Who will catch the big fish?

April 11, 2013

By Zara Zulfiqar

In Pakistan we believe, not in addressing causes, but getting overwhelmed by effects. Our law makers know they can’t execute well thought out policies effectively, so they just trim the weeds to make them look like grass. Not realizing unless the weed is uprooted it will grow back, and create room for more of its kind. We have seen it in the routine network jams that major cities experience every Eid, any holiday, even some Jummas. Another example is banning of ‘double sawari’, Basant, one wheeling. Most of us have come to terms with this bizarre system of ‘damage control’.

I have frequently heard people gab on ‘so what if it saves lives?’ Ethically speaking I’d rather be deprived of the luxury to text for a day than have a few dozen dying in a bomb blast. But the issue is not the inconvenience, rather the lazy psyche behind it. It takes almost no effort, and leaves the big fish swimming free, finding loopholes in these second grade solutions our law makers come up with. Such solutions are like allopathic medication, antibiotics, and antidepressants. They should be the last resort because your body becomes immune to the dose, and heavier doses are required to have the same effect. Not to mention they have severe side effects. Essentially they are making your body more and more dependent and continue to take a toll on normal bodily functions.

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February 15, 2013

By Ahsan Waheed

As of now Pakistan has no enemies. Even those who hate us and want to do us in are not really our enemies. Take India for example—basking in the glow of its many achievements it is gloating as Pakistan stews in its own juices. All it has to do is wait for juicy morsels to be thrown up by Pakistanis themselves so that it can tweak them and splash them all over the world. The recent plethora of whistle blowers is manna from heaven for the Indian media, establishment and politicians so these whistle blowers are encouraged to spew out more and more poison against their own country and they are falling for it in pursuit of their own warped ambitions.

Consider Afghanistan. It can talk publicly about a strategic relationship and need not be an enemy. It encourages the Pakistanis who have joined hands with others to kill other Pakistanis not just in the western border areas but deep in the heart of Pakistan. Now and then they inspire the misguided Pakistanis who think they are struggling for their rights and freedom by killing their brethren who may be of a different sect or by blowing up the people who are their saviors and by damaging precious assets of the State. There are many who then take on the task of stoking the fires and exploiting the vulnerabilities that emerge. It helps that Pakistanis raise their own voices to condemn their own law enforcers.

Consider the US whom many consider an enemy. It’s not– because it doesn’t have to be. By our actions and our confessions and the antics of our despicable whistle blowers and those who give them a stage we are actually confirming the worst fears of the US and the western world. No one needs to do anything and the well funded think tanks all over are going crazy analyzing and projecting what we are telling them about our past and present. No other country talks endlessly about its own corruption the way we do. No one parades sensitive issues the way we do. In no other country are their own countrymen actively involved in assisting others from inside to carry out dastardly terrorist attacks and subversion. We kill our own governors and then eulogize the killers. We set up national heroes making a laughing stock of ourselves. So called analysts and experts think it is macho to dig up dirt on our own institutions and scatter it all over. No sir—the US need not be our enemy.

Take the Taliban-not the ones fighting to free their country of foreign occupation but those who are fighting and killing to get power so that they can impose their rule and their laws on Pakistan Of course they are Pakistanis but with them are free loaders from all over the world as well as from other parts of Pakistan. There are some who have sympathies for them. Others think we should surrender to them or join them or hold talks with them on their terms. Our confusion translates into the world thinking we have a mindset with Lemming like suicide ambitions. We then find others simply setting themselves up in inspirational or funding roles to keep the body counts high all over the country. The Taliban need not be our enemies to get what they want—they can be our friends and achieve their goals. If they want to talk why don’t they declare a cease fire and talk without pre conditions?

The whole world with many Pakistani included are telling us what to do to get our economy right. We are doing the exact opposite of what they are telling us. Mobilize your resources-we do not. Curb your expenditure-we do not. Stabilize your internal security—we do not. Establish the rule of law-we do not. Get your public sector enterprises under control-we do not. Stop subverting your institutions by using discretionary powers and political clout-we do not. Get everyone to do his job-we do not. Elect political LEADERS not people who want authority-we never did-will we now?

The media is having a ball. It is raking in revenues from advertisements. It has developed clout and uses it to pressurize and extract the maximum from every source. It pits whistle blowers against each other and watches them do each other and the country in. It pits political rivals against each other and then sits back and watches the feathers fly as they scream like banshees. It does not do any heavy lifting like policy analysis, counseling, advising or suggesting or informing-much easier to rake up and scatter muck all round. To hell with the country and its image. The joy in the media is from the excellent local and foreign drama serials, movies and fun talk and comedy shows. No wonder more and more people are getting hooked to these and go to the news channels only during ads in their favorite shows.

So do we have enemies? No we do not because we are own worst enemies. Like sheep we see people lined up for meaningless security checks, waiting in queues for CNG in their vehicles, outside government offices to get some flunkeys approval or signature or simply staring into space as they wait for the power to come back on. Yet it is these people-the common folk in the cities and villages- who are keeping the country afloat and functional. From abroad they send hard earned foreign currency and within the country they work and earn and spend and pray for better days. These people are the true friends of this country and it is their resilience that keeps faith alive and the home fires burning. They demonstrate the great potential that this country has. Long live the people and may the enemies within perish.

Are we waiting for a miracle?

December 21, 2012


As eight anti-polio workers are killed at the hands of ‘extremists’ Pakistanis once again get swallowed into the black hole of never-ending troubles. That’s what we do with our problems. Let them build, keep putting them off. And then people die because of our own indifference. As news spreads about the 9th anti-polio worker’s death in another tragic attack on the UN, the liberal and conservative, the patriotic and indifferent, together stand on the same end of the spectrum. This is good news for a people who have no sense of self interest. We instead decide who our enemies are and then hurt them howsoever we can, even if it hurts us.

So what is the history of the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan? The facts are simple: vaccines are manufactured in the United States, under WHO standards. Pakistan has the highest number of reported cases in the word at this point (84 nationwide cases were reported last year). Since 2009, 200,000 children have been missing the vaccine each year, making matters only worse on our ever deteriorating portfolio. Why? Because in essence Pakistan’s only ‘well wishers’, the religious anti-West camp, revealed how the United States was only trying to sterilize our people through ‘pig fat’ vaccines. After the fake vaccination campaign by the CIA to capture OBL was exposed, more reason to believe the Tehreek-i-Taliban flooded the already paranoid herd.

As hatred towards the West escalates in Pakistan’s vulnerable North, innocent lives continue to be lost at the hands of drones and the powerful right uses religion as a tool to evade the masses from their own self interest, we witness our own downfall. The liberal, and relatively conservative elite, together continue to bash these attempts as conspiracy theories, yet the problem escalates. Should hatred towards the West, love for religion and suffering from Western policies allow our people to hate on themselves? There seems to be a major lag in narrative: the extremes have been warded off in a place where their voices are muted, and their growth ignored. And this indifference towards them is what helps them grow.

