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Archive for September, 2003

Beware The Rage Of Devils

By all accounts 2001 was Musharraf’s best year in power. Having been in the saddle for more than a year he felt confident enough to launch an all-out offensive on a broad front on a whole lot of issues be-devilling the existence of Pakistan as a State. He moved against Islamic militancy well before 9/11, and this despite the fact that some of his closest military associates were soft on the “Taliban” issue, one of them quite vehemently. 9/11 helped Musharraf in putting a stop to the creeping Mullah-ism infecting the entire body politic of the nation. The success of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) in the last elections in two Provinces marks the highest point in their campaign to Islam-ize Pakistan. There is no other way for them now but downhill.

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International Peace Day?

The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (known as UNMOGIP) issued a press release on Tuesday Sep 16, 2003 calling on “the parties involved in the Kashmir issue to observe the “International Day of Peace” on September 21 and appeals to them to initiate a ceasefire and to do their best to prolong the duration of any cessation of hostilities for as long as possible. The conflict over Jammu and Kashmir has cost many lives, caused much tragedy and could, sadly, continue to affect the stability of the region for years to come. It is the UNMOGIP’s hope that the parties to the conflict will embrace this opportunity to lay down their arms and observe the International Day of Peace”, unquote. Coincidentally a senior US diplomat was visiting Srinagar when UNMOGIP issued this call, this combined to infuriate the Indians. On the other hand it gave heart to the freedom fighters within Kashmir that there was renewed western interest. Even though there has been far greater violence in Kashmir than in any other area in the world in the recent past, till Kargil came around in 1999 Kashmir was generally ignored by the western media, a benign neglect that glossed over decades of brutal Indian atrocities on the Kashmiri people. Kargil was a watershed that force-fed Kashmir back into international consciousness as well as media focus, the dispute is now seen by western powers as a major potential nuclear flashpoint.

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The Iraqi Cauldron

The Pentagon’s senior civilian hierarchy has some armchair warriors who have never heard a bullet fired in anger, they were right about the war being over in a short time, very wrong about the “the war after the war”. As senior a person as battle-experienced US Army Chief Gen Shinseki kept on insisting, even when he was vindictively declared a “lame duck” by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld more than a year before he was to retire, that the invasion (and occupation thereof) of Iraq needed “more boots on the ground”. The senior military hierarchy united against Rumsfeld as much as their predecessors did against McNamara and his whiz-kids during Vietnam. Frustrated with the inherent caution counselled and keen to put into practice the new high-tech concept of lightning IT warfare that could not be tried out against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld found a kindred spirit in Gen Tommy Franks, the overall US Commander in the region. Rumsfeld and Franks had reason to feel confident about a quick victory in contrast to the informed military assessment that victory would take some time, even against a dilapidated and obsolete Iraqi military machine. However, they knew something that we didn’t even though it was certainly a matter of speculation, critical decision-making personnel in Saddam Hussain’s military hierarchy had been bought off even before the first shot was fired, many of them trusted blood relatives of the dictator.

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Inculcating The 65 Spirit

The Armed Forces of Pakistan are many times bigger and far better equipped than those that went to war in September 1965, the then senior military hierarchy never seriously anticipated that any conflict would take place. Are the “khakis” of today as much prepared for war as their predecessors, do they have the same élan and enthusiasm that infected not only the rank and file but the whole population of Pakistan when Field Marshal Ayub Khan called the country to arms on the morning of 6th September? There is a qualitative difference in the spirit that coursed through the veins of those who were in uniform then and those who are in uniform now. However, one is quite confident that if when push comes to shove, the uniformed personnel will respond as they did in 1965 but whether the whole nation will stand united behind them as they did 38 years ago to the day will depend upon Gen Pervez Musharraf and the “democratic” road he chooses, whether he sustains the parliamentary process he has himself put into effect or he falls prey to the motivated who have enlisted “intellectuals” to advise a “Presidential System”? One may well ask what is the present system in all but name?

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