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Monday, 20 September 2010

From Today's Papers - 20 Sep 2010




Revisiting AFSPA Don’t blame it for Kashmir problems

by Gen (retd) V P Malik  Kashmir is burning. Political leaders from the state, civil and human rightists, even the media will have you believe that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA) is responsible for this situation and should be revoked or diluted to help resolve the crisis. The Centre, after looking at the situation in a holistic manner and listening to the armed forces’ advice, finds it difficult to decide.  What is the AFSPA? Why is this Act necessary? But first, let me narrate a real situation that took place 20 years ago. In early 1990 I was commanding a division that had troops deployed for counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, Nagaland and a part of Arunachal Pradesh. During the run-up to the Manipur Assembly elections, a political party leader, in order to garner students’ support and votes, made the removal of the AFSPA a major electoral issue. When he won the elections and became the Chief Minister, I went to call on him. I asked him what he planned to do about the AFSPA. He said that in view of the “popular demand”, he would write to the Home Ministry and have it removed from the state. I told the Chief Minister that it was OK with me. I will pull out troops from the 60-odd posts, concentrate them outside Manipur and train them for their primary role of fighting a conventional war.  “But you cannot do that! What will happen to the law and order situation?” he said. I appreciated his concern and told him politely but firmly that I couldn’t help him to maintain that without a proper legal cover. I said: “I cannot have my subordinates hold me responsible for giving them any unlawful command.” Then, very respectfully I stated, “Sir, the best way out is to create conditions in the state wherein the AFSPA is not necessary. If you and the Centre do not consider and declare Manipur state to be a ‘disturbed area’, the AFSPA cannot be applied. Please do not blame the AFSPA for the problems of Manipur. The fact is that despite several elections in the state, we have not been able to create conditions when this Act need not be applied in Manipur. The armed forces cannot create those conditions. These are primarily of political, ethnic and socio-economic nature, under your charge now.”  The AFSPA was enacted by Parliament in 1958 for the “disturbed areas” of the North-East. Later, it was extended to “disturbed areas” declared anywhere in India. It has four essential paragraphs. Para 3 states that if the Governor of a state/Union Territory or the Central Government is of the opinion that the whole or any part of the state/Union Territory is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that the use of the armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary, the government by an official gazette notification may declare the whole or affected part to be a “disturbed area”. Para 4 states that “a commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces in a disturbed area may:      * Fire upon/use force, even causing death, against any person contravening law and order or carrying weapons, ammunition or explosives, if in his opinion it is necessary for maintenance of law and order and after giving due warning.     * Destroy an armed dump or fortified position or a shelter from which armed attacks can be made or can be used for training by hostiles, if necessary to do so.     * Arrest without warrant any person who has committed a cognizable offence and may use suitable force, if necessary to do so.     * Enter any premises without a warrant to arrest a terrorist/suspect, or to recover a wrongfully confined person, stolen property, or arms/explosives wrongfully kept.  Para 5 of the Act lays down that the arrested persons will be handed over to the nearest police station “with the least possible delay”. Para 6 states that “no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done under this Act”.  The need for the AFSPA for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations is unquestionable. The 1958 Act may have been described as a ‘special power’. But those of us who have commanded troops in such situations have always looked upon it as a legal protection to conduct effective operations.  Terrorists’ activities in J & K have been curtailed substantially but their attempts to infiltrate from POK and cause mayhem in the Valley and elsewhere continue. It is the public order which has become fragile in the last four months due to street protests, stone throwing by mobs and casualties due to firing by the police. In that, there has been no involvement of the Army except on one occasion when troops going in a convoy had to return fire in self-defence. The Army is not deployed operationally in Srinagar. It operates there only when called upon to assist the police in a counter-terrorist action.  The J&K crisis is primarily political in nature caused due to political confrontation, separatists’ increased influence and lack of engagement with sections of the populace and of governance. The problem is not the AFSPA but the excessive and prolonged deployment of security forces, particularly in the urban areas. Their number and visibility goes up further during the Amarnath Yatra period. The policemen and Army personnel wear similar combat uniforms and badges of rank (despite repeated protests by Army HQ) and are clubbed as security forces. Since the real thorn in the flesh of the terrorists and separatists is the Army, they deflect public anger to it and the AFSPA.  A dilution of the AFSPA, which will require Parliament’s approval, is bound to affect operational effectiveness. Revoking it in districts like Srinagar and Gandarbal will have the following security implications:      * These areas are likely to become a safe haven for terrorists. After carrying out activities in areas outside, the terrorists may escape to find shelter in such areas.     * Many Army units are located in Srinagar. There is a frequent movement of troops and convoys within and outside the city. Convoys to Kargil and Leh have to pass through Gandarbal. In the event of any terrorist act, troops will not be able to conduct a seamless operation.  Due to its prolonged promulgation in the North-East and J&K, people often ask as to what has been achieved with the AFSPA. We must understand that the AFSPA is not and cannot be a solution to our internal security caused by ethnic, social and governance problems. It is only a political instrument to enable the armed forces to bring the level of insurgency or terrorism under sufficient control. When such a situation is achieved, it is for the political authority to negotiate a conflict resolution as has been done in the North-East and Punjab. In J&K it has enabled us to create conditions wherein we could hold free and fair elections and allow the state to be run by its elected representatives. And what if such military operations had not been possible or successful?  Defending the need for the AFSPA does not mean that anyone should condone human rights violations anywhere. If any such acts are committed, it would be in the interest of the armed forces to take strict disciplinary action against the offenders as prescribed by the civil and military laws. The military law is prompt and strict in meting out punishment to the guilty.








