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.