routes, not necessarily the Northern Distribution Network and with a thaw in US-Iran relations, Chabahar port, built and managed by Indians could be a preferred, and (d) the government of Nawaz Sharif at the Center will have additional problems in its already over-filled plate of foreign policy, security and economic issues.

The sit-in is, thus not a genuine protest as it would benefit neither Pakistan nor the terrorists. It would be naïve to say that Khan is not aware of the costs associated with his ill-intentioned adventure. But in the ultimate analysis, it has become clear that Khan is advancing his political interests, and those of his coalition partners at the cost of national interests.



Syrian Conflict: Should Pakistan walk into Saudi Trap once again?

7 Nov

SyriaMilitary cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia go back to many decades. Pakistan has largely been dependent on Saudi oil and Saudis have always looked towards Pakistan for military cooperation; training, deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia. Branding of Pakistan’s nuclear program by the West as “Islamic Bomb” gave Saudis a license to claim its co-ownership of Pakistan’s strategic assets being the leader of the Muslim world. Pakistan is also dependent on Saudi Arabia for foreign remittances its diaspora working in Saudi Arabia regularly sends home enabling Pakistan to meet its foreign currency needs. Pakistani leaders, both civilians and military, have been under the influence of Saudis for their domestic power tussles for economic reasons and for the reason that Saudis are American proxy on this side of the Suez.

Saudis have always played a role in domestic politics of Pakistan. Of late, they are being perceived to be the single reason of Pakistan’s present woes as all trails of terrorism in Pakistan lead to the Holy Land. Saudis have taken upon themselves to export their brand of Islam, violent Salafist, to other Muslim countries in the same manner USSR tried to make investment in exporting communism. Saudi-funded madrassas, preaching violence and their own brand of Islam, have mushroomed and Pakistanis are paying the price for being under Saudi debt with their blood.

Emboldened by the success of its Pakistan enterprise, Saudi embarked upon the project to convert Syrians to Salafism. Saudis are supporting and funding the violent movement in Syria to depose Assad regime. They had persuaded the US to attack Syria in support of their jihadis and even offered to pay all costs to the Americans. When, with shrewd diplomatic maneuvers of Russian president Putin, Americans had to back off, Saudis got disgruntled and in protest, refused to accept UN Security Council membership. They have lost all hopes of active American intervention in Syria and have started looking towards a more pliant and accommodating friend, Pakistan to their deeds in Syria.

If a recent report carried by Foreign Policy is to be believed, Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it. Both the countries, along with CIA had already undertaken such initiatives successfully in Afghanistan in 1980s. But will Pakistan fall prey to this latest imperial design of the monarchs of Saudi Arabia oblige given the fact that it has already earned notoriety in the world for failing to eliminate terrorism from its soil which threaten the peace of the world?

According to the report, Saudis have clear plans to achieve twin objectives from their Syrian enterprise; toppling the Assad regime, and weakening al Qaeda-linked groups in the country. This is another matter that al Qaeda is the major element in anti-Assad forces fighting for Saudi Arabia.

Saudis are planning to raise regular Syrian Rebel Army and they want Pakistan, known for its excellent military training institutions to the deeds for them. A regular Pakistan-trained army of rebels would be sufficient to force Assad to give in to the rebels.

Pakistan has two reasons not to walk into Saudi trap; Saudis are looking towards Pakistan after failing to elicit American support and doing the Saudi deed would involve it into controversies incurring the wrath of international community. Second reason for watching out is that Pakistan is already paying the price for getting into a similar enterprise in 1980s. Though Syria is a far away country not in Pakistan’s neighborhood, the rebels would claim their pound of flesh after the war is over. The current level of military cooperation is a lot more than what Pakistan should do for Saudi collaboration.


