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  #1  
Old Wednesday, May 02, 2012
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Youm e shuhada- A Tribute to the Sons of soil
May 2, 2012
By Mariam Shah

Youm e shuhada- A Tribute to the Sons of soil
I ask nothing more
Than to die in my country
To dissolve and merge with the grass,
To give life to a flower
That a child of my country will pick,
All I ask
Is to remain in the bosom of my country
As soil,
Grass,
A flower (Fadwa Tuqan)

The above quoted poem, by a Palestinian poet depicts the true inner soul of every patriot. I learnt this poem and whenever I recite these verses I see an image of every Pakistani soldier who is ready to die for this land, in the battle field, under the unfathomable depths of the ocean or up in the air.
Standing under the open wild sky, starring at the bright moon I felt so broken and shattered for the very first time in my life, as I was powerless to do anything for those who are dying for me and my country. I was thinking about 30th April, Youm-e-Shuhdda (day of martyrs) and its actual significance in our lives. One in thousands actually knows about this day and except for the armed forces or the families of the martyrs, rest are least bothered and concerned.
I thought and ponder, and then I realized that what so ever, I can never pay back the persistent sacrifices they made for me, for us and for this country, which is fast becoming so insensitive and numb with every other life laid for them. It’s the coldness, the detachment of this nation towards the martyrs and Ghazis of this land which disturbs me and makes me fear all those who are poisoned and inclined towards counting the pensions, plots and houses being given as compensation to the bereaved families. Has someone ever thought that martyrs themselves have paid the price of the so called plots and houses with their blood? We should not forget the sequel of sacrifices and heroism committed by our armed forces for the past so many decades. To sit quietly in the air conditioned rooms and criticize is very easy, to doubt, defame and insult is effortless, but to go in the battle field, to see the roaring gunfire and to get hit by a bullet and to receive a coffin of a loved one is not painless and simple.
When I look at the barren faces of the children who have lost their fathers, the empty smiles of the young ladies who lost their partners, the wrinkled sad eyes of the old parents who received the wrapped coffin of their only son, then I find no place in this entire universe to hide my embarrassed face. During these moments I realize that I would never be able to bring their happy moments with their fathers back; I can never bring back the fatherly hugs to the children and passionate embraces to the lonely wives, indeed I can never bring back their sons, fathers, husbands, brothers and friends. I don’t have any substitute, any replacement for the sacrifices they have made for this motherland. This is their tradition to lay down their lives for this country, as they have witnessed this from the day they wore the uniform and carried a gun. There is no doubt that they will continue to uphold these revered traditions till the day they all are wrapped up in the green flag and become a part of the martyrs’ brigade, as they find eternal peace in laying down their lives.
This is a day, on which we decided to pay tribute to the martyrs and Ghazis of this war on terror. We will honor their families, pay homage to the brave sons and will acknowledge their dedication and commitment towards the cause. Let’s make it 365 days a year, why we should forget about them the whole year? We breathe in the free air because many are ready to depart to the eternal world for our safety and security. We are not protecting the country on the cold mountains, nor are we receiving bullets and losing our limbs, rather we are not even ready to pat their back, for the duty they are performing. Either we accept it or not, but everyday these souls are silently dying for the honor of this flag, for which they took an oath.
This land is guarded by the brave sons; it cannot be ever harmed by the evil eyes. Innumerable sacrifices have been made for the up keep of the national pride, sovereignty and integrity, and countless are ready to spill their blood. This proud green flag Insha’Allah will be fluttering high and they will never let it fall.
You the defenders, the brave sons! You mean a lot to me, I failed to utter, to show the feelings buried deep inside me, but I owe nothing less than my own life to you. Salute to the Martyrs and Ghazis of this land on this day and all days to come.

The writer is a human rights, youth and a peace activist and doing MPhil in Peace and Conflict Studies from NDU
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Old Friday, March 29, 2013
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I shall not criticise the military

By:Hashim bin Rashid Wednesday, 27 Mar 2013

A declaration of all the ‘good things’ the military has done

“Talk against the military cannot be tolerated,” was the gist of statement made by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday on the eve of election campaigning. A petitioner was contesting the military being given civil powers in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Someone has had the audacity to challenge the Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011.
Back in the day, when the law was passed, observers criticised it as “providing legal cover for unlawful acts committed during military operations in both FATA and PATA”. Serious objections were also raised against the manner of military operations and recent incidents brought to light of innocent people being killed in military operations.

But then of course the military has responded to the SC petition in a succinct manner. 6,000 search operations were conducted in FATA and PATA with over 9,000 people having been killed since 2008 in a total of 237 suicide attacks, 9,257 rocket attacks and 4,256 bomb explosions. If anything, these are astonishing figures, and the lack of evidence against the military for in absence of any civilian monitor in the regions under attack perhaps opens up a line for the lack of accountability for the military.

Perhaps this is why the honourable SC judges stated: “We cannot tolerate such type of talk against the army. Strife-torn areas cannot be left at the mercy of terrorists. The special powers, including calling in the army, are assigned under specific situation as per the Constitution. Eighteen persons were targeted a day before. Where the situation will stand if the army returns from there? No military operation is being conducted in Balochistan and the dead bodies in gunny bags are being discovered daily. You say peace prevails therein. Please tell the court if peace was there from April 12, 2008, till now and we will order for the withdrawal of the army from there.”

