Tuesday, December 15, 2009


(A Brace for Bloody Winters)

Brigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf

The long awaited Obama Speech is over. It is to wait and see the impact of the third surge in a highly destabilized, charged and violent region. The endgame if one dares, is not what Secretary Clinton wants us to believe.

I would describe the new strategy as a tight balloon in hot air that may rapture even before it reaches close to its objectives. The speech makes all the right noises of an establishment given up on the doctrine of ‘Shock and Awe’ that promoted absolutism in distant lands. It recognizes Pakistan’s integrity, sovereignty and welfare of the people. Following intense lobbying between State Department and Pentagon, there appears a lead role for the Pentagon working in tandem with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) previously headed by General Stanley McChrystal from the Vice President’s Office and the CIA.

Obama is in similar establishment pressure that Kennedy had to bear in Bay of Pigs and when he wanted to thin out from Vietnam. Cognisant that he should not go down in history as ‘Obama who never was’, the new AF-PAK strategy is a compromise with enough blank space for narratives to be filled later. It is these blank narratives that cause concern. As clarifications from Gates and Clinton suggest:

There is not a deadline. There is- what we have is a specific date on which we will begin transferring responsibility for security, district by district, province by province, in Afghanistan to the Afghans. The process of that and the subsequent thinning of our forces will take place over a period of time and will happen – and will be done based on the conditions on the ground, and the decision on that will be made by our commanders in the field.

The speech is but the tip of iceberg diplomacy. What lies undisclosed is high intensity sting and covert intelligence operations conducted by CIA and the dreaded JSOC. The message is unambiguous. Pakistan will have to face a surge of expanded drone attacks by both JSOC and CIA, and a cruel spate of covertly sanctioned illegal assassinations, sting operations and anarchy generated by contractors besides the routine State Department leaks capable of breaking hell in Pakistan.

Conspicuously, there is no mention of India in the script. It is also mysterious that all regional powers including China, Russia and Iran are maintaining an eerie silence on AF-PAK Strategy.

But this is the script left to Pakistan’s Security Establishment and hapless people to contend with. The much needed public support to this war on terrorism could slowly erode creating a vicious reaction; something needed to declare Pakistan an unstable state under the UN auspices.

The other dimensions of this war will be shaped by our very own.

Pakistan’s political establishment has not behaved in a manner worthy of a country at war on multiple fronts. Narrow political agendas are too endearing to spare a moment for a larger mission. There is a laissez faire and total absence of political structuring, be it meeting heads of foreign missions, dignitaries or foreign intelligence agencies. US diplomacy holds a carrot for politicians to push back the military and intelligence agencies at the perilous cost of the existence of the state itself.

Pakistan’s economy is in a downward spiral with no hedging. Within a decade, the country is energy deficient. Agriculture sector, the only positive indicators for many decades is being manipulated to a position of becoming non productive. The farmer has been exposed to the greedy cartels, which the government shows no resolve to control.

It began with the manipulative buying of sugar cane followed by the disappearance of Atta from the market during a bumper year. Now the paddy crops are ready with no buyers while the value added industry is going hoarse over extra ordinary exports of raw cotton and yarn. The latest is the manipulation of tomato prices in Sindh by cartels from Rs. 80 to a paltry Rs. 2.

India has acquired the capability to manipulate the waters of Chenab feeding Punjab. Kishen Ganga project will affect the planned Neelum Project and Mangla reservoir. There are reports that IRSA has refused water to Punjab from River Indus implying that Southern Punjab will not produce enough winter crops that it normally does raising the ante on food security as also give impetus to the movement for devolving the province.

The Sales Tax imposed in 2000 was legislated as a Value Addition Tax (VAT) that never served its purpose. It is yet again being changed to VAT. Traditionally, such taxes are imposed on growing and developing economies. In Pakistan, suffice to say that the effects of this taxation on an ailing, sinking and manipulative economy will be negative.

This is not a comedy of errors but a deliberately executed policy to halt the wheels. As poverty grows, so will the, frustration and crime in society. This fits into the US Schemes of shaping the environment.

The blanks in the narrative and the implosion being generated within are the hot air that would inevitably lead to a clash between the armed forces, intelligence agencies and the present government. It will also be exploited by self styled experts and media hungry generals to spill beans long after they had sold their conscience, something that serves to prove many US hypotheses on the Pakistan defence establishment.