By turning a blind eye and deaf ears towards the booming right Pakistanis have left themselves unprepared for any such attacks. When the anti-polio drives started we were all cheering on for a liberal Pakistan that welcomes health aid and efforts from our allies, frenemies (whatever you want to call them), but until such an incident occurs we keep our faces buried in the sand, not prepared for a reaction. Malala Yousafzai again pops up as an example of such passiveness that we display as a society. This incident reflects badly on us as a people, but it is only a true reflection that we have become. People are like sheep. They need a shepherd. The vacuum the extremists are filling now already existed due to a lack of outreach on the government’s, and apathy on the people’s, part.

Escalating fanaticism, disjointed narratives, and rising problems on every front are not just a consequence of bad leadership, or strong military, or religious influence. Rather it is a product of our Attention Deficit Disorder as a people. We are avoiding our immediate surroundings. The rich either become part of the government or start up a business to secure their lifestyles, the upper middle class try to flee, the lower middle class delude themselves with religion and the least fortunate use drugs or religious rhetoric to make peace with what they have. Those who constantly watch the news feel they have played their part by keeping themselves aware. Facebook causes pop up, and we think signing them will hypothetically take the matter to the ICC or UNO and we will be rescued.

We have political and social explanations for why the incident occurred. Since the upcoming election is the most important concern, most make-do with any explanation that links these two. Perhaps this was a tactic to delay elections, they say. Maybe it really was, but by doing so we once again resort to rhetoric, and ignore our real problems. This incident needs to be an eye opener to us a society. We thought the attack on Malala was enough and then within weeks another extremist backlash occurs. As the UN decides to wrap up the campaign, we have given the world more reason to let us be, and drown in the venom we are constantly producing. We don’t need the West to destroy us. We have ourselves.

Defeating disabilities

November 16, 2012

For Pakistan

A staggered gait. A protruding limb. A twisted gaze. A crooked smile.

Do these features make you uncomfortable? Make you feel the need to look for alternative topics of discussion? Then you are one of the thousands Pakistanis who treat people with special needs with a discriminatory attitude.

Disabled people are mostly treated with pity or contempt. In the first case, the sympathy, even if well intended, only makes the disabled more conscious of his/her disability. Disabled people have frequently expressed their anger about how their disability is used to define their character and personality. Non-disabled people are likely to believe the disabled to be oppressed, lonely and disadvantaged. In reality there are people like Abia who are great leaders striving for a better world.

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October 30, 2012

By Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal

Youth festival at National Hockey Stadium Lahore and two T-20 cricket matches at Karachi’s National Stadium were the trend setting events. Both were a resounding success; radiating the real image of Pakistan, the world over. During the youth gala, thousands of cheerful boys and girls fascinated the viewers all over the world by their splendid performance. It demonstrated to the world that sky is the limit when it comes to the potential and capabilities of the Pakistani youth, and as indeed the Pakistani nation. Likewise, in both the T-20 matches ‘Pakistan All Star XI’ outplayed their rivals. More than the results, what mattered was that after a long spell, Pakistan played host to international cricketers. Over 35,000 cheering fans enjoyed the action on two evenings. Above all, there was no untoward incident during these mega sporting events.

Though organized by the Punjab government, the Youth Festival was a reflection of national aspirations. Chief Minister did a commendable job by giving a focus oriented vision for the event. His team also planned meticulously and executed it with fine precision. This youth festival was something different; not just a mundane ritual focused around photo session.

Initiative by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to mobilize the youth paid dividends; it brought honours to the country by setting or bettering over a dozen of World records. It was a well-organised healthy activity, which was spread over several months starting from district level and then culminating with a mass participation in a joyous mood.

Young boys and girls, during their media interviews, expressed immense love for the country and expressed their resolve to work with even greater zeal to make Pakistan a shining star in the comity of nations. They tried to build a softer image of Pakistan to the world, hoping that their efforts would be recognised by the international community. Though Pakistanis going through rough times, no one should underestimate Pakistan’s resilience.

Most impressive of the events were mass singing of the national anthem, formation of the world’s largest national flag and a human mosaic of the Lahore Fort. Also new world records were set in martial arts, plug wiring, fastest chess set up, pulling a truck by a moustache, fastest time for wearing a cricket kit, longest frog jump, football headers etc.

On the opening day of the festival 42,813 people in the National Hockey Stadium sang the national anthem together, smashing the previous record of 15,243 held by India. Patriotic emotions ran when thousands of participants joined in singing the national anthem.

After observing the attempt of making the largest human flag from different angles and heights, the Guinness World Record adjudicator declared: “It’s amazing, amazing display of unity of 24,200 people here in Lahore tonight…It was an amazing view and I am surprised to see the unity and great show of Pakistani youth. After going through the figures of 24,200, I declare it another World Record for Pakistan,” said Gareth. “The youth of Punjab ‘touched the sky’ with their efforts; they have been working day in and day out to enter the GWR books and I hope this will be written in golden words,” he added. Earlier record was set by 21,726 participants in Hong Kong in 2007. Pakistanis formed the world’s largest human flag to demonstrate that the nation is united under crisis and ready to steer the country out of crisis.

Moreover, 1936 students belonging to different schools in Punjab created the largest mosaic; these students made the image of historical Shahi Qila, thus bettering an American world record by 1458 people in South Carolina on 03 December, 2011. “What an incredible painting it was. I am happy to announce this, another Guinness World Record for Pakistan,” said Deaves. “Every single one of you holds this record,” he said.

Pakistan also set a record for breaking the maximum number of records in one day. Eight records were set in a single day. Pakistan has also made a record of holding and making 13 records in the shortest period. So many records have tumbled that it is difficult to keep track of all of them. Pakistani masses proved that they are peace loving people and have the strength to do anything.

Individual record setters also deserve national commendation for their initiative, skills and perseverance. Mohammad Mansha set a new record for making ‘chapattis’ (breads) – mixing, kneading, spinning and cooking three in three minutes and 14 seconds; 12 year old Mehek Gul took only 45 seconds to arrange the pieces on a chessboard with one hand. Ahmed Amin Bodla beat a record by landing 617 martial kicks on a punching bag in three minutes. Saddi Muhammad set a record by using his moustache to pull a 1.7 ton truck over a distance of 60.3 metres. Mohammad Nauman wired a household plug just in 35 seconds. Daniel Gill and Mohammad Rizwan set a record for heading a football between them, for 335 consecutive headers in three minutes 45 seconds. And, Ahmed Amin Bodla broke the 12 kicks shot of the world record created by an American, Meza.

