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Archive for June, 1999

Correcting Wapda’s Mechanism

First of all let us accept that Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is in a holy mess, its running expenditures running far more than its receivables, its future commitments far exceeding its expectations. As far back as 1990 I had written in THE NATION, in “ENERGISING THE PRIVATE SECTOR”, quote “Over the years disparate fiefdoms have been carved out within WAPDA, down the line malfeasance of varying degree has become routine, from kickbacks in big projects at the higher levels to the connivance of the linemen in the stealing of electricity, residential or commercial. The revenue loss has ensured that WAPDA gives the impression in the public mind of an unmanageable loss-making colossus”. Unquote. While WAPDA has many ills, prime among them being corruption and inefficiency, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back were the rather one-sided agreements in favour of the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) that were concluded during the last PPP regime. However, all the governments since 1985 are to blame to some extent for one reason or the other. The present Nawaz Sharif government inherited the cumulative mess of the Benazir era. After months of wrangling, the Government of Pakistan (GOP) had come to an arrangement about reduction of tariffs, it transpired later that we would end up paying far more than the agreement we were scrapping, the IPPs were laughing themselves sick to the bank. Faced with such a situation Lt Gen Zulfikar, on deputation from the Pakistan Army’s Corps of Engineers, is believed to have prepared a Summary for the PM opposing the deal which was mid-wifed by the Ehtesab Bureau and then forced down the throat of the Ministry of Water and Power.

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War & peace Catch-22 in Sindh

Whether the Armed Forces act in their primary capacity as defenders of the country’s sovereignty against external aggression or in Aid of Civil Power to ward off the threat of internal subversion, the mission given to them is always a clear statement of intention. Anytime there is ambiguity in the annunciation of their functions it invariably leads to confusion, this has a dire effect on the effectiveness of the Armed Forces. As we are seeing in Sindh, it is extremely clear that the Defence Services have become the only force that is accepted by all concerned to be neutral, as such any action (or inaction) that confuses their mission or does not define it in clear terms leads to subverting their final authority for maintaining internal peace.

Ostensibly there is cooperation between the Political Government in Sindh and the Army hierarchy therein, it does translate into administrative reality but certainly the working relationship needs to be improved. The overriding impression prevailing is that while the Army does not have full confidence in the impartiality of the civil administration, the political government does not have full confidence in the Army’s willingness to eventually return to the barracks, debilitating internecine conflict that does not bode well for the restoration of law and order in the Province of Sindh.

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No man’s land

Winning or losing in a game should not matter, what matters is how you play the game. Nowadays winning is everything, given the money numbers that go with success. One could be disappointed in not winning Sunday’s Cricket World Cup Final to Australia at Lord’s, the way we went about losing it was both pathetic and disgusting. This loss is, however, not life threatening and we will survive. Wars are unfortunately not like cricket, here winning is everything. Pakistan cannot afford to lose, our very existence in the new millennium depends upon winning. Moreover, we cannot be content with at least achieving a stalemate 1965-style, which given India’s numerical strength in conventional numbers, would be a victory of sorts. If war is unleashed by India, that is the only chance we will have of capturing Kashmir without losing any major part in the rest of the country.

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Gibraltar-2

To quote Vegetius in the 4th century, “Let him who desires peace, prepare for war”. Operation Gibraltar was one of the most brilliant operations ever planned. Maj Gen (later Lt Gen) Akhtar Hussain Malik, the GOC 12 Div then looking after Azad Kashmir, conceived of a plan in 1965 to infiltrate armed guerilla bands into Indian-Held Kashmir and attack nodal points that would tie up the Indian Army and herald a full scale revolt in the valley. He was vociferously supported by the then Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the Foreign Secretary Aziz Ahmad, both of whom convinced President Ayub Khan that conditions were ripe for such an operation and since the war was localised in Kashmir, Indian troops would not cross the international border. While Akhtar Malik was a brilliant tactician with impeccable motivation, both Bhutto and Aziz Ahmad were embarked on a “heads I win, tails you lose” option. If the operation (code-named Operation GIBRALTAR) succeeded they would get the credit, if it didn’t the discredit and the damage would be to the account of the Armed Forces, a sure way of bringing them to heel as they did manage to do later. A mixture of volunteers from the Army, mainly those belonging to Azad Kashmir and fresh recruits from our side of the Cease-Fire Line (CFL) in Kashmir were hurriedly trained and launched into the valley in late July/early August 1965. While the operation failed despite the bravery and courage of the participants, among them some of the finest soldiers produced by the Pakistan Army, Lt Gen (Retd) Lehrasab Khan, presently Federal Secretary Defence Production and Col Iqbal, presently Director Education Defence Housing Authority, Karachi, then young lieutenants, the operation eventually led to war on September 6, 1965. The Indians in a well planned but horribly executed operation to relieve the pressure on the Kashmir choke point of Akhnur, crossed the international border at Lahore and Sialkot in what was to be a lightning operation. Pakistan fought the Indians to a standstill, even gaining ground in many places. For the first time graduates of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) saw large-scale military operations as young officers. However, Operation Gibraltar, named for the rock where Tariq had burned his boats so that there was no going back when the Muslims first entered Spain failed, mainly because, viz (1) conditions within Indian Held Kashmir were not conducive (2) major percentage of the personnel of the guerilla bands were neither well trained enough nor battle-hardened and (3) there was no plan to support them with attack by either a main force or even a logistics replenishment. Outnumbered, out-gunned, lacking proper information and local intelligence or support, the remnants were either killed or captured. Very few made it back, it is not fashionable today to speak about their heroics, in the annals of war they do not exist.

