propecia pregnancy

Passage to Nowhere

Geo-political somersault

Despite being a front line State, Pakistan fell from grace in the very hour of the free world’s victory against Soviet communism. The Soviet edifice had started crumbling internally (the fall of the Berlin Wall was only symbolic) in the face of the fierce Afghan freedom movement, aided and actively supported by America’s CIA through Pakistan’s ISI operatives, hundreds of whom lost their lives and lie buried in unmarked graves throughout Afghanistan. The Gulf War was hardly over when President Bush Sr, failed to certify to US Congress Pakistan’s abstinence from seeking nuclear capability, triggering the Pressler Amendment, imposing military and economic sanctions against Pakistan. Pakistan was lucky in 1992-93 to escape being equated with Libya, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, etc in the US-made “terrorist states” list, the fallout of the Afghan freedom struggle notwithstanding, viz (1) 3 million refugees, of which more than 1 million never did (and will never) go back (2) a massive proliferation of drugs and guns symbolized by heroin and the Kalashnikov, within Pakistan more than 6,000 bomb blasts took place in that decade, many Pakistanis died and/or were maimed (3) a major breakdown in law and order, with lasting damage to the fabric of society with rising ethnicity and sectarianism (4) widening disparity been the desperately poor and new, mostly illegal wealth (5) corruption force-multiplying through the body politic of the country (6) even reaching deep into the Armed Forces (7) a proliferation of terrorist cells with disparate aims, supported by RAW, KGB and KHAD (8) a vibrant economy becoming addicted to easy aid instead of trade, most aid duly siphoned off by bureaucrats and (9) heavy debt acquisitions which became more complex for the country with time. Pakistanis could not be blamed for their 1981-89 fantasy that their future would remain bright as the darlings of the west. An internecine quarrel ensued between the Afghan Mujahideen factions till the Taliban gained ascendancy, not because the masses of Afghanistan wanted them and/or their extremely conservative brand of ideology but because they wanted the others even less. By the time of the Chagai nuclear explosion on May 28, 1999, we had already been on the receiving end of ostracization for many reasons, viz (1) suspected nuclear intentions (2) a haven for drugs manufacturing and smuggling and (3) suspected ISI support for terrorist activity. Things improved internally after the Oct 12, 1999 military coup, internationally they became worse for a short time, after the cold war military regimes were out of fashion. “Democracy” sanctions were super-imposed on “nuclear” sanctions against Pakistan, the Commonwealth suspending our membership and even the European Union (EU) holding back aid. A depth of integrity and sincere intent more than any grand plan has brought this military regime goodwill (and this far) in the face of adversity, destiny marking the leader of the regime as a man twice blessed. Fortune smiles on the brave, there is no man luckier in this world than Pervez Musharraf. Quite a lot has rubbed off on Pakistan lately.

Share

Neutral Kabul

Mazar-i-Sharif’s fall set off a chain reaction, militarily untenable Provinces, east, west and south of Balkh, fell like dominoes. The speed of a sudden military collapse can always be disconcerting, what had charitably been labelled as a tactical withdrawal turned into a full-fledged self-inflicted rout after the hurried abandoning of Kabul. Except for the drive to Mazar which was led by their best combat commanders, the Alliance’s claim about battlefield “victories” should be taken with skepticism, yet they are now in possession of vital real estate because the Taliban could not (or did not want to) defend them. Afghanistan is effectively divided into areas viz (1) controlled by the Taliban (2) by the Northern Alliance and (3) by “tribal elders”, better known as warlords, acting independently of each other.

Share

Emancipating South Asia economically and politically

Considered at one time to be the region of the most concentrated misery, on a pro-rata basis the world’s most industrious people come from South Asia, its entrepreneurs an optimistic bunch that tends to see more often than not an half empty glass as a glass half filled with water. With barely adequate education facilities, a very great percentage of doctor and engineers in the world come from South Asia. If 21% of all Microsoft’s engineers are Indians, at least 6% are Pakistani, making 27% from these two countries of South Asia alone. On the other end of the spectrum most cab drivers in New York are from South Asia, the oil-rich Middle East being mostly built on the strength of the sweat of South Asian labourers, mostly Pathans from Pakistan. India and Pakistan having mastered nuclear knowledge, one believes that Bangladesh could easily join the club. South India is well advanced in information technology, Bangalore becoming the second computer software city to Silicon valley. One can take an even bet that in two years Pakistan will play catch up, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will not be far behind. The downside is that 35-40% of the population of South Asia is well below the poverty line. Adding the one billion plus population of India with the 130-140 million each of Pakistan and Bangladesh, with about another 40 million making up the rest of South Asia, percentage-wise a cool 500 million plus are thus living in sub-human conditions. Only about 300 million (give or take 10 million) enjoy more than reasonable comfort, the lower middle class lives on a fail-safe line between poverty and comfort, prone to both human and natural disasters.