Coming to cricket, under normal circumstances, the two Twenty20 matches wouldn’t have made any headlines. They were just exhibition matches featuring an International World XI involving former stars, retired from the game. Pakistan had become a recluse in the world of sports since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. It had triggered genuine fears about the future of sports in Pakistan. Hopefully, now the things will change for the better. Event also put a smile back on the faces of millions of cricket fans across the country.

PCB chairman voiced confidence that international matches will return to the country next year: “I think these matches, despite being private, are a good step and PCB supported and encouraged these matches and they generated a lot of enthusiasm from the fans, which is a good sign… “We are talking to two other boards as well… We have given them security plans and I am sure the day is not far when we have big time cricket.”

Pakistani youth has unique qualities and capabilities and they can perform wonders if enabling environment is provided to them.Pakistanis one of those lucky countries where youth is in majority. Cricket and other sports are important means of mobilizing and focusing their energies. Youth festival brought good name to the country and sent across a strong message all over the globe that Pakistanis are achievers and doers. This indeed helped in boosting the sagging morale of the nation. It was a refreshing break form headlines like bomb blasts, Taliban, drones etc, it is pleasure to see Pakistan returning to innocent pleasures.

Well done youngster, keep it up, nation is proud of you!

In search for a national terrorism policy

October 19, 2012


A country can never be fully prepared to meet the challenges that terrorism, be it of any kind or in any shape, brings. In the Information Age, methods and techniques of terrorism are continuously evolving and the danger keeps escalating. Pakistan faces a unique challenge, for it is the battlefield for fighting terrorists which have caused great human losses across the globe. Since 9/11 it has had to deal great pressure from western powers to curb militants who have targeted foreign nationalities and even Pakistanis. With an economy in distress and meager welfare facilities, all of which are plagued with corruption, insecurity and cases of terrorism have stretched thin the allocation of resources. However, policy makers and analysts feel some of this stress can be relieved if Pakistan deals with security crisis in a systemic and organized manner. Twelve years into the War on Terror and Pakistan still lacks a universal narrative on terrorism. The attack on 14 year old Malala Yousafzai on October 9th uncovered the political rifts in the Pakistani government over counter terrorism.

The world hurled its condemnation on the Taliban militants who targeted Malala, an act that symbolizes the existence of an oppressive mindset that violates basic human rights. Pakistani politicians reacted strongly, some calling for the immediate enactment of the North Waziristan Operation to eliminate the militants. MQM expressed great disapproval with Altaf Hussain urging the army to immediately begin the Waziristan operation. Repeated failure of dialogue with the Taliban has convinced him of the need for a military response. Although ANP and MQM do not see eye to eye on all matters, the former’s failure against Taliban in Peshawar caused it to support a military response. The ruling party, PPP, was not far behind in denouncing the attack. Its senior leaders including the PM vowed to root out extremism but they were hoping the Army or the parliament would take the initiate by approving of an operation. However, the Army threw the ball in the government’s court by necessitating its approval for any such action while resistance from opposition parties thwarted a parliamentary endorsement. The government finally decided to play safe by promising that such a decision will be taken if the need arises with the backing of the political and military leadership.

Even though all political parties criticized the attack to some degree or another, some parties chose to disagree with a military reaction against terrorists. The JI and JUI, for instance, urged the government not to misuse this incident to gain some political advantages and support for a military operation. At the same time, various conspiracy theories regarding the role of Malala as a spy and the wider interest of America in exploiting Pakistan sprung up. Significant opposition also came forth from Imran Khan, leader of PTI and the savior of Pakistan according to its rapidly growing supporters. He believed a military action to be premature which if carried out would aggravate the security crisis. Khan suggested a three point strategy: detachment from the American War on Terror, dialogue with the militants and as a last resort, military action. He particularly stressed on the participation of the locals in these decisions so that they did not feel alienated.

PML-N is a step ahead of many parties as they not only differ with other parties but their own members also have conflicting viewpoints. Although they have opposed the government’s plan for a military operation in Waziristan, their leaders haven’t explicitly favored dialogue either. PML-N members claim this to be a political trick to delay elections. Still we have Marvi Memon propagating a forceful response while Zafar Ali Shah, Khurram Dastgir and Saad Rafiq have been open to the option of cooperation as part of a multidimensional approach.

If this wasn’t enough, the matter of a terrorism policy was muddled with pro-Malala and anti-Malala discourses. Phrases like “You are either with the Taliban or against the Taliban” were being used to determines one’s loyalty to the state or the militants. A national terrorism policy cannot be simplified to just the Taliban, the drones or US intervention in Pakistani affairs. In fact they are the constituents of that policy.

A difference in opinion over the Waziristan operation should guide debate and discussion over other issues to eventually reach a state policy against terrorism. This is however only the first part of the process; the policy must then be implemented. Malala’s attack was most unfortunate but when seen in the context of the upcoming elections and worldwide outrage, it may be just the right amount of push needed to ensure that political parties come up with policy agreeable to all and sundry.

Hidden Truth

October 22, 2010

Can Pakistan be a World Power Today? THINK!

Crime, without punishment

August 26, 2010

Mosharraf Zaidi

If the global reaction to the most devastating floods in modern world history has not been a wakeup call for Pakistanis, then perhaps the brutality of the Sialkot lynching should. Inside and out, there’s something broken about us.

So how do we fix it? How do we build something that is so broken? One way to proceed is to dive into an honest and forthright assessment of the ailments that plague us collectively. It seems we have every moral disease on the planet available here. Religious discrimination, apparently, doesn’t even take a break during a flood. Nor does petty corruption and rent-seeking by cops and administrators. Nor does terrorism by Takfiri religious extremists. Nor does theft and dacoity and banditry. These are real problems, and they are not incidental.

Take Sialkot, mix it up with Balochistan, sprinkle in some Model Town, wrap it up in Data Darbar and FATA, roast what remains in the fires of Gojra, and then smoke it. Inhale deeply. How does it feel? Does it feel good to intoxicate ourselves with the failures and misery that we are defined routinely, as a people, by ourselves, and quite understandably, by others?

But how it feels is secondary. The question is, does it make a difference? Does it create a more functional society, a more effective state, a more capable government, more responsive institutions, or more accountable leaders? It doesn’t at all. In fact, more often than not, the perpetual obsession to zone in and focus on individual stories like the horror in Sialkot is not a sign of our desire to effect change. It is infinitely more reflective of our gluttonous appetite for the most outrageous and scandalous images. So in the truest tradition of a national discourse that is almost entirely irrational, and almost entirely dependent on emotions, it isn’t surprising that while Pakistan continues to drown in floodwaters that have still not stopped threatening Sindh, there is now a full-blown national introspection about the barbarity of Pakistani society. All 180 million of us, according to many, have collective guilt.