Omar must know Army is not the enemy

Self-preservation is the default mode of the self-destructive. Omar Abdullah is trapped in an existential dilemma. He cannot blame himself for the wreck he has wrought. To do so would severely damage, if not abort, a political career born in genetic entitlement and wafted into that exhilarating but oxygen-thin ozone layer of celebrity. He cannot blame Delhi either, the favoured recourse of regional parties caught in a crisis, for he is a child of Delhi in more senses than one. He owes his job to the masters of the Capital, Congress and more specifically Rahul Gandhi. He tried blaming the local opposition, particularly his bete noire Mehbooba Mufti, but that is a futile dead end. It could not take him out of the maze. Mehbooba is in control of neither the street nor the secretariat. Blaming Pakistan is too obvious to raise anything more substantial than a yawn.      He has, therefore, selected the only escape route he could think of: blame the Indian Army. After 90 deaths in 90 days, the dilution of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has become the fulcrum of his political fortunes. He did not offer to leave because of the complete collapse of governance and total absence of ideas. He threatened to resign if the Union government did not punish the Indian Army.  For which sin? Not a single death in the present crisis has resulted from an Army bullet. Those bullets came from the guns of the J&K police and CRPF. Why has everyone chosen to obscure this fact with silence and raise dust against the Army?  This question has disturbing dimensions. Why have separatists and militants never demanded that the state government disband the local police and send back the CRPF for taking such a toll? Why is the secessionist, and alas political, verbiage targeted at the Army and no one but the Army? The Indian Army came into the picture for the first time only on the evening of September 15. That was during discussions with the Fifth Corps on how to respond to the next stage of a carefully designed strategy — sit-ins before Army camps, meant to sustain the focus on the Army and weaken its presence in the valley. The Army has not been deployed in the demonstrations, and is concentrating only on its counter-insurgency role.  Why is the Indian Army the onepoint target of those who want to break India? The answer is uncomplicated. The police, whether state or central, cannot defend the territorial integrity of India. The Indian Army can.  It is therefore in the interest of secessionists and their mentors in Islamabad to create discord between the Indian Army and the Indian state.  Why is the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir lending his voice to this cacophony? Which gallery is a desperate Omar Abdullah playing to?   This crisis did not begin 90 days ago or a hundred days ago. It began in the minds of people who had an agenda and whose intricate planning was propelled onto the street by the Kashmir Jamaat e-Islami and its leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The Kashmir Jamaat has never made any secret of its objective, which is to merge the valley with Pakistan. It has financial and ideological links with Pakistan. It has deliberately disassociated itself from the Jamaat e-Islami in the rest of India. This slingsand-stones model was crafted to elicit world sympathy, and create a David versus Goliath confrontation. (David is a prophet of Islam as well, and lauded as a supreme instance of a jihadi in the holy Quran.)      The timing was certainly influenced by President Barack Obama’s scheduled November visit to India. Both Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton have said, at some point in their campaigns, that Palestine and Kashmir required resolution. Pakistan wants Kashmir on Obama’s must-do list as part of its pay-off for helping in Afghanistan, and protest builds pressure.  Intelligence officers should have picked up what any well-informed journalist in Srinagar knew. Prevention is the true cure in governance. The administration compounded intelligence failure by behaving like a bumbling, stumbling Goliath once demonstrations began.   Delhi was so indifferent that it did not even bumble. It took 90 days to hold an all-party meeting that suffused the airwaves with inanities. Why was Delhi silent until the volcano burst and lava spread beyond the valley? Manmohan Singh promised this week to talk to “anyone” who abjured violence. Kashmiris have the right to ask: why did you not talk when there was peace? This government inherited a Kashmir in improving health. It has frittered away a legacy.   Rahul Gandhi, who can be PM any day he chooses, says, disingenuously that he is unfamiliar with the complexities of AFSPA. The Prime Minister knows what it means: to weaken the Indian Army in Kashmir is to weaken India.










