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Archive | October, 2009

The blind men of Pakistan

From madrasa to media, the Pakistani awam is being disserved

As the Pakistani army prepared for battle in South Waziristan, a spate of articles appeared in the Urdu press, which while recognizing the combatants as “extremists”, ascribed to the notion that these were merely people who had been led astray by the conjuring of an evil power. This is a theme that has resonated well with the media since major operations commenced against the Taliban. Hence Operation Rah-e-Rast — Operation Right Track — in Swat.

With regard to the operations in South Waziristan, the October 19, 2009 editorial of the Urdu newspaper, the Daily Ausaaf typifies the kind of mindless harangue dished out by Pakistan’s vernacular media on the subject.  Replying to it would be futile and unnecessary to the readers of this blog.

That Pakistan can do no wrong is a foregone conclusion and cannot be debated. Therefore, if things are going wrong, it is most likely the work of Pakistan’s enemies.  The same indoctrination follows the people, from madrasa to media.  The shackles of indoctrination cannot be broken until Pakistan’s terror consortium of the maulvis, ISI and army comes to terms with the rapidity of diminishing returns in such mindless propaganda.

Today those groups that waged jihad in Kashmir have turned their guns on their masters on the streets of Rawalpindi and Lahore.  The army is in an all out war against the very Taliban it nurtured.  Baluchistan is in the middle of a secessionist uprising. Anti-Shia groups that surfaced as a result of oil money from Saudi Arabia have complicated Pakistan’s relations with Iran.

Who is bleeding by a thousand cuts?

An excerpt of the October 19, 2009 editorial of the Daily Ausaaf is enclosed below.  The entire original editorial in Urdu can be read here:

October 19, 2009

The Daily Ausaaf

The South Waziristan Operation: The Real Enemy also needs to be dealt with decisively

The main cause of this war is the perpetuation of the policies of the former dictator, Pervez Musharraf, as a result of which the real enemy remains hidden. This enemy doesn’t openly confront us, but does so through its agents, who are unfortunately tied to our own existence.

These agents promote the interests of the real enemy by attacking the nation. In actuality, the real force behind this war is the United States, which is being aided by India and Israel in order to destabilize Pakistan.

The roles that the United States has assigned India in Afghanistan are quickly becoming clear. From Afghanistan, India, with the assistance of the United States and Israel, attacks Pakistan at every possible level.

The several Indian missions spread across the length and breadth of Afghanistan have been established for this very purpose. These counsels are a threat to our nation, and it is through them that India provides financial and military support to extremists and terrorists.

It is a wonder that these activities are being conducted under the very nose of the United States, which claims that is it fighting a war against terrorism. However, under the US’s protection, India provides financial support and weapons to terrorists who attack Pakistan.

There is consensus among America, India and Israel to destabilize Pakistan. There is also information that the US and NATO have closed some of their checkpoints near the border, due to which terrorists from Afghanistan are able to enter into Pakistan freely.

It is clear therefore, that the US also wants Pakistani armed forces’ operation in South Waziristan to fail. But this is wishful thinking. It is not easy to defeat the Pakistani Army. The army enjoys the support of the entire nation.

It is amply clear that the US, India and Israel want to weaken Pakistan economically, politically and militarily in order to alienate its people and denuclearize the nation.

Pakistan needs to appreciate the fact that in its war in South Waziristan, it is confronting not only the terrorists, but also the big powers that are their backers. We will not be able to win this war without understanding who the real enemy is and neutralizing their designs against Pakistan.

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GHQ and Lahore terror attacks

The chickens have come home to roost and Pakistan is in a state of bewilderment and denial

Yesterday’s carnage in Lahore and Peshawar is a continuing catalog of the failures of intelligence and security services and of Pakistan’s inability to learn from past mistakes.  Two of the three institutions targeted yesterday — the FIA building and the Manawan training school were victims of past terror attacks.  Yet, apparently nothing was learned from those attacks and the terrorists were able to perpetrate their attacks, almost to script.

Even after yesterday’s terror strikes, enough anecdotal evidence exists to suggest that this pattern is likely to continue.  For one, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies don’t know who they’re up against.  The term “TTP affiliated organization” could mean just about anyone. That the TTP claims responsibility for any and all attacks doesn’t help separate fact from fiction.

In both the recent strikes against GHQ, Rawalpindi and the series of coordinated attacks in Lahore, certain aspects of the attacks stand out (see B Raman’s detailed analysis for more information).

