Sunday, November 6, 2011


Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf (Retired)

Like an ocean moving inland with tremendous force and fury, they swept inland beyond imaginable expectations in waves of green and red   Bumper to bumper, every road, bypass and short cut was crowded. I saw Fauzia Kasuri standing in a float with extra voluminous speakers chanting motivational themes leading the way from Gulberg. This was the same all over. These were the so called and satirically dubbed ‘the mummy daddy generation’ taking to roads in Land Cruisers, BMWs, Hondas, trolleys and rickety buses. They were flanked on the sides by motor cyclists, rickshaws and cyclists waving the red and green. Like a filled kaleidoscope, all roads choked with traffic and pedestrians led to Minar-e-Pakistan. The most heartening symbol was a ten year old boy doubling on a bicycle with a younger colleague all the way from Liberty to the venue. As he sweated and paddled the long distance, he added the icing to the day that was 30 October 2011.

Just as I was leaving, my two daughters and a nephew jumped into the car. I could not refuse them. These were youngsters who were hell bent on breaking the taboo; and change forever the complexion of what is described as Dirty Street Politics of Pakistan. The age of Pakistan’s nouvelle generation had arrived with a Big Bang. This sea of emotions wants a paradigm shift lest it becomes a destructive energy. It demands a new social contract as nothing will remain the same anymore.

At the park, the fortunate and early birds poured and sank like a whirlpool around the historic monument, colouring the huge public park green and red. Those who could not find space turned on their lap tops connected to flat screens and watched the hysteria on jam-packed roads. Shop keepers put their televisions on the roadside for public display. This was no show of desperation, anger and hate, rather a brightened landscape with a hope that the winds of positive change were not afar. Unlike a tsunami that wreaks destruction, this high tide is to set the stage to remove debris from Pakistan’s charred political landscape. Each one of them wanted to be counted as Pakistan led by Imran Khan was turning the corner. 

Unlike the doom that surrounds the country with successive tragedies, the faces were lit brightly; reminiscent of a closely contested victorious cricket match with the captain going for the kill. They reflected the mood that Pakistan needed to move on and that, enough was enough. Amidst a depressing scenario underlined by a lack of national worth, as also true to his leadership traits, such were the rallying points built tediously in the past fifteen years by Imran Khan; to build courage when valour seems to fail; to regain faith when despair abounds; and to create hope when it is forlorn. Unlike Benazir Bhutto who had been blessed with a legacy, Imran was a silversmith who had to sit in vigil for a very long time. 

It was in 1940 that Lal Din Sharaf, my father had recited a poem before the historic event under the leadership of Jinnah. In the interim Jinnah created a space called Pakistan which we denied him for the next sixty years. So instead of going on the stage and joining the leadership, I stood in the front ranks of the audience with my children. I wanted to have a drift of how it must have felt to my father; with the faith that I was to view a historic evening that would begin the process of reclaiming Jinnah’s Pakistan. I also had a score to settle because my father had died resisting the invasive forces that truncated this vision. This was my revenge. 

That day, even the local police looked bigger than we normally see it. They were disciplined, diligent, kind and yet forceful. For sure the elixir had also invigorated their body language. 

Pakistan over the past has had its share of leaders but none as unadulterated as Imran Khan. Dreamers are impulsive and sprint to every ray of hope. Yet in his long vigil, Khan learnt and applied correction courses. Certainly it needed much more than a self centred and attention seeking individual to roam the wild for over fifteen years and yet be as persevering and resilient as him. In the process he took flak from all directions but did not budge from his principled views. His family life became a victim of malicious and frivolous propaganda but failed to drop his gloves. His allies used him for his charisma and then discarded him.  Beset with successive challenges, the fighter in him got sturdier and stronger. As an icon, he mentored a new generation of Pakistanis with pride, patriotism and self belief. He taught them how to face adversity and emerge stronger at successive impediments. Most he taught them how to conquer fear and utilise adrenaline induced emotional intelligence positively. Pakistan’s Khan has arrived with a vengeance of a striker playing within the rules of a game.

As I stood in military fashion to the National Anthem being played, the dam of emotions burst not only in me but in every Pakistani there. Everyone joined the choir with tears rolling down the cheeks like an oozing wound delivering elixir. 