Russia to Deliver 72 Supersonic Anti Ship Cruise Missiles to Syria

Russia to Deliver 72 Supersonic Anti Ship Cruise Missiles to Syria  Daily News & Updates Dated 18/9/2010 Printer Friendly Subscribe  Russia will supply around 72 P-800 Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria for mobile coastal defence systems under a deal worth $300 million, ignoring the strong opposition from the US and Israel.  "Damascus is counting on receiving at least two 'Bastion' coastal defence systems. Since each system can include up to 36 Yakhont missiles, it is an order of a significant size," an unnamed defence industry source was quoted as saying by Interfax.  Supersonic Yakhont cruise missile has a range of under 300 km and its sale does not fall under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). The joint Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missile BrahMos has been developed on the basis of Yakhont anti-ship missiles.  Earlier this month during his visit to Moscow, Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak had raised Tel Aviv's concerns over the proposed sale of Yakhont to Syria.  However, during his Washington visit, Russian defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov confirmed that Moscow will fulfil the 2007 contract on the sale of Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria, despite opposition from the United States and Israel. Serdyukov said that Russia did not see a basis for these concerns.  "The US and Israel ask us not to supply Syria with Yakhont. But we do not see the concerns expressed by them that these arms will fall into the hands of terrorists," he was quoted as saying by Russian agencies.  Russia's arms sales and possible nuclear cooperation with Syria, a close ally of Iran, is unnerving for both the US and Israel. The Jewish state is also concerned that such weapons could be transfered to Lebanon's Hezbollah militia.









China Proliferated Missiles to Iran, Pakistan, North Korea: US Congress Report

China Proliferated Missiles to Iran, Pakistan, North Korea: US Congress Report  Daily News & Updates Dated 18/9/2010 Printer Friendly Subscribe  While China's disregard of missile control restrictions can undermine attempts to prevent proliferation of missile technology systems, Beijing is also using sale of small arms in Africa, a continent fast turning into a battle-ground between China and India, to establish itself there as a major political power and get access to oil.  These assertions are part of a fresh report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the official think-tank of the US Congress, on supply of conventional weapons to the developing world.  Talking about China's alleged transfer of missile technology to Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, the report says that activities reported by "credible sources" raise important questions about China's stated commitment to the restrictions on missile transfers set out in the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), including its pledge not to assist others in building missiles which could deliver nuclear weapons.  "Yet because China has military products -- particularly missiles -- that some developing countries would like to acquire, it can present an obstacle to efforts to stem proliferation of advanced missile systems to some areas of the developing world where political and military tensions are significant, and where some nations are seeking to develop military capabilities of an asymmetric nature," states the report titled 'Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2002-2009'.  The CRS is the public policy research arm of the US Congress and is known for its "non-partisanship" and indepth analyses. The report puts India at the second place, after Saudi Arabia, in terms of arms transfer agreements with the US from 2006 to 2009.  Further observations made in the report on China emerging as the main source of light weapons and small arms to African nations are a real worry for India. "Since the prospects for significant revenue earnings from these arms sale are limited, China likely views such sales as one means of enhancing its status as an international political power, and increasing its ability to obtain access to significant natural resources, especially oil," it says, adding that this issue is being examined by the US to put an end to this arms trade.  While China was first off the block, and remains miles ahead of India, in tapping oil and other resources in Africa, New Delhi has been quietly working its way up maintaining that it was looking for a more stable and long-term engagement with Africa. India's trade with Africa currently is around the $40-billion mark. Vice President Hamid Ansari visited Zambia, Malawi and Botswana this year in what was seen as an exercise to deepen further India's engagement with African nations.