The attacks in Pindi and Lahore were against (apparently well fortified) law and enforcement institutions.Both were fedayeen attacks and involved the use of handheld weapons and explosives. But both attacks were also accompanied by subsequent terror strikes in Peshawar, which resulted in more fatalities.  The M.O. of the Peshawar attacks was markedly different from that of Rawalpindi or Lahore.  Bomb-laden vehicles were detonated remotely near areas of urban concentration (a school and a bazaar).

It’s hard to say whether the attacks in Peshawar were related to the coordinated attacks in the Punjab. But they may provide some light on who was responsible for the attacks. The attacks in Peshawar are typical of the type of unconventional warfare that we know the TTP  and associated Pashtun groups are capable of waging — i.e., either “non-confrontational” attacks usually via IEDs, or single-person suicide attacks.  Insofar as unconventional urban warfare is concerned, the TTP seldom hunts in groups.

The attacks in Lahore and Pindi, however, betray the M.O. of terror groups from the Punjabi Deobandi/Barelvi madaris, which have a history of employing commando-style assaults against targets, both within Pakistan (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba) and in India (Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed).

By Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s own admission, the TTP has gradually built links with the Punjabi terror groups. If the brutal acts of the past two weeks are an indication of this alliance, then Islamabad is under attack from more directions than it can hope to counter.

However, while Pakistan initiated military action against the TTP via the PAF in Ladha yesterday, nothing was said or done about the terror outfits it nurtured in the Punjab. The chickens have come home to roost:  and the Pakistani security establishment’s response is one of denial, disbelief and bewilderment.

Pakistan’s inaction against Punjabi terror outfits is because of the belief that these groups do more good than harm to “the cause”.  The real question is:  how long before the Pakistan establishment perceives that this equation has been turned on its head?

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Indian Embassy Attack in Kabul

Limited Indian military deployment: the time is nigh

The suicide attack on Thursday was the second such attack on the Indian Embassy in the past fifteen months in Kabul.  The attack claimed the lives of seventeen, including the two Afghan policemen who attempted to deter the bomb-laden vehicle from breaching the compound.

Similar to the last attack on the Indian Embassy that left 60 dead last year, the footprint the terror consortium of the Jalaluddin Haqqani network, Taliban and ISI is clear.  Earlier this month, Gen Stanley McChrystal stated in a leaked assessment, that growing Indian involvement in Afghanistan would encourage Pakistani “countermeasures”.  More recently, former CIA Islamabad station chief Bob Grenier stated at a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee deposition that the close relationship between New Delhi and Kabul “literally drives [Pakistan] crazy”.

This comes at a time of considerable disquiet in Pakistan. The Kerry-Lugar Bill has met with vociferous disapproval, initially from the media, and later from the Pakistani Corps Commanders’ Conference. The disapproval is based on the belief that some provisions — including India-specific terror clauses — impinge on Pakistan’s sovereignty. The Pakistani government (and military) must clarify how these clauses violate Pakistan’s sovereignty. Specifically, Pakistan must articulate whether it believes that allowing its soil to be used to plan, organize and execute acts of terror against India is an exercise of its soverign right.

So, was the attack on the Indian Embassy meant to demonstrate Pakistan’s open defiance of Kerry-Lugar? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, if enlightenment hasn’t dawned on the Indian government now, it never will.  Pakistan will continue to use such “countermeasures” because it knows it can do so without eliciting a military response from India.  And increasing Indian involvement in the development of Afghanistan only increases the number of potential targets for the terror consortium.

Today, India’s ambitions in Afghanistan are not commensurate with the level of protection it is willing to provide to protect its interests.  “Soft power” is an important element of state diplomacy, but when not backed up by a credible intent to defend, paints a picture of a state that is benign, diffident, weak-willed and apprehensive.

India must stop outsourcing its intelligence and security needs in Afghanistan to other countries.  It must do what it has to do to protect its interests, its citizens and its friends.  Hitherto, India received inputs mostly from Afghan and other intelligence agencies.  It is time for India to upgrade its intelligence capability in Afghanistan; additional emphasis must also be placed on better intelligence coordination between Afghan, Indian and other foreign intelligence agencies.

Serious thought must be given to an Indian military deployment in Afghanistan.  However, for India to get bogged down fighting an insurgency would be counter-productive and would risk squandering the goodwill of the government and people of Afghanistan.