Drone Strike on Hakeemullah Mehsud and weird reaction of Pakistani leaders

4 Nov

109437Hakimullah_MehsudPakistani government is in a real fix; civilian leaders are confused over the recent drone strike which killed Hakeemullah Mehsud, TTP commander and Pakistan’s Enemy Number One. They are unable to decide whether the drone which killed the terror prince was a blessing in disguise or an attack on their political asset. In life, the terror chief carried a bounty of Rs 50 million on his head.

In death, he has been instantly turned into a martyr by the leaders who are perceived to be coward and are trading State’s sovereignty with the terrorists in return for a peaceful tenure. The slain terrorist leader had blood of thousands of Pakistani men, women and children and security personnel on his hands. The reaction of political class has baffled everyone, including the foreigners who fail to understand that while the politicos were mysteriously silent on killing of innocent civilians and high-ranking military officials, why are they mourning the death of the chief killer?

Their reaction can be explained in simple words; the current lot of rulers of Pakistan owes their political power to Hakeemullah Mehsud. And this is the time to return the courtesy.

The elections which brought them into power were manipulated, if not rigged as widely believed, by Mehsud. He very generously allowed right-wing parties like PML (N), PTI, JI and JUI (F) to continue with their election campaign peacefully and threatened to bomb election rallies of ANP, MQM and PPP, the liberal parties. They attacked election rallies of these parties and forced them to stay inside giving open field to the parties of their choice. Had it not been the threats and attacks and there was a level-playing field for launching election campaign, the electoral results could have been different.

The right-wingers, immediately after coming into power, decided to pay back. They held an All Parties Conference (APC) in September and elevating the anti-state terrorists to the position of stakeholders in peace, decided to offer them an olive branch. The peace negotiations were to be held when the drone took out Mehsud on November 1, 2013. The Americans were after him as he was wanted by them with a head money of $ five million. He was their Enemy Number One too because of his attacks on American interests and close affiliation with al Qaeda.

After killing of Mehsud in the drone attack, ruling PML (N) has termed it as an attack on peace initiative and has promised to review US-Pak relations, Imran Khan has threatened to block NATO supply routes, JI has branded the slain terrorist leader as a martyr, the clerics of extremists Deobandi Islam have demanded retribution and the public is confused. The people are confused because the very same people mourning the death of one terrorist were never furious over death of tens of thousands innocent civilians at the hands of terrorists.

The questions is; if Mehsud was not killed in drone attack, would he cooperate the government in bringing peace to the country and give up arms to allow the State establish its writ in the area where TTP is holding the territory. The answer is, very unlikely. There are two reasons for being skeptic; one, the preconditions for peace talks like withdrawal of army from FATA and freeing of all criminals belonging to TTP without trial would be unacceptable to any honorable government, and two, it has now been established that TTP was an outfit working as proxy of Pakistan’s adversaries like India and Afghanistan. There is no reason that talks would be held to benefit Pakistan. At least five major terrorist attacks in the run up to so-called peace negotiations bear testimony to the fact that terrorists wanted such talks which could cede territories to them with the assurance that they would not be questioned on making further ingress into Pakistan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is under immense pressure to block NATO supplies passing through Pakistan’s GLOC and shoot down the drones. He has convened an extraordinary Cabinet meeting today to deliberate on the issue. The outcome of the meeting is expected to be not more than cheap political rhetoric.

Do we deserve valiant soldiers like Maj Gen Sanaullah?

17 Sep

SanaPakistani armed forces have sacrificed their lives and limbs; more than 5,000 dead and countless having lost limbs, thus becoming disabled for the rest of their lives. More than 5,000 top-of-the-line human material including generals, senior commanders, junior leaders and foot soldiers, were lost in an endless war to save the country and its system. All of them died so that those ruling this hapless country can trade their blood for their political interests. All of them died so that the scions of political elite can sit on their fat asses making deliberations how best to milk this country for their personal ends. And do not forget more than 50,000 civilian, that callously described as collateral damage,  who died for nothing except to give the savage animals, the terrorists, a position of strength, to be able to tell the State (read: coward leaders) to get out of their way so that they can regroup and strengthen themselves to spill more blood at will.