The next 18 months and beyond will be difficult for Pakistan and its national security. The government and politicians have to move away from their self preserving policies to a broad canvas of national consensus. It is also crucial to move from a US enforced war strategy to an approach based on national consensus that takes cognizance of justifiable US sensibilities and concerns. Some of the contours of such a policy are:

  • A broad minimum consensus on national security that addresses the war on terrorism, fast track socio economic development at grass roots and economic hedging.
  • Take China, Russia and Iran into confidence on how Pakistan intends to play its role in the latest surge.
  • Persuade USA to support Pakistan against the secessionist movement in Balochistan.
  • Identify and dissected various brands of militants within a broad name of Taliban and deal them separately both politically and militarily. The purpose: to isolate groups with links to al Qaeda.
  • Shift counter insurgency operations from a sledge hammer strategy to precision actions based on intelligence, air support and air mobile tactics.
  • Just like USA is engaging Afghan Taliban, we must also engage their sympathisers in Pakistan to draw them away from the al Qaeda operatives and urban terrorists towards a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Stop dragging feet on the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) and legislate it as an effective mechanism to counter insurgency and urban terrorism. It must co-opt representative from the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, intelligence, local bodies, civil society and media. The temptation to fill political slots must be resisted.
  • The spirit of nationhood must be carried forward from the NFC Award to all other areas of national cohesion, well being and security.
  • The private media must formulate a national security code of conduct on sensitive national security matters and black out self styled belatedly confessing opportunists.

The government of Pakistan has to appreciate the dangers to Pakistan’s integrity and security arising out of the third surge. The opportunities have to be recognised, even if it be at the cost of short term tactical disadvantage. The bottom line is that after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan must emerge as a responsible nuclear power with no scope for private armies led by criminals, thugs and militants. This means bracing for a bloody winter in the urban areas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Colonel Jaffery narrating the migrations of 1947 writes, “A mutilated old man reached Pakistan on a train and asked him, has Pakistan come? When told it had, he closed his eyes and died’. His destination: The Dreamland of Pakistan.

Brigadier (R) Samson Simon Sharaf

In an emotional and controversial address to his constituency, the President of Pakistan, Mr. Asif Ali Zardari referred to the country as Sindhu Desh. In his fiery and reactive speech, this was perhaps the only silver lining. Deliberately or otherwise, he had touched a very sensitive issue of nationhood.

The politicians of Sindh unlike the Unionists of Punjab have been more Pakistani in many ways than they are accredited. Jinnah, the Syeds, Qazis, Soomros and Bhuttos are but to name a few.
Reviewing the annals of history, we are pleasantry reminded that Pakistan was never the realization of one ethnicity, sect or mindset. It was a struggle based on the aspirations of diverse groups and still remains so.

The Baloch voted for the creation with an overwhelming majority. At a crucial time the princely states of Balochistan were advised by Maulana Azad to join Pakistan. Nawab Akbar Bugti valiantly stood by the concept of Pakistan. Can we forget the roles of the Khosas, Jamalis, Qazi Issa, Achakzais, Mandokhels, Jogehezais?

Similarly, the people of NWFP rejected the Congress friendly approach of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and rallied to the beck and call of Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan. Many tribal leaders preferred to join Pakistan rather than live under the Afghan-Indian intrigue.

Let us also not forget the people of Bengal and their leaders including Sheikh Mujib ur Rehman, a young firebrand Muslim Leaguer. These were all sons of the soil who organised the Muslim Education Conference to Muslim League. They lived comfortably within their own majorities least affected by the Congress-Muslim League (Hindu-Muslim) divide. Yet they chose to be Pakistan.

Christians of Punjab and Sindh voted unanimously in favour of Pakistan. Leaders such as S P Singha, Joshua Fazal Din, Chandu Lal and Gibbons remained Quaid e Azam’s most trusted allies in difficult and treacherous times. So did both factions of the Ahmediya Jamaat. They were Pakistanis by choice and never the conquered people. They were also the torch bearers of Pakistan Movement that ran the last but one lap. Men like S M Burke made remarkable contributions in articulating Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Those who ran the last lap sacrificed the most. They had faced the brunt of socio economic injustices and struggled valiantly within their enclaves and ghettos for Pakistan. They migrated from far afar on carts, trains and foot. Very few would know that these hapless caravans also comprised Christians from as far away as South India and Delhi. Most as events proved tragically, left one ghetto, to create another. They still ask, ‘Has Pakistan come?’

Within the premise of the Two Nation Theory and Lahore Resolution, the State that Quaid e Azam promised was an Inclusive Country with Muslim majority; A modern nation-state where people from all walks, ethnicities and beliefs were equal citizens. But as events proved, these die-hard supporters were condemned. Patriotism and nationalism became an exclusive domain of few. Calls for devolution were construed as sub nationalism and separatism. Traitors became a term to define dissent and men such as Faiz and Mian Ifthikhar, the architects of the Kashmir resistance were quickly dubbed as traitors.

My father Lal Din Sharaf, then a young and firebrand revolutionary poet attended the gathering at Manto Park Lahore on 23-24 March 1940. He noted these words of Quaid e Azam in his diary, "Pakistan is a Nation and now must have defined Boundaries".