Maybe that is true. And maybe it is the exaggerated sentiment of people whose eyes watched what their minds and hearts could not bear. That is why I have yet to watch the video, and why I will never watch it.

What is certain is that the family of the two kids that were lynched by that crazed mob needs justice. That family deserves justice. The memory of those two boys on the other hand, deserves an outcome that protects this country’s citizens from these kinds of attacks–everywhere.

That is a very tall order. The moral outrage we feel today is not new. In Gojra last summer, a mob went on a rampage and murdered eight innocent Pakistani citizens. It was too easy for the mainstream to make it a minority issue. It was a minority issue–those folks were targeted because they were Christian. But it was a larger public policy issue. In fact, if you are interested in solving these kinds of problems, it was, like Sialkot is, a purely public policy issue.

And in this, there is, I am afraid, no room for emotion. No room for sentimentality, or for self-righteousness, or for moral codes. There is only room for facts and the actions that those facts dictate. This is important.

If the country is feeling emotional about these atrocities, it is on the right track. Sooner or later, when the accumulated emotions of sixty-three years really begin to matter, we will need to convert those emotions into actionable intelligence. This is not the kind of intelligence that foreign correspondents find interesting. At some point, our own obsession with how we are viewed outside Pakistan, will have to be replaced with an obsession about how we are–period.

We’re not well. Not good. Our self-inflicted wounds, the wounds inflicted by nature, and the wounds inflicted by the mortal enemies of the country–the TTP today, a country yesterday, another acronym tomorrow — these wounds are bleeding. Everywhere you turn there is reason to despair–but the despair, in the absence of data, of knowledge and of commitment for change–is about as sinful as the crimes and misdemeanours that generate the despair in the first place.

The Sialkot lynching, and the mob violence and pyromania on display in Gojra on August 1 last year are the products of a legal system that tolerates the most rabid violations of human dignity for the sake of keeping the peace and political expediency. Even with all the blasphemy laws, and the problems that Zia’s era infected the Constitution with in place, there is no possible legal space for vigilantism, or for violence in the name of morality, faith or any other kind of value or ethic. Yet every so often these incidents flare up our collective gluttony for scandal, and our genuine remorse, sorrow and anger.

Violence against minorities is not conducted by the Pakistani state. It is conducted by individuals who are jacked up on religious fervour, thanks to the cancerous oratory of the mullahs. In Sialkot, the kids may not have been from a minority sect, and the instigators, may not have been mullahs–but the formula remains the same. Once you ignite a fire in a mob there are two certainties. First, no one, including the state, will take on the mob. Second, that when all is said and done, the mob will have created a precedent for the next mob–a positive incentive to let its anger loose on whatever grates their sensibility at that time. The reason that precedent exists is simple. Nobody ever gets hanged for being part of a murderous mob.

Of course, murder is just the most extreme kind of a crime. Pakistani politicians frequently use the mullah paradigm to whip up a frenzy of ethnic fear and anger– as is being done right now in Karachi and like they’ve done in Balochistan for decades. When Shaheed Mohtarma was murdered mobs went berserk, burning stores, banks and private property at will. When Shaheed Raza Haider was murdered, the same mobs, with different accents, did the same things.

The anger of mourning political workers, the anger of self-righteous Muslims, and the anger of ordinary Sialkotis is not morally equivalent. Of course it is not. But it is the same disease, the same cancer. They are all malignant because they expose the disability of the Pakistani people to construct state institutions that ensure punitive outcomes for criminals. To build Pakistan, criminals must face the consequences of their crimes.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. www.mosharrafzaidi.com


June 18, 2010

By Ahsan Waheed

Today’s Daily Times Lahore Edition has a picture on its front page of well dressed well fed children holding placards saying ‘child for sale’. Lined up behind them is a bunch of over fed men in clean clothes with upraised arms and faces with foolish false smiles. The caption says that they are sacked employees of some government jobs protesting the loss of their jobs. Protesting on the streets and posing for photographs may be their right but is this the way to do it-by demeaning themselves and their children and sending out the image of a country that has lost its pride and every shred of self respect? What impact is this going to have on these unfortunate children? Do these people want to hand over their children to strangers for money? Don’t they care what will happen to these little boys and girls? If this is a stunt to gain sympathy -and it obviously is-then the media should not become part of a charade. Such acts need to be condemned not given publicity and glorified. No self respecting person with an iota of pride would stoop to such self debasement and such negative images of their homeland. Instead of sympathy these people need to be ostracized and punished.

Read Complete Article Here: http://www.zoneasia-pk.com/ZoneAsia-Pk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=217:why&catid=45:publicissues&Itemid=68

In Indo-Pak marriages, the state often becomes the tyrant mother-in-law

April 12, 2010


It was at a residency programme for South Asian artists in the capital, appropriately called Khoj, that Masooma Syed and Sumedh Rajendran found each other, seven years ago. As their relationship blossomed, they ingeniously discovered ways to spend time together, in places as far apart as Manchester, Sri Lanka and New York. Then, bypassing their respective religions, they went through a Buddhist wedding in Sri Lanka, followed by a legal marriage in a Delhi court two years ago. Finally, after all that travelling, the woman from Lahore and the man from Kerala found a place of their own in Mayur Vihar, in East Delhi; a place that Masooma isn’t hesitant about calling home. “Life is the same whether you wake up here or in Lahore,” says the 39-year-old.

The recent hullabaloo over Sania Mirza marrying Shoaib Akhtar made it seem like this was the first Indo-Pak marriage in the history of the two nations. The reality is that there have been thousands. Indians and Pakistanis, mostly from families divided by Partition, have been marrying each other ever since Pakistan came into existence.

Masooma Syed and Sumedh Rajendran

Both professional artists. Had a Buddhist wedding and a court marriage. She has to leave India every three months for her visa.

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Who is a citizen of India, who decides who is not?

March 9, 2010

Jawed Naqvi

Citizenship is a modern concept and a self-limiting notion. A detailed survey of a mix of Indian citizens, including Kashmiris, published by the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) in its latest edition gives the discussion a more meaningful and complex character than it is traditionally granted. But before we take a look at its findings, it would be useful to bear in mind that references to a foreigner or a “pardesi” in popular idiom – such as folk songs and traditional poetry – are at variance with the issue of citizenship the survey puts under the scanner.

The EPW survey on how Indians see or don’t see themselves as citizens of their country throws up some unexpected results. – Photo by AFP

Much like the loose idiom that thus defines a foreigner vis-à-vis a native, Allama Iqbal too was responsible for causing confusion about the idea of India – which he called Hindustan – and about those inhabiting what he declaimed was a fabled region. After declaring in a popular eulogy that Hindustan was the best nation (or country or territory, he doesn’t define it) he simultaneously supported nascent Muslim separatism, which many Pakistanis see as an early endorsement of their nationhood.