So I suppose one must tow the line and sign a declaration stating the many things that the military must not be criticised for. Here is a draft of such a declaration. I am certain no one would disagree as to the contents:
I shall not criticise the military for any civilian casualties in FATA/PATA or anywhere else in the country. Innocent people are killed in a war against an enemy as dangerous as the Taliban. Collateral damage is merely an acceptable side cost that is merely a necessary inconvenience in a decade long battle. So what if there is no list of names provided when a press release declares 18 terrorists killed? Terrorists have no names and do not deserve to be documented.

I shall not criticise the military for any people who are reported missing. Even though there is a stack of evidence documenting that intelligence agency officials have picked up hundreds, if not over a thousand, people from Balochistan, Khyber Pakthunkhwa, Sindh and Punjab. The fact is that these were necessary measures against threats to the state. Those picked up are either terrorists or nationalists, both of whom reject the writ of the state and are weakening the country and working on foreign agendas. Let us not feel sympathy for those picked up, the processes of law are not reserved for the enemies of the state. The kill-and-dumps are too few if you ask me.
I shall not criticise the military for accepting money and dictation from the US to fight the ‘war on terror’. The fact is that it had two options: accept the billions of dollars on offer or be “sent into the stone ages”. It certainly does not matter that the US was the one who funded the creation of the very ‘terrorists’ we were now asked to fight. There is no contradiction. We sway where the funds sway us. We are a poor country. God-forbid had the military said no to the US offer, we would have been in a worse position. That there has been a bomb attack almost every day since the decision to join the US war on terror is only a minor cost and reminds us of the threat we have to face.

I shall not criticise the military for breeding Islamist militias and sectarian groups. When the Taliban were built up in the 1980s, General Zia took a courageous decision to fight Communist Russia. They would have come into Pakistan and filled the ‘land of the pure’ with objectionable literature and notions of justice that we cannot subscribe to. Therefore, it was essential to fill the ‘land of the pure’ up with Deobandi madrassas that breed hate against anyone who is not them. The Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was needed to curb the possibility of an Iran-style revolution too. And of course the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hafiz Saeed are strategic assets to check against India’s evil designs against Pakistan.

I shall not criticise the military for inflaming relations with India, at various moments. One should always be wary of opening our arms and hands towards India in embrace: a Hindu will always stab you in the back. But our politicians are too feeble and do not understand that trade and people-to-people contact cannot resolve our hatred. The military is the guardian over the founding Two Nation Theory that pits us in conflict with the Hindu-state of India. Its evil designs against Pakistan are well known, it funds terrorism in Pakistan, and it has been hoping to take over us whenever the right moment comes. The decisions to send armed forces into Kashmir in 1948, sending proxy militias into India in 1965 and opening up the Kargil front in 1998 were all necessary operations, required despite civilian orders to the contrary. India needs to know we are ready to teach them a lesson and one of our jawans is equal to ten of their soldiers. Remember the Sialkot tank battle in 1965: surely the myth that our brave soldiers’ suicide bombed Indian tanks into retreat is true. And of course let us not ignore the fact that the military needs a raison d’taire if it is to continue to do all the good it does for Pakistan. ‘India as our eternal enemy’ as a logic shall do well to justify the one-third
of the budget which gets spent on the military.

I shall not criticise the army for fighting its own people at various points in our history. Taking over Kalat in 1948 was necessary for the survival of the country and so were all five military operations in Balochistan. Separatism is not tolerable. The 1971 war of secession in Bengal should be an example. So what if a hundred thousand or more Bengalis were killed? So what if military men raped Bengali women? Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami Party was always a band of traitors and should not have been allowed to contest elections. The truth is that the only mistake the military made was that Yahya Khan decided to hold elections in 1970. A recipe for disaster they proved. If he had retained control, Pakistan would still not have broken. The Hyderabad operation, the operations against the Movement for Restoration of Democracy in the 1980s and the Karachi operations in the early 1990s were all also essential for national security. The fact that even now half the country, including Balochistan and most of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, is undergoing military operations is merely necessary.

It should be quite clear that I shall not criticise the army for imposing martial law four times. It was the need of the hour and, if nothing, it is exhibiting remarkable patience now. Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf were all great men who took over at the right moment and kept the country steady. The accumulation of wealth by a few in Ayub’s period, Bengal’s independence in the Yahya era, the Islamisation of Zia’s era and the rise of terrorism due to the war against terrorism and financial bubble of the Musharraf period were all necessary to solve internal contradictions that would have eaten up Pakistan. If anything, some military men have been too patient with civilian governments. For example, Jehangir Karamat should have taken over instead of resigning in his battle with Nawaz Sharif and General Kayani, as Hizbut Tehreer pamphlets continue to remind us, has been too nice to corrupt civilian rulers.