For this and many other reasons, I have always opined that PAKISTANIAT is distinct in its evolution. It took birth much before the geography of Pakistan was drawn. If we accept Quaid’s logic of Nation before a Boundary, Pakistaniat existed in the hearts and minds of millions of people who subsequently migrated to East and West Pakistan as also those states that joined Pakistan by choice. Unfortunately, the concept of a Pakistani nationhood has since deteriorated.

The ownership has gradually shifted to those who never made a choice.

There is another dimension to the geographical notion of Pakistan. Historically, the people of Indus were called Sindhu. The term Hindu is a derivative of both Sindhu and Schinde. The little discovered Nara Civilisation that existed along and astride the banks of this river system pre-dates Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa and Mehr Garh. Over ten thousand years old the region had been the world centre at least thrice; the Nara (Sarasvati) Age, Mohenjo-Daro and the Great Mauryan Empire. It ruled the world as far away as Greece and Egypt. It had a river system of which Indus was just a part. This Great Nara River entered what is now Pakistan near Fort Abbas and debouched at a place Nagar Par Kar (cross the river). This is the land of world’s highest mountains, largest river systems and oldest deserts. This was the wonderland imbedded in the innate memories of us people.

Indeed, if both the spirit of Pakistaniat that predated its boundaries and innate memories of dreamland morphed into the Pakistani construct of nationhood articulately enunciated by Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, what went wrong?

The quest of inventing a nation that already existed, repeated military interventions, misuse of religion for expediencies and political violence has all but obscured the Pakistan that Jinnah created. The bureaucracy, trained to rule fared no better. The two combined with the political rats jumping ships to create a ruling elite. The thesis to emerge was the indispensability of an individual in the backdrop of extreme national vulnerability. Those who challenged the drift or showed imagination were singled out as non conformists, ambitious, pseudo, alarmist and traitors.

These distortions to the national fabric were pronounced during the Zia era and snowballed thereafter. Unfortunately, the last three decades (1977-2008) comprise 19 years of exclusive military dictatorships. If we add the troika factor that continued to remove successive elected regimes, then the past 30 years are patrolled by a praetorian mindset.

The latest round of democracy has landed through a very bloody route. Pakistan’s highlands are burning and economy sinking. The process of nation building has to begin now. It is time to act! President Zardari has to build a spirit of national reconciliation and reconstruction. He has to be accountable to emotions and reflections that highlighted his own speech. This is no time to complain and mourn the past nor any space left for political stratagems.

Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, please get out of your paranoia, self pity and persecution complex. You are the all powerful President of a democratic dispensation that ever was. The Bhutto Legacy inasmuch as it is yours is also ours. You are the head of an empowered democratic regime with a friendly opposition in place.

Your challenges are not opinion makers but the people for whom you have to deliver. Your challenge lies in answering with actions and not rhetoric, the many questions you raised about Pakistan’s identity.

Despite any dilemmas and daemons you confront, your challenge is to take the bull by the horns; Come on, pick the baton and lead the way for Jinnah’s Pakistan! This would forever cleanse you of all malignancies that haunt you and your party.

The Parliament has to take a new guard and play out a long resolute innings without loosing wickets. If they do, the people of Pakistan will see hope and coalesce the way they did as recently as the earthquake of 2005 and against militancy.

Our Destination inevitably is, ‘The Wonderland of Pakistan’. Even if we die doing it, the spirit must keep marching on. This is what Benazir Bhutto did.

Friday, November 20, 2009


Brigadier (r) Samson Simon Sharaf

Major General (Retired) Amir Faisal Alavi, the 1st General Officer Commanding of the Special Services Group (SSG) of Pakistan Army was ambushed and gunned down by assassins on 19 November 2008, a few hundred meters away from his house in Bahria Town Rawalpindi.

A down to earth and plain speaking soldier, Alvi’s only appetite was his motivational vocation. ‘Soldiers are sworn for life’ is what he said to me in 1972. Alavi lived and died a soldier.

When I joined Pakistan Military Academy in 1972, a group of seniors came to rag me. The news had spread that I spoke lucid English but typical Lahori Urdu. Ragging for fun was followed by a visit to the cafeteria, where we chanced to talk of our common linkages in Kenya. I was impressed the way he talked of Pakistan, the army and the sacrifices we needed to make to avenge 1971. Unlike most, he was a Pakistani by choice and renounced his British moorings with the intervention of Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the President of Pakistan.

Alavi was amongst the genre that volunteered for the Army after the tragedy of 1971. These years of yester taught us to be proud as well as unbending in honest failure. It opened vistas of true wisdom and meekness of strength. Our emotions were not ours alone but also shared by every grieved Pakistani. There was always, a temperate will, a quality of imagination, vigour of the emotions, an appetite for adventure and the resolve to win back the lost honour.