So what does this mean? Indeed it shifts a heavy responsibility on our shoulders to deliver and see the flock home. In the interim, we must win hearts and minds through our compassion, human values and neat political conduct. Each Pakistani is expected to become a building block of La Nouvelle Pakistan.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Standing before the Charred Bodies
It is two years since Christian localities in Faisalabad were ransacked and burnt by a mob dispensing instant justice. Reportedly, on 18th July 2009, intelligence agencies had issued a warning to the Government of Punjab of likely incidents of terrorism in which some enclaves of Non Muslims Pakistanis could be targeted. Rather than pay heed, the provincial government deemed it fit to act as it did. After much carnage, it took the Government of Punjab three days to move belatedly. Chief Minister Punjab repeatedly postponed his visit to the city citing security reasons.

Two years ago on that fateful day, I reached Gojra while the ambers were still glowing. The town had been tense after the Korian incident. Contingents of Police had been positioned. A local land grabber with political connections had decided to exploit religious sentiments in the backdrop of Korian and ransack a Christian colony in order to grab the land. In the early hours of the morning, the arson and carnage began. Nine people including women and children were burnt alive. The hordes ransacked homes, set alight furniture, desecrated churches and burnt schools that included Islamiyat books. The police standing as bystander moved in only after the hordes had retreated in an organised manner.  Organised rumour management using loudspeakers angered Muslims. The stage was set for a communal riot.

The Federal Minister for Minority Affairs had camped himself in the local church but found it difficult to convince the provincial and district administration to act decisively. Next evening, on intervention of agencies the process of registering an FIR began. It was a half baked document providing deliberate loop holes for a counter FIR. As a result, more Christians than criminals were rounded up by police, tortured and threatened. Ultimately, much of the compensation money ended in the pockets of the custodians of law. Mindful of their vote banks, no political party barring MQM and PTI made any attempts to bridge an artificially created divide.

Punjab, for the past many years continues to witness such incidents with alacrity. The entire trail from Jhang to Gojra, Mian Channu and Shantinagar is littered with similar incidents of religiously fanned hatred spearheaded by banned militant outfits. There is always a familiar pattern to these crimes; police inaction or atrocity, involvement of dons related to land grabbing, petty personal disputes, violence, delayed police reaction and fence mending. The story does not end here. Compensations lead to police extortions and the affected remain doomed. I often ask myself, why such crimes and pattern endemic to Punjab? Is Punjab Government vulnerable to pushes and pulls that haunt it? Is it the result of over centralisation? Or is it a policy of appeasement before the militants and the religious right that let events take the course. It is perhaps a bit of all? In most cases, the underlying motive invariably turns out to be personal rather than spiritual.

The case of Robert Masih was no different. Loud speakers were used to fan religious hatred. He was tortured to death in the Police Station in Sambrial. The boy was refused burial in his home town. Amidst the scare created by looming communalism, no one was apprehended or punished.

This dispensation of ‘justice in rage’ is not limited to Non Muslims. The drama repeated itself in Sialkot when two young boys of a respectable family were lynched to death under the supervision of Police. Political undercurrents soon became apparent and the gory drama recorded ‘on camera’ was soon forgotten. Nor can we forget the attack on a peaceful Eid E Milad procession in Faisalabad.

A similar act of militancy was to repeat itself in Faisalabad. Two Christian brothers were gunned down in broad daylight in the court premises for alleged blasphemy. The court was to later acquit both posthumously while the local authorities never investigated the actual culprits.

A year back, the Chapel of Gordon College Rawalpindi was attacked and occupied by armed gunmen. Timely action by the local police and civil society had the premises vacated. However, the land grabbers with active backing of local political bigwigs reoccupied the premises with false property papers. The Federal Minister Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti finally managed to prove that the church was Auqaf property. During the entire process, the Punjab Government remained inactive tantamount to criminal negligence.

Aasia Bibi’s case resulted in the murder of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. Most religious leaders refused to condemn the incident while lawyers were seen showering petals on the assassin. In the same sequel, Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, the Federal Minister for Minorities was gunned down brutally in Islamabad.
Very recently scores of Christians in Gujranwala were detained by police under protective custody for alleged blasphemy. They were tortured and extorted. The allegations proved false and malafide when the intelligence agencies discovered that three Muslims with eyes on women and properties had trumped up false evidence against the Christians. The criminals confessed to the crime and the FIR was withdrawn. The irony is, that the same people who were demanding public justice, lynching and death against alleged Christian blasphemers readily forgave those who had actually committed the offence.