Share

US-Pakistan relations – Cornerstone to pariah?

Two centuries and some after its birth, the United States still follows the dictums of one of its founding fathers, George Washington, to quote, “it is our policy to stay clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world”, unquote. The first US President elaborated on this in his farewell address to the American people, admonishing them as a nation, “never make inveterate friends or inveterate foes”, unquote. Unfortunately our unswerving loyalty to the US against the Soviet brand of communism during the period of the cold war has fallen prey to this long-standing Presidential advice, why it rankles is, that even though that is not the US intention, the nouveau friendship of the US with India is seen in Pakistan, rightly or wrongly, to be at the cost of Pakistan. India gave unstinted support to the Soviets during the cold war and on Afghanistan, it was recipient of more defence material than any Warsaw Pact ally during this period but it has not stopped them from becoming darlings of the west. The US post-cold war strategy in the new millennium is primarily economic, yet the present scheme of things is alien to the individual American character that stands up for the underdog against a bully and never forgets a friend. Policy issues may be cut and dried, may be unemotional in content, what makes a nation great is the humanity its leaders inculcate in the policy making. Make no mistake, the US just happens to be the greatest nation on this earth at this time and not by that token alone.

Share

Midsummer Realities

From June 21 to 23 the World Economic Forum (WEF) which traditionally holds it’s Annual Meeting at DAVOS in the winter (except for the 9/11 Special held in 2002 in New York) organized an EXTRAORDINARY Annual Meeting at the Dead Sea Resort (400 meters i.e. 1300 ft below sea level) near Amman in Jordan in the middle of summer. His Highness King Abdullah 2 of Jordan graciously put the full resources of the State to making the Summit a success, the location was an inspired choice, all the major religions of the world commenced in this region. Close to the crucible of civilization a sense of history permeates through the senses. One would expect insecurity because of the proximity of the West Bank and suicide bombings, the audacity to hold the event in such circumstances not only underscored the confidence and courage of the young King but the attendance bestowed a positive vote of confidence by the world’s elite. Even though the normal complement of Heads of State and Government were missing, second string leaders from the region were in attendance.

Share

Contradiction and Confrontation

When the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) came together as an electoral entity, the ideological differences separating the six parties forming the alliance made it a practical incongruity. Skeptical as one was at seeing Islam’s warring sects rent apart by years of mistrust uniting under one banner, this could only be possible because of genuine compromise. That fact alone was enough to lull us into believing that MMA’s conduct, whether in governance or in parliamentary opposition, would mean consensus and tolerance would be prime motivating factors in keeping them in line with democratic norms. From time to time MMA did show some signs of intractability, but for most of the six months or so theirs was stable governance. The Mullahs have now discarded their cloak of tolerance, dashing any hopes that they would remain democratic and liberal in the tried and true spirit of Islam at its birth, and not act arbitrarily and convoluted according to their own narrow interpretation of religion. Having seen the Talibaan regime across the border come to grief because of their excesses in enforcing their brand of Islam in Afghanistan, one had hoped (vainly it seems) that the MMA would have learnt some lessons and been more discreet and circumspect.

Share

Roadmap to Peace?