In the academy library, he held out the autobiography of General Douglas MacArthur and asked me to read, “It is the destiny of every professional soldier to lie in wait for a day that may never come and yet be prepared if it does even at the peril of his life”.

Soldiering for Alavi, spanned those romantic expanses of military life through its peaks and valleys, which none other than soldiers grasp; and always leading towards a horizon of ideals that no profession but soldiering rival. “The honour of the country is paramount; that of the men we command the next; and self, the last”. He was a Pakistani soldier who lived and died every moment of it.

Gen Alavi, General Officer Commanding of SSG, personally led the anti terrorism operation in Angoor Adda Waziristan in 2004/5. The operation was conducted to flush out Al Qaeda Militants from a base inside Pakistan, close to the Afghan Border. Many Afghans and Arabs were either killed or captured including a senior Al Qaeda operative Abdul Rehman Sherry. Ever since, he was in cross hairs.

Ironically, the emotive traits of flirting with danger, fearlessness, aggression and plain speaking that made Alavi a domineering military leader were also his undoing. After his forced retirement, there were failed attempts on his life and death threats chalked on his Bahria Town residence. Surprisingly, his security level was never raised. Finally a group led by Ilyas Kashmiri got him outside his house between 9-9:30 AM on 19 November 2008.

My last meeting with him was in PC Rawalpindi. He was now the CEO of Redtone, a Malaysian telecom company in Islamabad. He had no regrets with a deep personal conviction that he was right. He wanted to redeem his honour at any cost and mentioned death as his final vindication. The honest child in him remained; A boarder of Abbotabad Public School, climbing dangerously to pluck pears and bunk nights for the sake of thrill.

Such are the rallying points to build courage when valour seems to fail; to regain faith when despair haunts; and to create hope when it is forlorn. It was this code that sustained a sense of pride and yet of humility in Alvi even after his pre-mature retirement.

Alavi loved to flirt with danger.

In boxing he took on Talat, a cadet twice his weight and danced around him. In assault course, he set a record and jumped obstacles reminiscent of the Kenyan safari land he came from. Like the marathon runners he had lived his childhood with, he would always lead the gruelling nine miles.

We were together in School of Infantry and Tactics as instructors and he craved to identify those ruthless vertical climbers. During our Staff College Course together, we had the honour of bringing up the tail in the two mile endurance test.

But my best memory is our parachuting course together in 1973. It was gruellingly tough though all fun. We were in the same flight.

As the last post echoed and he was laid to final rest I could hear him yelling, ‘four men right door’ and off we jumped into the open sky. ALAVI MY CHEERLEADER!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


(The Last Battle)

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf

US Strategic mind is obsessed with dominance. A constant drift from a measured military response to countervailing strategic dominance is visible. At the heart of such thought is the containment and control of Eurasia in which Pakistan constitutes the formidable Southern Front.

Past fifty years have witnessed the gradual rise of neo strategists who believe that use of covert violent activities can achieve political objectives both in tandem and whilst bypassing the defence establishment. They reflect aspirations of cartels, energy giants and economic czars riding the technological edge.

This primacy of civilian leadership over military affairs ignited a new debate during the Korean and Cold War especially in formulation of evolving nuclear doctrines. The mathematicians and social scientists were the first generation of civilian nuclear strategists. At the extreme, Ken Booth had hypothetically assessed a development as scary as Nuclear Absolutism.

Though the world is still spared such a doomsday scenario, the tip of the iceberg is visible when civilian controlled intelligence and long arm establishments operating under directives of the highest echelons of US Policy resort to organised violence through covert means world over (see Seymour Hersh’s article on assassination of Hariri and Benazir Bhutto). Operating outside the Congress and Senate select committees, it erases and violates those transition points in the policy spectrum where a considered decision is made by statesmen to resort to limited violence in tandem with other means. Entire theses of Quincy Wright and Julian Lider (the two modern scholars on war) are thrown overboard when limited interventions become BURNOUT WARS for countries.

In Iraq such interventions not factorised in the military plans, were lethal, and counter productive. The methods varied from precision munitions to drones and stage managed acts of violence. Placement of highly trained civilian disguised security companies in zones of interests served multiple objectives including rapid reaction, assassinations and toe hold operations. Sometimes these instruments worked in tandem with CENTCOM.

The danger in such a policy is the creation of schisms and strategic dysfunctionalism within the establishment. It also leads to complications in unity of command amongst interacting and inter-nation armed services. The latest example is the almost simultaneous release of Kerry Lugar Bill and McCrystal Report. The former safeguards Indian interests for long term political objectives while the latter sees Indian role an impediment to military operational progress. CENTCOM wants additional troops for a victory while the State Department wishes to hang around long enough to achieve other objectives.