I shall certainly not criticise the military for land allotments, becoming property developers, running uncountable businesses, running coal mines in Balochistan, or producing Pacpads in airforce bases. If anything, they are contributing to a stale economy and regulating the unregulated property market. Who can deny that Defence Housing Authority, Bahria Town and Askari Housing Society represent the best of urban development? And who can argue against military officials receiving newly irrigated farmlands across Pakistan? Military men must be duly rewarded for the great services they have rendered for the country.

I can certainly not criticise the military when they call me a ‘bloody civilian’, nor when my ID is checked at checkposts outside all military cantonments. I have not taken an oath to defend the country and am a security threat. We civilians are definitely the inferior beings. Take for example our redundant civil courts system. It would not make sense for military officials to be tried outside the ultra efficient and secretive military court system. People would have criticised the military if the three retired generals who were found guilty of corruption in National Logistics Cell tenders were tried in civil courts. Criticism of the military cannot be afforded. We are a security state and face numerous threats internal and external.

So the SC is right and so is the constitution. I pledge not to criticise the military for anything, especially as, true to its legacy, it has pledged to ‘help’ the Caretaker Prime Minister Khoso in conducting ‘free-and-fair’ elections. I shall not criticise the military.

The writer is the general secretary (Lahore) of the Awami Workers Party. He is a journalist and a researcher. Contact: hashimbrashid@gmail.com

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013...-the-military/
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Old Monday, April 01, 2013
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The political role of army in Pakistan
Professor Ali Sukhanver

Do we really enjoy being in a state of oblivion or it is the result of some international medication that we have turned a blind eye to the realities around us; that is the question to which I very often try to find out an appropriate answer. Confusions and confusions; we, as a nation, have nothing else in our pockets. Be it the religion, the politics or our relationship with the neighbouring countries and even our strategy regarding the international affairs, we are always in a state of perplexity.

The people enjoying a cup of tea at roadside tea-stalls, the passengers waiting for the bus at bus-stations and even the employees of the government and private offices; all feel pleasure in discussions on the things they don’t have even the basic knowledge of. Just a few days back, I was really stunned rather shocked when I overheard someone at a roadside restaurant convincing vehemently his fellows that the army would never let Mian Nawaz Sharif come into the power. I stopped there and asked the person why he thought so. He simply said he got the impression from the media.

It is something very strange that in spite of last five years’ complete indifference to the political affairs and all honest efforts of sheltering the democratic process, the army is still considered the strongest force which is eager to derail the democratic process in Pakistan. Particularly in the present scenario when the political parties failed in choosing the name of the care-taker prime minister and the matter had to be referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan, rumors are there that it is the army which is behind all this complexity. In fact blaming army and defaming the intelligence agencies has become a fashion in Pakistan. From Imran Khan to Dr. Tahir-ul- Qadri, so many popular political leaders are portrayed as the puppets in the hands of the army and the intelligence agencies. They are blamed for helping out the army in constitution of a ‘hung parliament’. When we find no clues to the ground realities, we do nothing but point our fingers to the security forces. Unfortunately dragging the army into the irrelevant issues has become a culture in Pakistan.

Why could be army against Mian Nawaz Sharif; it is an important thing to be pondered. If in the past, the head of the Nawaz League had some difference of opinion with Gen.Pervez Musharraf, the Ex-Army Chief; it doesn’t mean he was against the whole army as an institution. We see that in the last sixty six years, it happened so many times that politicians had clashes of opinion with the persons heading the army but these clashes or differences were based on differences of point of view, not on liking or disliking of the institution. Moreover it is not the job of the army to look after the state of internal political affairs particularly in a scenario where the army is always engaged, or I would say over-engaged in fighting against the terrorists inside and along the borders. I don’t think that the army has such leisure to spend on the things like politics. Whoever comes into the power, it is certainly the duty and responsibility of the army to give him a helping hand of subordination. Just like the whole of nation, everyone from the army is also eagerly waiting for the upcoming general elections. Just like teachers, doctors, engineers, religious scholars and students, our soldiers are also keen to use their right of vote. Officially or un-officially, they are never guided or directed or forced by their superiors to vote for the PPP or not to vote for the Muslim League. They are as independent as the rest of the nation in using their democratic right of vote.

The Pakistan army must have been criticized if it were involved in any kind of moral or financial corruption as that of the Indian army. It must have been taken to task if there were officers like Col Ajay Chaudhry of the Indian army who was arrested for smuggling 24-crore worth of illegal drugs to Myanmar this year. It must have been trialed and tested if there were officers like Indian Air Chief Marshal Shashi P Tyagi who received massive bribes in Augusta Westland VVIP helicopter deal. For a prosperous today and a brighter tomorrow, we as a nation need strong defence but we can never strengthen our defence just by piling up arms and ammunitions. Strong defence needs unbeatable, undefeatable passions and passions are always thirsty for appreciation and moral encouragement. The matter of the fact is that an atmosphere of distrust and doubts is being created just to defame the army and the intelligence agencies at the desire of the international conspirators who are very well aware of the fact that unless as institution the army is deprived of its trust, repute and confidence, no one can defeat the Pakistani nation at any front.

http://www.thefrontierpost.com/category/40/
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Old Saturday, April 06, 2013
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Khaki beau geste

By:Rana Hussain Tahir Koshal

The Pakistan army is the astrologer in Pakistan’s story

Robert Greene recollects a very interesting anecdote of Louis XI. He writes that the great Spider King of France had a weakness for astrology. He kept a court astrologer whom he admired, until one day he predicted that a lady of the court would die within eight days. When the prophecy came true, Louis was terrified, thinking that either the man had murdered the woman to prove his accuracy or that he was so versed in science that his powers threatened Louis himself. In either case he was to be killed.