“Pardesi” or its Persianised variant “Begaana”, which also refers to a stranger, forms the spine of popular romance across the Hindi/Urdu belt though by today’s standards the foreigner of yore would usually have belonged to a nearby village or precincts of a different but neighbouring principality. “Balam pardesi” or beloved foreigner could thus be referring to a neighbour by today’s perceptions of what constitutes a foreigner. I have been perplexed since as long as I can remember, however, as to why an Indian’s national sentiment, which comes with Indian citizenship, should require him to feel a greater bonding with a Naga from Nagaland, for example, but not with a Nepali whose language Indians understand better.

A popular word used by many Indians working in the Gulf states in the 1980s was “muluk”. And when they said they were off to their “muluk” (distinct from the more refined mulk) for a holiday, they usually meant a village or a qasbah though sometimes also a city or a town, but it seldom conveyed the sense of a country as the word is generally thought to mean.

The EPW survey on how Indians see or don’t see themselves as citizens of their country throws up some unexpected results. The number of Kashmiris who do not consider themselves as Indians is relatively higher than other regional groups except those from the far eastern Tripura state. However, in absolute terms a majority of Kashmiris still acknowledge their Indian citizenship. Similarly, the average of Indian Muslims who accept the parameters of citizenship is lower by four percentage points than the national average of 89 per cent.

A representative sample of 8,000 men and women were interviewed in their own languages by specially trained investigators. The respondents were asked in a neutral manner questions such as – “Some people think of themselves as Indian citizens, while some others do not think of themselves as citizens of India. Talking about yourself, do you consider yourself a citizen of India?”

Who then are the 89 per cent who claim the status of citizens and who are the non-citizens? Says Subrata Mitra who analysed the data for EPW: “In terms of their self-perception, citizens as well as non-citizens do not have any distinct social profile. The higher educated tend to have a slightly greater tendency to see themselves as citizens.”

Those surveyed were asked simple questions. For example did they agree or not that all citizens enjoyed equal rights. Only 44.7 per cent said they did. More than 11 per cent completely disagreed. Were people free to speak their minds without fear? About 39 per cent said they did and 13 per cent totally disagreed. Did people have the power to change the government they did not like? More than 45 per cent felt they did nearly 17 per cent disagreed. Most citizens had basic necessities like food, clothing shelter? As many as 33.4 per cent affirmed it while 12.6 per cent said it was not true.

In the survey, in terms of social characteristics, Mitra sees no clear social profile that would radically distinguish the self-perception as citizens from that of non-citizens. State averages showed a distinct swing though. “Clearly, context matters, for in Jammu and Kashmir, at 19.6 per cent, the average of non-citizens is almost three times that of the national average. In Tripura, it climbs even higher, reaching an astounding 27 per cent.”

The peculiar situation of Jammu and Kashmir marked a deviation from the national average in other ways. “First of all, let this be clear that 69 per cent of people interviewed in Jammu and Kashmir think of themselves as Indian citizens,” says Mitra. “Even among Muslims the percentage is 59 per cent. There is no clear relationship with education; and contrary to the national trend, urban residents are less inclined to count themselves as citizens.”

Mitra says that the national trend of a positive relationship with class does not hold in Kashmir, “with the rich and the very poor pulling level with regard to the probability of counting themselves as citizens of India.”

Within the framework of the findings, “the split between Jammu and the Kashmir Valley carries the shadow of the separatist movement”. In other words 83 per cent of the residents of Jammu count themselves as citizens of India compared to 53 per cent for the Kashmir Valley.”

In Jammu and Kashmir, according to Mitra, men perform better than women when it comes to the strength of citizenship. However, the rural respondents perform better than their urban counterparts. The upper castes of Jammu and Kashmir (most of them from Jammu region) perform better whereas the proportion of low citizenship is “alarmingly high” among Muslims.

In the big picture there are even more glaring differences in the way Kashmiris see themselves vis-à-vis India and how others approach the issue. The same scale that shows 43.6 per cent of the national sample to be in the category of ‘high’ citizenship reveals that in Jammu and Kashmir, only 20.2 per cent are at the highest level of citizenship.

The survey looks at a comparative data between Kashmiri Muslims and Muslims from the rest of India. “Strong citizenship among educated Muslims outside Jammu and Kashmir reaches 59.4 per cent, compared with to 54.2 per cent for all Indians with a comparable level of education. Equally surprising is the effect of age: young Muslims (up to 25 years) outside Jammu and Kashmir contain 52.3 per cent strong citizens compared to 44.6 per cent for Indians as a whole.”

It sounds like an interesting survey and probably needs to be followed up more scrupulously. Would it however make much difference to the way Muslims – Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris – are perceived in the paradigm of them and us. Or as the songs described the pardesis and the begaanas.


Nearly 70% Pakistanis support Christians to build churches in Pakistan

January 12, 2010

As many as 69 percent of Pakistanis believed that Christians in Muslim countries like Pakistan should be allowed to construct churches for worship, a survey said on Friday.

The remaining 31 percent either did not support the idea or gave no response, according to a Gilani Research Foundation survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan.

The question was asked in the wake of the news that a majority of the Swiss voters had supported to ban the building of mosques with minarets in its neighborhoods.

A nationally representative sample of men and women from across the country were asked “In your opinion, in Muslim countries like Pakistan, where Christians are in minority, should they be allowed to build church or not?” Sixty nine percent claimed to be in the favor of letting Christians build their own public worship sites, while 29 percent are against it. The remaining 2 percent of the respondents did not respond.

The findings of the survey revealed that a proportionately higher percentage of ruralites, and Pakistani men are slightly more tolerant towards the right of minorities to worship.

Interestingly, the data also showed that contrary to what is popularly perceived about the residents of the North West Frontier Province, a vast majority believed that Christian minorities have a right to worship and the governments of Muslim countries like Pakistan should allow the construction of their churches.

The study was released by Gilani foundation and carried out by Gallup Pakistan, the Pakistani affiliate of Gallup International. The latest survey was carried out among a sample of 2,740 men and women in rural and urban areas of all four provinces of the country.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral Church in Karachi, Pakistan (Picture Above)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi, is situated on Shahrah-e-Iraq, formerly known as Clarke Street, located near the Empress Market in Karachi, Pakistan.

The first church in Sindh (except for possibly one in Thatta) was initially built on the grounds of this cathedral in 1845, and was called St. Patrick’s Church. It was in April 1881 that the present cathedral was opened, since the Christian community grew in number, and the need for a larger place of worship became apparent. Despite the construction of the new building, the little church continued to function until it was destroyed by a storm in 1885.