This is called shaping the environment. The craft began with the Berlin Airlift, manifested in revolutions and counter revolutions of South America and is now the war for Pakistan. Such interventions are well thought, complemented by deliberate and articulated leaks, narratives of threat perception, assessments by the media and research organisations, economic arm twisting and diplomacy. Fault lines and vulnerabilities of target nations are exploited and locals like Chalabis/Khalilzads rented. The game played with remarkable alacrity continues; as does the attrition of Pakistan.

It creates a ‘coercive strategy of compellence’ forcing Pakistan to cede its lesser interests in order to preserve a larger one. They bend minds; give leads for the future while the covert arms move around to prove just that. Then they say, “You see, we kept telling you. Now do that in order to keep that.

Seymour Hersh’s reporting is loose pot shot from the hip. Something in it appeals to every mind. The article is so heavily loaded that any event remotely connected to Pakistan can be linked and the worthy journalist vindicated. The article implies many disconnects. While Pentagon appears to be extremely close to GHQ, the State Department wishes to manipulate it to a point of total subordination albeit on behalf of the Pakistani political establishment. Hersh implies a deep Pentagon-GHQ link to create a distrust of the armed forces amongst the people (Pakistani audience). Sinisterly, he admits that this link though close is intriguingly deceptive (US Audience). He also opens a debate on an ethnically Punjabi dominated army. By implication it also means projecting Punjab as the villain for centrality in Pakistan’s fabric. Next, within this Punjabi Army, the religiously motivated elements appear to lie in wait to seize control of nuclear weapons and join hands with Al Qaeeda/ Hizb ut- Tahrir for a Nuclear Islamic Caliphate. This is a total falsification proved by the public and media ratings of military operations inside Pakistan and the high casualty rate of officers and men. Similarly, a bigger joke is the alleged involvement of one of the country’s insignificant and peaceful minorities in training to become a counter terrorist organisation.

By default, credit is also due. In his quest to stretch imagination, Hersh has laid bare the mistrust that Pakistani establishment and people have of US policies, a measure of which Hilary Clinton got in her confidence building and fact finding visit to Pakistan. It also reflects the patriotism of Pakistanis and how they covet their national aspirations.

Washington Post takes a snipe at Pakistan-China Relations and nuclear proliferation to exert diplomatic pressure as counter weight to US cooperation with India. It also seeks to deflect Pakistani attention from the on going Indian preparations for a thermo nuclear test. It is an attempt to weaken Pakistan’s resolve of a matching response through diplomatic pressure and significant US presence n Pakistan.

Greig Miller of Los Angeles Times, through deliberate scoops seeks to discredit both the Pakistan Army and ISI as cash hungry organisations willing to sell mothers for dollars.

So why and who in USA is doing what it does? The answer is Sothern Front. However, in entirety this policy is confronted (as long as India is co-opted) with challenges from Islam as the centre piece of Pakistan’s Ideology; the armed forces that will rise to the call of the last battle; and Pakistan’s nuclear capability. The three are conjoined by the people of Pakistan and will be a force multiplier when push comes to shove. If that happens, it will be the mother of all wars.

The sentiments of hate rife amongst Pakistanis are not religiously motivated. They are a reaction to the hate strategy unleashed on the region after 9/11. Talibanization and Al Qaeeda are broad dumping grounds for all types of resistance and crime. A hail of cruise missiles, daisy cutters, bunker busters and air strikes were unleashed on the Pashtuns of Afghanistan. Pakistan through well timed mobilisation by India was prevented from sealing its borders with ethnic proximate Afghanistan.
The entire backwash flowed into Pakistan. Within a generation, the most valued ally was reduced to ‘where all roads cross’.
USA feels that short of a general outpouring, at an opportune time they would have a Chalabi in Pakistan to facilitate their objectives. But USA elects to ignore that in long drawn wars of attrition, the Forgotten Social Dimension of Strategy calls the final shot.

Now while Pentagon goes hunting good Taliban for reconstruction from the cinders of the pyre, it engages the very people it maimed with daisy cutters. Some even delink them from Al Qaeda; which has now moved to sanctuaries of Pakistani Militants (an aggregate of militants, local chieftains, war lords and sectarian militant outfits some led by western/Indian trained agents).

Through crafty constructs, USA disgraces Pakistan and its institutions that have served it best for many decades. The latest tirade against Pakistani institutions was beefed by a letter from Obama, to the President of Pakistan asking to raise the intensity of operations pending increase of force levels in Afghanistan, an assessment repeatedly pointed by me in my articles.