Defence Ministry Will Not Rush Into Shortlisting Indian Air Force M-MRCA Deal Options

Defence Ministry Will Not Rush Into Shortlisting Indian Air Force M-MRCA Deal Options  Daily News & Updates Dated 17/9/2010 Printer Friendly Subscribe  Despite getting gentle nudges from the government, the defence establishment does not seem to be ready for an early down-listing of the $10-billion 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) contract in which companies from the US, France and Russia are in the race.  Sources told FE, "The field trial report of the six contenders has been sent to the director-general acquisition's office, who is expected to make recommendations and send it to the defence acquisition council (DAC) of the ministry of defence (MoD)."  "The DG's recommendations will not only be based on the field trial report but will also take into consideration the evaluation of the offset proposals of the six contenders. The Offset Technical Committee in the defence ministry has already initiated the process of evaluating the offset proposals," sources added.  They went on to clarify that they are under no pressure to downselect contenders prior to the visit of the US President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni and the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.  American companies, Lockheed Martin F-16IN, Boeing F/A-18, French Dassault Rafale, EADS Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen and Russian MiG-35 are in the running for the 126 aircraft deal which is expected to replace the ageing MiG-21s. According to sources, "Vendors who are compliant rule wise, Defence Procurement Policy and Technical offsets will ultimately be opened for consideration. Also, the lowest bidder, designated L1, will be selected as the medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA)."  Once the contenders receive the evaluation of the Offset Technical Committee, the contenders for the MMRCA will give fresh offset proposals. After that, fresh recommendations will be sent to the defence ministry. Once the Cabinet Committee on Security gives the nod, negotiations between governments will begin, which could start early next year, sources added.  The contenders have being invited to submit their offset plans and the IAF will meet different contenders to discuss flight evaluation reports once the field trials are complete. It may be noted that the IAF is considering "life-cycle costs" and not just the lowest bid for the MMRCA. The contract entails acquisition of 18 aircraft to be bought off-the-shelf and the rest to be manufactured in India under transfer of technology.










