Tag Archives: Afghanistan

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.

 

 

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Mounting pressure on Pakistan has nothing to do with Cross-LOC firing

14 Aug

LoC-BSF-ReutersSinking of a submarine, docked in the home port, due to any reason is a very dear loss to any navy because subs are very expensive platforms. Everyone is clear that sinking of Indian sub, INS Sindhurakshak, was due to fire but the statement of an ex-chief of Indian Navy making a vague reference to sabotage rings the alarm bells. If this comes out as a reason for sinking of the sub and killing of officers and sailors on board, this could be used as a ploy to blame Pakistan yet again. This is not skepticism; the developments rapidly taking place between India and Pakistan during the last two weeks suggest that Indians are seeking an occasion to escalate the tension.

First it was Indian Army Chief, Gen Bikram Singh, accusing Pakistan for killing of five soldiers by Pakistan’s elite SSG commandos. The soldiers were stated to be on night patrol on the Line of Control (LOC) between the two countries when they were allegedly ambushed and killed. Indian government made a statement in the parliament that the soldiers were killed by terrorists donning Pakistan Army’s uniform.  There was uproar in the parliament by the opposition parties demanding to accuse Pakistan Army and ISI and suspending dialogue between the two countries. The pressure was mounted to such a scale that the government had to cave in and revise its statement and accuse Pakistan’s SSG commandos. Pakistan’s High Commission in New Delhi was attacked; bus service stopped by goons threatening Pakistani passengers and offices of Pakistan’s airline also attacked.

The dispassionate analysts watching the developments were not convinced. They were appalled at the level of dis-information. They were asking questions; the soldiers have clear instruction to wear bullet-proof vests while on patrol but three of the five killed had gunshots on their chests. This clearly meant that the soldiers were not on patrol and were in their resting place. Previous pattern of fighting among the soldiers suggested that they might have fought amongst themselves and killed each other and the Indian Army distorted facts to cover up the incident.

Ever since the killing on LOC, there have been numerous incidents of cross-border firing, each country blaming the other for cease-fire violation. Pakistani government under Nawaz Sharif has demonstrated remarkable restraint issuing no statement that could complicate the matter. However, New Delhi has not reciprocated the gesture because of fear of backlash from media and opposition parties. Anti-Pakistan rhetoric wins political parties massive support and Indian elections are around the corner. The ruling Congress government knows that any mis-step at this juncture could result in political cost. The politicians in both the countries are not known for maturity and statesmanship; they can do literally anything to grab votes.

Elections are not the only reason for Indian brinkmanship; Pakistan is passing through the deadliest period of its 66 years and it is time that India could add to Pakistan’s miseries through threats of war. There has been record number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan by TTP and BLA. Both these terrorists’ outfits are funded by Indian RAW and operate from Afghanistan where India has established more than 15 consulates. Having no real consular work, these are used as conduits to transfer funds and weapons to these terrorists.

With 2014 approaching fast and NATO troops leaving Afghanistan, the pro-Indian government of president Karzai may not survive pro-Pakistan Taliban fighters. India is desperate to have its share of influence in Afghanistan but it has not so far succeeded. It wants to squeeze Pakistan from within through the terrorist organizations broadly perceived to be its proxy and from LOC to weaken it to such a scale the Pakistan could not have a say in the matters of Afghanistan. Taliban are expected to be the next rulers of Afghanistan and it would be wonderful if their sole supported, Pakistan is kept under pressure.

The cross-LOC firing incidents are not random; these are prelude to something more sinister. Indians are hell-bent to escalate tensions for political and strategic reasons. But the escalation may spiral out of control as no one would be able to stop Pakistan from exercising the option of first use of nuclear weapons if Indians did not stop here.

Why everyone is out to claim responsibility for Sukkur ISI attack?

25 Jul

SukkurIn a brilliant move to distract the public attention from the real perpetrators of Sukkur suicide attack on ISI office, various terrorist organizations have been tasked to claim responsibility and further confuse the public opinion on who could have done it. Social media is abuzz with the theory that the real target of the attack was some major of ISI identified as Zeeshan who is said to be in possession of some sensitive documents containing evidence of involvement of foreign intelligence agencies in terrorism in Pakistan. The terrorists, as per this theory, wanted to destroy the evidence. Major Zeeshan was killed in the attack.