So what do people and statesmen of Pakistan make of all this. I would say, “Seek Peace with Pride, but if ABSOLUTISM strikes, be prepared for the Last Battle”.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Dream Turned Nightmare

Brigadier (r) Samson Simon Sharaf

When Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto entrusted Major General Naseer Ullah Babar to create a student dominated resistance in Afghanistan, he ignored a very important lesson of power politics. Hans Joachim Morgenthau in his book, Politics Amongst Nations had observed, ‘The statesman must think in terms of the national interest, conceived as power among other powers’. Was this ignorance or deliberate? Determined to create a new Pakistan, Bhutto was riding a wave of diplomatic successes. It seems he decided to taste the forbidden fruit.

Negotiations with India had been successful. OIC Summit at Lahore ended Pakistan’s international isolation. The Arab Oil Embargo upset the Western cash flows. Foundations of Nuclear Program were laid and Pakistan was ready to pay any price (also eat grass) for its independence and development. Next, in his calculus of an overbearing India, it was important to eliminate the spectre of a two front war by resolving the Durand issue. He decided to exploit the fault lines of Parcham and Khalq and force Sardar Daud to a negotiated settlement. The narrative though India specific, insipidly looked beyond; to a Muslim Power Bloc. It challenged the Bi Polar International equilibrium.

Afghan youngsters like Ahmad Shah Masood, Hikmatyar, Khalis and Rabbani played their role and Daud did come to the negotiating table. He even initialled the Pakistan-Afghan Joint communiqué for formalisation of Durand Line. Both Bhutto and Daud were waiting for an opportune moment; but then the gods, unhappy with Pakistan’s strategic forays struck.

Bhutto paid dearly for challenging the dictum of Morgenthau in more than one way. He was removed in a military coup led by his hand picked and most humble general. In subsequent years, Zia despite overtures by Daud, showed no inclination to settle the boundary issue. Daud was killed in a coup.

During the law and order situation created in Afghanistan by the Parchamis, Khaqis and Pakistan sponsored student leaders, Soviet Union finally moved in. For a despot, it was an opportunity for international legitimacy. To satisfy his domestic audience, he could now exploit both the Afghan occupation and Iran’s revolution to create a religious fervour underlined by his Ideology of Islam. He got international support from the West and domestic from the rightist.

Having led the Afghan resistance under the shadow of Charlie Wilson, he too indulged in the cardinal sin. Zia expanded the nuclear program and began to look beyond Durand to a Pan Islamic Nationhood. For defying the Morgenthau Dictum he was blown up in mid air.

What followed is mayhem in Afghanistan that inevitably spilled to Pakistan. A measure of it was visible in Pakistan around Shia places of worship. If there was a doubt about such home grown militant organisations, they were dispelled after 9/11 with repeated attacks on Christian places of worship and arrest of Al Qaeda linked militants. The genie had morphed into a monster and needed to be controlled. If we blame the USA for abandoning the Afghan Mujahidin what are we to say of these home-grown militants? As events prove, we are wrong on both counts.

Michael Springmann an official of US consulate in Jeddah Saudi Arabia in 1987-88, reported that CIA had a program to bring people to the United States for terrorist training in connivance with the host country. The largest branch of al-Khifa was in Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue, New York. Other branches were in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere. Similarly, Al-Khifa had a training camp in Connecticut. A number of important al Qaeda figures attended the University of Arizona in Tucson or lived in Tucson in the 1980s and early 1990s. One such recruit was Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged mastermind of 9/11 and uncle of Ramzi Yousaf. The FBI investigation into the later US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1998 was said to have found that the traces from the explosions came from an American military explosive, of the type of which the CIA had apparently given to the "Arab Afghans" just three years before. Militants of Pakistani descent rather than Arabs, were a new genre created for covert operations in Bosnia and other parts of Europe.

A covert operation outside the eyes of Pakistan’s intelligence services was underway.

It appears that after the Soviets withdrawal from Afghanistan during 1988-9, a dual policy emerged between the US State Department and the CIA. While the State Department focused to moderate Afghan factions and undermine the Soviet-installed Najibullah regime, CIA continued military support of Hekmatyar and other Islamists. Arabs fighters continued to flow into the region through the recruitment and training program. Pakistani ones were to be preferred for operations elsewhere.

USA may have abandoned the mujahidin, but never the region. Non States actors soon became the floating threat of future wars and cross hairs steadily began to shift to Pakistan’s Nuclear Capability. Meanwhile Kashmir and India were the only threat narratives of Pakistan’s security establishment.

Such are the vagaries of small nations challenging the equilibrium. Would events have been different if Bhutto was not overthrown?

The subject is like an onion that has to be pealed layer by layer.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Brigadier (r) Samson Simon Sharaf

Pakistan, to remain Pakistan

has no option but to eat grass in alligator infested waters

The end of World War I was disastrous for the victors. The Treaty of Versailles hurt German national pride. Hitler came to power followed by World War II. The over heated US economy that had grown during the Great War had nowhere to flow. The crash of 30s was an opportunity for the German juggernaut.