The Anarchic Republic of Pakistan 

August 24, 2010 Ahmed Rashid [2]  THERE IS perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing.  This is a country that sadly appears on every failing-state list and still wants to increase its arsenal from around 60 atomic weapons to well over 100 by buying two new nuclear reactors from China. This is a country isolated and friendless in its own region, facing unprecedented homegrown terrorism from extremists its army once trained, yet it pursues a “forward policy” in Afghanistan to ensure a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul as soon as the Americans leave.  For a state whose economy is on the skids and dependent on the IMF for massive bailouts, whose elite refuse to pay taxes, whose army drains an estimated 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, Pakistan continues to insist that peace with India is impossible for decades to come. For a country that was founded as a modern democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and claims to be the bastion of moderate Islam, it has the worst discriminatory laws against minorities in the Muslim world and is being ripped apart through sectarian and extremist violence by radical groups who want to establish a new Islamic emirate in South Asia.  Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment, or “deep state” as it is called, has lost over 2,300 soldiers battling these terrorists—the majority in the last 15 months after much U.S. cajoling to go after at least the Pakistani (if not the Afghan) Taliban. Despite these losses and considerable low morale in the armed forces, it still follows a pick-and-choose policy toward extremists, refusing to fight those who will confront India on its behalf as well as those Taliban who kill Western and Afghan soldiers in the war next-door. An army that has received nearly $12 billion in direct military aid from the United States since 2001, and has favored-nation status from NATO, still keeps the leaders of the Afghan Taliban in safe refuge. Pakistan’s civilians, politicians and intellectuals are helpless; they cannot make the deep state see sense as long as the West continues its duplicitous policies of propping up the military-intelligence establishment in opposition to popular society while demanding that the Pakistani civilian government wrest back control of the country.  Now there is a serious and deadly overlap—Pakistan’s extremists are determined to topple the political system and the deep state. The army is not oblivious to this reality, but it seems unwilling or unable to tackle the real issues at hand. “This is nothing but a creeping coup d’état by the forces of darkness, a coup that will spare no one,” wrote analyst Kamran Shafi in the Dawn newspaper this summer. “It is them against everyone else—an Islamic Emirate of Pakistan is the goal,” he added.  The deep state is failing its own people, who are in turn becoming more traumatized by the incessant violence, the lack of justice or security, and the perennial economic crisis. This only leads the civilian government to be even more inept, inconsequential and incapable of improving governance.  THE MOTHER of all insurgencies is taking place in the seven tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, and North and South Waziristan in the northwest-frontier region where the Pakistani Pashtun tribes—under the nomenclature of the Pakistani Taliban—are at war with the state. Amnesty International recently said that 4 million Pakistanis in this and adjoining regions are living under Taliban rule. Every time the army claims to have cleared one agency, the Taliban rebound in another with a vengeance.  Also operating from these northern bases are a dozen groups from Kashmir, Karachi and Punjab which were once trained by the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to fight in Indian Kashmir. They have now turned against their former handlers. The Pashtun Taliban have joined with their more sophisticated, better educated urban comrades to plan horrific acts of terrorism in Pakistani cities. Together they want to overthrow the state and establish an extremist Islamic system.  The Pakistani Taliban do not just kill police and soldiers in their barracks or even innocent civilians in mosques. On June 8 they launched a brazen attack on a convoy of trucks carrying NATO war materials for troops in Afghanistan in heavily populated northern Punjab—torching 50 vehicles. There is now talk of the Taliban shutting down Karachi port, where 80 percent of NATO supplies arrive. The public fear is that the army is losing control of the country as the extremists become ever stronger, ever more daring and ever more capable.  If local tribesmen even attempt collaboration with the state, deadly reprisals ensue. In the supposedly “Taliban-free” Mohmand Agency, people received U.S.-donated foodstuffs on July 8. The next day, while tribal elders gathered to discuss helping the army combat the Taliban, two suicide bombings killed over 100 people and wounded another 115.  Since 2004, the area has been hemorrhaging people. Out of a total population of 3.5 million, more than 1 million have fled the tribal agencies while another half a million left during the recent fighting only to become internally displaced refugees in nearby towns.  Amid the Pakistani Taliban, vicious Sunni sectarian groups prosper, galvanizing hatred of all minorities, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. The Ahmadi sect follows the teachings of a nineteenth-century religious reformer, promoting a peaceful variant of Islam. And yet in the 1970s, the Pakistani government declared the Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority and many Pakistanis today view them as heretics to Islam. On May 28 in Lahore, upwards of nine gunmen and suicide bombers blasted their way into two mosques and killed 90 Ahmadis, wounding another 110. The other minority groups, whether they be Shia, Christian, Hindu or Sikh, have lived in even greater fear since.  The Christian community, which makes up less than 2 percent of the population, is already a target. In July 2009, eight Christians were burned alive in the small Punjab town of Gojra, and in riots that followed an entire Christian neighborhood was scorched. The 17 militants arrested for these crimes were not brought to trial, and the police, facing local pressure, later let them go. A year later, riots erupted again in Faisalabad, Punjab, after two Christians were killed while being held in police custody. Since then, any Christians who can have been seeking political asylum abroad in droves.  