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Business as usual

The paralysis in decision making in New Delhi is adversely affecting India’s national security.

Pakistani troops ambushed and killed five Indian soldiers belonging to the 21 Bihar regiment and 14 Maratha Light Infantry on Tuesday.  The Pakistani troops crossed the Line of Control into Poonch to carry out the attack.

Several theories have been put forward to explain the attack on the Indian patrol.  Was this retaliation to news reports in Pakistan which claimed that Indian troops kidnapped four men from PoK?  Is this just another manifestation of Pakistan’s escalating hostilities towards India in Afghanistan?  Are hardline elements in Pakistan’s armed forces attempting to discredit and derail Nawaz Sharif’s alleged attempts to make peace with India?  Interesting questions, and maybe they will be answered in time and as more facts pertaining to the attack are revealed.  But reactions to Tuesday’s incident, like those during the January 2013 incident, point to a larger crisis in national security management in India.

A quick word first about Nawaz Sharif.  Whatever his intentions are with regard to India, India must judge Pakistan by its actions and not by warm and fuzzy notions of a trans-Punjab lovefest.  The problem with Pakistan’s peace brigade is that there is a significant gap between purported intentions and their ability to deliver on them.

The net result to India is that its neighboring environment continues to remain hostile and threats to its internal security persist. In this regard, it would be silly for India to get entangled in a debate over whether Nawaz Sharif wants peace with India or not.  Instead, India must judge Pakistan by its actions and not by the supposed intentions of some of its leaders.  As my colleague Nitin Pai argues, there is no case for India to engage the Nawaz Sharif government in dialog until there is credible proof of intent.

But to return to the August 6 attack on Indian troops, such incidents along the LoC are hardly new, regrettable though the loss of life is.  The Pakistanis have always attempted to stir up tensions long the LoC to aid in the infiltration of terrorists across the LoC or to elevate the visibility of tensions with India on the global stage.  Tuesday’s attack wasn’t the first of its kind and will not be the last.  There will surely be a tactical Indian military response to the provocation, and the Pakistanis are well aware that the response will come sooner than later.  This isn’t war mongering but merely a reflection of the realities of the situation along the LoC.

However, what should be of concern to us is the manner in which Indian leadership has chosen to respond to the attack.  Browse through statements issued by representatives of India’s political parties and it becomes apparent very quickly that objective number one was to either blame or deflect blame (depending on who you were) for the attack.

BJP MP and former External Affairs minister Yashwant Sinha asked whether the Congress was with Pakistan or India (I mean, really?), while Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi affirmed that “the entire Congress party, as indeed the entire country” stood with the families of those killed. As ever, party first, country second.

In fact, further reading into statements issued in response to the attack tells us that there isn’t much consensus of opinion even within the UPA, much less between the UPA and other parties.  Defense Minister AK Antony, whose indifference to defending anything beyond his own reputation is now a thing of legend, alleged that the attackers were in fact terrorists masquerading as Pakistan army regulars, which contradicted the positions of almost every other UPA leader to have spoken on the subject.  It also happened to contradict the position of the army.  What is the Indian citizen supposed to make of the political theatrics that get played out with each bomb blast or border incident?

Confidence in India’s political leadership and national security institutions is eroding.  There has been systematic atrophy of existing institutions charged with managing India’s national security.  Worse, vested parties, both political and otherwise, have effectively stonewalled urgent reforms needed to our national security apparatus.  This includes the implementation of a recommendation first made  14 years ago in the Kargil Review Committee report that would allow the prime minister of the country to receive direct and timely military input.

The acute paralysis in consensus-building and decision making in New Delhi is now affecting India’s national security.  This cannot continue to be swept under the carpet.  If India’s leaders can’t even evolve political consensus on an expected and routine Pakistani provocation along the LoC, what sort of response do we imagine we can expect when we are faced with more serious challenges to our national security?

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Where is the Difa-e-Pakistan Council?

Why the silence?

It’s been over half a year since we’ve heard from that wonderful consortium of crazy people, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC).  There haven’t been any news reports of large rallies of the sort held by the DPC last year.  Even when tensions with India mounted in January this year as a result of the killing of Indian troops along the LoC, there was no agitation of the sort one had come to expect from the DPC.

There are some reports that the DPC continues to be active and operating in stealth mode.  We are told that the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olsen met with DPC’s leader Sami ul-Haq this past month and requested his assistance in DC’s ongoing attempts to negotiate with the Taliban.  The DPC may be working behind the scenes, but the drive to mobilize public sentiment in favor of hardline causes seems to have fizzled out.