When history repeated itself in World War II, the lesson for victors was clear. War and Economics had to be inter-related. Post World War II world had to be handled in a manner that created and sustained international equilibrium. One such step was the Breton Woods Conference setting the course for a New World Order based on international financial and development institutions with constraints on countries like Germany and Japan over the size and role of defence forces. The new order was to prevent growth of new centres of power.

The Cold War witnessed the efficacy of this order till it was disrupted by the Muslim Oil Embargo of 1973 threatening the Gold Dollar Equation. Billions of dollars poured into the coffers of Muslim oil producing countries. Within the next decade this loss was recovered by the West by creating a vulnerability psyche within the rich Muslim countries forcing them to spend heavily on defence equipment. By mid 80s, the entire wealth amassed through surging oil prices had been converted through military imperialism to a security dependency. The three main actors of this Muslim surge were eventually isolated with two murdered and the third thrown out of his country. Through a new system of multi lateral funding the losses of the West (oil embargo of the 70s) were converted to the debt of third world and military dependency of the rich Muslim countries. Pakistan despite amassing some debt remained the only country that continued to maintain an independent defence and nuclear policy but not for long.

During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan willingly became a bridgehead for a Mock Jihad orchestrated to only serve the western interests. Despite influx of huge aid and funding, the economic managers took no cognizance of the effects of the Oil Embargo.

In the New World Order, Pakistan emerged as a security state arising from its vulnerability against an over arching India. There never was another enemy. No thought was ever given to the fact that in all conflicts against India, International opinion was always biased against Pakistan and to live under sanctions was an obvious outcome. The lesson was even ignored when nuclear sanctions were clamped on Pakistan for over a decade.

Pakistan’s economic managers continued to rely heavily in favour of international monetary institutions thereby ceding financial initiative. Strong military dictatorships looking for international legitimacy expediently became hostage to these institutions facilitating political manipulation. While the defence establishment continued to grow stronger, the core policy construct ignored critical issues like home grown militancy, importance of an unregistered entrepreneur, pluralism in society, ethnicity and dynamics emerging out of an abandoned Afghanistan with its backwash in Pakistan.

The net outcome was the emergence of a militant hardcore, weaponisation of society and drug money. In the past decade, the banking sector glutted with liquidity introduced consumerism and curtailed domestic production. Pakistan never ever braced itself for the rainy day.

After the Cold War, Pakistan was ripe and vulnerable to orchestrating an implosion along the main disconnects of a security state and vulnerable political economy. No thought was ever given to the fact that a time could come when Pakistan would be forced to sell its interests for a dime.

In the meanwhile the Western notion of a future war began to theorise around a floating, invisible threat of Islamic militants transcending international borders. Pakistan adapted no hedging policies against home grown militant outfits. At some stage many such organisations fraternised with international intelligence agencies beginning a treacherous game of betrayal. A point has now reached when the genie keeps knocking doors of the security apparatus all over Pakistan.

Pakistan’s contribution to the present situation is only secondary. Critics forget that it is in the crosshair not because it produces terrorism but rather suffering from the Afghan Burnout strategy. However, this explanation in no way absolves the State of not playing its role in national cohesion.

After the withdrawal of Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the rehabilitation of Mujahadeen was rejected by Charlie Wilson saying that dollars do not grow on trees. Afghanistan was left to burnout in a murderous spree of warlords and private armies supported by the regional neighbours and Middle Eastern Countries. Concerted efforts by Pakistan to contain the situation through reconciliation received lukewarm or no support from USA and UN. Herein also begins another trail of international betrayal by friends of Pakistan who acted as masters. The worst role was played by countries Pakistan depended for aid; to a point they began to assume control and still do in Pakistan’s internal politics.

In the interim, Osama Bin Laden was allowed to grow from a little known CIA logistics operative to a monster bred in Africa. He was then moved in Lockheed C-130s from Sudan to Afghanistan, a rallying ground for all strains of nomadic revolutionaries; unwanted by their own countries. If the western threat assessments were indeed realistic, then why was Osama in presence of USAF and OBL Monitoring stations not intercepted and force landed. Events that followed highlight that US Security, Intelligence and Academia were apparently pursuing divergent objectives that ultimately morphed into the definition of AF-PAK. At the heart of the issue are two objectives unacceptable to Pakistan; a preferential role for India in the region followed by control over Pakistan’s Nuclear Systems.

In Afghanistan, USA and its coalition are fighting a generation born to romantic revolutionaries of the Afghan War, joined by politically alienated Pashtuns and nomadic warriors from world over. US cooperation with the non Pashtun Northern Alliance and drone attacks in Pakistan have deliberately coalesced ethno-religious resistance which over a period of time has married up with other diverse militant organisations as also with foreign intelligence agencies.