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Drums and a trumpet

Credit must be given where credit is due for conceiving of a tactical situation and implementing it to strategic advantage. For the Mujahideen fighting impossible odds in the high mountain ranges of Kargil, withstanding air assaults and artillery barrages before engaging in hand to hand combat, no praise is good enough. They deserve far more for taking on odds much beyond their numbers or material. The Mujahideen have taken a heavy toll of the Indians and dominated the strategic “national highway” leading to Ladakh for as much as 35 kms. Day after day they continue to take heavy pounding, motivation keeps them hanging on to this piece of deadly real estate, internationalising the Kashmir dispute again with their blood. The Mujahideen are sitting on the Indian jugular in the area. By leaving this vital ground vacant for a long time, the Indian Army allowed the vacuum to be filled to their detriment — and then did the usual cover-up, failing to report their loss till it became a ground reality with negative consequences for at least three Indian Divisions in the area, not counting Siachen. Nobody occupies such positions without elaborate planning and motivation. As such, on the same token that one has contempt for the Indian military hierarchy for the breakdown in their channels of reporting and command, one has to commend those in the planning loop from the COAS downwards who had the vision and courage to plan and implement such a winner-takes-it-all operation. There are associated risks which must have been calculated.

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Is war imminent?

Till India lost two combat jet aircraft in quick succession, one a MIG-21 the other a MIG-27, followed by a helicopter gunship, the world cared two hoots about an unknown place on the map called Kargil. The wreckage parked a few kilometres inside territory indicating clear violation of Pakistani airspace, intelligence planners in the west suddenly started to have nuclear jitters if the scrimmage escalated to full war-scale. Against the market forces, the Dow Jones Index on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) went down. The mountain ridges dominate for quite a length the only fair weather supply road to Ladakh (and more importantly Siachen), the Mujahideen occupying it have withstood powerful barrages unleashed from the ground and from the air by the Indians. According to the Indians, they had vacated these mountain posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir during the winter and a composite Mujahideen group composed of Afghan war veterans, Kashmiris, etc backed by regulars of the Pakistan Army had taken advantage of the light winter snows this year to deploy in these abandoned positions before the Indians could re-occupy them. Pakistan’s contention is that the Mujahideen are acting on their own as they have done for umpteen years but if the Indian Armed Forces violate a largely undemarcated LoC in that area or shell or attack any area on our home side, Pakistan would retaliate like it did when it shot down at least two of the three aircraft downed. To defuse the building tension Pakistan immediately proposed that Senator Sartaj Aziz visit New Delhi on June 7, 1999 for peace talks. In a conciliatory gesture Flt Lt Nachiketa was released. In a blatant diplomatic snub, India refused this peace overture through a fire and brimstone Vajpayee address to the nation. India continues to give well-attended daily military briefings to the media, both in New Delhi and Srinagar about “successes” in evicting the “intruders”. After having given the local Corps Commander one week to clear the mess, they sacked a Deputy GOC of the rank of Brigadier.

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Econergising the khakis

In the brink of entering the 21st century, Pakistan has to take concrete steps to galvanize its Armed Forces out of its 19th century syndrome and put into effect a realistic economics of scale that will permit pragmatic modernisation without bankrupting an already frail economy. When Jahangir Karamat took over as COAS and then Acting Chairman JCSC there was real hope that this brilliant professional soldier, one of the finest professionals ever produced by the Pakistan Army, would effect meaningful reform. The politico-economic environment prevalent in the country coupled with his personal hesitation in effecting meaningful change buried that pious hope. A man may have the vision and may have the intent, he also has to have the courage to take decisions that upsets the routine. Without dynamic initiatives, routine takes over the individual and bad keeps on becoming worse. Macro-decisions are required in place of micro-ones, since it is General Pervez Musharraf’s Karma to take the Armed Forces into the 21st Century, the hard decisions are his to make. One believes he has the stomach to take such heat.

For God’s sake let us rid this Army of batmen. Nowhere was this concept prevalent except in the British Asian sub-continent, it has persisted since independence. The salary of a male servant ranges between Rs 2500 to Rs 3500 p.m. along with meals at this time. Give the officer a sliding scale from Rs 2500 p.m. in three to four slabs upto Rs 4000 p.m. By taking away batmen from officers and JCOs, the Army will save upto 50,000-60,000 soldiers, that amounts to more than three infantry divisions with its full complement of supporting arms and services. Since a soldier costs upto Rs 15000 p.m. for upkeep including salary, ration, pensions, etc, one third of such cost could be saved.

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