Agra 2001 was one of the periodic highpoints of the India-Pakistan relationship, a similar climax of expectations was Vajpayee’s Lahore bus trip in 1999. The Indians had reason to feel aggrieved because of Kargil, when they received President Pervez Musharraf with open arms in New Delhi two years later that became a moot point. Or was their welcome feigned? There was expectation and excitement in the air in Agra that morning when the agreed draft was initialled, the gloom came later when it did not see the light of day, signalling a massive relationship slide. After 9/11 the world’s catchword was “terrorism”, the Indians soon realized that Pakistan’s stupidity in supporting the Taliban regime beyond a fail-safe point was being glossed over because of Pakistan’s primarily role as a US ally in the war against terrorism. The Indians hurriedly re-drew their gameplan to emasculate Pakistan, the raison d’etre the still unexplained attack on India’s Parliament. At the end of Dec 2001 the entire Indian Armed Forces (including the formations withdrawn from facing China and Bangladesh) was stationed en bloc in an offensive posture along Pakistan’s eastern border and along the LOC in Kashmir, subsequently the Indian High Commissioner was recalled permanently and in reciprocation his Pakistani counterpart was asked to leave. There was a further low-point, the Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner was expelled because of concocted and childish allegations, subsequently proven patently false by Indian courts.

Share

Consigning Saddam to Eternity

While mopping up will continue for some time, Saddam Hussain’s regime is now history, taken violently out of contention by Coalition forces. The dictator’s bronze statue in Baghdad’s Shaheed Square was symbolically pulled down by an American Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) lending a helping hand to a small but cheering crowd who had failed to take it out with hammer and cudgel. With sporadic fighting continuing in smaller pockets of Baghdad, the public response to the Coalition’s presence is still understandably muted. Notwithstanding the ferocity of the fighting in cities like Nasiryah, Karbala and Najaf, Baghdad crumpled like a paper tiger. Even those who have no love lost for the Saddam regime felt demeaned by the lack of resistance in the city itself by the vaunted Special Republican Guard, the Saddam Fedayeen and the myriad number of units of the security apparatus.

Share

Shock and Woe

Propagated across the electronic and print media of the world, Donald Rumsfeld’s blatant psy-war term “Shock and Awe” projected an overwhelming and cataclysmic high-tech strike, its precise and surgical nature meant (1) to take out the regime’s leaders (2) drive raw fear into the psyche of the masses and (3) thus destroy the Iraqi will to fight. Psy-ops is a legitimate weapon of war, if successful the Coalition could have won the war without firing a shot. While the whereabouts of Saddam and his sons Qusay and Uday are still unknown after the one-off surgical hit marking the start of Gulf War-2, the Iraqi regime did not disintegrate like a house of cards as programmed by the Pentagon’s computers. The rapid (and spectacular) Coalition ground offensive reached Najaf and Karbala 80 kms on the approaches to Baghdad before being slowed down by determined Iraqi conventional resistance in key urban areas all along the route of advance as well as harassing “hit and run” tactics on the lines of communication (L of Cs). With food, water, fuel and ammunition getting through in far less quantities than the required optimum, US Central Command seemed to opt for reinforcements (130000 more US troops) and for shoring up the L of C protection before investing Baghdad. But the Coalition did not pause, there was no “operational pause” as suggested by all and sundry. After capturing Karbala and Najaf, elements of the 3rd Infantry captured the “Saddam International Airport”, 18 kms from the city center of Baghdad and renamed it “Baghdad International Airport”. All of Baghdad is now within artillery range. The “real surprise” will probably come from the west i.e. along the Amman-Baghdad road, probably a major armoured thrust. After all, those who seized H-2 and H-3 airfields are not out on a picnic.

Share

Reaping the Whirlwind

Barely past the first week the Coalition has had to twice change/adjust its war strategy. Instead of a cataclysmic strike by 3000 precision guided munitions (PGMs) hitting Baghdad and other Iraqi command centers, in a major surprise the war started with a limited surgical strike to take out (the exact words “decapacitate”) Saddam Hussain and his inner coterie. The Coalition checked for effect, if any, for 24 hours before launching the ground war with an attempted end run (blitzkreig) around major urban areas to Baghdad, an outflanking maneuver through the Southern Iraqi desert. Rumsfeld’s “shock and awe” massive strike came a day after the ground war started. The Iraqis were supposed to roll over and play dead or better still, surrender in droves (Gulf War I – circa 1991) on primetime TV. With the Iraqis fighting back at virtually every major urban area crossing, the plan deviated from the script. For a change, the Iraqis used their military (rather than emotional) head in not giving pitched battle in any open areas (“he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day”) where the Coalition would have loved to pulverize them by superior firepower. Using classic guerrilla tactics, the Iraqis resorted to small unit “hit and run” attacks, providing very few fixed targets for the PGMs (precision-guided munitions) to be effective.

Share