Such atrocities bring a very bad name to Pakistan. They also add to the misery of people who have an unblemished record of patriotism and sacrifice to the country and who distinguish themselves wherever justice, fair play and chivalry are essential. It also forces fringe elements of the society to recluse themselves into ghettos that become both a refuge and easily identifiable targets.

It is high time to re-evaluate why the road map that All India Muslim League had followed from Aligarh to creation of Pakistan is in contrast to the political landscape of what are now Muslim Leagues; an anti thesis of the notion adopted by the founding fathers. Political elites, contrary to the spirit, have time and again placated the religious right to marginalise and exclude Non Muslim Pakistanis and push them to the fringes.

It appears that nothing will improve. To compound the situation, 18th amendment will be debated for the many compromises it made on the basic complexion of the constitution. One amongst them is the devolution of the Minority Affairs to the provinces, a subject prominent in the Lahore and Objective Resolutions. This amendment will hit hard on the lucrative Evacuee properties opening flood gates to land grabbers and acts of violence. With no federal oversight, the provinces will do as they have done in the past.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.
1 August 2011

The Daily NATION for which I am a columnist, declined to publish this explicit OPED

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Within the context of National Power, idiosyncratic notions like Leadership, National Character and Morale are elements that can propel a nation. History has repeatedly recorded how the two have combined in prohibitive conditions for socio-economic revolutions. National leadership is not about making fiery speeches and hallow promises; least a game of scoring brownies in meaningless talk shows. It is a serious and delicate business of managing the destiny of a country through vision, selfless devotion, mental resilience and team building.
Abraham Lincoln was a self educated person with no physical charisma. A novice in military strategy, he taught himself the subject during his presidency; he could guide his generals leading a technically inferior army. The American Civil War is a splendid case study of Leadership. To begin, Lincoln was actually a one man lonely team swarmed by experts who wished to capitalise on his popularity. Towards the end, he had nurtured his own team to finish the job.
Charles De Gaulle, a loner, brilliant French military strategist was denied his day in preparations against the Germans. He fled France the day Paris fell and was sentenced to death for desertion. He was back in the middle of Normandy Landings. To begin, he just had two other men in the team and had to struggle through many years to deliver. He led and inspired France to become a great nation once again.
Japan and South Korea; two countries rose within a few decades to become global actors. Societal ethics and character aside, both were fortunate to have an occupational administrator like General Douglas McArthur. Like a true leader, McArthur went through reverses, defeats, victories, criticism and resurgence to fulfil a promise he made to his defeated soldiers in battle. He won the war both from military and economic perspectives.
Though much has been written on the Chinese Revolution, China actually turned the corner under Chairman Deng. His policies with a small team in due course transformed the country into an economic juggernaut.
Malaysia is another success story. Dr. Mohhatir was able to infuse a new spirit and ironically exploit the same Chinese Social Capital that once fought an insurgency against the state.
Post Qaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s leadership crises are perennial. Fate denied Jinnah time to forge an efficient team for nation building. He himself referred to his team as Khota Sikkas (worthless coins). His 11 August Speech to the Constituent Assembly was completely blacked out by vested interests. Muslim Leaguers who inherited his party were never die hard and ideological members. The merry go round alternating between military dictatorships, civil rule and sometimes joint suzerainty over Pakistan (we do ours, you do yours) with bureaucratic oversight did not work. Within 25 years, Pakistan was reduced by half. What remains has remained in turmoil, insurgencies and militancies.  This Achilles heel is like an octopus’ tentacles that never allowed Jinnah’s Pakistan to grow (Pakistan’s Achilles Heel. Nation 10 January 2010).
Bhutto could have turned it round. He was young, educated, charismatic and a visionary rebel. Lamentably, he was a product of the system. Despite his vision and charisma, his nationalisations, isolation of the sub nationalities and political victimisations became his stumbling blocks. Justice, sincerity and good governance were never the forte of the first or later PPP dispensations. The lesson leant was that a true vision if adulterated is no vision.
Nawaz Sharif was a handpicked blue eyed. He could never grow out of the biases induced in him. Being a successful industrialist, people expected him to deliver with single minded devotion to development. He chose foraying into systemic changes and played into the hands of elites and power politics. Nothing has prevented his party from showing Punjab as a model of development and good governance.  Yet, unlike his previous tenure, Shahbaz Sharif has been constrained and tentative in his imposing demeanour.
The present dispensation is a domestic cum international political compromise based on a shady agreement never made public. Having ceded initiative on major policy issues, there is nothing worthy of the credentials to describe it.
So who can steer Pakistan out of the crises towards a strong, self reliant, economically prosperus and a proud Pakistan?
First, all successful leaders have been men of intense concentration. They have spent years in the wilderness before their time came.  They commanded charisma, demanded attention and earned respect. They were adorable, imbued with sincerity, integrity, selfless devotion and a doer attitude. This leader unlike the past has to be a new one; unconventional, with proven personal character traits, ability to resist praise, down to earth, visionary and nurtured in the wild rather than the establishment.
Secondly, the leader must internalise the Lahore Resolution and Jinnah’s speech to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan as flawlessly as Jinnah did. He has to be acceptable to the entire range of diversity inside Pakistan. Such a leader must possess the twin attributes of knowledge and wisdom, proud that he has learnt so much, humble that he knows no more.
Thirdly, this leader must seize the moment to inspire his people.
For long I have been an advocate of a new social contract.  I take the liberty to indicate such a leader from within us.
For a long time, he remained an in-out member of his team. He used the time of his exclusions to concentrate and meditate. He was never considered leadership material and was handed the captaincy when no other alternative existed. He rallied an army of aging men, unproven youngsters and fearless boys into a world winning combination. His leadership skills still dominate the captaincy debates world over.
He visualised a hospital and accomplished much more. He visualised a university and it became the best education environment in Pakistan. He went into the floods and returned with a bumper wheat crop. Despite no parliamentary strength, he is dominating air time and headlines world over. Four successive international surveys have declared him the choicest for Pakistan. He has remained establishment’s wonder boy for over 15 years but has resisted the devil’s temptation.
Even his personal foibles have not deterred his resolve.  He knows he is vulnerable on his off stump but has taken his guard determinedly against some very hostile bowling. Like ever, his team is a blend of experience, youth and vigour. He knows that he is the indomitable KAPTAAN with traits to steer the country out of troubled waters. 
Is Imran Khan the Godot we have been waiting for?
Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011



