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Archive for January, 1995

Rhetoric and reality The Gwadar “strike”

In 1982 Ravi Rikhye, with comprehensive help from the Indian Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA), wrote a book about a possible future war called “The Fourth Round — Indo Pakistan War 1984”, modelled closely on General Sir John Hackett’s epic “The Third World War” about a war in Europe. Based on geo-political realities existing in the 80s both these books expose the thread of actual strategic analytical reasoning for the respective regions. Subsequent Indian actions in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, followed by General Sunderji’s proposed Operation “Brass Tacks” in 1984 (stymied mainly by late General Zia’s cricket diplomacy) almost saw this book become reality vis-a-vis Pakistan. While truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, analysts will find Chapter 14 of Rikhye’s book entitled “The Gwadar Strike” scenario very interesting in the present context. Fictionalised as an Indian tri-service operation to achieve the following objectives, viz (1) destroy the “suspected” Pakistani submarine base at Gwadar (2) show Pakistan (and the world in general) that no part of Pakistan was beyond reach of Indian attacks (3) draw away units from other parts of Pakistan (4) demonstrate to the Arabs that India was not entirely helpless in the face of their support to Pakistan (5) establish a base through which “Baloch guerrillas” could be supplied and (6) provide a port which the Baloch could nominate as their capital, the Indian “operation” to seize Gwadar and Pasni could not materialise because of “American intervention on Pakistan’s side by the airdrop of a parachute unit at Gwadar, the presence of a large US naval task force and the Iranian threat to declare war on India”. So much for fiction!

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Mid-year Economic Review

The Government’s rhetoric expounding the economic miracle that they are supposed to have wrought in the space of a year and some is so different from the actual facts on the ground that when compared with the relatively moderate performance by the present regime, it comes out in bad light. Given that the economic morass we had descended to in 1993 due to the political freeze, for which the present regime has to accept a major share of responsibility because it was the gridlock of administration that they, as the then Opposition, used as a modus operandi to bring down the Nawaz Sharif government, we are not in as bad a shape as we could be, again relatively speaking. The general performance of the economy is considerably short of the over-ambitious expectations and targets, that is the major reason for the increasing loss of confidence in the policies of the Government of Pakistan (GoP). Four areas can be highlighted to give a comprehensive overall economic review, viz. (1) Growth, GDP and Production (2) Public Finance (3) Relations with IMF and lastly but most important (4) Inflation and Prices.

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Aid to Civil Power

The Armed Forces have increasingly been drawn into an “Aid to Civil Power” situation due to the deteriorating law and order circumstances, more recently Operation Clean-up and the Malakand insurgency. The crucial question being asked today is whether the Constitutional parameters about the use of the military being followed to the letter of the law or are the uniformed Defence personnel becoming an extension of any successive incumbent governments for their own political ends, as is now the case with the bureaucracy and the civil law enforcement agencies? Chapter 9 of the Manual of Pakistan Military Law (MPML) is very explicit in dealing with “Duties in Aid to Civil Power”. In its clauses it deals with (1) Unlawful assembly, riot and rebellion (2) Relations of civil and military authorities (3) Powers and duties of civil authorities (4) Magistrate not available (5) Firing on assembly (6) Protection from prosecution and (7) Martial Law. All this is further amplified in training booklets issued by GHQ from time to time.

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A crossroads in friendship

Except for Russia and France, every Permanent Member of the UN Security Council has an important delegation visiting Pakistan this week. The first to arrive was Gen. Fu Quanyou, Member Chinese Military Commission and Chief of General Logistics of the Peoples Liberation Army, the next was Mr. Douglas Hurd, the British Foreign Secretary, following by US Defence Secretary, Mr. Perry. For good measure, even Japan has sent its Minister for International Trade and Industry (MITI) Mr. Ryutaro Hashimoto, leader of a faction of his party. This week is thus witness to an amazing confluence of visitors, ostensibly for varied bilateral reasons. Of these the most important is the high level US Defence team led by the US Defence Secretary. Seen in the context of a coincidental Japanese presence, with their known views of nuclear proliferation, the logical conclusion is that some diplomatic arm-twisting seems to be in the offing to get Pakistan to put ink to paper on the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Gen. Fu Quanyou is the odd man out in this exercise and he seems to be given only passing attention from Pakistani powers-that-be despite the fact that the Chinese are the only ones we can really depend upon for help come rain, shine, sleet or snow. In Pakistan today, we put more trust in perception than actual facts despite our experience in these matters during times of crisis.

If anything, late Gen. Zia will be known to posterity as the Pakistani leader who became the western bulwark against expanding Soviet hegemony. Even Ms. Benazir now tacitly accepts (David Frost’s interview) that it was Pakistan’s resolute stand in the 80s vis-a-vis Afghanistan that saw the demise of the Soviet Union. However Zia made a colossal blunder in not insisting on not getting prior US agreement for some issues important to Pakistan, viz. (1) US acceptance that in the presence of Indian nuclear capability we had a right of self-defence in seeking to establish a nuclear deterrent (2) instead of military and economic aid, our cotton made-up derivative quotas should have been brought on par to Hong Kong, etc so that rather than relying on alms the rejuvenation of our cotton-based economy could have paid for our requirements, both military and economic (3) keeping in view the massive move of stores and supplies, logistical routes, both by rail and road to Peshawar and Quetta, should have been modernised at western expense (4) the Armed Forces should have been modernised along the lines done for the Egyptian Armed Forces with in-country factories for aircraft, tank, armoured vehicles, etc (5) long-term US investment should have been ushered in to the energy sector, particularly in hydel power and (6) US-led western pressure could have been applied on India to solve the Kashmir problem. At that time, with the prospect of Vietnamising Afghanistan, the US would have then signed on the dotted line. What we actually got, other than covert aid funnelled to the Afghan Mujahideen, were a few squadrons of F-16s, frigates on lease (since returned) and a few miscellaneous defence items, in retrospect we were had! We did inherit some (suddenly) very rich senior defence personnel, whose scions have difficulty in explaining where the money largesse came from and why it descended upon them in exclusion to the 120 million other people in Pakistan, mostly in varying degrees of impoverishment. We were consigned to be manipulated (in collaboration with our military-industrial bureaucrats) corporate-wise by the likes of Ray Guerin and his cluster-bomb making International Signal Company (ISC), exceeded only recently by the epoch-making scam that Gordon Wu and his Hopewell Holdings are attempting to perpetrate on Pakistan with their so-called US$ 7 billion investment in a coal-based power station.

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