One evening Louis summoned the astrologer to his room, high in the castle. Before the man arrived, the king told his servants that when he gave the signal they were to pick the astrologer up, carry him to the window and hurl him to the ground, hundreds of feet below.

The astrologer soon arrived, but before giving the signal, Louis decided to ask him one last question: “You claim to understand astrology and know the fate of others, so tell me what your fate will be and how long you have to live.”

“I shall die just three days before Your Majesty,” the astrologer replied. The king’s signal was never give in. The man’s life was spared. The Spider King not only protected his astrologer for as long as he was alive, he lavished him with gifts and had him tended by the finest court doctors.

The astrologer survived Louis by several years, disproving his power of prophecy but proving his mastery at keeping the king dependent upon him.

The Pakistan army has brilliantly played the role of the astrologer in Pakistan’s story. By helping us in time of floods and earthquakes, it has made us believe that it is indispensable to Pakistan and her people, thus giving rise to arguments not only against a democratic Pakistan but against democracy as an institution.

On the top of this, the army tries to make us believe that we are not meant for democracy. For those who are thinking that this is some sort of a conspiracy theory, I would like to recall Ayub Khan’s address to the nation on March 1, 1959. He said, “To work a Westminster style democracy you need really cool phlegmatic temperament which only people in cold climate seem to have. This system has only worked in Britain and the Scandinavian countries. Elsewhere it has not taken real roots. So do not let us kid ourselves and cling to clichés and assume that we are ready to work such a refined system.”

The present state of affairs, including the brutal killings of our Shia brethren has seen the popularity of the same rhetoric, “Pakistan and its people can be run by a dictator only.”

The reason why we succeed so brilliantly in electing the most clownish representatives from amongst us is because we have not yet developed democratic acumen of any sort. This is because out of the 66 years since Pakistan came into existence, for 32 years it was ruled over by force by its own military, which was supplemented by the Inter-Services Intelligence whose power is considered equal, if not more, to the combined powers of the CIA, FBI and the NSA in the US. Where Pakistanis should have seen around 16 democratically elected governments complete their term, they have seen one. It is high time the army starts focusing on protecting the country’s territorial boundaries instead of, what a senator recently said, its ‘ideological frontiers’.

Our misery is such, that even during the remaining 34 years, the military establishment was the puppeteer behind the stage; the Kargil debacle and the Asghar Khan case being a testament to this fact. Moreover, what happened during these so-called non-military governments was and still is more detrimental to the country than the martial law governments themselves. The atmosphere of distrust between the democratically elected and the ever-ready-to-takeover military makes governing extremely difficult. This is the reason why our government is not a great advocate of a military operation in Quetta and Karachi, thus giving a chance to miscreants like Lahskar-e-Jhangvi to succeed in their sinister plans.

Firstly, the government fears that once the military is called in it would refuse go back to the barracks. Secondly, people would think that as the military has been called in to help, democracy has failed yet again. What people do not understand is that the army is a part of the government and should always be at its disposal. By helping us during national calamities like flood and earthquakes, they are not doing us a favour; they are doing their job just like the air force does when it is called in to deliver aid in calamity hit remote areas.

Our military and intelligence chiefs may be unaware of the fact that the world’s most dangerous man is residing in a mansion a stone’s throw away from our principal military academy, but their skill at executing perfect coup d’états is unquestionable. Our commander-in-chiefs decide when our country is in danger and the only logical solution they see is for them to step in, and to never step out. The phrase Mere Aziz Humwatno, Asalam o Aalaikum brings back terrifying memories despite the fact that it is a rather beautiful way to wish one’s countrymen well.

It takes great sacrifices to establish democracy, and even greater to institutionalise it. It takes decades, sometimes even centuries before democracy can be concretised into an institution. In Pakistan, democracy has never been given a fair chance. If the upcoming elections do in fact take place, it would be the first time in the country’s history that a civilian government would pass power to another through general elections. In India, democracy began showing results after 40 consecutive years, whereas in Pakistan, it has had only five so far.

Winston Churchill once said, “With all its weakness and with all its strength, with all their faults, with all their virtues, with all the criticisms that may be made against them, with their many shortcomings, with lack of foresight, lack of continuity of purpose or pressure only of superficial purpose, they (democracies) nevertheless assert the right of the common people – to take a conscious and effective share in the government of their country”.