An even-worse fate has befallen Shia Muslims. Prominent Shia technocrats—politicians, doctors, architects, bureaucrats and judges—have been singled out for assassination in all major cities, while in December 2009, 43 Shias were massacred by Sunni extremists in Karachi.  Thus the Pakistani Taliban have a two-pronged offensive: the first is to politically undermine the state and its organs through terror; the second is to commit sectarian violence against all those they believe are not true Muslims. This intolerance has developed deep roots in Pakistan over the past three decades, and it has now been boosted by the jihadist policies of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The government’s inability to deal with sectarian threats has led to some Muslim groups arming themselves and taking the law into their own hands. This only leads to further loss of control by the state.  AS ISLAMIC extremist violence spreads, the very fabric of the country is falling apart. Mapping how widespread and varied the violence is gives but a hint of the disaster facing Pakistani society. Growing poverty, inflation and unemployment have led to an unprecedented increase in suicides—sometimes of entire families. One hundred ninety-one people killed themselves in the first six months of this year; at more than one death a day, it is one of the highest rates in the world. And when 113 of those happen in the country’s richest province (Punjab), it is obvious not a single Pakistani is surviving this unscathed—no matter how seemingly privileged. Violence against women is also on the rise; 8,500 violent incidents took place last year. One thousand four hundred of those were murders. Another 680 were suicides.  Freedom of information is quickly coming to a halt. Journalists receive regular threats if they do not report the statements of extremist groups, while extremist literature, newspapers and pamphlets continue to flood the market with no attempts by the state to stop them. And now leading electronics markets in major cities have been repeatedly bombed and shop owners warned to stop selling computers and TVs. Rather than combat the threat, the government has succumbed, closing down Facebook for three weeks starting in May and announcing that major web sites like Google and Yahoo will be censored for “anti-Islamic material.” This is shuttering a vibrant society and slowly turning a country that long strived for democratic openness into a closed state held hostage by radical Islam.  Meanwhile, the lack of services is creating its own anarchy. In Karachi, with a population of 18 million, violence is so endemic and its perpetrators so diverse that it is difficult to summarize. What we do know is that beyond Islamic extremism, the city is in the grip of heavily armed mafias and criminal gangs, who kill over control of water supplies, public transport, land deals and the drug trade. Car theft is rampant. The most lucrative business is kidnapping for ransom. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that there were 260 targeted killings in Karachi in the first six months of this year, compared to 156 last year. Eight hundred eighty-nine murders were reported in the same period. Because the city is the melting pot of the country, much of the violence is between ethnic groups who live in virtual ghettoes and compete for the scarce resources of the city.  Ethnic violence is translated into interparty political assassinations. The Muhajir-dominated Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which rules Karachi is made up of Urdu-speaking migrants from India. They are in a bloody war with an MQM offshoot and in intense rivalry with the largest Pashtun secular political group (the Awami National Party) as well as with the majority Sindhi population. The Muhajirs blame the Pashtuns for introducing the Taliban to Karachi, and ethnic killings are multiplying; party workers of all groups are being targeted.  There is another civil war going on in Baluchistan Province between Baluch separatists and the army. A province long deprived of development, political freedom and revenue, this is the fifth insurgency by the Baluch tribes against the army since Pakistan’s founding. The ISI maintains that Indian agents based in Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf states are arming and funding the Baluch. The insurgents launch ambushes and assassinations, and lay land mines every day. They have begun killing prominent non-Baluch who long ago settled in the province. School teachers, university professors and officials have proven the easiest targets—and this in a province that professes a literacy rate of only 37 percent (20 percent for women) compared to the national average of 54 percent. This summer Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that four separatist Baluch “armies” funded by India had forced 100,000 people to migrate from the province. Baluch militants killed 252 non-Baluch settlers from January to June of this year, also assassinating 13 army officers. The army in turn has brutalized Baluch society and several thousand young Baluch are said to be missing, presumed in prison and being tortured. The army’s insistence that the entire Baluch problem is caused by India and that the Baluch have no grievances of their own simply leads to further escalation of violence and further alienation of the population. The province erupted in days of riots and strikes after prominent Baluch nationalist leader Habib Jalib was gunned down in Quetta in mid-July.  The local justice system in Pakistan is in dire straits. Policemen, judges and lawyers are frequently intimidated by terrorist groups. Evidence is rarely collected against the arrested perpetrators of attacks, and either the police or judges release the suspects. If not, the terrorists are quite capable of freeing their own by force from jails, courthouses and hospitals. After the Ahmadi killings, terrorists attacked a hospital where one of their arrested comrades was being treated under heavy police guard. In June, terrorists attacked a Karachi courthouse, freeing four members of their group undergoing trial for the earlier massacre of 43 Shias in the city.  