There was no immediate call to take the responsibility after the attack as is the norm in such cases. Interestingly, various people called media houses a day after the attack to claim that they were the actual perpetrators. A Taliban commander told The Express Tribune on Thursday that the deadly attack was orchestrated by the elements of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) based in Mohmand tribal region and the Taliban faction in Punjab. It was their joint venture. The commander disputed the claim by a splinter faction of the Taliban, which also claimed responsibility for the same attack.

Separately, a man named Ahmed Marwat, who introduced himself as the spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Jundullah Group) had called various media persons to claim responsibility for the attack. Marwat had claimed that the attack was revenge for the death of TTP deputy chief Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan tribal region in May. He said the group had sent four bombers to “achieve the target.”

Now there is a conflict of claims between two outfits, Jundullah, Pakistan and TTP. The Jundullah group had earlier claimed responsibility for the attack on security forces but TTP former spokesperson, Ehsanullah Ehsan, denied the association of Jundullah group with the Taliban.

Now this is an interesting development. First the stated motive of the attack is highly questionable, if not laughable. The terrorists claim that the attack was in retaliation of the death of Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud in a US drone attack. Everyone knows that ISI does not operate drones and is, in fact, against the drone strikes. How can militants take revenge from ISI for an act which was perpetrated by the mighty Americans? Then there are rumors that the coordinates of the whereabouts of Mehsud were given to the Americans by the hard core TTP themselves to have Mehsud, another contender to the slot of TTP head, eliminated. This is frivolous excuse and points the finger to Pakistan’s enemies who have perpetrated this and every attack on civilians and security forces.

But the conflict of the claim is even more interesting. Jundullah or BLA or even TTP and all its factions are being directed by one coordinator sitting somewhere in Afghanistan. Pakistani authorities should exactly know the center of gravity of Pakistan-specific terrorism. The evidence available so far points out that India is spearheading the campaign to destabilize Pakistan through attacking security forces, innocent civilians and through the game of perception using media houses and funding them with generous handouts.

 

Sacking judges is an act of high treason in Pakistan

25 Jun

MushThe government has finally come clear on a matter which is being considered of paramount importance for democracy, Pakistan style. Amid strong protests against unjust taxation in the next year’s budget, load-shedding and law and order issues, the new government has decided to prosecute former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, for high treason under article 6 of the Constitution. The charge, if established, will lead to death penalty for Musharraf. The provision of the Constitution prescribes similar punishment for all those who aided or abetted in heinous crime of suspension or abrogation of the Constitution.

The development is interesting. Pervez Musharraf is guilty of high treason on two counts; the military under him staged a coup on October 12, 1999 and dismissed the government of Nawaz Sharif. At that moment, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Musharraf was not present in Pakistan; he was not even anywhere. He was in an airplane flying home from abroad. While he was in air, he was sacked and the pilot of his airplane was ordered not to land till the newly appointed COAS was securely installed in his place. The pilot was even asked to take the plane to India, a country bitterly hostile to Musharraf for Kargil operation which was a huge embarrassment to Indian government and India. Pakistan army reacted to this, captured the government and allowed Musharraf to land in Pakistan. Rest is history.

Second time Musharraf suspended the Constitution was when he proclaimed emergency on November 3, 2007. This second offense was aimed at getting rid of troublesome judiciary. No government was sacked this time and no parliament dissolved; it was judges of the superior courts who lost their jobs. They remained jobless as even the successor democratic government of Zardari was not willing to restore them. They were restored after street agitation started by lawyers and supported and sponsored by opposition parties.

The first act of suspension of the Constitution was widely aided and abetted by a cross-section of society; opposition under Benazir Bhutto welcomed it, 70% of the people on the street were jubilant, the Supreme Court endorsed it and the subsequent parliament validated it.  The second suspension was endorsed by the SC but when the sacked judges were restored they declared it as an act of high treason.

Imagine; abrogation of the Constitution, dismissal of elected government and dissolution of the parliament was not only acceptable, it was baptized as kosher by the judiciary. The judiciary was so magnanimous with the usurper that it gave him a blank check to amend the Constitution at will. Amendment of the Constitution, even the judges knew, was the prerogative of the elected representatives and that too with a two-third majority.

