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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Nawaz Sharif’s jejune address

Richard Nixon’s book “leaders” is a stunner; the book expounds upon the men that changed the world. Probably, all those leaders on whom  Nixon dwelt were men with immaculate traits. One hallmark which was common in almost all was their ability to speak with authority. Winston Churchill, Charles De Gaulle and Douglas MacArthur spoke with such panache that all were awe-inspired. Forget about the likes of Churchill or Yoshida for that matter; let us talk about the man at the helm in Pakistan, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. For the sake of simplicity, the piece will not even try to compare Sharif’s oratory prowess with that of the above-mentioned leaders, but will instead shed-light on his much-awaited speech to the nation, especially his “strategy” as regards power crisis and terrorism.
The man in question took over  the coveted crown of premiership for the third time in June this year. This was possible because his party overpowered not only the PPP but also PTI,  led by cricket legend, Imran Khan Niazi.  A lot has happened since then: the spate of terrorism has gained momentum; the menace of load shedding is seemingly not near its end. The nation was waiting for the veteran’s speech. Finally, the ice has been broken now.  For us to analyze his speech, there is a need to find out his oft-repeated sentences and/or claims that he made in pressers and interviews.  His speeches and interviews always had extensive references of the Kargil conflagration and Vajpayee’s  highly -touted bus journey to Lahore. Thankfully and much to my delight he eschewed or probably forgot to allude to these incidents.
Sharif started-off by needlessly reminding us that he was elected PM in June this year, but much to his credit admitted that lambasting from outside is easier than facing the bullets in the battlefield. Yes PM, governance is not a dime a dozen!
“On the one hand, terrorism threatens our nation. On the other, load shedding has destroyed us. Negligence of past is to blame.”  One cannot disagree with Sharif over this statement, but don’t we all know that these issues have marred the progress of our country? What was the need to rue on the blemishes made by previous regimes? Those who voted-out the Pakistan People’s Party knew that these issues existed and that they were not resolved. The voters wanted panaceas for these issues, not a diagnosis of the problem. As the English idiom goes that there is no use crying over spilt milk, Sharif should have hit the bull directly by giving plausible solutions, which he did but not before flaying the previous governments. Announcements as regards the completion of Nandipur  and Neelum-Jhelum projects were good additions in his speech, for they were solutions and political point scoring. His resolve to inaugurate electricity projects in Gaddani was another conspicuous part of his speech, which had little interest for the public. Let us not get into the merits and demerits of these projects, but one thing that is evident from the speech  that Sharif was talking gingerly on the issue. He looked unsure as to when his “team” will alleviate the grave and ever-brewing power crisis. This part of his address  should not make us upbeat at all!
Now, let us analyze his thoughts on counter-terrorism.  He , like any other Pakistani said that his heart goes out for the people who have lost their lives owing to brazen attacks by terrorists. Neither he was daring enough to name death squads like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi(LEJ ) and others, nor he delved on a broad strategy to put an end to this epidemic.  One can understand that tactical matters are not delved-upon in these addresses, but a policy is delineated. He vowed to end terrorism by talks or by coercion shows that talks will be the mainstay of his government’s CT policy. Negotiations require an assortment of tactics, wherein you show the other party your strength. Mahinda Rajapakhsay famously said that “I will negotiate with Tamils, but not Tamil Tigers”.  It is not hard to figure out the importance of being in a strong position during any kind of negotiations.  There is hardly anything to talk about with those recalcitrant beasts who take pride in killing 50,000 Pakistanis. The talks will inkle towards a victory for the TTP, for talks tantamount to a failure to uproot non-state-actors.  Army officers at the Staff College and the National Defense University are bombarded with sayings that “never reinforce a failure”. Dialogues, be it in Shakai , Bajaur or Swat failed to deliver the goods. The very areas were cleared by military operations. But operation is not the only panacea; military action is a just a part of a comprehensive CT strategy , something which the incumbent government  has not devised as of now. “We can’t let Karachi fall to terrorists.” Agreed; we must not allow but how will the government impede the terrorists, if I may ask Mr Sharif?
I am glad that you showed cognizance and concerns as regards Balochistan, but many like me must have been left in a huff, for you gave no direction as to how Balochis would be mollified and BLA would be pummeled or cut to size?
In sum, Nawaz Sharif’s speech leaves a lot to be desired for. The speech accentuated on problems rather those much-needed solutions. If he actually wanted to enumerate the impediments to us becoming the Asian Tigers then certainly the target killings of shias and Ahmedis; India’s nefarious activities, both on the borders and inside the country also merited his  attention.
I don’t mince my words and would therefore vociferously and unequivocally say that this speech has left me in a huff.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

India must hold her horses.