The international and national media are speculating events that would lead to the end-game in Afghanistan. Commentators world over are  drawing different scenarios on how USA would hedge its interests in the region against Al Qaeda, its affiliates and nuclear proliferation (declared) and its political economy (China, Central Asia and Pakistan, undeclared). This debate was energised by the US operations that killed Osama Bin Laden followed by the decision by President Obama to reverse the ORBAT of 33,000 US surge troops Embedded within these debates are deliberate leaks to coerce Pakistan into pliability.

The debate is also a rationale for an existential victory (disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda) and an elusive victory (secure Afghanistan within the context of Great Game). Also tucked between the failure of the Third Surge and the Victory Speech is Obama’s AF-PAK Strategy, a sticky mess that will not allow USA to let go; with the potential to sink the entire region with it.  Perhaps, these events and the change of US Command in Afghanistan also bring into contention, the superimposed COIN Strategy (a lesson learnt from Iraq) and McChrystal’s painstaking JSOC Strategy. This strategy was framed under the tutelage of Dick Cheney to pursue objectives framed by the elitist group of US strategists including Henry Kissinger to control the region and tame Pakistan.  Though JSOC covert operations began much earlier, it was officially given space to operate in Pakistan in 2007. This is precisely why I had written in an article titled ‘Time to eat Grass’ in 2008 that instability of Pakistan was the key to a successful US strategy. 

It also brings into sharper focus the debate between the military experts and counter insurgency experts in the USA on how best to ensure US interests (not peace) in the region.  Nothing can stop USA from declaring victory in a war fought for its own interests; and who cares if millions of Afghans and Pakistanis are left to contend with the mess left behind.  But will US withdraw after having followed a plan relentlessly at a very high cost and intrigue?

Let readers not be misled. This is not the truth. The truth is that US is here to stay for an indefinite period. The corollaries of the plan secretly compartmentalised from each other for over a decade are now piecing together. The US game in the region has entered its most dangerous phase. 