It is now a cliché to describe how a worsening economy and the lack of education and job opportunities have helped spawn Islamic extremism in Pakistan and elsewhere. Yet it is a trope worth repeating.  PAKISTAN’S GEOPOLITICAL assertiveness in the midst of all this chaos is a result of the military’s overwhelming power. It may be losing its hold on vast amounts of territory to the extremists, but it is taking control of Pakistan’s national security and foreign policy away from the government. As the country is now led by weak and widely considered to be incompetent and corrupt civilian rule with President Asif Ali Zardari, the husband of slain leader Benazir Bhutto, at the helm, the armed forces have found it relatively easy to carry out their own programs.  Following its election, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) sought to reform the policies of the Musharraf era. This included improving relations with India, Iran and Afghanistan and ending Pakistan’s regional isolation. They failed.  Zardari’s overtures regarding India were rebuffed, not only by New Delhi, but also by the Pakistan army—such civilian initiatives are considered an encroachment on military territory. And the November 2008 massacre in Mumbai by Pakistani extremists paralyzed engagement with India for nearly two years. India accuses the ISI of having a direct role in the massacre, which Pakistan denies. Yet Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group behind the massacre, has not been curbed.  The situation in Afghanistan isn’t much better. Although Zardari improved personal relations with President Hamid Karzai, it had little impact on the army’s posture—an anti-Karzai, anti-ruling-government strategy. Only recently has the army decided that with a U.S. troop withdrawal starting next year, Karzai and the Afghan Taliban need to be brought together. The Afghan Taliban leadership has had sanctuary and support from the military since its retreat into Pakistan in 2001. Though former-President George W. Bush never attempted to tackle this conundrum, President Barack Obama has privately acknowledged what must be done, trying hard to bring Kabul and Islamabad together. Certainly, any recent success can’t be chalked up to the civilian leadership in Pakistan. The army says it wants to see a stable and peaceful Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal, and to that end it is trying to promote talks between Karzai and the various factions of the Taliban. However, many Afghans remain suspicious of an army that wants an Afghanistan free of Indian influence.  Zardari and the PPP no longer make any moves that oppose the army’s foreign-policy aims. And over the past two years, a strident judiciary, at times backed by the military, has whittled away at the president’s power, trying repeatedly to undermine Zardari or force him to resign by resurrecting old corruption charges against him and by asserting its influence over the constitution—which is in fact Parliament’s prerogative. This judicial collision with parts of the government has further stymied the country’s reputation and put off aid donors and investors. It is destroying Pakistan’s democratic character. Making matters worse, the all-powerful General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has just received a three-year extension to his term as army chief. It was a move that stunned the country. Many Pakistanis concluded that this further reduced the power of civilian authority.  Political instability is precisely what Pakistan does not need. The country requires a sustained period of democracy under civilian governance—even if it is a bad, poorly functioning democracy. If Zardari is unpopular or ineffective, then he should be removed in the next election, not through a judicial or military coup.  FOR DECADES, a cyclical pattern of military rule followed by its collapse and replacement by elected but weak civilian governments has occurred. In time, they too fall—often with a prod from the ISI—and the military returns. Repeated military rule has resulted in the decline of political parties, the exile or execution of civilian leaders, their lack of experience or knowledge when they do come to power, and the unwillingness of young professionals to get involved in politics. The political class has seen no new blood for a generation.  The PPP suffers from all these problems and more. However, it remains the only national party in Pakistan, for it has support in all the provinces—Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab and the former North-West Frontier (now called Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa). Every other party, including the Pakistan Muslim League–N (the main opposition group), has degenerated. They are now nothing more than regional organizations representing local ethnicities or territories. Only the political alliance the PPP has forged in Parliament can claim to forward a national agenda; it includes regional parties belonging to all ethnic groups. If the government had the total support of the military and the judiciary, there would be a chance of greater stability and better policy options.  Despite the severe problems it faces, the PPP has accrued some political successes in which lie hope for the future. After much delay and procrastination, Parliament passed the Eighteenth Amendment to the constitution in April 2010 that incorporates over 100 changes to the 1973 version of the document, virtually restoring it to its original form and doing away with authoritarian amendments made by successive military dictators.  From having a de facto presidential form of government under military rule, Pakistan has now reverted back to having a parliamentary form of government with the elected PPP Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani as the chief executive. The amendment also introduces a new judicial commission to choose judges for the higher courts (justified surely, but it has unsurprisingly angered the judiciary and further prolonged the conflict between it and the PPP).  The amendment also grants an unprecedented degree of autonomy to the four provinces, increases decentralization, and brings many social subjects such as health care and education under provincial control for the first time. This has long been the demand of the three smaller provinces which have felt deprived by the concentration of wealth and power in Punjab. Now the government is giving an additional 10 percent of the federal tax take to the provinces under a new National Finance Commission Award. And Punjab made a rare sacrifice by giving part of its share to the poorer provinces. Over 70 percent of federal taxes now revert back to Baluchistan, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa. For the first time there is relative peace between the center and the periphery.  