Mujahid Hussain’s piece in the Viewpoint potentially offers some clues as to why:

According to well placed reports, it has been decided at a high-level meeting that the Defence of Pakistan Council [Difa-e-Pakistan Council] would not be allowed to hold rallies in major cities of Pakistan as the leaders of the Defence of Pakistan Council are adding to the country’s external problems.

This meeting was held at the Presidency. A high-ranking military representative was also present. However, the military representative remained non-committal during the meeting.Jamat-ud-Dawa, responsible for arranging all the rallies and meetings of the Defence of Pakistan Council, and Jamat’s head, Hafiz Saeed, are known for their extremist views. Given this background, Pakistan is facing disturbing situation at the external front.

However, the powers that be do not want to render the Defence of Pakistan Council ineffective even if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already warned that the Defence of Pakistan Council is harming Pakistan’s interests at external front.

Most likely, a terrified civil government will beg the GHQ and request the military leadership to help rein in the Defence of Pakistan Council. [The Viewpoint]

The DPC’s members themselves have been anything but inconspicuous in the media.  Gen. Hamid Gul lauded Pakistan’s sheltering of Osama bin Laden for almost a decade, Hafiz Saeed, who carries a bounty on his head, used ill-conceived statements by Satish Verma to claim innocence on 26/11 and Maulana Muhammad Ludhianvi is spearheading a pogrom against Pakistan’s minorities

But it appears that the burner has has been reduced from hot to simmer.  The utility of the groups that constitute the DPC hasn’t been forgotten by the powers-that-be in Rawalpindi; yet there appears to be some sort of attempt to check the hitherto unbridled freedom with which the DPC operated.  It is an old game that the generals at GHQ think they have mastered.  The operative word there being “think.”

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Urdunama: Indian Agent

The Abbottabad Commission Report was effectively a witch hunt that burnt no witches.  Vague references to very important people in even more important positions apart, the report names no names.  The absence of detail has angered some in Pakistan’s press corps, and none more so than veteran journalist Hamid Mir.  Mr. Mir, in his op-ed “Indian Agent,” in the Jang, inquires as to how no one in Pakistan’s political, military and intelligence communities appeared to know anything about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Like a headless chicken likely to assault anything in its path, Mr. Mir proceeds to launch a most unique tirade against Pakistan’s much-feared Inter-services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), President Asif Ali Zardari, COAS Kiyani, ex DG-ISI Ahmed Shuja Pasha and former self-appointed (and only) Field Marshal of Pakistan, Mohammed Ayub Khan.

Mr. Mir is profoundly angered that no one in Pakistan knew where Osama bin Laden was prior to the May 2, 2011 raid in Abbottabad.  This must be particularly annoying to Mr. Mir, given that he is the only journalist in the world to have found his way to Osama bin Laden, meeting with him three times (including once for an interview barely a month after the U.S was in hot pursuit of him in November, 2001).  Excerpts follow:

The operation in Abbottabad lasted for a full hour.  What were the police in Abbottabad, officers of the Pakistan Military Academy, ISI, IB and members of the Special Branch doing during this time?  Where were the defenders of this nuclear-armed nation during the assault on one of our cities? Did the Abbottabad Commission ask these questions of the leaders of our armed forces?

The report indicates that the Commission was not able to meet with those individuals most knowledgeable about the operation, but fails to name names.  No doubt, the Commission alludes to President Zardari, PM Yousaf Raza Gillani and COAS Parvez Kayani.  I knew that the Commission would let them off the hook because it did not want to embarrass the leaders of a nuclear-armed nation.

There is no new information in the Abbottabad Commission report.  Indeed, the Commission has not even been able to answer the question as to how our intelligence agencies are so proficient in being able to tap the phone lines of politicians, journalists and judges, but are incapable of determining how one of the world’s most wanted individuals came to be living a stone’s throw away from the Pakistan Military Academy.

These days, anyone that protests the narrative of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies is subjected to a cyber-war by their agents on social media platforms.  We are labeled “Indian agents” because we challenge the narrative of the establishment  No one stops for a second to think that if the U.S. was able to orchestrate such an operation in Pakistan with no repercussions, how will these intelligence agencies manage to save face if India were to do likewise?  The army and ISI didn’t have a problem transferring control of Shamsi airbase to the U.S. or permitting drone attacks inside Pakistan, but when Pakistan TV channels allow USAID to advertize content, these agencies accuse us of being bought by the U.S.

If journalists and judges were to argue that this business of attributing all attacks in Pakistan to “unidentified gunmen” has turned the law of the land into a joke, these people are immediately termed to be Indian agents.  If we really did love Pakistan and didn’t want to find employment abroad like a recently-retired chief of the ISI [presumably alluding to Lt Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha], we must speak the truth and not be afraid of being labelled an “Indian agent.”