The trajectory of Indo-Pak relations has been pretty simple: a collision course has been followed by both these neighbors over the past 66 years.  Let’s not go into the main conflict and the crises that emanated from that. The piece will shed light on a few sardonic antics shown by the Indian defense forces and government/opposition off-late. In the  process this piece will  deride some hollow arguments made by the ever-growing clique of liberals in Pakistan.
Civilian supremacy is something that many of us covet; often Indian Army is given credit for being truly professional, for they haven’t as yet subverted the government. Yes indeed, it is something creditable however; we need not compare the milieus of both the countries. The difference was there for all to see. Had Nehru appointed General P N Thappar as defense minister, for instance sake , things might have been very different. One can disagree with many of the assertions made by General Ved Prakash Malik in his book “Kargil: from surprise to victory, but one remark is striking and thought-provoking as regards the Indian Army being apolitical .   “The credit goes not only to the military and its traditions , but also to the political leadership …….. The political leaders or the party members did not make any attempt to politicize the armed forces.” This is what our liberals and Army bashers should understand. However , the Indian military has  out of her own accord  sabotaged the peace process on a few occasions , be it putting their foot down over the Siachen Accords or Brasstacks or even Cold Start for that matter. For instance, in December, 2012, the  then commander of the Northern Command, Lt Gen K T Parnaik disparaged Kayani on his overture of withdrawing from the Siachen Glacier. Things took shape for the worse amidst fa├žade of peace-building and conflict-resolution efforts.
It was 4th January, 2013 when the green shirts under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq defeated a formidable Indian side in the 2nd ODI to take an unassailable lead in the ODI series. Just after a few hours the Indian Army resorted to unprovoked firing on the Line of Control (LOC), which resulted in the martyrdom of Naik Aslam of the Pakistan Army. However, it was seldom reported in our otherwise-vibrant media. Probably, they were showing too much fidelity to the cause of Aman Ki Asha. However, on the 8th the Pakistani troops allegedly beheaded an Indian soldier in the Meander sector. The Indian media known for its  war mongering , launched a virulent attack on Pakistan day-in day-out. Is it conceivable that troops from any side can cross the LOC and behead a soldier, given the fact that there are bunkers and barbed wires on both sides of the LOC? If the alleged beheading turns out to be true then it is not only barbaric, but shows the ineptitude of India’s Northern Command, which was then commanded by Lt- Gen K T Parnaik. As expected, things conflagrated with a hostile statement from the Indian Air Chief, Browne; a 2-hour long press conference of General Bikram Singh. However, the General cleverly dubbed these issues as “tactical in nature”. But talks of effective vigil and dress down of local formation commanders meant that India was up to something. The leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj demanded 10 Pakistani heads. Sense prevailed on our side, as we did not see our military counterparts giving such statements. Politicians from our side were seemingly not concerned! The low-profile response from Pakistan was a good move, for statements carry weight in the Indo-Pak theatre. A localized skirmish at the LOC has every likelihood to escalate to the international border, especially keeping in view India’s Cold Start Doctrine, something which merits another write-up.  The scuffle of January showed that Indians were utterly aggressive and Pakistan was acting gingerly.
Fast-forward to May, Nawaz Sharif even before becoming PM for the third time made his intentions clear as regards his India policy. Not only he invited his Indian counterpart on his oath-taking ceremony, but also decided to institute an inquiry commission on the infamous Kargil face-off. Many critics raised eyebrows over these benign overtures made by Sharif, since India had again shown that how much they value a proven terrorist: Sarabjeet Singh was given a grand funeral. Nonetheless, the border spats in Ladakh kept the Indian establishment busy for some time and moreover, both PM’s agreed to meet during next month’s General Assembly Session of the UN.
Now, finally let’s delve on the current and ever-increasing crisis. Pakistani Army allegedly crossed the LOC and 5 miles inside Indian Poonch ambushed an Indian Army patrol and killed 5 soldiers. The Indian Defense Minister oscillated at the whims of hawkish elements of the Indian opposition and media. His initial statement called the attackers as terrorists, dressed in army uniform. Within 48 hours Antony took a 360 degree turn against Pakistan. In other words he played to the gallery. He said “It is now clear that the specialist troops of Pakistan Army were involved in this attack when a group from Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) side crossed the LoC and killed our brave jawans,” Furthermore, he said that these acts will alter their approach and posture on the LOC. “"We all know that nothing happens from Pakistan side of LoC without support, assistance, facilitation and often, direct involvement of Pakistan Army," Antony said. The visit of the Indian Army Chief to the LOC with a mandate for a calibrated tactical response is showing its effects. The Indian Army and BSF resorts to unprovoked firing daily . It is not about the LOC only, but over the past few  weeks the BSF have been  violating  the sanctity of the Working Boundary in Sialkot and Shakhargarh, injuring innocent Pakistani citizens. What will India gain from these skirmishes, recriminations; vandalizing PIA offices; attacking the High Commission in Delhi and blocking the “Dosti Bus”?  India’s overall strategic designs are beyond the scope of this article. However, the fact is that these aggressive signals would not be a boon for South Asia’s strategic stability. Pakistan has been far more cautious in its approach and rightly so. As nuclear powers both country’s should act responsibly. It does not mean that we will reach a nuclear threshold over this hyped and spiced-up LOC ingresses, but the fog of war is a reality, to say the least.
A quote for all commanders, especially those of the  Indian Army.
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Helmuth von Moltke.
Hawkish plans will be countered with more hawkish ones.