The State of Pakistan is equally responsible for the mess it allowed to be created within its regions. Unlike USA that has always had a flexible, well thought narrative to shape the environment, Pakistan has never cared or bothered to evolve a proper cohesive plan? The entire operation in the past ten years has been reactive and the sole domain of the Army. I do not think that the establishment ever evaluated alarm bells being raised by both Pakistani, foreign analysts and writers. It seems that having remained in constant touch with USA through military diplomacy and foreign office, the ability to think clearly was eclipsed by being an insider and exclusivity syndrome. Sermons by US ambassadors, visiting dignitaries and the fa├žade of aid also played its part in lowering the guard. Hence, step by step, Pakistan allowed the entire backwash of US operations to be pushed into Pakistan under a misperceived strategic concept and false assurances. 

On the political front, the US compliant Pakistani government ensured the meltdown of Pakistan. It never took the basic measures to prevent the economic collapse, squandered opportunities arising out of natural disasters, ensured that energy crises persist in all its forms and manifestations, and keeps the political landscape destabilised. The rulers never gave an impression that the country faced serious challenges to its existence. Rather they have presided to a point wherein a complete melt-down becomes a possibility.  Pakistan’s decision to roll back the Tethyan Copper projects and reluctance to resolve the Balochistan crises also fits the same plan. We now have a situation where the army is sucked into a difficult situation; a political dispensation that does not care for national interests. 

If readers flash back to my article ‘The Wilting Obama Surge’ I wrote, “It appears that the ambitious third surge had a multi directional approach towards a military exit from Afghanistan based on half facts and assumptions derived from institutional biases. The hypothesis was too simplified through exclusion of both hardcore Taliban and Pakistan. Based on a misleading premise, it led to the logical. In the next article titled, ‘The AFPAK Strategy’, I wrote “Nothing had worked as per the plan; neither the carrot, nor the stick nor stacks of cash for the breakaway TalibanIt was indeed at the heels of this failure that USA decided to co-opt Pakistan in the Strategic Dialogue diplomacy. Guns and Roses were offered to win over Pakistan’s military establishment towards a US driven operation in the region… but as events proved, Pakistan resisted the trap. US could not have its way and a new strategy became inevitable.  Rather than the military, the USA next chose to rely more on its civilian counter-part. I also explained that this strategy was based around JSOC, drones, CIA covert and sting operations. Already Raymond Davis, Kakul raid, Mehran Base and many incursions into Pakistan from Kunnar have come to pass. This is only the beginning and Pakistan army will be ultimately sucked into fighting its internal front. 

In tandem with this destabilising strategy is the latest US NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2012 that sanctions military operations beyond Al Qaeda and the Taliban to any associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States. Counter proliferation efforts are also part of this Act. It also sanctions assistance for such operations to allied and friendly nations (India, Afghanistan and Pakistan). At a first glance apart from what is enunciated, the Act is also an implied threat to Pakistan. It is this pressure that USA will leverage with Pakistan to force the Taliban into negotiations on a timed continuum to extract the maximum dog-fighting from Pakistan Army. Further destabilisation will enhance US prospects in the region. 

On the diplomatic front, USA made considerable progress. Tripartite talks in Tehran had US approval. The bulk of logistic traffic is already shifted to Iran and Central Asia. UN has been re-engaged in the peace negotiations in Afghanistan. Consequently the troops that would ultimately be withdrawn will not be the all the surge element but rather logisticians and its protective detachments, intelligence analysts and non essentials.
The lines across the Hindukush range will be kept secure with the Northern Alliance, New Afghan Security Forces, ISAF, Indians and maybe even Iran backed warlords. The South comprising Pashtun areas will be left open for attacks from the air, drones and selective military operations from fortresses at Bagram, Kandhar, Kost, Jalalabad etc. It is also ominous that USA has already abandoned large parts of Kunnar, Laghman and Nuristan where the anti Pakistan Taliban and Al Qaeda are based. These elements have already launched attacks in Mohmand, Bajaur and Dir. 

As Pakistan destabilises, this intensity and frequency will increase. Ultimately, drawing borders with blood, USA could have a corridor through Balochistan with twin objectives to contain Iran and tap the resources.
But will the US be able to achieve all these objectives? 

