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[- IKRAM SEHGAL -]
A Failed
"Civilian" Coup

Timed to go into effect before the PM reached the US, the bizarre government notification at 9pm Saturday night putting both the ISI and the IB under the “administrative, financial and operational” control of the Federal Ministry of Interior was no accident, it was deliberately intended to viz (1) demonstrate grandly to the US while the PM was in the US that the civilian govt had “brought the ISI to heel” and (2) enhance and solidify Asif Zardari’s control over the country. With both ISI and IB already reporting to the PM, the perception of creating “civilian control” was not simply for US consumption, the gamble was no one would react while the Pakistani PM was in the US, the inadvertent tacit US approval would have made it fait accompli. It took only 6 hours for those who control the democratically elected govt to see light, an urgent press release at 3 am on Sunday by the Press Information Department (PID) “clarified” the notification as having been “misunderstood”.....more

The Afghan Cauldron

In the aftermath of 9/11 it was necessary for the US impose a government in Afghanistan to replace the Taliban. Governance must eventually relate with the aspirations of the people, one perceived evil cannot be replaced by another, and/or be sustained indefinitely. The UN-supervised elections allowed corrupt elements to become the arbiters of Afghanistan’s destiny under the garb of democracy. There is considerable difference between the democratic rhetoric of leaders like Hamid Karzai and what they actually practice in real-life. Good governance is presently selective in its implementation, in any case possible in less than half-a-dozen cities. With corruption rife in the upper echelons of the Afghan hierarchy, their pursuits are mostly counter-productive to the war effort. It is no secret that the Taliban are financing their campaign against the Coalition through drugs. In a recent article in New York Times (NYT), Thomas A Schweich, who recently resigned as the acting Assistant US Secretary of State for Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and Coordinator for Counter Narcotics and Justice Reform in Afghanistan, wrote, viz “fighting is unlikely to end as long as the Taliban can finance themselves through drugs – and as long as the Karzai Govt is dependant upon opium to sustain its our hold on power” unquote. As the senior US Counter Narcotics official in Kabul he was very impressed with Hamid Karzai’s strong words against the drug trade when he first visited Afghanistan accompanying the US President’s delegation to Kabul on Mar 1, 2006. Schweich writes”, this was my first mistake”, unquote.....more

The Afghan Odyssey

While rendering enormous sacrifices, Pakistan’s “war against terrorism” has been subject to major shortcomings. Other than deficiencies in the political and military fields, there has also been gross dereliction in failing to pursue practical economic initiatives. The root causes of poverty in the border areas of Pakistan adjoining Afghanistan is unemployment, enduring frustration at lack of opportunities has been used by religious extremists to foment violence in furtherance of their own particular agenda. Because of extenuating circumstances, the tribal fabric had frayed considerably. By failing to reinforce the tribal system we denied the tribals a position of strength from which to negotiate with the militants. Before venturing into FATA militarily we should have not only war-gamed the consequences but trained our troops in the type of counter-insurgency being faced by Coalition troops across the border. Frontier warfare or guerilla warfare as taught in Command and Staff College is outdated. Air mobility and electronic capability that the Coalition possesses is a critical necessity for us, this we have only partially. In this type of terrain it is virtually impossible to counter an insurgency without exploiting the heliborne potential.....more

Stand Fast or Stand Aside

With the Zardari-Sharif make-or-break talks entering Day Two, we are still waiting for white smoke to come out from the chimney. One is hoping they don’t burn the house down! Though they are not responsible for the multiple crisis now besetting Pakistan, the aftermath of the Feb 2008 “free and fair” elections are ominous. Our major political players do not seem unduly concerned, indeed they may have aggravated the problems. In a modern version of Nero fiddling while Rome burnt, our principal political leaders prefer to troop off abroad to Dubai, London, etc to wherever is what they now consider home. For some mysterious reason they feel time is on their side, at the rate money is flowing out we should be bankrupt by December. Time is certainly not on the side of Pakistan, we are only five miles from midnight!....more

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