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Archive for November, 1989

The “BOFORS” election

Five years ago Indira Gandhi was gunned down by her own Sikh body-guards. Scant hours later, her son, Rajiv Gandhi, was sworn in as India’s sixth Prime Minister (and third from the Nehru Clan). Riding on a wave of sympathy and bolstered by a “Mr Clean” image, Rajiv almost decapitated the Opposition in the ensuing elections. Surrounding himself with bright young corporate executives in his own Yuppie-image, the pilot grand-son of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, promised to be a fresh wind that would overcome the layers of narrow-minded hate and petty jealousies compounded by Hindu class composition and an indolent bureaucracy. The nations on India’s periphery looked forward to a less hegemonistic approach.

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Zarb-i-Momin, the acid test-I

Pakistan has fought wars of survival against India almost from the moment of its independence. With the bulk of defence production facilities and defence stores falling within the territories comprising India at the time of partition, the Pakistan Armed Forces, besides being under-equipped, were woefully undermanned, short by 1,500 officers of the 4,000 required to man the planned army of 150,000 men. Even the 500 British officers inducted to fill the shortfall could not satisfy the last British C-in-C of India, Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck who made the strategic appraisal that “Pakistan was indefensible”. What he failed to state was that the deck was stacked against us. Yet, despite truncation in 1971, mainly due to internal political mistakes, Pakistan has survived due to the ardent defence of the homeland by its valiant uniformed sons, despite being always out-gunned and against overwhelmingly numerically superior forces. To quote from Chapter 2 of “The Defenders of Pakistan”, “the Pakistan Armed Forces is a weapon cast from pure faith. It is called courage”, unquote.

While courage is a necessary ingredient of soldiering, modern warfare incorporates advanced strategy with high-tech weapons and communications held together by sound tactical doctrines. For the past 40 years, despite having fought many wars the Pakistan Armed Forces have, except once in the 50s during Exercise “November Handicap”, never been exercised on the army scale. The past wars have taught us many lessons, the major one being a singular lack of cohesive war plans sound enough to be implemented during war. The result has been a disjointed war effort and major debacles (like the one in East Pakistan, circa 1971). Even 1965 as the common knowledge goes was victory only in the sense that superior Indian forces were ground to a halt. At the generalship level we had at best a stalemate achieved through the blood and sacrifice of our younger combat commanders and soldiers. Tempered by war, steeled by experience, those young men of yesterday are in many cases today’s general. Almost none of them is tainted by being part, in whatever capacity, of the Martial Law bureaucracy. The time has, therefore, come during the years of peace to analyse our drawbacks that surfaced during the past wars and try and hone our graduated responses without any further loss of time.

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Iron curtain and the domino theory

For much of the last decade, NATO has been under severe pressure from its own member countries, the cruise missile issue threatening to split the western alliance. With the advent of Gorbachev, western leaders begin to look jaded as the new Soviet leader caught the imagination of the free world’s masses. With “Gorby” showing signs of overwhelming the polls, the free world’s primary leader, President Bush of USA, opted to take a measured route instead of rushing into media-oriented Summits. Not so much because of the American strategy (or non-strategy) but more so because of political and economic dynamics within the communist alliance, the situation has recently changed dramatically. The communist world is opening up, the iron curtain crumbling down all over the Eastern European horizon, exposing the ugly face of the Soviet-dominated version of communism.

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Winning battles, don’t lose the war

Ms Benazir has won her first major trial of strength within the National Assembly. Life as the PM of Pakistan has been a series of battles starting from the mixed mandate given by the electorate last November, fittingly she has been triumphant throughout. This is no time to exult but to consolidate, she may yet lose the war. Very correctly she has spoken of stock-taking, to review strengths and overcome weaknesses, take such corrective measures as may be necessary. Those who sincerely wish her well, the motivation behind the wishes for her success the well-being of Pakistan, will watch the process of self-analysis with great trepidation as this promises to be a journey through an economic and political minefield. If on the other hand, her rhetoric is meant as a lip-service palliative we are in for a tragedy, for her and for Pakistan.

Whenever anyone embarks on an exercise of self-critique, many unpalatable things surface, necessarily ugly issues have to be faced and remedies found. There is a cancer running amok in the Federal Government and the survival of the vote of no-confidence was simply remedial chemotherapy, the PM must move swiftly to exorcise the major problems.

Instead of being simply exultant in victory, the PM chose the path of grace by speaking of reconciliation, she is the PM of all Pakistan, her penchant must be to build bridges of understanding instead of widening the chasm. One thanks God that it was not the PM but her mother, necessarily embittered, who spoke of the opposition as the “enemy” in a PPP Parliamentary post-mortem. The PM has spoken of reaching out to those moderate elements of the opposition who can afford her government a working coalition, people in her own cabinet like the effervescent Khwaja Tariq Rahim have been useful in the past in keeping a dialogue going with diverse elements (even drawing Khar back into the PPP embrace), the PM must now make positive moves to translate negotiations into a hard reality.

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