Conspiracy theories and labeling people “Indian agents” is nothing new in Pakistan.  The foundation for such enduring conspiracy theories was laid during the dictatorship of Ayub Khan.  Indeed, the Mother of the Nation, Fatima Jinnah was also labeled an “Indian agent” by Gen. Ayub Khan when she challenged his dictatorial regime.  Fatima Jinnah was called an “Indian agent” by the same individual who sold Pakistan’s rivers to India, bartered the aspirations of the people of Kashmir, and instituted programs to buy journalists and reporters to tow the establishment narrative.

Those that towed his official line were regarded as patriots; those that didn’t were called “Indian agents.”  True patriots, those that understand how the interests of the nation are being bartered must speak out.  However, in doing so, they must be willing to risk the very distinct possibility of being labelled “Indian agents.'” [روزنامہ جنگ]

 

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On Pakistan’s Osama bin Laden report

Nolnah’s Razor: Ascribing incompetence to that which can be adequately explained by malice.

The report of the Abbottabad Commission, which was set up to investigate the May 2011 raid by U.S. special forces that eventually led to the killing of Osama bin Laden and his couriers, was “obtained” and published online by al-Jazeera today.  News reports tell us that the 337-page report makes “scathing reading.”

It attributes “culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government” in Pakistan’s apparent inability to identify that bin Laden was living in a villa located less than a mile away from the Kakul military academy for at least five years and its inability to detect the special forces contingent that traveled from Jalalabad, Afghanistan to Abbottabad to execute the mission to kill or capture bin Laden.

There are a few ways to look at the content and timing of the “leaked” report.  First, the report may be scathing in its criticism of government incompetence, but it barely entertains the possibility that official connivance played a role in bin Laden’s ability to evade U.S. pursuit for ten years.  Official denials don’t really mean much under the circumstances.  For years, Pakistani leaders claimed that bin Laden wasn’t in their country.  Gen. Musharraf claimed bin Laden was dead in 2002.

Pakistan has also, for years, denied that Mullah Omar was living in Pakistan.  Yet, multiple reports suggest that he is living in Quetta and under the protection of the ISI.  The truth will most likely be revealed once the U.S. and its allies leave Afghanistan in 2014, following which Mullah Omar will emerge triumphantly from parts unknown.

Of course, most people in India are accustomed to hearing how persons of interest to them — Dawood Ibrahim, for example — are most certainly not living in Pakistan.  For those of us on this side of the barbed-wire fence, the incompetence defense stretches credulity.

There are other interesting parts to the report.  On page 337, it concludes (emphasis added):

But finally, no honest assessment of the situation can escape the conclusion that those individuals who wielded primary authority and influence in national decision making bear the primary responsibility for creating the national circumstances and environment in which the May 2, 2011 incident occurred.  It is unnecessary to specifically name them because it is obvious who they are.  It may be politically unrealistic to suggest “punishments” from them.  But as honourable men, they ought to do honourable thing, including submitting a formal apology to the nation for their dereliction of duty.  It will be for the people of Pakistan in the forthcoming elections to pass collective political judgement on them. [al-Jazeera]

The last sentence of the concluding paragraph of the report is curious.  It apportions blame to those who “wielded primary authority and influence in national decision making,” but concludes by saying that it was for the people of Pakistan to pass a collective judgement on them in the elections.  Great, but Pakistanis don’t get to vote for their COAS or DG-ISI.  But they do cast votes on their civilian leadership.  From where this blogger is standing, the blame being apportioned here almost certainly targets Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP, rather than the Pakistani military establishment.

The other items for consideration pertaining to the release of the report are the timing and source of the alleged leak.  The leak occurs at a time when the U.S. is trying to negotiate an honorable exit from Afghanistan with the Pakistan-backed Taliban in Qatar. That the report was leaked by al-Jazeera, a news agency fully owned by the al-Thani family, which, as it happens, also rules Qatar may not be a coincidence.

This “leak” could effectively mean two things.  If the U.S. is sufficiently encouraged by the momentum and direction of the talks, it may be well-disposed towards bailing out the Pakistani military establishment from the embarrassment it has had to endure since 2011.  The discrete leak of a document via a news agency owned by a U.S. ally, which blames incompetence rather than connivance (the lesser of  two evils) while also criticizing a now mostly-irrelevant and ousted political party works well under such circumstances.

If, on the other hand, things aren’t going so well in Doha, the release of a classified report may have been viewed as necessary by some to coax Pakistan into action.  It will, of course, embarrass and anger the Pakistani military establishment.  More importantly, it will also most certainly complicate relations between Pakistan and Qatar.

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