No one including USA have all the cards to bring stability to Afghanistan. If history is an indicator, they will not.

First, the Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan called Taliban will not allow any US bases in Afghanistan even for the sake of peace. History tells us that they will fight on. As Pakistan destabilises further, so will its resolve to gel with the forces fighting foreign occupation. 

Secondly, other state actors in the region will also exploit these sentiments to advance their interests. These actors include India, Russia, China and Iran. 

Thirdly, for nearly four decades, the Pashtun resistance in Afghanistan is emotionally tied to Pakistan. They cannot be used against Pakistan. However, the notion of a separate Pashtun state after the practical division of Afghanistan may materialise into a security threat to Pakistan. 

Fourthly, nuclear capitulation of Pakistan will have to be a surgical procedure.  Given the capabilities of JSOC, this is not possible. As a prelude, USA and UN will have to reach some agreement with the Pakistani establishment. But the moment such intentions become visible, Pakistan will explode. Military revolts and large scale insurrections cannot be ruled out. The WOT will over flow the brims of Pakistan. 

USA would have paid the price of its open ended narratives in AFPAK. 

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.

Monday, June 20, 2011


In the past two months the armed forces, ISI and law enforcement agencies have been a target of unprecedented bashing and criticism. If one were to believe the twitters and blogs, the entire security apparatus of Pakistan is discredited, disgraced and hanging by tenterhooks. Private TV channels are playing both sides and keeping their bets hedged either way. The informal social media, a revolution of sorts, have become vitriolic. Even positives are being tainted with sarcasm and pun.  A certain responsible journalist spewing venom each day finds Fauji Fault with the rescue of the besieged crew of My Suez. The entire drama is akin to a punching bag. The US stands tall to spar the face; our very own take on the proverbial ‘below the belt’.

The US is talking of the much expected withdrawal at the heels of three failing surges from Afghanistan with a new mission statement that replaces Afghanistan with Pakistan. As the events unfold so does my thesis written in 2000 and published in a National Daily in 2007, “Pakistanis need to understand that in the US scheme of things, the degradation of the army is a key plank in the objective to rid Pakistan of its nuclear capability. What could be a better shaped environment than a collapsed economy (the real GDP excluding inflation a lowly 1.3), energy shortages close to a blackout, discredited political institutions, rising poverty, and an army fighting the militancy and the media bashing.

The parallels with the Battle of Plassey (Nation 9 May 2010) where men of elastic conscience abetted the mercantilism victory are beyond symbolic. The puzzled crossword has reached a point where a sane normal Pakistani is bound to ask whom to trust and who not. More than the trust deficit that exists between USA and Pakistan, I am worried at the direction in which the national debate on the credibility of the armed forces is headed. Pakistan’s security apparatus is the worst thing that ever happened to Pakistan is the local informed war cry.

So let us begin where it all started.

As written by me repeatedly, the Kakul Operation to kill OBL had complicity from within. As events unfold and arrests of fifth columnists become public, there is much more than appears to the public eye. I may not be surprised if sooner or later, this complicity links to high quarters. Indiscriminate visas, container scandals, free movements of US operatives and souring of the Army-State Department relationship in the past year are all indicators of a division within the establishment. Lack of assertiveness on part of the army also links to the extensions. The surprise and consequent paralysis put the armed forces on the defensive An army not knowing how to duck, hook or evade this barrage of short pitched deliveries. It was a script it was never prepared for and a hypothesis it was always shy of discussing.

This was followed by the Mehran Base raid. As asserted by me, too little was known to the public. Sensational investigative journalism added to the second barrage. As events are proving, new revelations will become public adding more twists to the theories.

The Mehran issue inevitably links to the murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, a lone ranger investigative journalist who operated outside the domain of Pakistan’s media czars. The fact that his murder was brutal cannot be ignored and must be investigated to bring the culprits to the book. Having followed his reports on the web for the past fifteen years, I found them sensational and repeatedly falsified by events. He was a young, ambitious and romantic journalist who loved to link a known fact to his inter twined knowledge of the militant groups and Al Qaeda, invariably giving a false sense of reality and inside knowledge. Much of what he reported can also be found on the Indian South Asian Analysis Group website that extensively reports on the terror trails, militant groups and ISI linkages with terrorists. Saleem Shahzad despite his best intentions had a shortcoming that sprang from his romanticism. He had built a cognitive construct of jungles, rugged mountainous HinduKush Range from where the phoenix of Al Qaeda would ultimately rise to defeat USA. It was usually this construct that he fine tuned with bits of authentic information and propaganda in vogue that served both the militancy exaggeration and US propaganda. He was always in quest for a new story with a new angle; sometimes he was also spot-on.  