The present-day cathedral is built in Gothic style; it measures 170 ft by 75 ft, and has the capacity to accommodate at least 1,500 worshippers at the same time. It was designed by three members of the Society of Jesus: Father Wagner, Brother Kluver and Brother Lau.

The Gazetteer of the Province of Sindh provides a description of the cathedral:

“Its exterior is not ornamental, though striking from a distance, but money and art have been lavished on the interior. The chancel, itself spacious, acquires a special impressiveness but its additional height, while the noble contours of the aspiring altar are seen to the best advantage. The whole interior is painted in oil and the windows are all of stained glass, the members of the congregation.”

In 1978 the cathedral celebrated its centenary. The Pakistan Post Office issued special commorative stamps on the occasion. Pope John Paul I sent special greetings and blessings on the occasion.

Today, the cathedral’s grounds are adorned with a marble monument of Christ the King, which was constructed in 1931 to commemorate the memory of the Jesuit Mission in Sindh. The Parish Priest is Father Edward Joseph.

RAW Kidnaps Three Pakistanis

January 6, 2010

After the collapse of the Taliban government in Kabul, India came into action. Many Pakistanis were abducted from Afghanistan and secretly transferred to India. Some of them were used to recruit terrorists and informants inside Pakistan. Others are killed by Indian security in occupied Kashmir and then bodies are presented to foreign diplomats in New Delhi as evidence of ‘terrorism’ from Pakistan. On Jan. 1, 2010, India failed to exchange with Pakistan a list of Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. Unfortunately, weak Pakistani politicians and a confused Pakistani media have failed to pay attention to the fact that every single Pakistani citizen returning from Indian jails comes back with acute mental disorders due to torture. In this case, investigated by the Daily Mail, Indian government held three alleged Pakistani ‘terrorists’ but when time came to release them to Pakistan, the three mysteriously disappeared in India.

From Ajay Mehta
The Daily Mail of Pakistan.
Monday, 4 January 2010.

NEW DELHI-In a rather mysterious move, Indian intelligence agency, Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) on Friday kidnapped three Pakistani nationals from New Delhi after they had completed their sentence in prison and the Indian authorities had taken them to a hospital, prior to deport them back to Pakistan, reveal the findings of the investigations made into the matter by The Daily Mail.

According to The Daily Mail’s findings the Delhi Police, on the evening of the 1st of January, 2010 announced that three ‘high profile terrorists, belonging to Pakistan managed to escape from the official custody while the authorities had taken them to an official hospital to meet the procedure, required to deport them to their home country as they had completed the term of the sentence, awarded to them by the court, some ten years back.

The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that three Pakistanis, kidnapped by RAW officials on Friday, were earlier arrested on October 30, 2000, from Rohtak and Delhi by RAW with the allegations that they were possessing a huge quantity of arms and ammunition, including 17 kg of high-grade RDX as well as 50 kg of heroin etc and were convicted accordingly. They were subsequently sent to prison where they completed their respective sentences in December last and were now in the process of being deported back to home country. The three, identified as Sadiq, Rafaqat Ali and Razzak are officially reported to be aged 55, 56 and 61 years, respectively.

“They were not in the custody of the police. But they were under restraint orders of the FRRO. They were being taken to Guru Nanak Eye Hospital by Meghalaya police personnel who were on deputation to the Delhi Police’s Special Branch when they fled. We have registered a case and are searching for them,” Joint Commissioner of Police Karnal Singh said while talking to the media on Saturday.

However, the investigations of The Daily Mail reveal that the administration of the Guru Nanak Eye Hospital expresses its complete ignorance about the incident. “I do not remember any such case in last few days. We are verifying our records, but if any such incident would have taken place, it was supposed to be reported immediately as it is not a small matter. So far we have not even been contacted by Intelligence or Police official about this matter officially and only thing that we know in this direction is what we have heard or seen from the media reports,” the hospital’s Additional Medical Superintendent, Shashi Gururaja, said when contacted by The Daily Mail. Shashi also stated that it was not possible for people with ages of 55 years to 61 years to have escaped so easily particularly when they have spent last ten years in prison while he also stated that the hospitals own security was foolproof. Shashi Gururaja further clarified that in any case, to ensure the custody of the prisoners brought to hospital was no the responsibility of hospital administration as it was the sole duty of the relevant law enforcing officials. He expressed his surprise over Joint Police Commissioner Karnal Singh’s statement.

“We have announced a reward of Rs 50,000 each for providing information on the three Pakistanis. We have also released their pictures,” a senior police official said on Sunday, while after the escape, Delhi Police registered a fresh case against the trio for violating the restraint order under the Foreigners’ Act, a senior police official said. Home Ministry officials said an alert has been sounded in Delhi and adjoining areas to nab them.

The Daily Mail’s finding indicate that that some mysterious persons with underworld links (RAW links) as well as some officials of Maharashtra police, including a police inspector of Mumbai, identified as Inspector Tulsidas Khakkad of anti-extortion cell and a constable with the name Talu Salunke from Chembur police station of Mumbai’s suburbs were amongst the regular visitors of the kidnapped trio at the prison. According to head constable Manohar (the name has been change for the safety of the source) of the prison complex where the trio served the sentence for about a decade, the three Pakistani inmates throughout remained rather isolated from other prisoners and never tried to other prisoners of the Muslims community that were brought to prison on small and big crimes. Manohar however recalls that for the past couple of years, the trio was suddenly started visited by certain mysterious people including some cops. ” In the beginning, I thought the people that were visiting the trio were the people of famous Pakistani Don, Dawood Ibrahim but one day a colleague told me that he identified a couple of them as the workers of Mumbai’s underworld mafia Don Chhota Rajan. (Chhota Rajan is actually the head of Special Operations Division of RAW). I, later, also identified some of the visitors as members of Rajan gang while a couple of them I saw, earlier visiting as RAW officials to interrogate some other criminals. However, for the past one year or so, Inspector Tulsidas Khakkad of Mumbai’s police and constable Talu of Chembur police station of Mumbai also started meeting the trio and would come with some gifts for them including sweets on Eid etc”, asserted Manohar while giving his account to The Daily Mail. Manohar also says that all the three maintained very good behavior during their stay at the prison and were not in good health for the past few years. He said that the two, Sadique and Rafaqat used to respect Razzak as he was elder and would address him as Haji Saab. To a question, Manohar says that he learnt that Razzak’s was going to perform Hajj and prior to that had come to meet some relatives in India but was arrested in some terrorism case while he was around 51 years old at the time of arrest. Razzak would often cry in the prison, saying that he was about to go to Mecca to perform Hajj but the Indian intelligence officials criminally framed him in a fake case and deprived him of his life’s biggest desire.

Manohar said that upon this, almost all the cellblock inmates started calling Razzak as Haji Saab to cheer him up. Manohar also to The Daily Mail that Razzak had developed some heart trouble around three years back and was living a quite life since then and would avoid any stressful thing.