The writer is staff member. Email: rana_hussain_tahir@hotmail.com, Twitter: @rhkoshal

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/columns/
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Old Sunday, April 14, 2013
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Too much reliance on Army


The 70th Formation Commanders' Conference, chaired by Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, held at the Army's General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on Thursday approved the security plan devised for the security to the upcoming general elections in the country. Obviously, the Pakistan Army is likely to concentrate hard on the security mainly in the restive Balochistan, FATA and Karachi. The paramilitary troops, however, will be deployed at other sensitive polling stations across the country. The Election Commission of Pakistan has identified over 30, 000 out of a total 80,000 polling stations as sensitive that the Election Commission believes should be given under the direct control of the Army. In view of the preoccupation of the Army in FATA and Balochistan, the deployment of the Army troops on 30,000 polling stations is a bit unjustified call. Despite several meetings between the election staff and the GHQ, the question of the security is still unclear.

The Election Commission is heavily relying on the Army deployment for holding peaceful elections next month. The fears are that the massive deployment of Army troops at each sensitive polling station may add unwarranted pressure and more importantly can affect the numerical strength of the troops. Better it would be if the Army is kept in reserve at district and tehsil headquarters to assist the police, Rangers, Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, Pakistan Coast Guards and Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts in case of any eventuality and after a major reshuffle, the Rangers should be assigned the security duty on 1150 sensitive locations in Sindh. Similarly, immediately the Election Commission should ask for a massive shake-up in the Levies staff, serving in Balochistan. The situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA should directly put under the vigilance of Army to quell the movement of the terrorists. The conduct of the most of Levies personnel posted in FATA is questionable; hence needs a reshuffle to break their connivance with unwanted elements if there any.

The fresh postings and transfers of the security agencies including police prior to the elections will refresh the confidence of the masses in the security staff. The targeted operation in Quetta and Karachi has created a positive impact on the law and order situation. The presence of some members of the extremist group in Punjab is a matter of serious concern. Showing no laxity, the police should unleash a thorough search operation across the board before the elections failing which the situation in the province may prove dangerous. The good omen is that the top military brass of the Army and the Election Commission of Pakistan are on the same page and are determined to cooperate with each other to ensure a comprehensive security plan for a peaceful transfer of power from the interim government to the elected representatives to steer the country out the present mess.

http://www.thefrontierpost.com/category/46/
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Old Sunday, April 21, 2013
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Sick mind’s unjust criticism on Pakistan Army

M Khan Chishti


“The military operations carried out by Pakistan Army in tribal areas show the pinnacle of professionalism and commitment to eliminate terrorism”, Jennifer McKay mentions in her post visit analysis on South Waziristan in Sphere head Research. The United Nations evaluation expert opines, “What the US-led NATO and ISAF forces, equipped with the latest sophisticated weaponry could not do in the last ten years in Afghanistan; Pakistan military did in FATA with utmost success”.

Similar first hand accounts given by security experts and analysts cited that Pakistan Army’s successful operation against militants in Swat is a unique example in the history of counter terrorism, where not just routine life was brought back to normalcy but tourism and business activities were also revived.

Notwithstanding such independent and factual perspectives, some rumour-mongers continue to criticize national security institutions unjustly either for their vested interests or to make their publications look more attractive to the readers. The recent Tirah conflict yet again provided a subject matter to these propagandists, who strive hard to discredit the successes of security forces’ operations in FATA and Swat. They erroneously equate the tensed security situation in Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency with Swat where the peace has already been restored after the suppression of Taliban. If Pakistan state had ever surrendered to the radical militants in Swat, it was not possible for the district and divisional administrations of Swat and Malakand to arrange a number of events in 2013, including the Malakand Football Tournament, Dir Snow Festival, Malam Jabba snow festival, Dir Cultural Week, Golf Gala, Swat Youth Festival, Sports Gala, Kalam Festival, Shin Swat Campaign, Chitral Cultural Week and Youth Symposium, to promote tourism in the area. It is also true that some isolated terrorist attacks still occur in the area; however the frequency has significantly plunged. Much of the security responsibility has been taken over by Swat Police as the Army gradually transferred its duties to the local administration. Therefore, it is categorically wrong to associate two distinctly different situations of Swat and Tirah Valley merely to bring an unwarranted criticism on Pakistan Army’s counter terrorism efforts.

Coming to Tirah Valley, it is a landlocked area which is reported to be a bastion of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-i-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam; these groups that started consolidating their positions in the valley and posed a serious threat to the settled areas especially Peshawar. Militants from Khyber Agency’s Bara area and TTP Darra Admakhel have also shifted their operational base to Tirah Valley as they consider it to be a safer place to regroup. Presently, a decisive operation has been launched against militants in Tirah Valley by Pakistan Army along with regular troops and local Lashkars. Scores of militants have also been killed in the offensive during the last two weeks. Sources said that Army troops and Frontier Corps are battling to root out the last pockets of resistance in the Tirah Valley especially on the border of Orakzai Agency. Around 18000 families have also left the area in a bid to clear the battlefield for the Pakistan Army. Army sources said that they have intensified the operations, rapid conclusions and clearances are in transaction and operation is hoped to be ended before the general elections.