In an effort to continue these steps toward stability, the PPP has moved to give greater autonomy to the northern areas abutting China. This is especially remarkable because they are part of the territory involved in the Kashmir dispute between Islamabad and New Delhi. Because of the areas’ proximity to India, Pakistan has exercised control over the region, which has never had self-government. That is now changing.  What is still missing is a plan to bring the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)—the seven tribal agencies—into the mainstream of governance. Currently this territory has considerable autonomy from Islamabad; the government of the former North-West Frontier Province has no jurisdiction over FATA. Instead, the area is ruled by the president and laws drafted by the British during the Raj. This has led to a power vacuum that has produced a terrorist safe haven. Even though the army claims to have a counterterrorism strategy for the area, it is a plan that cannot work until the army is willing to accept a political agenda that brings FATA under the central government’s control.  DESPITE THE incompetence of the government, the groundwork is now being laid for a genuine democratic dispensation through provincial autonomy, decentralization and the rebuilding of democratic institutions—theoretically making it more difficult for the army to seize power again.  If these steps are matched with equivalent advances in restoring economic stability, reviving local and foreign investment, combating terrorism and Islamic extremism on a nationwide basis, and modernizing the judicial and police systems, Pakistan has a far brighter future than is currently portrayed.  For now, a staggering foreign debt of $54 billion is crippling the country. An estimated growth rate of 4.1 percent for 2009–10 (a negligible improvement from last year’s 1.3 percent) means Pakistan is likely stuck in this financial quagmire. An energy crisis that leads to 14 hours a day of electricity cuts has crippled industry, farming and exports.  The irresponsible handling of the economy is only deepening the crisis. This year’s $38 billion budget has seen a 30 percent increase in military expenditures from last year. This clearly leaves little money for health and education. With 28 percent of the funds reserved for servicing foreign debt, nearly 60 percent of the budget is taken up by that and defense. The entire development pool of $9.2 billion is provided by foreign donors.  Pakistan needs financial aid desperately. Europe is extremely hostile to further bailouts of the country because it is well aware that the military is still spending more money arming itself against India than it is spending to fight the Taliban. On a recent trip to the European Union in Brussels, Prime Minister Gilani was sharply taken to task for his failure to provide good governance and greater transparency on how aid dollars are being utilized.  It is to the credit of the current U.S. administration that it sees and understands that progress is being made, and is providing both financial aid and political support to deepen these changes. For the first time, under the Kerry-Lugar bill, there is U.S. aid that is specifically earmarked for civilian rebuilding rather than military spending.  However, no real change is possible without a change taking place in the army’s obsessive mind-set regarding India, its determination to define and control national security, and its pursuit of an aggressive forward policy in the region rather than first fixing things at home.  It is insufficient for the army to merely acknowledge that its past pursuit of foreign-policy goals through extremist proxies has proven so destructive; it is also necessary for the army to agree to a civilian-led peace process with India. Civilians must have a greater say in what constitutes national security. Until that happens, the army’s focus on the threat from New Delhi prevents it from truly acknowledging the problems it faces from extremism at home.  The army’s track record shows that it cannot offer political or economic solutions for Pakistan. Indeed, the history of military regimes here shows that they only deepen economic and political problems, widen the social, ethnic and class divide, and alienate the country from international investment and aid.  Today there is much greater awareness among the Pakistani people that extremism poses a severe threat to the country and their livelihoods. There is also a much greater acceptance that ultimately civilian rule is better than military or mullah dictatorship. What is still lacking in the war against extremism, however, is a consistent and powerful message from both the government and the army that they will combat all terrorists—not just those who threaten their security. Pakistan’s selective approach to extremism has to end before it can defeat the problem and move on to become what its founders originally intended it to be.  Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist and writer, is the author most recently of Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia(Penguin, 2009). His book Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (Yale, 2010) has been updated and republished on the tenth anniversary of its original release.







Luftwaffe Grounds Eurofighter 

The German Air Force has grounded its entire fleet of Eurofighter Typhoon fighters following the detection of glitches in the ejection seat, which, it turns out, cannot guarantee safe operation under certain conditions. Flying operations were suspended on September 15. Among the grounded aircraft will be the ones I photographed conducting training flights (see above) at the Luftwaffe's 73 Fighter Wing at Rostock-Laage airfield near Germany's Baltic coast in February. The grounding is reportedly connected with the August crash in which a Saudi pilot was killed in Spain.  The grounding comes just hours before EADS, the company that owns a controlling stake in the Eurofighter consortium, rebranded its defence business (EADS Defence & Security) as CASSIDIAN.




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