He also said that the two others were also not enjoying very good health as were often sent to prison’s hospital for medical treatments with complaints of asthma, cardio-vascular problems, diabetes and high blood pressure.

One of the cellblock inmates of the missing trio, Yadav, (name changed for the safety of the source) when contacted by this scribe as a visitor, told that the trios was known to him for the just last 2 years. Yadav says that he was brought to the same block of the prison as he was sentenced for 5 years in a case by the end of 2007. “After a few months, I developed good friendly relations with all the three of them. The told me that they had nothing to do with any terror move and knew nothing about any Don or any Jihadi organization. Sadiq told me that he had come to pay a visit to Khwaja Chishti’s Dargah (Shrine) at Ajmer but was abducted by some people from the bus stand of Ajmer while he was visiting India on proper passport and valid visa. He told me later he was tortured too much and was made to make a few confessions before the court which he did to avoid further physical torture. Almost same was the story of the rest of the two. Haaji ( Razzak) was the much depressed out of the three as he would often curse the time when he decided to come and meet some close relatives in India while he was set to go and perform Hajj in a couple of months. All the 3 were not very religious minded and were not regular in offering prayer but would hardly miss the Friday prayer. They were not in good health as they had developed multiple diseases including heart trouble, blood pressure etc. They were very happy when last month they were told that they were to return home by January 2010 as their sentence was completed,” asserted Yadav. To a question, Yadav said that he ask them once that who were the people that had been coming to see them in prison with gifts etc and Razzak and Sadiq told him that they did not know those people but those people identified themselves as frequent business travelers to Pakistan and claimed of knowing some of their friends and relatives in Pakistan.

The Daily Mail’s investigations indicate that RAW, for the past many years is following the policis of Israeli intelligence agency Mossaad. With this physical torture oriented policy, Mossaad has managed to create many fake terrorists out of the innocent Palestinians and made them to confess the crimes they never committed. The Daily Mail’s finding indicate that these tactic were adopted by RAW in the late 90s and suddenly the number of Pakistanis, arrested in India with terror charges started increasing dramatically by the late 90s while Ajmal Kasab being the latest in the series.

The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the three old-age Pak nationals, that have now been kidnapped by RAW, have been abducted for two reasons. The tops reason is that RAW would like to use these “Absconding Terrorists” to add colour to some new terror drama to blame Pakistan and ISI to be patronizing them in near future or to kill them in some fake encounter with claims that they were killed while plotting some terror attack. The second reason behind this abduction appears to be that at this particular stage, RAW and the Indian government do not want at all that some Pakistanis who were framed in fake terror case and served imprisonment in India, should now, after being released, go back home safely and narrate their respective factual accounts to the media as such a move can expose further the drama through which the RAW and the Indian government framed an innocent Pakistani, Ajmal Kasab and presented him to the world as a Pakistani terrorist. Kasab case has already taken a unique turn, as unlike the mission trio, Ajmal Kasab has taken a u-turn in the court and has stated that he was tortured to make confessions by RAW and Police. Kasab case also went out of the hands of the Indians when a Delhi based- lawyer, in another case, proved that RAW and Police often frame innocent Pakistanis in fake terror cases and on the grounds of proofs, he managed to get two such accused released by the courts.

The Daily Mail’s findings also indicate that some five cops of Maharashtra police have been proved having links with RAW’s Chhota Rajan gang and have been suspended already by the top authorities. These findings indicate that 2 out of these underworld linked cops are those who have been seeing the missing trio at prison and to be more precise, these two are Inspector Tulsidas Khakkad and constable Talu Salunke This proves that Head Constable Manohar’s statement into the issue was based on facts and RAW was already planning to get hold of the three Pakistanis before they were to be deported back to Pakistan. It proves that the said three Pakistanis would soon be shown killed in some encounter or re-arrested in some “anti-terror operation” as police and Home Ministry have already issued red alert over the “escape” of “Pakistani terrorists.”

Talking to The Daily Mail, Dr. P J Arora, a seasoned criminology analyst said that he was shocked to see that three prisoner, in the ages of 50s and 60s, after completing their terms in prison for over a decade where they were never reported to be involved in any bid of a prison break etc. escaped from the official custody while they were just about to be sent back home and that too on the official expenditures. “I cannot believe this bullshit and I am sure no person with a sane mind would do so. A person when he has completed a term in prison is set to be a free bird in matter of hours and is fully aware of it, would never make such a blunder and in this case, these huffing oldies with last ten years in prison could not even imagine of doing such an act and even if they desire so, where would they get energy to do so. They had no money, they had no valid traveling documents, they were set to be sent home, their traveling expenditures were being born by the government, their traveling documents were prepared by the government and they were set be traveling back home through a safe, unpaid journey and right at that moment, they escaped and fled? Who will buy this,” asked Dr. Arora.

Pakistan not given enough credit, says Mullen

December 22, 2009

WASHINGTON: Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen has said that Pakistan does not get enough credit for its role in the war against extremists although some of its achievements were ‘pretty extraordinary’.

By Anwar Iqbal

Pakistan’s job in Swat was not complete yet, what Pakistanis had achieved so far was remarkable: Admiral Mullen. - Photo by AP

‘Too many people eagerly and easily criticise Pakistan for what they haven’t done, and when I go to Swat and look at what they did there on the military side I think it’s pretty extraordinary,’ said the US military chief while talking to journalists on Sunday.

A report released on Monday by the American Forces Press Service, noted that last week Pakistani authorities arranged for Admiral Mullen to visit Swat and showed him the areas they had retaken from the Taliban.

‘Swat was in danger, and the Taliban began moving even closer to the Pakistani capital. Admiral Mullen’s visit there showed that the Pakistani military has done a good job of counter-insurgency. The army cleared the valley and is holding it,’ the report noted.

It quoted Admiral Mullen as saying that while Pakistan’s job in Swat was not complete yet, what Pakistanis had achieved so far was remarkable.

The report noted that more than most US officials, Admiral Mullen had a cordial and long-standing relationship with the Pakistani military.

The report pointed out that Admiral Mullen ‘advises patience and humility’ in dealing with Pakistan, a view not shared by some leading Republicans in Congress.

Separately, the Pentagon reported that Admiral Mullen signed guidelines for the US military for 2010, which goes to members of the Joint Staff and informs the joint force.

Al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups remained the biggest threat to the United States, the admiral wrote in the guidance. ‘The threat is still real,’ he said. Defeating those groups will take more than military power, and the admiral called on the US military to work with other national agencies and international allies to take on the threat.

President Obama’s strategy has the goal of defeating Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and to prevent the group from threatening America and its allies, he noted.