The real stakeholders to decide how to deal with the menace of terrorism are the family members of those 60,000 killed and countless injured and disabled. They are the ones to say yes to pardoning the killers or punishing them.

The reaction of corrupt politicians of all hues has this far been downright insulting for the nation. Every act of terrorism was condemned without condemning the terrorists by name. The latest incident in which the military commander of Swat and his deputy were killed in their own areas of responsibility is the most tragic by all standards. Look at the callous reaction of the polity; no one had the guts to condemn the terrorists by name. Not that the terrorists were unknown; there they were claiming that they had done it; the savage animals of TTP. But the State (read: coward politicians) did not have the courage to say that they condemn TTP for this act of violence.

Thinking majority of people wonders at time; why the soldiers are making supreme sacrifices when their status is not equivalent to even the political thugs killed by law enforcers and instantly branded as martyrs. The answer is not difficult to seek; they are trained to live and die for national cause. But they are not the mercenaries of loud-mouthed politicians who can glorify their deeds. They are a part of a voiceless fraternity. They are the naukri pesha, as dubbed by the most corrupt prime minister of Pakistan, who are being paid to die.

This nation and its scheming leaders do not deserve the soldiers dying for nothing; whose blood is just a commodity to trade for dirty political ends.

Time for Imran Khan to learn ABC of statesmanship

15 Sep

ttp-mullahPakistan’s immature and angry politician, Imran Khan has been screaming at the top of his voice demanding to pull out army from terrorists-infested Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA). As the decision about FATA rests with the federal government where he is not a decision maker, he has proceeded to implement the demand in his own province. The government of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province ruled by his party has approved phased withdrawal of army from Swat area. Unmoved by his generosity, the terrorists returned the favor by launching attack on a convoy of Pakistan Army killing a major general and a lieutenant in a roadside Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The officers, identified as Major General Sanaullah and Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef, were undertaking a routine patrol and were returning from Pakistan Afghanistan border after meeting the troops deployed on border posts.

The worst fears that Swat Valley was being handed over to Pakistani Taliban through this decision on Saturday were confirmed the very next day. The area is adjacent to Swat district and is a part of the valley where army launched a military operation in 2009 to flush out TTP terrorists under Mulla Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio for his fiery speeches through an illegal FM channel. After successful operation, the peace was restored in the area and the terrorists fled to Nuristan province of neighboring Afghanistan. Swat TTP has no means to return to this area except through sympathetic politicians. Emboldened by the cowardice of the politicians, they attacked a military convoy thinking the area will be theirs in next couple of weeks.

Even the FATA terrorists have taken a cue from Imran Khan’s word of support. Their preconditions to come to negotiation table include pulling out of army from tribal areas. The stance of Pakistan’s politicians to appease the terrorists through the offer of dialogue has emboldened them. Though the government did not attach any precondition to dialogue offer like cessation of attacks or laying down the arms, the Pakistani Taliban demanded Sunday that the government release militant prisoners and begin withdrawing troops from the group’s tribal sanctuary before they participate in peace talks, raising doubts about prospects for negotiations. The demand that Pakistan Army be pulled out from FATA, a restive tribal region, was first made by Imran Khan who is also known as Taliban Khan for his sympathies with the terrorists. Pulling out the army would effectively mean that the government has recognized terrorists’ writ in the area they hold as their safe haven. The resolution offering olive branch to terrorists has already been dubbed as an instrument of surrender by analysts.

The puzzling question is; why Imran Khan is making such demands which only favor the enemies of the State? This has not even been demanded by the principal stakeholders of tribal areas; the tribes themselves. They want the state to deliver them from the clutches of TTP and their atrocities. Let’s assume that he has no sympathies for the terrorists and he has his heart for the State of Pakistan. But then the question arises as to why he makes such demands. Is he a spoiler? Or does he need a lesson or two in the fundamentals of statesmanship?