As early as 25 March this year, he reported that USA had finally traced the whereabouts and movements of OBL and some operations would follow. Unfortunately amidst the many yarns that he spelled, this accurate information went unnoticed. Who knows what else he knew and what contacts on this subject he was making after the killing of OBL? Now that all intelligence agencies of Pakistan are on the trail of his killers, truth will come out. As an analyst I find the motives of getting rid of him more on the OBL count than the contacts of militants in the security establishment.  The media showed no urge to investigate beyond the obvious.

The rangers shooting is another case in point of unjustified military bashing. Rangers are a federal and civilian law enforcement agency under the Ministry of Interior. All military officials posted in Rangers are deputed to the Ministry of Interior and paid by them. Their services under the prevailing law can only be requisitioned by the Nazims/Administrators/DCOs functioning under the Chief Secretary and Provincial Home Departments.  Their deployments are to be covered by administrative representatives and the judiciary. They fire only on orders of the civilian representatives. The chain of military command never comes in except where these forces are put in the operational control of the army like in FATA. However, in this case, without resort to the legal and functional positions, the media chose to single out the military leadership on a gory incident for which it was never responsible.

This entire gossip is a start up to the vicious anti military campaign. Readers must beware that many more stories, more sensationalism and events will take place with fingers apparently pointing towards the army and ISI. Many Pakistanis considering themselves moderates will join the mill. The military will be demoralised. It will question its missions. A dissent that never existed could set in. At the same time the US Psychological Warfare and Propaganda machinery will keep providing new leaks to its media. The objective will be to discredit the army and plummet it to its lowest morale levels. Combat stress and fatigue will set it. The final objective is to bring the organisation to its knees to achieve the ultimate objective; rid Pakistan of nukes.
To avoid this, the military has to be more transparent. It has to become more proactive through the ISPR. It also has to become more assertive with USA and make the government realise that it cannot fight a war in isolation. The Politicians and Civil Society have to realise that a lopsided National Power equation is doomed to fail. As poverty rises so will the crime and militancy. Economic emergency has to be declared; and renewed effort launched to jump-start the economy. If this not happen in a few months it is they themselves to blame for the ugly turn of events that may ensue.

Amidst all this confusion we must not ignore some good news. Another in a series of endemic attacks from Kunar has been beaten back. Pakistan Navy, over ruling the orders of the International Task Force in the Aden Corridor has rescued the besieged crew of My Suez. The resilient Pakistani Captain of the ship Syed Wasi is proudly bringing his flock home. Can our leaders learn something from him?

Amidst all the disinformation, Pakistan has once again done it.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Recent events in and around Pakistan have widened the fissures within a fragmenting Pakistani society. Sensationalism combined with opaqueness in policy has contributed to speculation and rumours mill tearing at the seams. If tweets, blogs and views of an educated liberal class of Pakistanis are a measure, the events are certainly taking Pakistan to the gallows with testimonies from our very own. 

Nothing more highlights the absence of an informed internal debate on the calculus of the National Power/National Interests or the pressing issues of national well being and nationism. At the governmental level, nothing positive and redeeming is happening. The war cabinet has never been commissioned. Defence Committee of Cabinet is ineffective and marred by divisions. The leadership environment in crises is nonexistent. Ruing such initiatives, I had written in ‘Rising Pakistan: A New Narrative’ that the media would soon relish an opportunity of sensationalism never witnessed before. It happened earlier than I expected.

As regards Kakul, it is yet to be ascertained if there was complicity from within. As a combater it is impossible for me to believe that Strategic Military Surprise had the nation confused for 24 hours. Refuelling arrangements at Kala Dhaka lend credence to my complicity theory. 