The interplay of such conflicting dynamics within the politic fabric; is now Pakistan’s own war for survival. The war that began in 1975 through Bhutto’s espousing of Afghan student leaders has now entered its final phase and a ‘do or die’ situation. Its bloodiest chapters will be fought in South Waziristan and Punjab with USA keen to open a face-saving front in Balochistan. This is where the true test of Pakistan’s sovereignty will lie.

Pakistan’s only choice is to militarily defeat these radical groups bred in intolerance, savagery and a stand alone romantic notion of religion. Pakistani nation will have to fight this war on its own terms not only with the militants but also with supposed friends in the hybrid zone of ‘neither friend nor foe’.

Every deal with a weak hand is a bad deal. No more deals please.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist.

E mail: nicco1988@hotmail.com

Monday, September 14, 2009


India. India claims that it went nuclear because of a nuclear threat from China and elsewhere. It implies that its nuclear doctrine envisages a global threat. India has also had the advantage of Western, Israeli, European and Soviet assistance in developing nuclear technology, delivery systems, survivability, surveillance and defensive shields. Even a minimum nuclear and conventional force level against China gives it an advantage against Pakistan. But it has a problem.

· Rand Corp opines that India can only produce about 10 KGs of HEU a year, a stock too insignificant to produce thermo nuclear weapons let alone a medium sized fission device.

· To circumvent this shortage, India is the only country in the world deploying at least two fast breeder production reactors using thorium to produce another fissile Uranium233 isotope. How much U233 can India produce is speculative.

· Technical experts and nuclear strategists are of the view that the Indian Thermo Nuclear Explosion of May 1997 was perhaps a U233 device that did not reach the second stage.

· These production reactors are outside the ambit of US-Indo Nuclear Treaty and therefore exert a reflex pressure on Pakistani stockpiles.

· Like NATO, India also shares a long contagious border with its closest rival Pakistan while enjoying considerable depth from Andaman to South India.

· Indian Nuclear Doctrine indicates a Pakistan specific veiled threat of first use in the form of pre emptive retaliation, no first use and an escalation ladder beginning from conventional hostilities to a nuclear exchange that includes counter force targets.

· So far Indian nuclear capability cannot credibly apply the same against China. It needs further testing of U233 as fuel for TNWs, as well as a multiple redundant launching system capable of targeting major Chinese cities whilst ensuring survivability through numbers, passive and active defence. The range needed is 3-4000Kms and payload beyond 2000Kgs, something India has not been able to achieve.

Pakistan. Pakistan’s capability revolves around its enrichment of Uranium. Though the process was capped in the 90s, Nuclear Watch Dogs opine that Pakistan has since enriched this material (200Kgs) to weapon’s Grade. Pakistan’s only production reactor is assumed to be critical and can produce about 11 KGs of weapon grade plutonium enough for adding two weapons per year. Pakistan too has the choice in future of shifting to thorium. But according to Watch Dogs, Pakistan’s problems lie else where.

· The nuclear threshold has been driven down not so much by Pakistan’s experimentation with low-intensity warfare across the line of control in Kashmir as by nearly twenty years of starkly unequal arms acquisition trends, and by India’s readiness to exploit its huge buildup politically by Coercive Diplomacy in tandem with USA. Pakistan is being led into a conventional arms race in armed forces and nuclear defence.

· Pakistan’s asymmetry in surveillance, residual capability and defensive shield systems with India has widened.

· The lowering of thresholds of capability and credibility is in inverse proportion to the rising and effective Compellence Diplomacy by both India and USA. This means that Pakistan’s, nuclear deterrence has been compromised and therefore not served to address the question of major asymmetries.

· Indo-US Nuclear Treaty ambiguously extends the US Nuclear Umbrella to India as much as it did to Western Europe during the Cold War. It therefore degrades Pakistan’s Deterrence.

· As in Kargil inasmuch as Pakistan demonstrated its revisionist stance, it also showed the world that it was possible to fight a high intensity limited conflict in a hot zone without resort to nuclear weapons.

· As suggested by Gen Kidwai’s recent interviews to New York Times and other chatter picked up by Landau Network of Italy, Pakistan’s thresholds are geographical, military, economic and social. It is also suggestive that Pakistan will use its weapons as a last resort. This is in contradiction to the basic concept of Minimum Deterrence and indicates a shift to a war fighting strategy under a nuclear shadow that favours India. The implication is that to raise this declared threshold and preclude an in extremis. Pakistan will have to bolster its conventional forces and adopt a Strategy of Denial through conventional forces and nuclear defence.

· Fear of becoming vulnerable to a first strike (and/or a desire to attain first-strike capability) gives technology a central role in deterrence, and tends to fuel a high-intensity qualitative arms race. Pakistan has to develop and adopt effective controls on the Graduated Escalation Ladder both in conventional and nuclear forces to retain initiative of nuclear retaliation.