It seems that the judiciary which is Pakistan’s new establishment is bent upon settling its score with Musharraf. This has given a godsend opportunity to Nawaz Sharif not only to settle the scores with the generals but also to subdue the military in order to have a free-hand to deal with India, Afghanistan and the terrorists. This is evident from the fact that, at the expense of public interest, he has chosen to be the foreign minister and defense minister himself. This gives him an opportunity to flex his civilian muscle, a serious mistake which was first made by power-drunk Bhutto and then Sharif himself. The consequences in both the cases were disastrous.  No military in a country faced with external and internal threats can afford to be personal fiefdom of unscrupulous politicos.

Under the Constitution, trial under article 6 is to be initiated and concluded by none else but the federal government. The judiciary, however, is not prepared to take any chances. Setting aside the principle that in this particular case, the judges are aggrieved party themselves and they should demonstrate least interest as to how the government proceeds in the matter, it has in its infinite wisdom, decided to monitor the prosecution. Only yesterday, the honorable judges sought a step-by-step mechanism from the government for initiating high treason proceedings against Musharraf. It was very interesting to note that when attorney general informed the bench that the government would require a 30-day period to prepare a detailed mechanism, including who would investigate, who will prosecute, and who will be named as abettors in the treason case, the court observed that a one month period could not be granted because the government had in principle decided to proceed against those who had violated the Constitution. He said the mechanism should only seek to clarify how the process would be initiated and concluded.

The court has insisted time and again that only the act of November 3, 2007 constituted high-treason whereas Musharraf asserts that proceedings for this offense should start from 1999 when he actually abrogated the Constitution. The court is aware that the learned judges would be deemed as abettors and partners in the crime, if they were to prosecute Musharraf for his martial law.

The case has taken interesting turns. The top judges don’t want to dig the past which highlights their own role and want to focus on 2007 which made them jobless. In any case, this is evidently a case of conflict of interests. Their desire to monitor the prosecution proceedings and their interest to personally approve the procedure is, prima facie, a violation of principles of natural justice and would not augur well with judicial independence of Pakistan. This may have adverse consequences for the toddler called democracy, Pakistan-style.

 

Doha Talks: Why are Karzai and his Indian handlers furious at ISI?

20 Jun

DohaAfghan president, Hamid Karzai’s frustration with, and his diatribe against, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency makes a lot of sense now with the events unfolding in Doha, Qatar where Taliban have an office to deal with the US through negotiations. The independent experts, and the US administration officials, attribute Taliban willingness to talk to Pakistan’s efforts who is believed to have some influence on Taliban through ISI. The Afghan president not only bashed ISI through an interview aired by a Pakistani channel, he suspended his government’s negotiations with the US on an agreement to leave behind a residual foreign force in Afghanistan post-2014. In a fit of rage, he declared that the High Peace Council will only participate in the Doha talks if they are “Afghan-led” — something the Afghan Taliban have showed little interest in.

By all means, this is great breakthrough for the US who wants to get out of Afghanistan mess which it created not only for itself but also for the region. Leave it will, bloody-nosed, but putting all eggs in Karzai’s, and by implication in Indian, basket would have been another blunder with far greater consequences. It seems that the Taliban and the US talking directly with ISI chipping in, Mr. Karzai’s role in the future of Afghanistan has been brought to a naught. This also keeps India out of the future Afghan calculus, something it was hoping to seize in order to keep its grip on Afghanistan. There is likelihood that Karzai and his Indian handlers will try their best to frustrate the negotiation process.

ISI received another attack from a Pakistani minister on Tuesday when a pro-India anchor made him spit his venom against a former chief of the agency. He said in that interview that army needs to be purged of generals like Pasha, referring to the ex-DG ISI who was not popular with the US and India and who has the singular distinction of receiving a bad press in Pakistan, India and the US. The said minister thinks that Gen Pasha during his time in ISI supported Imran Khan who gave tough time to him in the recent elections. The anchor, knowing the minister’s anger, conducted his show very brilliantly and extracted a strong statement from him who appeared totally clueless as to the real intentions of the anchor.

It is no secret that the US wanted India to handle Afghanistan post-2014 putting Pakistan’s security into serious jeopardy. India is trying very hard to get an access to Central Asia through Afghanistan and had invested in Pakistan’s political elite to get the status of MFN (most favorite nation) in order to use Pakistan as a transit route to Central Asian States through Afghanistan. This move has so far been resisted by security establishment further frustrating India’s designs. Indian presence in Afghanistan would mean Pakistan’s encirclement, a top-priority strategic objective of India and extending trade concessions through MFN status would hurt Pakistan, though it would surely benefit the traders’ community.