The attack on Mehran Base was a bombshell with insufficient explanations. How was it possible that the terrorists achieved surprise? Did the local security in its rush cut off the route of withdrawal and trapped some militants while many others firing rockets into the aircrafts managed to escape undetected? Have the crossing points on the stream used by the militants been examined for any signs leading to a rendezvous? And have all the empties of rockets fired at aircrafts been collected? Why were the terrorists allowed to pin down security forces for 17 hours and why ground combat troops held back?  Where was the Joint Staff Headquarters with all its coordination? Unless these facts are known, the nation will continue to speculate and divide within.

The murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, the one man team of investigative journalism needs to be investigated to meet the ends of justice and punish those who killed him most brutally. The incidence has provided the much needed impetus to the propaganda and media tirades of a certain segment who see the military and intelligence establishments of Pakistan as enemies and use the propaganda unleashed by the western media against its own establishment as gun powder. 

Lack of ‘need to know transparency’ at the ends of the armed forces and intelligence are providing space to both well meaning and ulterior motivated criticism of the armed forces. Why is it that suddenly the western media, White House critics, Pentagon, segments of political parties and some Pakistani media also join the same chorus? 

A national army cannot remain divorced from the events that take place around it. Inasmuch as the nation, the events narrated above must have definitely dented military morale crucial for a battlefield. They realise that unlike Swat, the entire nation is not behind them. Amidst this mist of events, half truths, rhetoric and disinformation, they need a cause worth fighting for. In the backdrop of over 7000 casualties, many would be questioning if it was ever worth it and to what purpose. This is a most unsuitable environment to throw an army into large scale counter insurgency operations when other pre requisites emanating from the civil sector are totally missing. In any army, soldiers fight through motivation and that is just what the army needs. 

Barawal Valley in Dir has been under constant conventional attacks launched from Kunar Afghanistan in the past few days. Earlier too, this sector had witnessed large scale organised attacks. Why is this pressure being brought on the Northern Flank of Mohmand Agency again facing Kunar? What have the NATO Forces and Afghan Military done so far to stop such incursions and who keeps supplying these insurgents with reinforcements and logistics. It is no coincidence, that when the security forces carried out search and clearing operations in the past, the NATO Forces failed to provide the much needed anvil. The militants were able to escape from one side and enter from another. The same is also true of the South Waziristan Operations followed by the usual accusations from CENTCOM that Pakistani security forces lack the holding capacities in areas that they secure. Will future operations in FATA and PATA witness the same levels of coordination? If they do, it means nothing. 

Both USA and the Pentagon need to realise that in the military strategy the credibility of intent, clarity in mission and professionalism in execution cannot be over ruled by intelligence intrigues. All operations executed by Pakistan to first set its own house in order are to be supported through intelligence and the military anvil. 

It appears that none of the Politicians in Pakistan realise that the country is fighting a war against its own attrition. Grateful to an NRO that puts each one of them in power in some capacity, they are content to play their familiar politics and wait for the time when the security apparatus is decimated enough to give them absolute power. The President and the Prime Minister neither seem to share the security concerns of the establishment nor willing to visit the embattled field formations. The economic and other policies being implemented do not indicate that Pakistan is passing through its worse crises, nor enough to arrest the momentum of constant attrition. With the economy effectively rolled back, factionalism proliferating, growing urban terrorism and the defence establishment constantly embarrassed, the scene will inevitably shift to the heartland Punjab and expanses of simmering Balochistan. To stop this we all have to become Pakistan’s Pakistanis.

It appears that the military leadership too has run out of ideas, primarily because its security narrative based on a two front war was deficient in addressing the issues arising out of militancy and US cooperation. The narrative lacked vital sociological inputs for a long drawn conflict. The assumptions that formed the important plank of the counter insurgency strategy were faulty. Having ceded initiative early on, it was never in a position to seize initiative crucial to a conflict. Its tactical military successes were never backed by viable and credible socio-political initiatives. In a faulty socio-politico-military calculus, there never was that civil backup to take over from where the military left. 

Given that the same dispensations are likely to continue, so will the attrition.  Much will depend on how USA treats Pakistan and how Pakistan’s leaders react.

On its part, Pakistan must insist that it first needs to put its own house in order by defeating the militants within. This will take the form of selective operations based on accurate intelligence. The cost will be urban terrorism and heavy loss of life and infrastructure. At the same time it must prevail upon Afghan groups amenable to it to negotiate peace. However, this part can only be ensured if the entire nation is united under a new national narrative. 

The recent budget has indicated that there is none. 

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.