Regardless of all these services rendered by Pakistan Army to defend the nation against threat of terrorism, certain media personnel make mockery of Pakistan Army’s efforts for eliminating terrorism and sarcastically blame security forces for surrendering sovereignty to militants. They ignore Pakistan’s sacrifices and losses while holding Pakistan responsible for US failures in Afghanistan. The perception that Army surrendered Swat to militants is simply misleading as Pakistan’s armed forces achieved a landmark victory by dismantling the command and control system of Taliban militants in Swat and South Waziristan. Operations conducted in Bajaur, Orakzai and Kurram agencies are also near completion; few remaining pockets of resistance are being tackled. Moreover, active operations are in progress in Mohmand agency, whereas intelligence based targeted operations are launched in NWA.

The spectacularly stark terrain makes FATA hard place to conduct operations without collateral damages, therefore peace building will be a long-term challenge in the region. To be optimistic, the fighting in Tirah Valley will also reach its logical end with Army’s victory over the militants and such illogical and deceitful critics of armed forces will lick the dust.

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Old Tuesday, April 23, 2013
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Army’s resolve


Addressing graduating cadets of 127th PMA Long Course, Integrated Course 46 and Mujahid Course-1 at Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul on Saturday, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said that Pakistan was fully capable of responding effectively to any threat despite the current focus on internal security. “Pakistan is a peace loving country. Our quest for peace is essentially based on a genuine desire to improve our lot and that of our future generations. Let no one see it as a weakness”, the COAS put a three-pronged message for the world at large and immediate neighbours in particular.

He added that the armed forces remained fully prepared to defeat the enemies within and without. The resolve of the army chief despite the Pakistan Army’s engagement in the tribal belt to combat extremism and militancy and partial deployment in Balochistan and Karachi augers well for national interest. The credit of the assemblies completing their constitutional five-year tenure for the first time in the country’s history also goes to the armed forces and their leadership which preferred to carry forward a democratic agenda despite political hiccups and opportunities to step in on a number of occasions between 2008 and 2013.

The country’s armed forces have yet again shown their willingness to come to the aid of the civil administration in the quest for peaceful conduct of the May 11 polls. It may be pertinent to mention here that the armed forces have willingly offered a sizeable deployment on the polling day after the Election Commission of Pakistan declared as many as 20,000 polling stations across the country as sensitive. This resolve reflects the determination to help the country successfully complete a democratic transition to ensure consolidation of democracy in particular and state institutions in general. His observations that Pakistan was at present passing through difficult times but so has every other successful nation at some time in their history, is a testimony of this resolve. Pakistan Army, the COAS said, was fully committed to the cause and was as always standing with the nation. He assured the people that armed forces would succeed if they remained committed to the basis for the creation of Pakistan and remained steadfast as a nation.

However, Gen Kayani also chose the moment to make certain belligerent external forces to respect the Pakistani sentiment; not forgetting the skill of the forces to make a matching response of some very offensive statements in recent months. Although he made no specific references, it is broadly understood to be the Indian military hostilities across the Line of Control in January this year. The COAS said, “We have exercised restraint. Let it suffice to say that Pakistan is fully capable of responding effectively to any threat. Despite our current focus on internal security, we remain fully prepared to defeat an external direct threat.”

He said let there be no doubt that with a strong Pak Army and the nation standing behind it, no harm could ever come to Pakistan. He said that regardless of odds, Pakistan Army would keep on doing its best towards its common dream for a truly Islamic Republic of Pakistan as envisioned by the Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal. Referring to the Islamic provisions of the 1973 Constitution, Gen Kayani said Islam should serve as the most substantial bond to knit the nation, ensure the country’s socio-economic development as the basis of the creation of Pakistan that could not be taken out from its body politic. He said that in its short history, the country has overcome many a challenges that would have overwhelmed lesser nations; this is the country’s real potential, he sounded optimistic about the country’s future. He was confident that the nation can do it again.
The nation hopes that he is right.

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Old Tuesday, May 07, 2013
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Army is neutral and has no favorites

Asif Haroon Raja


Sudden emergence of Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan in December 2007 under an unknown Baitullah Mehsud (deceased) from nowhere was in reaction to Gen Musharraf’s pro-US policies and its continued vendetta is because of the role of liberal parties pursuing Musharraf’s policies.

The banned TTP is exploiting the disillusionment of the youth and frustration of the have-nots and has stepped up its propaganda war to sell its brand of SHARIAH (Islamic system). It is dreaming of establishing Islamic Emirate in FATA and has eyes on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and rest of Pakistan. Assisted by other banned extremist groups, it has made inroads in southern Punjab and has its tentacles in other parts of Pakistan up to Karachi.

Finding that TTP has no scope in upcoming general elections on May 11, the TTP under Hakeemullah Mehsud has declared the democratic system practiced in Pakistan and constitution un-Islamic. It has vowed to disrupt elections and to fail evolution of democracy. Its suicide bombers and bomb carriers have already struck several political meetings, political offices, contestants and party workers of ANP, MQM, PPP and PML-N thereby posing caution on liberal parties in particular. Security agencies have warned of increase in attacks on high-value targets in the coming days.