Pakistan and its ISI have so far played it cards very brilliantly but it has invited the ire of pro-India lobbies in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Original article appeared at: ALLVOICES

 

A country led by cowards has no sovereignty

1 Jun

By Hussain Saqib

ttp-and-nawazTehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the terror outfit fighting Pakistani State has withdrawn its talks offer and has threatened to avenge the death of its Second-in-Command. Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, the number-two in TTP hierarchy, was killed in drone strike on Wednesday. TTP has vowed to extract revenge from Pakistan, though the drone was controlled and operated by the Americans. The newly-elected leadership is in a state of panic. All those elected to power had promised end of drone strikes, and the newest among them had even gone to the extent of promising shooting down of drone. They also extended olive branch to these deadly terrorists and a chief minister had even declared the terrorists as brothers.

Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud is the second notable target of American drone; the first being TTP’s chief Baitullah Mehsud. The Americans have generally avoided targeting TTP because this outfit fights only Pakistan; it has so far killed around 50,000 Pakistanis including 5,000 security personnel. The drones target Afghan Taliban who attack Western targets in Afghanistan. Total casualties in drones so far number at 3,000 which include terrorists and civilians who happen to be in the killing range of intended target. The Americans dismiss the concerns and grief by calling these casualties as collateral damage.

Over the years, the narrative of drone deaths in public discourse has dominated the narrative of deaths in terror attacks. All those who wish to appease the deadly terrorists, including media and politicians, have helped to distract public attention from 50,000 casualties to 3,000. The number one problem is not bomb blasts and killing of innocents, it is drone attacks. The drone is the problem of terrorists, the bomb blasts and terrorist attacks is the problem of common man. The problem disturbing the terrorists has taken precedent over common man’s problem. Such are political expediencies.

The question is; why drone strikes? The answer is simple; Americans want to eliminate their enemies without sending on ground their troops. It saves them from un-necessary political questions and also keeps the human elements of their military out of the harm’s way. The drones, in nutshell, are the most cost-effective military means in terms of human cost.

Are these drone strikes a violation of national sovereignty?

Of course, the drone strikes mean military attack on another country and the worst kind of violation of territorial integrity and national sovereignty. But equally violative of national sovereignty is the forced presence of foreign militants on a country’s soil and their armed fight against the constitutionally established social order. The killing of civilians at the hands of these militants and their war against the armed forces is the biggest challenge to the writ of the state. No politician has accepted so far that the biggest threat to national sovereignty and security is not the drones alone; the militants are equally enemies of the State.

How can countries like Pakistan stop drones strikes? The answer is very simple; deprive the Americans of the excuse to operate drones. The State should purge its territory of the militants who attack foreign countries from its soil. And purge the terrorists who fight Pakistan and its people. The COAS has rightly described these militants as a major threat to national security, graver than the traditional threat; India.

There are reasons for the security establishment to believe that the militants, particularly those attacking Pakistan’s interests are fighting proxy war of foreign powers against the State of Pakistan. The recent drone strike killing Mehsud may be an attempt to keep TTP terrorists from talking to Pakistan. The intended objective has been achieved. The terrorists will avenge the death of Mehsud at the hands of US drone from the hapless people of Pakistan. The country will continue to reap the benefits of being on the wrong side of history.

The emergence of TTP terrorists and their modes operandi clearly shows that they are not mere criminals. They are fighting with a purpose and are following a well-written script. Akbar Ahmed, in his article, The Drone War is far from Over has described how TTP destroyed the tribal social fabric and killed the elders who were guarantors of peace and order in the tribal region; so much so that Pakistan never felt to deploy appropriate number of troops on its border with Afghanistan. But the Taliban unleashed a reign of terror and as the pace of the violence in the tribal areas increased, the Pakistani Taliban sought to strike the central government. They kidnapped Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, stormed Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, and assaulted a naval base in Karachi. In 2009, fighters attacked a military mosque, killing 36 people, including 17 children. Taking hold of children’s hair and shooting them point-blank, they yelled “Now you know how it feels when other people are killed.”

A country which is taken hostage by terrorists and a country which is being led by cowards cannot ask others to respect its sovereignty.