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.
Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

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.
Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com