Demonstrating its undemocratic trends, the TTP has not only openly opposed democracy but has also started propagating negative themes like “Why Democracy is Forbidden for Tribes”. A propaganda leaflet distributed by militants of Pasban-e-Shariat Organization in North Waziristan, rejecting the democratic system in FATA, is a case in point. The aim is to denounce the process of elections and create an atmosphere of anarchy and lawlessness in FATA. Devolution of power can only be ensured through democracy. Elected representatives have to study SHARIAH and then make laws for its implementation. Branding Government officials and Army personnel as un-Islamic is not fair. They are Muslims and their religion is Islam. Allegations against soldiers without any evidence are not justified.

People of FATA have seen the deep attachment of soldiers with religion. They offer five times prayers in war zone and recite Quran where daily skirmishes and casualties are a norm. Their religious fervor and innate commitment to defend the motherland inspires them to brave the hardships smilingly and to fight the foreign funded private armies of banned groups operating under an agenda. While they fight the non-actors with unmatchable courage and ferocity, they are benevolent and helpful towards the peace loving and law abiding people of FATA. They provide them security at the risk of their lives, share their rations with the needy, provide them free medical care, build their homes, and help them getting educated by constructing quality schools, colleges, cadet colleges and technical institutes.

Ample opportunities are being provided to both men and women to earn their livelihood at their own. All this is being done under a well considered rehabilitation and development plan initiated by Gen Kayani in 2010. For the first time election fever has gripped FATA. There is lot of activity and excitement about the elections and all major political parties have given party tickets to their candidates in all the seven tribal agencies.

While the Army is safeguarding the integrity of the country and developing FATA at a very heavy cost, the militants governed by their selfish agenda are defying the state and are pursuing destructive policies. They harbored foreigners including Al-Qaeda in the aftermath of occupation of Afghanistan by US led forces in 2001, and when the Army went in to South Waziristan to flush them out, they together with the foreign terrorists picked up arms and to this day are fighting the security forces. TTP hasn’t given up fighting despite several peace deals. To lengthen its fighting arm, it has co-opted the services of several banned groups involved in terrorism. This unwanted fight has caused a financial loss of over $70,000 and 40,000 civil and military fatalities. Before out rightly condemning democracy, the TTP should carryout self-analysis whether its conduct has been strictly in accordance with Islamic teachings? It should answer whether Islam espouses destruction of schools, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, forcibly enrolling the youth and making them terrorists and brainwashing them to become suicide bombers, attacking mosques and funerals and slaughtering captives and then making video movies?

There is no objection to its demand of SHARIAH, since all religious parties as well as Tehrik-e-Insaf and PML-N also seek the same and want to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state, but its efforts to enforce Islamic laws using violent means raise many questions. They are continuing to fight because of regular inflow of arms, equipment and funds supplied by their patrons based in Kabul. In no way they can compare themselves with Afghan Taliban fighting to free their homeland from occupation forces. Devoid of genuine cause the TTP and its affiliates are bound to fail.

The TTP members and other affiliated groups must understand that the youth in Pakistan in particular carry a negative view of the farcical democracy practiced by PPP led coalition of liberal parties during its five-year rule. The poor are also disenchanted with democracy and are fed up of politicians making false promises before the elections but getting disconnected after getting into corridors of power. They are looking towards the third force led by Imran Khan to bring a healthy change in decayed democracy. The people want either a wholly refurbished democracy or the military to takeover or Islamic system to be enforced. As per latest survey carried out by PEW, 84% Pakistani Muslims favor SHARIAH. However, none want the violence prone SHARIAH practiced by Taliban.

Appreciating the sentiments of the masses, Gen Ashfaq Kayani’s speech delivered at the passing out parade at Kakul gladdened the hearts of Pakistanis. Each and every word he uttered concerning linkage of Islam with Pakistan manifested the sentiments of over 95% Muslims of Pakistan. Barring the minuscule west loving secular brigade, all and sundry agree that Islam cannot be taken out of Pakistan and should remain a unifying force. His best part of the speech was that ‘regardless of the odds, Pak Army will keep on doing its best towards its common objective dream for a truly Islamic Republic of Pakistan envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal’.

His speech distressed the liberals including liberal political parties which are these days actively agitating the settled issue of ideology of Pakistan at the behest of India and other anti-Pakistan foreign powers. Spate of ongoing terrorist attacks made the liberal parties cry out that the Caretakers, Election Commission and military establishment’s leaning towards the Right was visible and that liberal parties were being denied a level playing field to keep them out of power. Gen Kayani made an effort to dispel this misperception in his speech he delivered on the occasion of Yaum-e-Shuhada on April 30. While paying rich tributes to the sacrifices of martyrs of armed forces, paramilitary forces and police and acknowledging the resilience of general public, he held out an assurance that elections will be held on time.

He added that wholehearted assistance will be provided to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections that would contribute towards strengthening democracy. He also talked of the prevalent confusion about war on terror, whether it is our or someone else’s war. He said that these misgivings not only divides the national effort but also affects the resolve of soldiers fighting a very difficult war under tremendous odds. He stressed upon forging consensus on this vital issue that it is our war. With thousands of fatalities of officers and men and thousands of critically injured getting treated in hospitals, and seeing the infinite sufferings of their near ones, he was fully justified to say so.