‘Our main effort now must be to push forces into the theatre as quickly as possible – including shifting the balance of enablers from Iraq,’ the admiral wrote. The enablers include such things as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, engineers, military police and civil affairs personnel.

All aspects of the joint force needed to act more quickly, he said, urging the Defence Department and the combatant commands to send their very best people to fight the wars.

Dealing with Afghanistan

November 2, 2009

Najmuddin A Shaikh

We should use whatever means we have to promote the return of the reconcilable Taliban to the mainstream of Afghan life, obviating the need for such a large security force

Writing on a Thursday morning less than 24 hours after Secretary Clinton arrived in Pakistan on what was seen as a high level effort on the part of the Obama administration to convince sceptical Pakistanis about the sincerity of the American effort to forge a durable people-to-people relationship, I would normally have focused on what she has been able to achieve in this direction. That however will have to wait until the visit is over and until every media genius in our country has had an opportunity to prove that, even more than the general public, our media is distrustful of the Americans, knows little about the history of US-Pak relations, and even less about the US legislative process and about the reporting requirements imposed (sometimes in connivance with and sometimes in opposition) upon the administration by Congress in virtually every foreign policy initiative for which funding was needed. That hopefully can be the focus along with the results of the Clinton visit of next week’s article.

Today, however, the issue of concern is the situation in Afghanistan, how it is likely to evolve, how it will impinge on Pakistan’s security and how it will play into Pakistan’s perception of the regional security situation. Two important developments are awaited: the successful conducting under tighter UN control of the runoff election on November 7 for the Presidency of Afghanistan; and the announcement by Obama of his strategy for Afghanistan and specifically about his response to Gen McChrystal’s request for additional troops.

Former Vice President Cheney has accused Obama of “dithering” on this issue while others have supported him for taking his time to make a decision particularly given the uncertain political situation. The latest media reports however indicate that Obama will announce his decision sometimes between the November 7, when the runoff presidential election will be held, and November 11, when he is due to leave for Tokyo. Whether these dates hold or not, it is clear that the announcement cannot be long delayed.

Let me be rash enough to try and predict the election outcome and what the Obama strategy will be. First President Karzai will be re-elected perhaps with the lowest turnout in Afghanistan’s brief electoral history, but he will get enough votes in the North to set at rest concerns about the election creating an ethnic divide. His foreign advisers and mentors will make it clear to him that in his next term there will have to be a greater focus on eliminating corruption, limiting the influence of the warlords and decentralisation, meaning the devolving of meaningful powers to the newly elected provincial councils with whom donors could work on development and on effecting needed improvements in the social sector infrastructure.

NATO forces in turn will have to commit themselves to not depending on (bribing) local warlords to maintain peace in their areas of responsibility and to do everything possible to avoid collateral damage while combating the Taliban threat. This is not going to be easy but it will mean that, at least to start with, Karzai will only have ministers with relatively clean reputations and will curb the excesses of people like his brother Ahmad Wali Karzai in Kandahar.

Second, Obama will announce a strategy along the following lines:

Disrupting, dismantling and destroying the Al Qaeda network was the US goal and in Afghanistan this meant the disrupting of the Taliban, Haqqani and Hekmatyar networks because in one way or another they supported Al Qaeda and would readily provide sanctuary to it in areas of Afghanistan where they could exercise durable control;

Full endorsement of the policy of making the protection of the Afghan population the first priority for American troops. This will mean keeping most of the forces in the urban areas while abandoning most of the remote posts in the rural areas. This will also mean minimising the use of air power for the protection function and reducing its use in offensive operations against the Taliban when chances of civilian casualties are high;

Increase development funds from the current $2.7 billion to $4.8 billion as requested by McChrystal. Meet in full the requirements of civilian experts which would mean adding another 300 or more to the 900 odd that are currently being processed and ensuring that these experts are for the most part those who can generate more agricultural and infrastructure development activity through using local contractors;

Provide McChrystal an additional 15,000 to 20,000 troops in place of the maximum of 40,000 he had asked for and stipulate that most if not all of these troops be such as could perform the dual function of fighting the Taliban and providing training to the Afghan National Army;

Emphasise that the strategy was designed to facilitate a withdrawal of US and NATO forces and that the training and equipping of greatly enlarged Afghan security forces to take over security responsibilities was a key element;

Endorsing the recommendation that the strength of the Afghan National Army be raised to 240,000 and that of the Afghan National Police to 160,000. Committing to the provision of $7-8 billion annually for the next three four years for this training and committing a further $5-6 billion annually over the next five to six years for meeting the recurring expenses of this force. (An effort will be made to get other countries to pick up the tab – Japan for the Police, and the EU for the army, but the US would have to be ready to pick up the slack.); and

Providing funding to a special team under McChrystal which will seek to wean the foot soldiers and junior commanders of the Taliban back into the mainstream by outright bribery or by offering relatively well paid make-work jobs. This too will be a well-funded operation to which US allies will be expected to contribute.

If this is the strategy that is announced, and with minor variations this is what it is bound to be, then Pakistan should be worrying about its implications.

First, if an army of this size is built up in Afghanistan, it will need for the foreseeable future foreign funding to keep itself afloat since it will be many decades before the Afghan economy can support such an enormous force. Afghanistan will therefore be under foreign influence for some time. Even if we regard American influence as benign, it is very likely that in a few years America will lose interest and then the job of funding may well be taken up by other regional powers.

Second, if the enlargement of the army takes place while the Pashtun areas remain disturbed by the Taliban, much of the recruitment will be done in Tajik and Uzbek areas. This has the potential of creating a backlash in the Pashtun areas since traditionally the army officers and men have been a Pashtun preserve. It is also evident that such an army will be regarded as occupiers as much as NATO forces when they move into Pashtun areas. The subsequent unrest will have an impact on our tribal areas and in the Pashtun belt along our border with Afghanistan in Balochistan.

Three, once an army of this size comes into being it will not be easily demobilised. It will have to justify its existence and for that it must pursue a nationalist cause such as for instance “Pashtunistan”. Would this not then bring about the dreaded “two front” situation that we were trying to avoid by seeking “strategic depth” in Afghanistan?

These are the things that we should be discussing both among ourselves and with NATO. We should be arguing that while an expansion of the Afghan fore is an inescapable necessity, it should (i) be ethnically balanced; (ii) be kept at a number that the Afghan economy can reasonably be expected to support in five or at most ten years time; and (iii) be such as would never become dependent on regional powers for its funding, training or equipment requirements.

On our part we should use whatever means we have to promote the return of the reconcilable Taliban to the mainstream of Afghan life, obviating the need for such a large security force.

Perhaps those media pundits who are genuinely concerned about potential threats to Pakistan’s security should initiate knowledgeable discussions on this and on what can be done about it.

The writer is a former foreign secretary


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