Therefore, India needs to think along the lines of a limited military deployment in Afghanistan and one with a mandate to protect its citizens and interests in that country.  This is India’s own “countermeasure”.  India has invested over a $1.2 billion in Afghanistan; Indians from all walks of life — doctors, engineers, teachers and security professionals — attempt to secure the future of Afghanistan and its people.  However, the security provided to these very individuals is either nonexistent or found wanting.

A deployment with limited mandate presents undeniable risks.  The possibility of the lines between India’s defensive deployment and the larger US/ISAF COIN operation being blurred, the risk of Indian troops becoming targets for the Taliban, Haqqani and ISI consortium and loss of goodwill in Kabul do exist.

However, the alternative to this arrangement is the status quo — India’s current posture.  As things stand today, a Pakistani attack on Indian citizens, property and interests in Afghanistan goes unchallenged.  Not much is ever done by way of a response, apart from registering the customary “our patience is not inexhaustible” complaint with the US and holding back on dialog with Pakistan.

The choices before India are stark: either it believes that Indian property, investment and lives are worth sacrificing for the greater goal of strategic partnership with Afghanistan, or it accepts that Indian security cover is essential to protect those who undertake the perilous, yet noble journey of rebuilding a war ravaged nation and spreading the goodwill of India and its people in that part of the world.  Time is running out, and India must decide soon.  What is it going to be, Mr. Prime Minister?

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Indian media discourse on China's 60th

China celebrated the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic on October 1, 2009.  It did so with the pomp and circumstance befitting a significant milestone.  Fireworks, aerobatics,  even a  female militia in miniskirt ensemble, and of course, contingents from the world’s largest armed forces.

In India, media coverage was distressingly predictable.  Labeling the military parade China’s “massive display of strength”, the media harped on about how the People’s Republic overwhelms India in military might.  Like this wonderful piece, called China vs India: Military might put together by an “NDTV correspondent” on their website (and also broadcast as a news item on television).

The article gives you a blow-by-blow of China’s relative superiority — 6,000 more “airplanes” in the PLAF, 100,000 more troops.  Run of the mill, factually incorrect observations — like Chinese plans to build and induct an aircraft carrier by 2010.  For those with an eye for the bleeding obvious, 2010 is next year.  And lest the nuclear arena be ignored, the article points out that China’s most potent warhead tested was 4 mT, whereas apparently an Indian nuclear test yielded 50 kT.  The author should have disclosed this a few weeks ago — it would have put an end to this ruccus.

Reading this article, you get the sense that China overwhelms India militarily and that the sanest thing for the Indian army to do under the circumstances is to pack up and go home.  Except, defense and national security aren’t played out on balance sheets or through inventory counts.

Any Chinese military misadventure is contingent on a number of factors, including India’s conventional  military capability, analysis of the impact of war on China’s economy and global standing, prospects of game-altering strategic alliances should war be imposed on India, and of course, China’s definition of “acceptable damage” and its assessment of India’s ability to cross that threshold via a nuclear assault.

Of course, not once was any of this remotely brought to the fore during India’s marathon coverage of China. To do so would be to bore an already disengaged audience about the intricacies of military strategy and international relations.  Why complicate matters when you can shock and scandalize someone and quickly cut to a commercial where Yuvraj Singh tries to sell you a Fiat Grande Punto?

Georges ” le Tigre” Clemenceau once said “war is too important a business to be left to soldiers”.  Disengagement of the public from matters relating to national security has led to very low levels of accountability in the defense of India.  Of the TV news anchors and “on-site” correspondents, not many can talk intelligently on such areas and ask probing questions to defense guests.  Comically, (and speaking of “le Tigre”) this blogger remembers TV coverage of the Kargil War, where one TV-news personality made repeated references to “Tiger Hills”, like it was some dashed hill station.

Today, the only honest, probing and meaningful analysis is conducted mostly by think tanks, whose publications are, unfortunately, only read by other think tanks. The Filter Coffee has long held the position that discussion on the defense of India needs to move away from think tanks and into our living rooms.  It is only then that true accountability can be demanded, both from the system, riddled as it is with bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption, and from the media, who today get a free pass on peddling half-truths and sweeping generalizations on an unsuspecting public.

As it stands today on matters of defense and national security, the media fails the very democracy it says it is protecting.

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