This time there was a slight change in the pattern of colorfully arranged program of events. Instead of confining the events to Army Shuhada only, contributions of other two services as well as of police and politicians were also highlighted. ANP’s leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour who died at the hands of suicide bomber was extolled; his son Haroon Bilour was asked to come on the dais and express his views. Like his father he expressed his resolve to continue fighting terrorism till its complete elimination. Probably this move was made to make the event all-encompassing and to convince the liberal parties that their fears that they had been abandoned were unfounded and that the Army was neutral and had no favorites.

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Old Wednesday, November 30, 2016
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Of civil and military relations


By ZAHID HUSSAIN


AS the baton has now passed to Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, there is no shortage of free advice consisting of dos’ and don’ts for the new army chief. While some exhort him to follow in the footsteps of his hyperactive and populist predecessor, others offer a word of caution for him to avoid the pitfalls and demand a change in course. All eyes are now focused on the new chief as the era of Gen Raheel Sharif comes to a close.

Indeed, expectations are unrealistically high. But this is not surprising in a country where the position of army chief is considered the most powerful. Even a smooth transition in the army leadership holds high political significance.

Predictably, the prime minister once again picked a dark horse for the coveted post. It is obvious that the choice of Gen Bajwa was based more on political considerations than the order of seniority or merit, though there is no question about his professionalism and experience. Probably the thinking behind the decision was to have someone who was amenable to civilian authority.

An increasing role in internal security has led to greater involvement of the military in political matters.
One can hardly dispute the contention given the perpetual tensions between the two state institutions. Yes, individuals matter, but past experience shows that ultimately it is the institution that prevails irrespective of who is in command.

It is the third time Nawaz Sharif has appointed the army chief. Each time he has chosen an officer who is lower down the list. Yet his relations with the military leadership have never been tension-free. The confrontation with the generals cost him his second government.

It is not just about the imbalance of power that has allowed the military to dominate foreign and national security policies but also the power tussle that often threatens to destabilise the democratic system. This sword of Damocles kept hanging over the Sharif government over the last three years

Gen Bajwa has the reputation of an easygoing officer but a tough professional. However, given the inherent complexities, there is little hope of him being pliable. It is quite simplistic to think that the sources of tension would simply go away with the transition in the army leadership. There is not only a need for understanding the historical context of the divide but also what is required to tilt the balance of power towards the civilian authorities.

One cannot agree more with Raza Rabbani, the Senate chairman, that the civil-military divide is the gravest challenge for the democratic process in the country. He may also be right that the centre of gravity of power must be shifted from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. But there is still no clarity on the causes of this imbalance. In the absence of any clear understanding of the issue, the call for civilian supremacy has become merely political rhetoric that every political party uses without offering any solution.

Although the civilian government now enjoys much greater political space the military remains a veritable political force and every move, even the mere hint of it, has reverberations in Islamabad. Its increasing role in internal security has led to greater involvement of the military in political matters, and has widened the civil-military trust gap. The difference over implementation of the National Action Plan has also been a source of tension between the civil and military leadership. There is no indication that the military’s institutional views on the matter will change with a new man at the helm.

Given the gravity of the internal security challenges and the inability of civilian security agencies to deal with them, the government’s reliance on the military has increased. The army’s involvement has particularly increased with the rising security requirements to protect CPEC projects and the difficult law and order situation in Balochistan.

Meanwhile, the counter-insurgency campaign in the tribal areas is far from over despite the military successes achieved in North Waziristan. A large number of troops are still involved in combing and holding operations in almost all seven Fata agencies.

It is not enough to clear the area of insurgents, but also to sustain peace and establish a functional administration in the territories devastated by a decade of fighting. Rehabilitation and repatriation of the displaced population too remains the main responsibility of the army, with the civilian authorities staying in the background as they do on other issues. Keeping troops in the region is indeed a long-term matter.

Given its geostrategic situation and its long involvement in the regional conflicts besides the three wars against its arch-rival India has turned Pakistan into a national security state giving the military a predominant role in installing a national security paradigm even when it is not directly ruling the country.

A major problem is that neither the government nor the military is willing to accept the modern concept of national security and continue to still see it as a purely military matter. In today’s world, national security encompasses a broad range of facets that include economic, food and environmental security.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric, there is no indication of the state changing its narrow approach. With the growing tension with India and continuing instability in Afghanistan, the national security policy will remain the sole domain of the military establishment. A civilian government bereft of any vision can hardly be expected to even attempt to take charge.

Another major area of contention is the military’s control over various spectrum of foreign policy. This situation is also not likely to change though there is some indication that unlike his predecessor Gen Bajwa may not be that interested in high-profile visits to world capitals. Again, it is the absence of a clear policy guidance from the civilian authorities that has left a vacuum to be filled by the military.

For sure, the change of army command may give some breathing space to the Sharif government as it confronts several political challenges. But there is no indication of any significant shift in the existing civil-military imbalance.

The writer is an author and journalist.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2016
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